TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)
|Also Known As:||Daniel Michael Devito Jr.||Died:|
|Born:||November 17, 1944||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Neptune, New Jersey, USA||Profession:||actor, director, producer, screenwriter, makeup artist, car parker, hairdresser|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
Despite his diminutive 5-foot frame, actor Danny DeVito loomed large on television and in features after his stint as the acerbic Louie De Palma on the classic sitcom, "Taxi" (ABC/NBC, 1978-1983). After gaining acclaim as the sex-obsessed mental patient Martini in both the stage and film versions of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975), DeVito landed the role of Louie and spent the next five years delighting in his torment of a ragtag group of New York cabbies. Once the Emmy Award-winning show was canceled, he made his way in features, delivering a variation on the Louie De Palma theme in the popular adventure comedies, "Romancing the Stone" (1984) and "Jewel of the Nile" (1985). But it was his crossover as a director, notably with the bizarre black comedy "Throw Momma From the Train" (1987), in which he also starred, that solidified DeVito as a multifaceted talent. He spent the next couple of decades deftly transitioning from directing "War of the Roses" (1989) to starring as Arnold Schwarzenegger's long-lost sibling in "Twins" (1988) and as The Penguin in "Batman Returns" (1992) to producing "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and "Erin Brockovich" (2000) under the auspices of his production company, Jersey...
Despite his diminutive 5-foot frame, actor Danny DeVito loomed large on television and in features after his stint as the acerbic Louie De Palma on the classic sitcom, "Taxi" (ABC/NBC, 1978-1983). After gaining acclaim as the sex-obsessed mental patient Martini in both the stage and film versions of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975), DeVito landed the role of Louie and spent the next five years delighting in his torment of a ragtag group of New York cabbies. Once the Emmy Award-winning show was canceled, he made his way in features, delivering a variation on the Louie De Palma theme in the popular adventure comedies, "Romancing the Stone" (1984) and "Jewel of the Nile" (1985). But it was his crossover as a director, notably with the bizarre black comedy "Throw Momma From the Train" (1987), in which he also starred, that solidified DeVito as a multifaceted talent. He spent the next couple of decades deftly transitioning from directing "War of the Roses" (1989) to starring as Arnold Schwarzenegger's long-lost sibling in "Twins" (1988) and as The Penguin in "Batman Returns" (1992) to producing "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and "Erin Brockovich" (2000) under the auspices of his production company, Jersey Films. By the time he returned to regular series television with "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (FX, 2005- ), DeVito was a powerful Hollywood insider capable of making just about any project he wished.
Born on Nov. 17, 1944 in Neptune, NJ, DeVito was raised in nearby Asbury Park by his mother, Julia, and father, Daniel, a small business owner who at various times ran a dry cleaning store, a dairy outlet, a luncheonette and a pool hall. After attending Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grammar School, he went to the Oratory Prep School, where he received his first taste of acting by performing the leading roles in stage productions of "St. Francis of Assisi" and "Billion Dollar Saint." Following his graduation in 1962, DeVito began working as a hairdresser at his sister Angela's New Jersey salon. But he soon realized that he could make a better living learning cosmetics, which led to him applying for a makeup course at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. In order to get into the school, however, he had to recite a monologue like any other acting applicant. He was accepted and soon shifted focus from makeup to acting. By the time he finished his theatrical study in 1966, DeVito was fully dedicated to an acting career.
Immediately following his graduation from the Academy of Dramatic Arts, DeVito landed a job in summer theater, which he soon followed by doing a play at the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, where he befriended future star Michael Douglas in 1966. Having tired of living and trying to find work in New York, he moved west to Los Angeles, where he spent the next two years struggling to land an acting job - a process made harder by casting directors who said that his small stature would get in his way. Undeterred, even oddly inspired, he returned to New York and began directing short films with an 8mm camera. Meanwhile, DeVito made his feature debut in the independent, Asian-themed drama about an interracial relationship, "Dreams of Glass" (1968). Following his off-Broadway debut in a leading role in one of three one-acts collectively called "The Man with the Flower in His Mouth" (1969), he landed the role of Martini, the sexually obsessed mental patient in an off-Broadway revival of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." DeVito next starred in another off-Broadway production, "The Shrinking Bride" (1971), where he met audience member and fellow actor Rhea Perlman. Two weeks after meeting, the two moved into together in an apartment DeVito once shared with Douglas. Though marriage waited another 11 years, the two had embarked upon the rare Hollywood relationship that actually lasted.
