Family & Companions
Despite the many controversies throughout his career, Vincent Gallo was something of a modern-day Renaissance man, simultaneously pursuing art, music, directing and acting. As a self-proclaimed hustler and hobbyist, Gallo claimed to act more for its tangible rewards than to fulfill any creative urges, though the off-beat choices he made seemed to belie the idea. Regardless, Gallo was a gifted actor able to pull out quality performances in a variety of projects, including "Arizona Dream" (1993), "Palookaville" (1995) and his feature directing debut, "Buffalo '66" (1998), which helped bring Gallo into the mainstream. Despite a strong body of work, Gallo became something of a pariah in Hollywood. He openly and contemptuously expressed his hatred for a variety of big name actors - Tim Roth, Kiefer Sutherland, Anjelica Huston - while proving to be a difficult personality to work with. Meanwhile, Gallo created quite the stir with his second directing effort, "The Brown Bunny" (2004), a widely-panned film in which his then-girlfriend gave him oral sex on camera. Regardless of the many dramas swirling about Gallo, he proved that his gifts were a multi-faceted force to be reckoned with.
Born on April 11, 1961 in Buffalo, NY, Gallo was raised by his father, Vincent, Sr., a hairdresser and sheriff's deputy, and his mother, Janet, also a hairdresser. An only child, Gallo later described his youth in unpleasant terms, often accusing his parents of destructive and abusive behavior that appeared to some to be unbelievable, like his father punching him in the face for no apparent reason or his mother badmouthing him to her salon customers. Perhaps embellishing his own behavior, he claimed to have been a sexual compulsive as an adolescent, masturbating some 15 times a day and getting arrested for flashing in public. When he was 16, Gallo left home and high school to pursue painting and music in New York City, where he became embroiled in the new wave scene of the 1970s and 1980s, while claiming to have prostituted himself to gay men - but just hand jobs - to make ends meet. Meanwhile, he became fast friends with acclaimed artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, with whom he played in the bands, Gray and Bohack. Alongside Basquiat, he showed his paintings and sculptures in New York galleries and became a fixture in the downtown art world.
Though he made his first foray into film by directing the experimental short "If You Feel Froggy, Jump" (1977), it would be some time before he directed his first feature. In the meantime, he began appearing before the camera in such underground films as "New York Beat Movie" (1981) and "The Way It Is" (1983). On the latter, Gallo composed the film's score, which earned him a Berlin Film Festival Award for Best Music in 1984. He followed with a starring turn in the independent drama, "Doc's Kingdom" (1988), in which he played a son grieving his mother's death who is shocked to learn that his long-lost father is alive and well and living in Europe. Gallo's acting career began to flourish in the next decade with a small role in "Goodfellas" (1990), which was followed by a part as a policeman in the epic drama "The House of the Spirits" (1993) and a co-starring role as an aspiring actor opposite Johnny Depp, Jerry Lewis and Faye Dunaway in "Arizona Dream" (1993). Gallo continued his acting upswing with a turn as a U.S. soldier in the French made-for-television movie, "U.S. Go Home" (1994) and an appearance as a Protestant minister in Rebecca Miller's "Angela" (1995). He next tried his hand at modeling, appearing in ads for Calvin Klein.
Perhaps his most revered onscreen performance came with "Palookaville" (1995), an amusing independent comedy about three inept criminals (Gallo, Adam Trese and William Forsythe) whose attempts to rob a bank and then an armored car put them face-to-face with their unstoppable incompetence. Following a turn as the volatile younger brother in a crime family whose death is the centerpiece for Abel Ferrara's "The Funeral" (1996), he starred opposite Claire Danes in the winning drama, "Nenette et Boni" (1997). Continuing his busy streak, he was cast as a recent parolee who attempts one last bank robbery in Kiefer Sutherland's directorial debut, "Truth or Consequences, N.M." (1997). After 20 years passed between his own directing debut, Gallo made his first feature, "Buffalo '66" (1998), a semi-autobiographical portrait of a recently released convict and habitual loser (Gallo), who absconds with a teen Lolita (Christina Ricci) and presents her as his new wife to his hyper-judgmental Buffalo parents (Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazarra). The film was well-received and praised for its unique, off-kilter vitality and strangely appealing narcissism, though Gallo notoriously harassed critics who panned the film for being too bleak and self-indulgent. Ultimately, both the movie and Gallo were the recipients of several awards and nominations.
