Steven Vincent Buscemi was born on Dec.13, 1957 to working-class parents in Brooklyn. For the first eight years of his life, he lived in the rough East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, in a house shared with aunts, uncles, and cousins. His family was his first audience, with the youngster performing jokes, skits and magic shows for them at the kitchen table when he was not busy drawing or daydreaming of being an actor one day. At the age of seven, he got his first film role, playing the bad guy in a Super 8 home movie version of Batman. The family moved to suburban Valley Stream, Long Island, when Steve was eight years old, where he grew into a skinny, wise-ass teenager who excelled at wrestling and soccer, as well as dabbled in school theatrical productions. However, at this age, he did not have the confidence to pursue his desire to entertain. After graduating from Valley Stream High School, Buscemi took a Civil Service exam and embarked on several years of odd jobs while waiting for his name to come up for a job with the FDNY. He pumped gas, drove an ice cream truck, and spent empty nights at a local bar - an aimless existence that would become the basis of his writing/directing debut, Trees Lounge (1996). But the road to that debut began in 1977 when the aimless bar fly summoned up the nerve to enroll in acting classes at the famed Lee Strasberg Institute in Manhattan.
At the Strasberg Institute, it was a long journey coaxing the natural talent out of Buscemi, who was unnerved by his lack of both stage experience and urban sophistication. Nonetheless, he moved to Manhattan after a year of classes and found himself falling in step with the fertile East Village performing arts scene. He began performing stand-up comedy and making inroads with the downtown theater communities of The Westbeth, PS 122, La Mama, and The Kitchen. In 1980, Buscemi's name rose to the top of the FDNY list, so he finally took a firefighting position with Engine No. 55 in SoHo. He tried to keep his artistic ambitions low-profile but eventually he began performing stand-up at parties for fellow firefighters. Over time, the self-deprecating comic wanted to focus more on acting and finally gained his first critical acclaim with "Steve & Mark," an avant garde comedy duo he formed with actor Mark Boone Jr. Over the next eight years, they performed together, they received notice from The New York Times and ramped up to producing an entirely new show of material every week.
Meanwhile, Buscemi landed his first small independent screen role in "The Way It Is" (1986), and the following year, took on the bold role of an embittered musician with AIDS in the landmark indie feature, Parting Glances (1986). He had taken a leave of absence from firefighting to concentrate on the performance, and after seeing his work onscreen, had the confidence to pursue acting full-time. Work came steadily; first with a spate of TV guest spots on shows like "Miami Vice" (NBC, 1984-89) in an unintentionally avant-garde performance where Buscemi was roughed up by Willie Nelson to a soundtrack by Depeche Mode. His reputation with the Downtown New York arts scene provided Buscemi with his early series of film roles, including an adaptation of Tama Janowitz' East Village drama Slaves of New York (1989) and Martin Scorsese's "Life Lessons" segment of "New York Stories," (1989), where he portrayed a performance artist. The same year, local filmmaker Jim Jarmusch cast him as a drunk and unlucky barber in "Mystery Train," which earned the actor a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards. In 1990, Buscemi began a long and successful working relationship with The Coen Brothers with a small role in "Miller's Crossing," and another the following year in Barton Fink (1991).
Buscemi's low profile blew up in 1992 when Quentin Tarantino cast him as Mr. Pink - a would-be diamond thief who refuses to tip waitresses - in the cult classic, "Reservoir Dogs," which won the actor an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male. He landed his first starring role as an aspiring downtown filmmaker in Alexandre Rockwell's "In the Soup." Over the next few years, Buscemi was an indie mainstay, with increasingly prominent roles in films like Twenty Bucks (1993), Airheads (1994) and Tarantino's classic, Pulp Fiction (1994). In 1995, he began getting offers to play mostly psychos and criminals in mainstream fare like "Billy Madison" (1995), Con Air (1997) and Armageddon (1998), which he heartily accepted to help finance his dedication to independent filmmaking. That dedication was never more obvious after he starred in Tom DiCillo's Living in Oblivion (1995) a brilliant comedy in which he starred as an independent film director.
