Woods in 2015
James Howard Woods
April 18, 1947
Vernal, Utah, U.S.
|Education||Pilgrim High School|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
|Occupation||Actor, voice actor, producer|
James Howard Woods (born April 18, 1947) is an American actor, voice actor, and producer.
His best known roles are Videodrome (1983), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Casino (1995), Nixon (1995), Contact (1997), as the voice of Hades in Disney's animated feature Hercules (1997) and as the voice of Falcón in the movie Stuart Little 2 (2002). Additionally, Woods has also been nominated for two Academy Awards, one in the Best Actor category for Salvador (1986) and the other in the Best Supporting Actor category for Ghosts of Mississippi (1996). He is the recipient of two Primetime Emmy Awards for the television movies Promise (1987) and My Name Is Bill W. (1989). On television, he is known for his lead role in the CBS drama Shark (2006-08), his guest appearances in Showtime's Ray Donovan (2013) and for voice-acting as himself on various episodes of Family Guy and The Simpsons.
Woods was born in Vernal, Utah, on April 18, 1947 and had a brother ten years younger. His father, Gail Peyton Woods, was an army intelligence officer who died in 1960 after routine surgery. His mother, Martha A. (née Smith), operated a pre-school after her husband's death and later married Thomas E. Dixon. Woods grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, where he attended Pilgrim High School, from which he graduated in 1965. He is of part Irish descent and was raised Catholic, briefly serving as an altar boy.
He ultimately chose to pursue his undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he double majored in political science and computer science. (Woods stated on Inside the Actors Studio that he originally intended to follow a career as an eye surgeon.) While at MIT, Woods pledged to the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. He was also an active member of the student theatre group "Dramashop", where he both acted in and directed a number of plays. He dropped out of MIT in 1969, one semester prior to graduating to pursue a career in acting.
Woods appeared in thirty-six plays before making his Broadway debut in 1970 at the Lyceum Theatre, in the first American production of Frank McMahon's Borstal Boy. He got the part by pretending he was British. He returned to Broadway the following year to portray David Darst in Daniel Berrigan's The Trial of the Catonsville Nine also at the Lyceum Theatre. In 1971, he played Bob Rettie in the American premiere of Michael Weller's Moonchildren at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The following year the production moved to Broadway at the Royale Theatre where Woods starred alongside Edward Herrmann, and Christopher Guest. In 1972, Woods won a Theatre World Award for his performance. He returned to Broadway in 1973 to portray Steven Cooper in the original production of Jean Kerr's Finishing Touches at the Plymouth Theatre.
A prominent Hollywood character actor, Woods has appeared in over 130 films and television series. By the early 1970s, he was getting small movie roles including his feature film debut in Elia Kazan's The Visitors and a spot as Barbra Streisand's boyfriend in "The Way We Were."
Woods starred in The Onion Field (1979) as a sadistic murderer for which he received good notices as well as a Golden Globe Nomination and nominations from the National Society of Film Critics, and the New York Film Critics Circle Association.
Woods played Max, a domineering gangster, in Sergio Leone's epic Once Upon a Time in America (1984) alongside Robert De Niro, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci and Danny Aiello. Woods considers his role in the film as one of his favorites. The film premiered at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and received a 15 minute standing ovation.Rotten Tomatoes reports an 86% approval rating with the consensus reading, "Sergio Leone's epic crime drama is visually stunning, stylistically bold, and emotionally haunting, and filled with great performances from the likes of Robert De Niro and James Woods."
In Oliver Stone's drama Salvador (1986), Woods portrayed real-life journalist Rick Boyle as he chronicles events in El Salvador. Despite giving it a mixed review Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, "This is the sort of role Woods was born to play". He won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor. He also received his first Academy Award nomination for his performance.
Woods was offered a leading role in Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut, the low-budget film Reservoir Dogs (1992), but his agent rejected the script without showing it to the actor. When Woods learned of this some time later, he fired his agents (CAA), replacing them with ICM.
