Steven Vincent Buscemi
December 13, 1957
New York City, U.S.
|Alma mater||Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute|
(m. 1987; died 2019)
Steven Vincent Buscemi (// boo-SEM-ee,[Note 1] Italian: [buʃˈʃɛːmi]; born December 13, 1957) is an American actor. Buscemi is known for his work as an acclaimed character actor. His early credits consist of major roles in independent film productions such as the AIDS drama Parting Glances (1986), Mystery Train (1989), In the Soup (1992), and his breakout role as Mr. Pink in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Through his career, Buscemi has continued to mix independent titles with roles in more mainstream films including Living in Oblivion (1995), Desperado (1995), Con Air (1997), Armageddon (1998), Ghost World (2001), Big Fish (2003), The Death of Stalin (2017), and The King of Staten Island (2020). Buscemi has often starred in Coen brothers films such as Miller's Crossing (1990), Fargo (1996), and The Big Lebowski (1998). He has also appeared in supporting or cameo roles in many films with Adam Sandler including Airheads (1994), Billy Madison (1995), The Wedding Singer (1998), Mr. Deeds (2002), Grown Ups (2010), Grown Ups 2 (2013), and Hubie Halloween (2020).
Buscemi has also had an extensive career in television, notably starring in the lead role of Enoch "Nucky" Thompson in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014). His performance earned him two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe and two nominations for an Primetime Emmy Award. His other television roles include Lonesome Dove (1989), The Sopranos (2004, 2006), 30 Rock (2007–2013), Horace and Pete (2016), and Miracle Workers (2019–present).
He has directed films such as Trees Lounge (1996), Animal Factory (2000), and Interview (2007). As a voice actor, Buscemi has portrayed characters in the Monsters, Inc. film franchise (2001, 2013), Monster House (2006), Charlotte's Web (2006), the Hotel Transylvania film franchise (2012–2022), and The Boss Baby (2017).
Early life and education
Steven Vincent Buscemi was born on December 13, 1957, in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City, to Dorothy (née Wilson) and John Buscemi. His father was a sanitation worker and served in the Korean War, and his mother was a hostess at Howard Johnson's. Buscemi's paternal ancestors were from the town of Menfi in Sicily, Italy and his mother is of English and Dutch ancestry. He has three brothers: Jon, Ken and Michael. Michael is also an actor, whose most notable role to date was as Officer Jimmy in BlacKkKlansman (2018). Buscemi was raised Catholic.
When Buscemi was 10 years old, the family moved from East New York to Valley Stream in Nassau County. Buscemi graduated in 1975 from Valley Stream Central High School along with future writer Edward J. Renehan, Jr. and future actress Patricia Charbonneau. In high school, Buscemi wrestled for the varsity squad and participated in the drama troupe. (Buscemi's 1996 film Trees Lounge, in which he starred and served as screenwriter and director, is set in and was largely shot in his childhood village of Valley Stream.) Buscemi briefly attended Nassau Community College before moving to Manhattan to enroll in the Lee Strasberg Institute.
1985–1989: Early roles
Buscemi made his acting debut in the 1985 film The Way It Is, directed by Eric Mitchell, which was part of the no wave cinema movement. Other early performances include Parting Glances (1986) as well as an appearance in an episode of the television series Miami Vice in 1986. In 1989, he appeared in four films, including James Ivory's comedy Slaves of New York, Howard Brookner's ensemble period film Bloodhounds of Broadway and the New York Stories segment directed by Martin Scorsese entitled, "Life Lessons" starring alongside Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette. The film screened out of competition at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival to mixed reviews with the Scorsese segment being hailed as the standout by Roger Ebert. Buscemi also appeared in Jim Jarmusch's independent film Mystery Train (1989) as Charlie the Barber, and was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male.