DeVito began making more and more appearances onscreen as well as on stage, co-starring opposite Sophia Loren in "La mortadella" ("Lady Liberty") (1972). The following year, he collaborated with Perlman on his first official short film, "The Sound Sleeper" (1973), which he also co-wrote and produced. DeVito received a big boost to his filmmaking career when he and Perlman received a grant from the American Film Institute in 1975 to produce his second short film, "Minestrone," which screened at the Cannes Film Festival and was eventually translated into five different languages for showings abroad. Also that year, he had his first big breakthrough as an actor when he reprised Martini for the feature adaptation of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975), a monumental hit that went on to become only the second film in cinema history to sweep the five major categories at the Academy Awards. Also notable, longtime friend Michael Douglas produced the film, while fellow Jersey Shore denizen Jack Nicholson starred as the irrepressible Randle Patrick McMurphy, who fakes his way into a mental institution in order to serve the rest of his prison sentence in ease, only to run afoul of the authoritarian Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher).
In perhaps one of the most auspicious television debuts of all time, DeVito was cast as the sleazy, heartless and amoral Louie De Palma, the tyrannical head dispatcher for the Sunshine Cab Company on the award-winning sitcom, "Taxi." (ABC/NBC, 1978-1983). Alternately feared and reviled, DeVito's character terrorized his employees with insults and credulity, including a compassionate, but pessimistic driver (Judd Hirsch), a divorced mother of two (Marilu Henner) struggling to realize her ambitions, a doltish, unsuccessful boxer (Tony Danza), a shallow, arrogant actor (Jeff Conway), a former Harvard student-turned-doped-up burnout (Christopher Lloyd) and a strange immigrant (Andy Kaufman) who works as a mechanic. Relishing his every withering comment, Louie became the classic character everyone loved to hate and was later ranked by TV Guide at the top of its list of the 50 greatest television characters of all time. Nominated four times for an Emmy Award, DeVito took home a statue in 1981 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. But even though "Taxi" earned numerous awards and nominations, the network was disappointed with the show's ratings after its third season, leaving NBC to carry the show for a year until it was finally gone from the airwaves for good.
During his run on "Taxi," DeVito made his television movie debut in the romantic drama "Valentine" (ABC, 1979), while continuing to appear in feature films like "Goin' South" (1978), directed by Jack Nicholson, and "Going Ape!" (1981). After supporting roles in "Terms of Endearment" (1983) and "Johnny Dangerously" (1984), he was exemplary as a cowardly crook chasing after two polar opposites (Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner) who are looking for hidden treasure in the jungles of Columbia in "Romancing the Stone" (1984). He reprised the role for the obvious, but unworthy sequel "The Jewel of the Nile" (1985). Having directed episodes of "Taxi" in his day, DeVito stepped back into the director's chair to helm his first television movie, "The Ratings Game" (The Movie Channel, 1984), as well as the first episode of the short-lived sitcom, "Mary" (1985-86), starring Mary Tyler Moore. Adding acting into the directing mix, he helmed and starred in "Throw Momma From the Train" (1987), a dark comedy in which he starred as an incompetent writing student who tries to convince his teacher (Billy Crystal) to help him kill his overbearing mother (Anne Ramsey).
After playing a husband who refuses to pay the ransom on his kidnapped wife (Bette Midler) in "Ruthless People" (1987), DeVito enjoyed notable box office success co-starring opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the silly, but successful comedy "Twins" (1988). Back in the directors chair once again, he turned to even darker material for his next venture, reuniting "Romancing" stars Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in "The War of the Roses" (1989), a pitch-black commentary on yuppie materialism in a marriage gone sour. Though some found the viciousness of the movie disturbing, others enjoyed watching the battling couple going through a meltdown and divorce. Turner and Douglas gave marvelous performances, as did DeVito in a supporting role, while the director's odd point of view and wild camera angles kept the film interesting throughout. Following a starring turn as an insensitive businessman rapaciously gobbling up companies in "Other People's Money" (1991), DeVito was perfectly cast as the hideous Penguin, whose vengeful quest to eliminate every first born son in Gotham City runs him head-on into the Caped Crusader (Michael Keaton), in "Batman Returns" (1992).