In 1996, Buscemi's unique talent for portraying weasel-like, inept, but sympathetic criminals was perfectly showcased in "Fargo." No film had introduced him to more people than the Coen Brothers dark, uncomfortably funny, and bloody tale of a perfect crime gone awry, which surprised everyone involved when it became a mainstream hit, earning several Oscar nods. Buscemi's profile was further heightened that year with "Trees Lounge," his semi-autobiographical depiction of what his life would have been like had he not escaped Long Island. Buscemi received enthusiastic notices for his writing and directing debut, and was recognized with a tribute at that year's Sundance Film Festival. He re-teamed with old pal DiCillo in 1997 ("The Real Blonde") and Rockwell in 1998 ("Louis and Frank"), before joining forces again with the Coen Brothers in 1998; this time to play the perpetually berated bowler who ends up in a coffee can in "The Big Lebowski." Buscemi also had a little-seen but fantastic turn in the Stanley Tucci ensemble comedy "Imposters," playing a suicidal 1930s crooner who chokes out love songs between sobs.
Based on the success of his directorial debut, Buscemi was offered opportunities to direct; first, a series of Nike commercials, and then episodes of the HBO prison drama "Oz" (1997-2003) and "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99), for which the newcomer earned a DGA nomination. He directed his second feature, "Animal Factory" (2000), based on the novel By Edward Bunker and went on to direct a total of four episodes of "The Sopranos," beginning with the Emmy-nominated "Bine Barrens" episode in 2001. That same year, Buscemi voiced Randall Boggs in the winning "Monsters Inc." and was heartbreaking in "Ghost World," playing a record-collecting loner who finds a kindred spirit in a cynical teen (Thora Birch). The film was a critic's pick - winning Buscemi New York Film Critics Circle and National Society of Film Critics Awards, as well as Golden Globe and AFI nominations - that beautifully packaged his mastery of awkward realism, emotional vulnerability, and sheer likeability. Not long after the film was released in the summer of 2001, Buscemi volunteered his services in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, digging through rubble for missing fire crews in 12-hour shifts and refusing to be photographed or interviewed in the process.
Now juggling three different careers, Buscemi directed three more "Sopranos" episodes and the pilot for "Baseball Wives" (HBO, 2004) as well as appeared in independent films including Love in the Time of Money (2002) and "Who's the Top"(2005) - not to mention, adding zest to the mainstream kiddie hit, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002) and the misbegotten Adam Sandler comedy, Mr. Deeds (2002). For the 2004 season of "The Sopranos," Buscemi came out from behind the camera and joined the cast as Tony Soprano's cousin and childhood best friend, Tony Blundetto, a former member of the family who, after 15 years in prison, was intent on becoming a massage therapist. On the big screen, he had a brief but scene-stealing role in Michael Bay's sci-fi thriller The Island (2005) and also directed Liv Tyler and Casey Affleck in the charming "Lonesome Jim," which was nominated for a Grand Jury prize at Sundance. After a starring role as a paparazzi in DiCillo's Sundance hit Delirious (2007), Buscemi appeared in Interview (2007), the story of one night in the life of a fading journalist, which Buscemi directed and starred in opposite British starlet, Sienna Miller.
Buscemi continued to work steadily, popping up in the Adam Sandler/Kevin James gay marriage comedy "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" (2007) as well as notching guest spots on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), "ER" (NBC, 1994-2007) and "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006- ), for which he was nominated for an Outstanding Guest Actor Emmy for his role as a bizarre detective. Voiceover work became lucrative for Buscemi, who gave voice to a half-rabbit creature in the animated flop Igor (2008) and a hamster in the guinea-pig action flick hit "G-Force" (2009). Buscemi appeared in the Oscar-nominated The Messenger (2009) with Woody Harrelson, and did what he could for the little-seen indie "Saint John of Las Vegas" with Emmanuelle Chriqui as a wheelchair-bound stripper (2010) and the Michael Cera nonstarter Youth in Revolt (2010). His appearance in the Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups (2010) with Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Salma Hayek saw another checkmark in the appreciation file audiences kept for the offbeat actor. The year 2010 culminated when Buscemi landed a starring role on the much anticipated new HBO series co-created by Martin Scorsese, "Boardwalk Empire" (2010- ), playing Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, a powerful and corrupt political leader in Prohibition-era Atlantic City. While the show received overwhelming praise, Buscemi earned his due by winning both Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for Best Actor in a Drama Series, as well as nabbing Emmy nominations for the same category in 2011 and 2012.
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