After appearing onscreen in a long string of undistinguished films - such as the crime-thriller "Cord" (2000) and the strange sci-fi drama "Stranded" (2001) - Gallo proved that he was still able to stir up controversy on his next effort as writer-director-star, "The Brown Bunny" (2004). An avant-garde outing that featured Gallo as a motorcycle racer driving between engagements, fueling up at an endless array of gas stations, and pining for his lost love (Chloe Sevigny, Gallo's then-girlfriend), "The Brown Bunny" was an aimless mess that was notable only for its final scene, where Gallo's character receives oral sex from Sevigny - an act that onscreen looked real. The film shocked audiences in its initial screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003, where it was universally derided by critics for being long, plodding and pointless - all in spite of the memorable sex scene. In fact, Roger Ebert called it "[t]he worst film in the history of the festival." Gallo responded by calling Ebert a "fat pig" while putting a curse on the critic's colon. Not entirely without irony, Ebert was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer two years later. By then, the two had buried the hatchet.
Of course, Gallo continued to push the controversy when the intimate act performed by Sevigny was displayed on a billboard on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. The depiction lasted for five days before it was taken down following numerous complaints from locals. Next, The Village Voice accused Gallo of huffily pulling his three-page essay from the weekly after the editor-in-chief refused to run Gallo's full-page self-portrait on the cover, hoping to use a steamier image of Gallo and Sevigny from the film. Despite the melodrama and Gallo's canny use of the media, the film was still largely derided as immature, monotonous and amateurishly constructed. Away from the film world, he continued to perform in various bands, playing alongside actor Lukas Haas in a band called Bunny, an animal Gallo once admitted he had a strange attachment to. He also collaborated on an unreleased album with Sean Lennon, who performed at a festival in the United Kingdom organized by Gallo in 2005. Following a few tours with his improvisational band, RRIICCEE, Gallo returned to acting - a profession he once claimed to despise - with "Tetro" (2009), Francis Ford Coppola's drama about two rival brothers (Gallo and Alden Ehrenreich) trying to reunite despite their differences.
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Directed first short film, "If You Feel Froggy, Jump"
Worked as an international messenger; reportedly suffered a breakdown during one trip
While living in Rome, acted in the Italian-language production of "Buffala"
Appeared in the film "New York Beat Movie" with painter Basquiat
Played in a band called Bohack, which recorded the album It Took Several Wives
Feature acting debut, "The Way It Is"; also composed the score
Played a small role in Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas"
Hired by french director Claire Denis to star in "Keep It for Yourself"
Co-starred with Jerry Lewis and Johnny Depp in Emil Kustirica's "Arizona Dream"
Re-teamed with Claire Denis for "U.S. Go Home"
Landed featured role in Alan Taylor's "Palookaville"
Co-starred with Christopher Walken and Chris Penn in Abel Ferrara's "The Funeral"
Modeled for Calvin Klein; was featured in the controversial advertising campaign for CK One
Re-teamed with Claire Denis for "Nénette et Boni"
Played in the rock band Bunny with Lukas Haas; recorded songs for an album, which was later abandoned
Played the lead role in the film "Truth or Consequences, N.M."
Feature screenwriting and directorial debut, "Buffalo 66"; also acted
Acted in "Goodbye Lover"
Published book of photographs
Released first solo album When
Fourth film with French film director Claire Denis, "Trouble Every Day"
Acted in the Spanish film "Stranded: Náufragos"
Premiered the controversial "The Brown Bunny" at the Cannes Film Festival; wrote, directed, and starred in film opposite Chloë Sevigny; also produced
Played the lead role in Francis Ford Coppola's "Tetro"
Modeled for H&M's Spring Collection with Eva Herzigova
Played the lead in "Essential Killing" by Polish film director Jerzy Skolimowski