1990–1998: Rise to prominence
In 1990, he played Mink Larouie in the Coen Brothers' neo-noir gangster film Millers Crossing starring opposite Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, and John Turturro. This was the first of five of the Coen Brothers' films in which Buscemi performed. Critic Roger Ebert described the film as one that "It is likely to be most appreciated by movie lovers who will enjoy its resonance with films of the past." Also that year, he starred as Test Tube, a henchman of Laurence Fishburne's character Jimmy Jump in Abel Ferrara's crime film King of New York, as well as Edward in the anthology film Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, the protagonist of the "Lot 249" segment of the film. In 1991, he played a bellboy, Chet, in the Coen Brothers film black comedy Barton Fink starring John Turturro and John Goodman. His first lead role was as Adolpho Rollo in Alexandre Rockwell's In the Soup (1992).
He gained wider attention for his supporting part as pseudonymous criminal Mr. Pink in Quentin Tarantino's crime film Reservoir Dogs (1992), a role that Tarantino originally wrote for himself, and one that earned Buscemi the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male in his second nomination. Also in 1992, he had a guest role as Phil Hickle, Ellen's father and older Pete's guidance counselor, in The Adventures of Pete and Pete. The following year, he starred as the eponymous character in the horror comedy film Ed and His Dead Mother (1993).
He also appeared in a cameo appearance in Tarantino's next film, Pulp Fiction, where he portrays a waiter dressed as Buddy Holly who serves Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega. He endeared himself to comedy fans as Rex, bass player of The Lone Rangers, in the 1994 comedy Airheads. In 1995, Buscemi guest-starred as suspected murderer Gordon Pratt in "End Game", an episode of the television series Homicide: Life on the Street. Buscemi was rumored to be considered for the role of The Scarecrow in Joel Schumacher's proposed fifth installment of the first Batman franchise, Batman Unchained, before Warner Bros. cancelled the project.
The next year, Buscemi again collaborated with the Coen Brothers, starring as kidnapper Carl Showalter in the black comedy crime film Fargo starring Frances McDormand and William H. Macy. The film was a critical and commercial success debuting at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival where it competed for the Palme d'Or. Subsequently, he gained a reputation as character actor, with supporting roles in blockbuster action films: as Garland Greene in Simon West's Con Air (1997) and Rockhound in Michael Bay's Armageddon (1998). Buscemi also appeared as Donny in the Coen's cult classic black comedy film The Big Lebowski (1998) starring Jeff Bridges and John Goodman. Also in 1998 he played a supporting role in the romantic comedy The Wedding Singer starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. During this time he also made his directing debut the episode: "Finnegan's Wake" (1998) of the NBC drama Homicide: Life on the Street. From 1999 to 2001 he also directed two episodes of HBO prison drama Oz.
1999–2009: The Sopranos
In 1999 he acted alongside Adam Sandler in the comedy Big Daddy (1999). Going into the 2000s, Buscemi continued to co-star in supporting roles. He played Seymour in the black comedy Ghost World (2001) opposite Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch. The film received critical acclaim with critic Roger Ebert declaring, "The Buscemi role is one he's been pointing toward during his entire career". Buscemi received numerous nominations for his performance including for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. In 2001 he voiced Randall Boggs in the Disney Pixar animated film Monsters, Inc. (2001). The film was a critical and financial success and earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. He also extensively performed voice-over work for animated films reprising the role of Randall in its prequel Monsters University (2013), Mr. Wesley in Home on the Range (2004), Nebbercracker in Monster House (2006) and Templeton the Rat in Charlotte's Web. During this time he also took the supporting role as Romero in the children's action adventure film Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002), as well as its sequel Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003).
In 2004, Buscemi joined the cast of the acclaimed HBO crime television series The Sopranos as Tony Soprano's cousin and childhood friend, Tony Blundetto, a role that earned him an Emmy Award nomination. Buscemi had previously contributed to the show as director of the third-season episode "Pine Barrens", which was one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series, and the fourth-season episode "Everybody Hurts". He appeared in episode three of season 6 as a doorman in the afterlife, which is portrayed as a country club in Tony Soprano's dream. He also directed the episodes "In Camelot", the seventh episode of season 5, and "Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request...", the fifth episode of season 6.
