Steve Buscemi is an American actor, filmmaker and former firefighter. He has starred in films such as Parting Glances, New York Stories, Mystery Train, Reservoir Dogs, Desperado, Con Air, Armageddon, The Grey Zone, Ghost World, Big Fish, and The Death of Stalin. He is also known for his supporting roles in the Coen brothers films Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. He provides the voice of Randall Boggsin the Monsters, Inc. franchise and Wayne the Werewolf in the Hotel Transylvania film series.
From 2010 to 2014, Buscemi portrayed Enoch “Nucky” Thompson in the critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire, which earned him two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globeand two nominations for an Emmy Award. He made his directorial debut with Trees Lounge(1996), in which he also starred. Other films he has directed include Animal Factory, Lonesome Jim and Interview. He has directed episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street, The Sopranos, Oz, 30 Rock and Nurse Jackie.
Steven Vincent Buscemi was born in Brooklyn, New York, to John Buscemi, a sanitation worker and Korean War veteran, and Dorothy (née Wilson) Buscemi, a hostess at Howard Johnson’s. Buscemi’s father was of Italian descent; his ancestors were from the town of Menfi in Sicily. Buscemi’s mother was of Irish, English, and Dutch ancestry. He has three brothers—Jon, Ken, and Michael. Michael is also an actor. Buscemi was raised Roman Catholic.
The family moved to Valley Stream in Nassau County and Buscemi graduated in 1975 from Valley Stream Central High School, along with classmate 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.
Having taken a civil service test in 1976, Buscemi became a firefighter in New York City in 1980. He served in the FDNY‘s Engine Co. 55 in Manhattan’s Little Italy for four years. After 9/11, Buscemi returned to Engine 55 and for several days worked 12-hour shifts alongside other firefighters to sift through the rubble of the World Trade Center. In 2003, at a union rally, he gave a speech supporting higher wages for firefighters. In 2014 he was appointed an Honorary Battalion Chief of the FDNY.
Buscemi made his film debut in the 1985 The Way It Is, directed by Eric Mitchell and produced by No Wave Cinema. His other early films include Parting Glances (1986), Slaves of New York (1988), and Tales from the Darkside, a 1990 film in three segments. Buscemi starred in the first segment, playing Bellingham, a college student who orders a mummy and unleashes it on fellow college students (played by Christian Slater and Julianne Moore). In 1990 Buscemi had additional crime roles. He played the henchman of Laurence Fishburne named Test Tube in Abel Ferrara‘s King of New York.
He also played Mink in the Coen Brothers‘ Millers Crossing. Although he had to audition twice for this role, it marked the first of five of the Coen Brothers’ films in which Buscemi performed. Before his work with the Coen Brothers, he appeared in Jim Jarmusch’s anthology film Mystery Train, released in 1989, for which he received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Male.
Buscemi in 1996
In 1991, he played the bellboy, Chet, in the Coen Brothers film Barton Fink. His first lead role was as Adolpho Rollo in Alexandre Rockwell‘s In the Soup (1992). He gained wider attention as Mr. Pink in Quentin Tarantino‘s film Reservoir Dogs (1992), a role that Tarantino wrote for himself. He also appeared in Tarantino’s next film, Pulp Fiction, in which he acts as a waiter at the 1950s-themed restaurant patronized by Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega. In 1995, Buscemi played suspected cop-shooter Gordon Pratt in the episode “End Game” at the end of a three-episode arc of Homicide: Life on the Street. He also had a role as Phil Hickle, Ellen’s father and older Pete’s guidance counselor, in The Adventures of Pete and Pete, as well as guest-starring in Miami Vice in 1986. 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.
Buscemi’s other most notable character roles include Carl Showalter in Fargo, Garland Greene in Con Air, Donny in The Big Lebowski, Rockhound in Armageddon, Seymour in Ghost World (for which he won several awards), Randall Boggs in Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University, Romero in Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, Norther Winslow in Big Fish, Mr. Wesley in Home on the Range, Mr. Horace Nebbercracker in Monster House, Templeton the Rat in Charlotte’s Web and Wayne the Werewolf in Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2 and Hotel Transylvania 3.
Buscemi often plays characters who are neurotic and paranoid. He has frequently appeared in Adam Sandler films, such as Airheads, Billy Madison, The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2, and The Cobbler and has regularly worked with Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Jim Jarmusch, Robert Rodriguez, and Michael Bay.
In 2002 Buscemi contributed to Lou Reed‘s concept album The Raven with the song “Broadway Song”, and poems “Old Poe” and “The Cask”. In 2003 Buscemi made a brief celebrity guest appearance as himself on the long-running Fox animated television show The Simpsons, in the episode “Brake My Wife, Please“. Most recently, Buscemi provided the voice for Dwight, a bank robber whom Marge Simpson befriends, in “I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings“, which originally aired on October 14, 2007.
In 2004 Buscemi joined the cast of 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. As well, he appeared in the music video for Joe Strummer‘s cover version of Bob Marley‘s “Redemption Song“.
Buscemi starred in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (based on Enoch L. Johnson), a corrupt Atlantic Citypolitician who rules the town during the Prohibition era. He won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama for the role. In 2011 he hosted NBC‘s Saturday Night Live.
He hosts, directs, and produces his own web series talk show, Park Bench, which debuted in May 2014. In January 2016, Buscemi began co-starring alongside Louis C.K. in C.K.’s comedy-drama web series Horace and Pete.
In addition to feature films, he directed episodes of the television shows Homicide: Life on the Street; four episodes of The Sopranos, including one of the most critically acclaimed episodes: “Pine Barrens“; as well as two episodes of HBO‘s prison-drama series Oz, entitled “U.S. Male” and “Cuts Like a Knife”. He has also directed two episodes of 30 Rock (“Retreat to Move Forward” and “Leap Day“), and six episodes of Showtime’s 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.
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”.
Buscemi grew up pronouncing his name as boo-SEM-ee, in an anglicized way. In Sicily, where his ancestors are from, it is pronounced as boo-SHEM-ee. He once remarked, “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 9/11 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 married Jo Andres in 1987; they were married until her death in early January 2019. They had one son.
In April 2001, Buscemi was in Wilmington, North Carolina, shooting the film Domestic Disturbance. He was stabbed multiple times after intervening in a bar fight between Vince Vaughn, Scott Rosenberg, and two local men, and was released from hospital after treatment.
A guest in episode 13 of the genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?, he was helped to trace his maternal ancestry to Julia Vanderhoof and Ralph B. Montgomery (1834–1878), individuals of Dutch and English descent. The program aired March 25, 2011.
In the middle of 2011, he joined rallies against the threat of the closing of eight Brooklyn firehouses during the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, saying “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.