DeVito had a rare misfire as a director when he helmed "Hoffa" (1992), a rather sympathetic look at the famed Teamsters leader (Jack Nicholson), whose connection to the Mafia led to his sudden and mysterious disappearance. With his Jersey Films production company, DeVito donned a third hat as producer on several popular and acclaimed films while continuing to act and direct. He gave a rare dramatic performance in "Jack the Bear" (1993), playing a down-and-out horror movie personality who laments the loss of his wife while trying to raise his two sons (Robert J. Steinmiller, Jr. and Miko Hughes). After voicing a street-smart dog in "Look Who's Talking Now" (1993), he reunited with Schwarzenegger, who played a man who suddenly becomes pregnant, in the ridiculous comedy, "Junior" (1994). As one of the executive producers of "Pulp Fiction" (1994), DeVito enjoyed the lucrative success of the cultural phenomenon, after which he starred as an amiable film star who befriends a gangster (John Travolta) trying to break into the film business in "Get Shorty" (1995). He next voiced a character in "Space Jam" (1996), starring NBA legend Michael Jordan, followed by a return to directing with "Matilda" (1996), a winning children's fantasy about a curious and intelligent young girl (Mara Wilson) ignored by her lowbrow parents (DeVito and Perlman) who uses her powers of telekinesis to help herself and those around her.
After a small role as an obnoxious gambler in the all-star cast for Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!" (1996), DeVito was once again perfectly cast as a sleazy, scandal-mongering tabloid reporter who runs afoul of a corrupt police captain (James Cromwell) in the masterful "L.A. Confidential" (1997). He next played an unethical paralegal in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rainmaker" (1997), followed by turns as a middle-aged karaoke addict in "Living Out Loud" (1998), an aging and troubled salesman of "The Big Kahuna" (1999), and George Shapiro, the paternalistic Hollywood manager of comedian and former "Taxi" co-star Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) in "Man on the Moon" (1999). Following a small role as Dr. Horniker in Sophia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides" (1999), DeVito had a string of less than compelling turns in "Drowning Mona" (2000), "Screwed" (2000) and "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" (2001). He had a memorable part as a vile fence who blackmails his longtime criminal associates (Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo and Ricky Jay) in David Mamet's well-acted heist drama, "The Heist" (2001). Meanwhile, he served as executive producer on the television movie, Kate Brasher" (CBS, 2001), which co-starred his wife Rhea Perlman.
DeVito returned to the director's chair again after a lengthy absence to helm "Death to Smoochy" (2002), a black comedy starring Robin Williams and Edward Norton intended to skewer the personalities behind children's television shows. But ostensibly attempting to revel in the film's mean-spiritedness, DeVito's heavy-handed and often cartoonishly violent approach was off-putting, while the script seemed about two years too late to thoroughly mine the once-popular anti-"Barney" sentiment. Back in front of the camera, DeVito also had a nice comedy turn in the lesser-grade Woody Allen film "Anything Else" (2003), playing Harvey, a manager whose client list has been whittled down to one client. Next as a director, DeVito put Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore through homeowner hell in the broad comedy misfire "Duplex" (2003). After a supporting turn in Tim Burton's "Big Fish" (2003), DeVito reprised his role as actor Martin Weir for an amusing string of came s in "Be Cool" (2005), the amusing sequel to "Get Shorty." Prior to "Be Cool," he logged an episode of "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004), hilariously playing a male stripper at Phoebe's bachelorette party who is sent home crying after being insulted. DeVito earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his one-time appearance on the popular sitcom.