Buscemi appeared in the music video for Joe Strummer's cover version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song". During this time Buscemi acted in several comedy films often starring Adam Sandler in films such as Mr. Deeds (2002), I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (2007), Grown Ups (2010), and opposite Chris Rock I Think I Love My Wife (2007). He also starred in numerous critically acclaimed independent drama films such as the Tim Burton fantasy drama Big Fish (2003), the Jim Jarmusch film Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), the John Turturro romantic drama Romance & Cigarettes (2005), the anthology film Paris, je t'aime (2006), the war drama The Messenger (2009), and the romantic comedy Youth in Revolt (2009). He also directed the comedy drama films Lonesome Jim (2005), and Interview (2007), while also serving as an executive producer for the film Saint John of Las Vegas (2009). During this time he continued to voice roles in films such as Monster House (2006), Igor (2008), G-Force (2009), and Hotel Transylvania (2012).
2010–2015: Boardwalk Empire
Buscemi continued directing for television including for the Showtime series Nurse Jackie (2009-2011) starring Edie Falco, the NBC sitcom 30 Rock (2009-2011) starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin and Portlandia from 2014 to 2015. He also directed 27 episodes of his web series Park Bench with Steve Buscemi (from 2014 to 2015).
Buscemi starred in the HBO drama series Boardwalk Empire created by Terence Winter. The series started in 2010, where Buscemi assumed the role as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (based on Enoch L. Johnson), a corrupt Atlantic City politician who rules the town during the Prohibition era. Buscemi's performance garnered him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama; he later received two more nominations for his work on the same show. In 2011 he hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live. Buscemi had a recurring role as Lenny Wosniak in the NBC sitcom 30 Rock from 2007 to 2013. During this time he appeared as a guest star in numerous shows such as the IFC sketch series Portlandia (2014-2017), the Comedy Central sketch series Inside Amy Schumer (2016), the Netflix comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2016), and the Comedy Central comedy series Broad City (2017). He also acted alongside Adam Sandler in the animated film Hotel Transylvania 2 and The Ridiculous 6 (both in 2015).
He hosts, directs, and produces his own web series talk show, Park Bench with Steve Buscemi, which debuted in May 2014. Buscemi won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series for the series in 2016. In January 2016, Buscemi began co-starring alongside Louis C.K. and Alan Alda in C.K.'s acclaimed comedy-drama web series Horace and Pete. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Buscemi was the first actor to sign on to the project; with Boardwalk Empire over he was available to star in the series. The two reportedly "met up in New York City where C.K. pitched the still evolving series idea to Buscemi. He signed on, on the spot, to play C.K.’s brother, Pete".
In 2016, Buscemi acted in the political drama Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer starring Richard Gere. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. The following year he starred as Del Montgomery in the British coming of age drama Lean on Pete (2017) directed by Andrew Haigh. The film premiered at the 74th Venice International Film Festival. The performance earned him a BIFA Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 2017 Buscemi starred in Armando Iannucci's dark comedy and satirical film The Death of Stalin. Buscemi portrayed Nikita Khrushchev. He received critical acclaim from critics with Manohla Dargis describing his performance as "superb". The role earned him a BIFA Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination.
During this time Buscemi continued taking roles in comedy films such as The Week Of (2018), The Dead Don't Die (2019), The King of Staten Island (2020), and Hubie Halloween (2020) as well as voicing roles in The Boss Baby (2017), Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018), and Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (2022).
In February 2020, Buscemi was cast as Chebutykin in a New York Theatre Workshop revival of Anton Chekov's Three Sisters alongside Greta Gerwig, Oscar Isaac, and Chris Messina. The production was supposed to begin May 13, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic with no return date set.