Starring in Martin Scorsese's Casino (1995), Woods appeared alongside Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci, in which he played the role of a hustler, Lester Diamond. When James Woods originally heard that Martin Scorsese was interested in working with him, Woods called Scorsese's office and left the following message: "Any time, any place, any part, any fee." The film was well received by critics earning a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus reading, "Impressive ambition and bravura performances from an outstanding cast help Casino pay off in spite of a familiar narrative that may strike some viewers as a safe bet for director Martin Scorsese." Around the same time, he starred in Oliver Stone's Nixon (also 1995) alongside Anthony Hopkins playing Nixon with Woods playing H. R. Haldeman. Woods received a Screen Actors Guild Award nominations along with the rest of the cast for its ensemble.
In Rob Reiner's film Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), Woods appeared alongside Alec Baldwin and Whoopi Goldberg. He portrayed the white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith. The film was not a box-office success and received mixed reviews. Critics however praised Woods' performance. Janet Maslin in her New York Times review states, "Woods's performance as the hateful old reprobate Beckwith is the films chief sign of life". The Los Angeles Times published an article titled "James Woods is So Good at Being Bad". In the articles it describes Woods having aggressively lobbied director Rob Reiner for the role, which Reiner originally intended for an actor in his 70s, like Paul Newman. "Beckwith's Mississippi accent, which Woods perfected by watching tapes and working with an accent coach, helped him distance himself from the character. 'I imagined I was speaking a foreign language'." Woods earned a Golden Globe nomination as well as his second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor
Voicing Hades in the Disney Animated film, Hercules (1997), critic Roger Ebert described Woods performance as full of "diabolical glee" and compared his performance of "verbal inventiveness" to that of Robin Williams in Aladdin. Janet Maslin of The New York Times also praised Woods's performance remarking "Woods shows off the full verve of an edgy Scarfe villain", and added "On any level, earthly or otherwise, the ingenious new animated Hercules is pretty divine." Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported the film has an approval rating of 83% with the website's critical consensus reading, "Fast-paced and packed with dozens of pop culture references, Hercules might not measure up with the true classics of the Disney pantheon, but it's still plenty of fun."
Woods appeared in Sofia Coppola's directorial debut The Virgin Suicides (1999) alongside Kirsten Dunst, and Kathleen Turner. The film premiered at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival to a largely positive critical reception. The film is Certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with the critical consensus reading, "Sofia's successful directorial debut lies in the movie's compelling story and the actors' genuine emotions."
In 1987, Woods won his first Primetime Emmy Award for his role in the made for television film Promises (1986). The film also starred James Garner, and Piper Laurie. In 1989, Woods won his second Primetime Emmy Award, for his role in the made for television drama film, My Name is Bill W. starring James Garner, and Gary Sinese.
In 2006-2008, Woods starred in the CBS legal drama series Shark. He played an infamous defense lawyer who, after growing disillusioned when his client commits a murder, becomes a successful prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.
In 2011, Woods appeared in HBO's Too Big to Fail with Paul Giamatti, William Hurt, Cynthia Nixon, Tony Shalhoub and Bill Pullman. Woods played Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, for which he won critical praise. The TV Movie earned 11 Primetime Emmy Award nominations including for Woods for Best Outstanding Supporting Actor. Woods also earned a Screen Actors Guild Nomination for his performance.
Woods has lent his voice talents to many animated television shows and feature films. He garnered critical praise for his voice work as Hades in the Disney film Hercules (1997) and he won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2000 for the role in the follow-up television series (for the 1999 season). He also voiced Phillium Benedict, the twisted former headmaster who attempts to abolish summer vacation in the film, Recess: School's Out (2001). He also appeared as a fictional version of himself in the episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer and Apu" and in eight episodes of Family Guy, which is set in Woods' home state of Rhode Island. He is also the namesake for James Woods high school in Family Guy. Woods has lent his voice in video games such as Kingdom Hearts, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
In 1980, Woods married costume designer Kathryn Morrison-Pahoa. The couple divorced in 1983. In 1989 when Woods was 42, he married 26-year-old equestrian and boutique owner Sarah Owens, but they divorced four months later. He has not since remarried nor does he have children.
During a press interview for Kingdom Hearts II, Woods noted that he is an avid video game player. He is a dealer of antiques in Rhode Island. On December 14, 2015, while Woods was driving alone westbound through an ice storm on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, a driver who was speeding lost control and crashed into five other cars. Woods swerved his Jeep Grand Cherokee to avoid the accident and collided with a retaining wall, but slid backwards into a guard rail 100 feet (30 m) above the Colorado River. Woods suffered a minor concussion from the accident.