In 2006, DeVito returned to series television for the first time as a regular since "Taxi," joining the irreverent comedy "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (FX, 2005- ) for its second season. DeVito played Frank Reynolds, the legal father of two paternal twins (Glenn Howerton and Kaitlin Olson), and the biological father of an angry underachiever (Charlie Day), all of whom own and work at an unsuccessful Irish bar in South Philly. Like his television predecessor Louie De Palma, Frank was amoral, insulting and willing to do anything in order to get what he wants. He made a bit of news in late 2006 when he showed up on an episode of "The View" (ABC, 1997- ) after a long night of drinking limoncellos with George Clooney. An obviously jovial and besotted DeVito talked about having sex in the White House, mocked outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and called President George W. Bush "numb nuts." Meanwhile, he continued making-feature films, co-starring alongside Forest Whitaker, Kim Basinger, Jay Mohr and Carla Gugino in the grim addiction drama, "Even Money" (2007).
Following a small turn in the raunchy comedy "Reno 911!: Miami" (2007), he had supporting roles in a pair of romantic comedies, "The Good Night" (2007), which starred Martin Freeman as a former pop star-turned-jingle writer who meets and falls in love with his ideal woman (Penélope Cruz), and "Just Add Water" (2008), about a decent guy with a dead-end life (Dylan Walsh) who tries to start his life over again after discovering his wife and brother were having an affair. In Brian Koppelman's "Solitary Man" (2009), DeVito had a supporting turn as the college friend of a successful man (Michael Douglas)-turned-business flop who offers help in his hour of need. From there, he was one of four eligible suitors for a successful art curator (Kristen Bell) in the romantic comedy "When in Rome" (2010), and followed that with a turn as a gangster in the Internet-released ensemble comedy "Girl Walks into a Bar" (2011). Tackling a rare voice role, DeVito was the titular character in "The Lorax" (2012), the animated 3-D musical comedy based on the famed Dr. Suess story of the same name. Later that year, DeVito and Pearlman announced that they were separating after 30 years of marriage, a shock considering how long the two had been together. Though the split was announced through DeVito's publicist, there was little in the way of explanation. DeVito and Pearlman had three children, Lucy, Grace and Jacob.
Filmographyclose complete filmography
CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
Besides his connection with Michael Douglas, DeVito acted in father Kirk's feature directing debut, "Scalawag" (1973)
"He also has an uncanny ability to simultaneously repulse, amuse and move an audience--thanks, in part, to his not-so-secret weapon: shortness.
Indeed, that he stands only five feet tall is a key to De Vito's comedy. His height, combined with his stocky frame, unusually large head and thinning hair, gives him the appearance of a child-man, which exonerates him from responsibility for his actions. With his nastiness construed--and understood--as a natural lashing out against his physical 'handicap', he can get away with being mean. Also, there's something inherently funny about a child-man who's nasty. On first glance, you'd expect him to be more, say, adorable, but when he turns out to be a monster, you still don't believe he's bad and laugh at the apparent contradiction." --From "Funny as Hell" by Robert Seidenberg, AMERICAN FILM, September 1989
"The joy of working with Danny DeVito? Well, for starters, I can see the top of his head. Also, the man is one of the most insightful directors I've ever had. His passion for his work is infectious, he's enormously gifted, and he's absolutely wild and wonderful. Remember the Tasmanian devil in Bugs Bunny? Well, this guy is like the Tasmanian devil with a good heart." --Billy Crystal on DeVito
"I got this 150-some-odd-page script that said 'Pulp Fiction, by Quentin Tarantino, final draft', and I knew that there was something going on. And I read it and loved it, and I said to Rhea while I was reading it, 'Either I'm the sickest individual alive or I think this is hysterically funny.' I never thought it would take off as big as it did." --Danny DeVito in US, August 1996
On the tabloids: "First of all, you want to be in the newspapers, you know people want to see [you], but there's no need for people to hunt you down like an animal. I usually just smile, [let them] take the picture and go on my merry way, and the people who are chasing me, I don't look at them.
[But] if it's so belligerent, so in-your-face, and you have no defense against it, you probably act like a frightened animal and run away. Anything can happen when you're in that situation and unfortunately sometimes the consequences are very grave. In this very tragic thing, I was moved and saddened by Princess Diana and Dodi [Fayed]. . . that's uncalled for." --DeVito to CHICAGO TRIBUNE, October 16, 1997
Companions close complete companion listing
Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.Click here to contribute