Buscemi has also worked as a director, making his directing debut in the 1990s. His directorial credits include:
- What Happened to Pete (1992) (short film)
- Trees Lounge (1996)
- Animal Factory (2000)
- Lonesome Jim (2005)
- Interview (2007)
- The Listener (2022)
In addition to feature films, he directed episodes of the television shows Love, Homicide: Life on the Street, The Sopranos, Oz, 30 Rock, Portlandia, and Nurse Jackie. In the latter, his brother Michael played the character God in several episodes. While scouting a location for a film, Buscemi visited the Philadelphia Eastern State Penitentiary and found the building so interesting that he later provided the majority of the narration for the audio tour there.
Reception and image
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Buscemi was adamant about not altering his misaligned teeth, saying, "I've had dentists who have wanted to help me out, but I say, 'You know, I won't work again if you fix my teeth.'" Buscemi is noted for wrinkles around his eyes, giving them an aged appearance. "Buscemi eyes" describes the result when his eyes are photo-edited onto others' faces. He has stated that although he did not find this amusing, his wife Jo Andres did.
Buscemi guest-starred in season 6 episode 7 of 30 Rock as a private investigator. Playing against his image, during a flashback he appears to be disguised as a teenager as he says that he was "part of a special task force of very young-looking cops who infiltrated high schools". His character's disguise became an internet meme.
The 1999 song "Hey Leonardo" referenced Buscemi as "that guy who played in Fargo…I think his name is Steve.”
Buscemi grew up pronouncing his name as boo-SEM-ee, in an anglicised way. In Sicily, where his ancestors are from, it is pronounced as boo-SHEM-ee. He once quipped, "I had to go to Sicily to find out I pronounce my name wrong."
Buscemi was a New York City firefighter from 1980 to 1984, with Engine Company No. 55, in the Little Italy section of New York. The day after the September 11 attacks in New York, he returned to his old firehouse to volunteer; he worked twelve-hour shifts for a week, and dug through rubble looking for missing firefighters. On May 25, 2003, Buscemi was arrested with nineteen other people while protesting the closing of a number of firehouses, including Engine 55.
Buscemi was stabbed multiple times in April 2001 in Wilmington, North Carolina while shooting the film Domestic Disturbance. He had intervened in a bar fight between Vince Vaughn, Scott Rosenberg, and two local men. He was released from the hospital after treatment.
In the middle of 2011, Buscemi joined rallies against the threat of closing eight Brooklyn firehouses during the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said that closing these firehouses "is no way to protect New York."
In 2014, Buscemi starred in and narrated the HBO documentary A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY, in which he revisited his work with fellow firefighters. He shares their stories, including those from September 11.
Buscemi is a noted fan of the musical group Beastie Boys. He appears in the music video for the band's 2011 song "Make Some Noise", which was nominated for MTV Video of the Year. He also has a post-credit scene in the Spike Jonze–directed documentary Beastie Boys Story in which he pokes fun at the commercial failure of the group's second studio album, Paul's Boutique; "When the tree fell in the forest, nobody heard that shit," jokes Buscemi. Buscemi sang in "The Broadway Song" for Lou Reed's 2003 album The Raven.
Buscemi has an extensive body of work in both film and television dating back to the 1980s.
Awards and honors
Buscemi has received numerous awards and nominations for his performances in film and television. This includes a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture nomination for his performance in Ghost World (2003). He also received five Independent Spirit Award nominations winning twice for Best Supporting Male for his roles in Reservoir Dogs (1992), and Ghost World (2003). For his role as Enoch 'Nucky' Thompson in the critically acclaimed HBO drama series created by Martin Scorsese, he received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations, three Golden Globe Award nominations, and ten Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG) nominations. He received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama in 2011, and four SAG awards, two consecutive Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series awards (2011, 2012), and two consecutive Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2011, 2012). Buscemi won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series for Park Bench with Steve Buscemi (2016).
In 2014, Buscemi was named Honorary battalion chief by the New York City Fire Department after his early career serving as a fireman, and for his return to the service during 9/11. He worked 12 hour shifts for several days alongside other firefighters, searching for survivors in the rubble from the World Trade Center.
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I say Bu-semmy. I don't mind Bu-shemmy, though. That's the correct Sicilian pronunciation, from the old country.
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