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Biographies > Steve Bbuscemi

One of the most important character actors of the 1990s, Steve Buscemi is unmatched in his ability to combine lowlife posturing with weasely charisma. Although active in the cinema since the mid-'80s, it was not until Quentin Tarantino cast Buscemi as Mr. Pink in the 1992 Reservoir Dogs that the actor became known to most audience members. He would subsequently appear to great effect in other Tarantino films, as well as those of the Coen Brothers, where his attributes blended perfectly into the off-kilter landscape

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 13, 1957, Buscemi was raised on Long Island. He gained an interest in acting while a senior in high school, but he had no idea of how to pursue a professional career in the field. Working as a fireman for four years, he began to perform stand-up comedy, but he eventually realized that he wanted to do more dramatic theatrical work. After moving to Manhattan's East Village, he studied drama at the Lee Strasberg Institute, and he also began writing and performing skits in various parts of the city. His talents were eventually noticed by filmmaker Bill Sherwood, who was casting his film Parting Glances. The 1986 drama was one of the first feature films to be made about AIDS (Sherwood himself died from AIDS in 1990), and it starred Buscemi as Nick, a sardonic rock singer suffering from the disease. The film, which was a critical success on the independent circuit, essentially began Buscemi's career as a respected independent actor. Buscemi's resume was given a further boost that same year by his recurring role as a serial killer on the popular TV drama L.A. Law; he subsequently began finding steady work in such films as New York Stories and Mystery Train (both 1989). In 1990, he had another career breakthrough with his role in Miller's Crossing, which began his longtime collaboration with the Coen brothers. The Coens went on to cast Buscemi in nearly all of their films, featuring him to particularly memorable effect in Barton Fink (1991), in which he played a bell boy; Fargo (1996), which featured him as an ill-fated kidnapper; and The Big Lebowski (1998), which saw him portray a laid-back ex-surfer.

Although Buscemi has done his best work outside of the mainstream, turning in other sterling performances in Alexandre Rockwell's In the Soup (1992) and Tom Di Cillo's Living in Oblivion (1995), he has occasionally appeared in such Hollywood megaplex fare as Con Air (1997), Armageddon (1998), Big Daddy (1999), and 28 Days (2000), the last of which cast him against type as Sandra Bullock's rehab counselor. Back in indieville, Buscemi would next utilize his homely persona in a more sympathetic manner as a soulful loner with a penchant for collecting old records in director Terry Zwigoff's (Crumb) Ghost World. Despite all indicators pointing to mainstream prolifieration in the new millennium, Buscemi continued to display his dedication to independent film projects with roles in such efforts as Alaxandre Rockwell's 13 Moons and Peter Mattei's Love in the Time of Money (both 2002). Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and Buscemi's memorable appearances in such big budget efforts as Mr Deeds and both Spy Kids 2 and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over served to remind audiences that Buscemi was still indeed at the top of his game, perhaps now more than ever.

In 1996, Buscemi made his screenwriting and directorial debut with Trees Lounge, a well-received comedy drama in which he played a down-on-his-luck auto mechanic shuffling through life on Long Island. He followed up his directorial debut in 2000 with Animal Factory, a subdued prison drama starring Edward Furlong as a young inmate who finds protection from his fellow prisoners in the form of an older convict (Willem Dafoe).


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