Rowlands, who was married to Cassavetes, recalled in 1998 in The Times: "John and Benny had a great artistic understanding, and I think Benny was relieved to find someone like John, who took things as seriously as he did."

"It breaks my heart to have this era come to an end," Rowlands said in a statement that referred to the deaths of Cassavetes in 1989, Falk last year and now Gazzara. "Ben meant so much to all of us. To our families. To John. To Peter. To have them gone now is devastating to me."

Cassavetes' death had thrown Gazzara into a deep depression.

At the time, he and his third wife, Elke, were living in Italy, where Gazzara made a number of films and where, as he once explained, "I fell in love with the lifestyle." His first two marriages — to actresses Louise Erickson and Janice Rule — ended in divorce.

In his 2004 book "In the Moment: My Life as an Actor," Gazzara described his constant womanizing and several affairs, including one with Audrey Hepburn, with whom he co-starred in "Bloodline" and "They All Laughed."

He had met the German-born Elke in South Korea in 1979 while he was filming the Korean War film "Inchon." She was producing a behind-the-scenes documentary.

"Elke saved my life," Gazzara said in 1999 in the New York Daily News. "When I met her, I was drinking too much, fooling around too much, killing myself. She put romance and hope back in my life."

In the late 1990s, Gazzara had a career renaissance and appeared in a string of films, including playing a corporate criminal in writer-director David Mamet's "The Spanish Prisoner," a wealthy pornographer in Joel and Ethan Coen's "The Big Lebowski," and a Bronx mob boss in Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam."

Gazzara credited his discovery by a young generation of independent film directors to the video release of the movies he'd made with Cassavetes.

As an actor, Gazzara told Backstage in 2006, "Nobody ever knew what to do with me because I wasn't easily pigeonholed." But he was never bitter when a coveted role went to someone else, he once told the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I don't know why," he said. "Maybe my ego, my Sicilian pride. And I was never jealous of another actor, 'cause … I knew I had the goods."

The son of Sicilian immigrants, Gazzara was born Aug. 28, 1930, in New York City into a family that struggled during the Depression.

At 13, he appeared in a play staged at the nearby Boys Club, "heard the applause and could never turn back," he later said.

After graduating from high school, he entered Manhattan's Dramatic Workshop on a scholarship and in 1951 was accepted into the prestigious Actors Studio.

Throughout his career, Gazzara periodically returned to the stage. He received a Tony nomination in 1975 for "Hughie/Duet" and another nomination in 1977 for a revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Gazzara is survived by Elke, his wife of 30 years; a daughter, Elizabeth; and a brother, Anthony.