Woods is an avid poker player, playing in cash games and many tournaments. He played in the WPT's Hollywood Home Game series in 2004 for the American Stroke Association charity. As of 2018 , he has over 80 tournament cashes to his credit, including a seventh place at the 2015 World Series of Poker in the $3000 No Limit Shootout event and a fifth place in the $1,500 Dealers Choice event at the 2018 WSOP.
In 1988, Woods sued Sean Young for $2 million, accusing her of stalking him after they appeared together in the film The Boost. Young later countered that Woods had overreacted after she had spurned his advances on set. The suit was settled out of court in August 1989 including a payment of $227,000 to Young to cover her legal costs.
In 2006, his younger brother Michael Jeffrey Woods died from cardiac arrest at the age of 49. Woods sued Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, alleging negligence. The suit was settled in 2009.
In July 2015, Woods sued an anonymous Twitter user for $10 million over an allegedly libelous tweet that suggested Woods was a "cocaine addict." Woods unsuccessfully sought to obtain the name of the Twitter user; the Los Angeles Superior Court denied Woods' motion for discovery in October 2015, holding that Woods could not "use legal process to pierce the anonymity of internet speakers unless [Woods] can make a prima facie case." In February 2016, the court allowed the action to proceed. In October 2016, attorney Lisa Bloom, who represented the anonymous Twitter user, revealed that the user had died; Woods reacted by saying that he hoped the person had "died screaming my name, in agony".
Woods has stated that he was a member of the Democratic Party until the impeachment of Bill Clinton, commenting that "every single Democrat without exception stood behind a convicted perjurer. That was the end." Woods was a registered Independent during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama; he has since joined the Republican Party. When Carly Fiorina pulled out of the 2016 presidential race, he shifted his endorsement to Ted Cruz in November 2015.
On July 4, 2018, The Gersh Agency, Woods' long-time talent agency, notified him by email that they would no longer represent him. Woods stated that the agency dropped him due to his outspoken political views.
In later years, Woods has become known for frequently espousing his political views on his Twitter page which has 2 million followers. In September 2018, Twitter briefly blocked Woods' account over a hoax meme he shared purporting to be from the Democratic Party telling men not to vote.
Woods has promoted conspiracy theories on Twitter; in 2017, he used the platform to echo claims that George Soros was behind a violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in 2018 he suggested that a series of mail bombs sent to Trump critics was a staged "political stunt," although he later deleted that tweet.
In 2018, Woods turned his Twitter feed into a bulletin board for missing California wildfire evacuees. He was credited with saving lives and helping to reunite missing loved ones and pets with their families. He also helped Alyssa Milano locate her horses during the fire via his Twitter hashtag.
In September 2017, Amber Tamblyn wrote an open letter to Woods accusing him of inviting her and her friend to Las Vegas when she was 16. Woods denied the story. The same month, actress Katie Aselton said that she also had "a James Woods story" from when she was 19 years old, asking "how many of us are there?" In November 2017, actress Elizabeth Perkins, at a #MeToo rally, accused Woods of sexual misconduct.
On October 15, 1998, Woods was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a star at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
|1997||Ghosts of Mississippi||Best Supporting Actor||Nominated|
|1987||Promise||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie||Won|
|1989||My Name Is Bill W.||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie||Won|
|1993||Citizen Cohn||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie||Nominated|
|1995||Indictment: The McMartin Trial||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie||Nominated|
|2003||Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie||Nominated|
|2006||ER||Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|2011||Too Big to Fail||Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie||Nominated|
|2000||Hercules: The Animated Series||Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program||Won|
|1980||The Onion Field||Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama||Nominated|
|1987||Promise||Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film||Won|
|1988||In Love and War||Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film||Nominated|
|1990||My Name Is Bill W.||Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film||Nominated|
|1993||Citizen Cohn||Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film||Nominated|
|1996||Indictment: The McMartin Trial||Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film||Nominated|
|1997||Ghosts of Mississippi||Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture||Nominated|
|2001||Dirty Pictures||Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film||Nominated|
|1996||Nixon||Cast in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
|2001||Dirty Pictures||Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie||Nominated|
|2012||Too Big to Fail||Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie||Nominated|
|1987||Salvador||Best Male Lead||Won|
|1988||Best Seller||Best Male Lead||Nominated|
|1989||The Boost||Best Male Lead||Nominated|