Stefano DiMera, The 'Days Of Our Lives' Villain Who Couldn't Cheat Death 11 Times

Entertainment | November 10, 2018

DAYS OF OUR LIVES -- Season 28 -- Pictured: Joseph Mascolo as Stefano DiMera (Photo by Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

How many times can one man die? The survival of Stefano DiMera, played on Days Of Our Lives by Joseph Mascolo, strained credibility even in the bizarro realm of soap-opera-land. DiMera returned from apparent death again and again over his 30-plus years on the show. Stefano is the all-time death-cheating champ, and we only think that his record of 11 apparent-deaths is finalized because actor Joseph Mascolo is, in real life, dead. Or is he?

No, he really is. Joseph Mascolo died in 2016. 

Who Was Joseph Mascolo?

Joseph Mascolo

Joseph Mascolo was born in 1929 to immigrant parents who'd come to the U.S. from Naples, Italy. As a way of supporting himself, Joseph took up acting in New York City and was originally trained in classical music and opera. A lot of his own personal background goes into his character well as Stefano DiMera. In many scenes, particularly in his mansion on the set, Stefano would be listening to classical music or playing chess as he celebrated a notorious victory over his enemies.

Before his Days days, in the 1960s and early 1970s, Joseph acted on stage in productions like “Night Life” as an understudy for Neville Brand; “Dinner at Eight” as Ricci; “The Time of Your Life” as Blick; and “That Championship Season” as Phil Romano. In addition to theater roles, he also appeared in some films like Hot Spur (1968), The Spook Who Sat By The Door (1973), Jaws 2 (1978), Sharky’s Machine (1981), Yes, Giorgio (1982), and Heat (1986). 

Stefano DiMera Might Be The Most Dastardly Villain In Soap Opera History

Stefano and his son, Tony

None of his other movie, stage, or television roles compared to his character on Days as Stefano DiMera, arguably the most dastardly villain in soap opera history. Even J.R. Ewing on Dallas doesn't hold a candle to the evil mind of Stefano DiMera. Everyone in Salem wanted to see him dead, and several people did seem to witness Stefano's mortal end -- but he just wouldn't stay dead. Stefano would disappear for awhile, but viewers learned that it was just a matter of time before he'd be back. Only when he finally died in real life could you trust that he would not be coming back from the dead on the show.

Stefano DiMera's First Deaths

Stefano and His two sons, EJ and Tony

How many ways are there to kill someone? Let us count them:

The first time Stefano was killed, he was attempting to make a getaway in his limo, after planting a bomb intended for the character Marlena. His limo plunged into the river but, of course, his body was never found. Nevertheless, he was presumed dead. This turned out to be a false assumption.

Stefano's second death occurred at an ice show. A fire erupted on the stage, and Stefano fell into the blaze and seemed to have been burned to death. Nope.

Stefano seemed to die for a third time when he and John Black were struggling in a gunfight, and he fell into another fire. If you're getting the idea that fire is not a good way to kill Stefano DiMera, you're onto something.

Following another return from the dead, Stefano and John Black got into another gunfight. Gunfire caused Stefano's car to explode, and Stefano seemed to be consumed in the massive fire -- this was his fourth death. Or. So. It. Seemed. 

Stefano came back, of course, and lived to die a fifth time. On this occasion, he had kidnapped Marlena, had John Black shackled in a basement, and was trying to escape with Gina (who was actually Hope). But he was tracked down by Marlena’s ex-husband and his ex-mistress, Celeste, who set the mansion in Maison Blanche on fire and fled during a hurricane on a boat. The other characters on the show and newbie Days viewers were certain that Stefano could not have survived that fire.

Stefano Just Kept On Dying, And Coming Back

Stefano and Marlena

Stefano did, in fact, survive the mansion fire. He kept surviving only to seemingly die again.

Sixth death: Stefano plots to kidnap Marlena (again) by faking his death, using a disguise, so everyone in Salem thought he had died on the plane with Marlena. 

Seventh death: Once again, Stefano kidnapped Marlena to make her his “Queen of the Night,” this time in Paris, in an underground cavern. With a chase through the tunnels, after John retrieved Marlena back, with the help of several others, Stefano escaped with his daughter’s mother, Rachel, chasing after him. As they near a gas tank, she shot at him and the tank exploded. Both of them were presumed dead. 

Eighth death: Stefano’s son (actually his cousin, Andre, who was pretending to be his son, Tony) returned to Salem, and claimed that Stephano died from a car crash in Monte Carlo.

Ninth death: Once again, Andre (Stephano’s son’s cousin pretending to be Tony again), turned out to be behind the Salem Stalker killings and claimed he killed his “father” in order to use his blood for his own blood disease.

Tenth death: Ian supposedly killed Stephano and framed EJ, who was Tony’s half-brother.

The Eleventh And Final Death Of Stefano DiMera

The Final Death Blow to Stefano by Hope Brady

Nobody lives forever -- that would be ridiculous. So it came time for Stefano DiMera to die, and stay dead. Viewers had a sense that the character would finally meet his maker when actor Joseph Mascolo died in real life. He was 87, and suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

Stefano DiMero's final, final, final scenes were filmed in advance. His eleventh death was at the hands of Hope Brady. Believing that Stefano had killed her husband Bo, Hope showed up at his mansion and inadvertently shot and killed him (and went to jail for it).

This 11th death occurred in 2016, 34 years after Stefano's debut on the show -- but was Stefano really dead this time? Well, Joseph Mascolo was dead, and still is, so a return seems unlikely -- even in soap opera land.

Joseph Mascolo Will Always Be Remembered By 'Days' Fans

Joseph Mascolo was a great actor and played his part well on Days of Our Lives. The show was not the same when he was absent from it. The ratings were always the best when he was in the episodes. And though the characters on the show despised him, he was really well-loved by his co-stars and the Days fans.

Tags: Career-Defining Moments | Days Of Our Lives | Joseph Mascolo | Soap Operas

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Penny Chavers


Penny, besides writing, loves to spend her time with family and friends. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing the piano, board games, and taking online classes on topics that interest her.