Nationality: American. Born: Brooklyn, New York, 28 February 1957; brother of the actor Nicholas Turturro; cousin of the actress Aida Turturro. Family: Married the actress Katherine Borowitz, son: Amadeo. Education: Was graduated from the State University of New York at New Paltz; earned an M.F.A. in Drama at the Yale Drama School. Career: Made his screen debut in a bit role in Raging Bull, 1980; acted in regional and off-Broadway plays, 1980s; made his Broadway debut in Death of a Salesman, 1984; appeared in the TV mini-series Mario Puzo's The Fortunate Pilgrim, 1988; first appeared in a Spike Lee-directed film, Do the Right Thing, 1989; made his screen directing debut with Mac, 1992. Awards: Obie Award, for Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, 1985; Cannes Film Festival Best Actor, Independent Feature Project Gotham Award, for Barton Fink, 1991; Cannes Film Festival Camera d'Or, for Mac, 1992. Address: 16 North Oak Street, #2B, Ventura, CA 93001, U.S.A.
Films as Actor:
Raging Bull (Scorsese)
Exterminator II (Buntzman and Sachs) (as Guy No. 1); The Flamingo Kid (Garry Marshall) (as Ted from Pinky's)
Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman) (as Ray); To Live and Die in L.A. (Friedkin) (as Carl Cody)
The Sicilian (Cimino) (as Aspanu Pisciotta)
Five Corners (Bill) (as Heinz Sabantino); Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee) (as Pino); Backtrack (Catchfire) (Dennis Hopper—released in U.S. in 1991) (as Pinella)
Mo' Better Blues (Spike Lee) (as Moe Flatbush); Miller's Crossing (Coen) (as Bernie Bernbaum); State of Grace (Joanou) (as Nick)
Men of Respect (Reilly) (as Mike Battaglia); Barton Fink (Coen) (title role); Jungle Fever (Spike Lee) (as Paulie Carbone)
Mac (title role) (+ d, co-sc); Brain Donors (Dugan) (as Roland T. Flakfizer)
Fearless (Weir) (as Bill Perlman)
Quiz Show (Redford) (as Herbert Stempel); Being Human (Forsyth) (as Lucinnius)
Clockers (Spike Lee) (as Larry Mazilli); Unstrung Heroes (Diane Keaton) (as Sid Lidz); Search and Destroy (Salle) (as Ron); Sugartime (Smith—for TV) (as Sam Giancana)
Girl 6 (Spike Lee) (as Murray, the agent); The Search for Oneeye Jimmy (Sam Henry Kass) (as Disco Bean); Grace of my Heart (Anders) (as Joel Millner); Box of Moonlight (Di Cillo) (as Al Fountain); La Tregua (The Truce) (Rosi) (as Primo Levi)
Lesser Prophets (De Vizia) (as Leon); Animals (Di Jiacomo) (as Tuxedo Man)
Illuminata (as Tuccio) (+ d, co-sc, pr); The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen) (as Jesus Quintana); O.K. Garage (Cole) (as Johnny Candellano); He Got Game (Spike Lee) (as Coach Billy Sunday); Rounders (Dahl) (as Joey Knish)
The Source (Workman) (doc) (as Allen Ginsberg); Cradle Will Rock (Robbins) (as Aldo Silvano); Summer of Sam (Spike Lee) (as voice of Harvey the Black Dog)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen) (as Pete); Company Man (Askin, McGrath); 2000 and None (Paragamian)
By TURTURRO: articles—
"Yale Drama School, John Turturro & Katherine Borowitz," interview with Tama Janowitz, in Interview (New York), September 1985.
"John Turturro Finks Twice," interview with G. Smith, in Interview (New York), September 1990.
"Getting Down to the Bone," interview with Marlaine Glicksman, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1990.
"Une irresistible ascension," interview with Michel Ciment and H. Niogret, in Positif (Paris), September 1991.
"Une histoire universelle," interview with O. De Bruyn, Michel Ciment, and H. Niogret, in Positif (Paris), November 1992.
"John Turturro, Katherine Borowitz," interview with Veronica Chambers, in Premiere (New York), February 1993.
Lux, S., "Der Walk-Man von Brooklyn," in Film-Dienst (Cologne), vol. 46, no. 3, 5 February 1993.
Turturro, John, "Big Mack," in Village Voice (New York), 23 February 1993.
"John Turturro," interview with Manola Dargis, in Interview (New York), March 1993.
"Curls on Top," an interview with Tom Charity, in Time Out (London), 5 January 1994.
Interview with Marie-Élisabeth Rouche and Jean Coutances, in Télérama (Paris), 15 February 1995.
Interview with Jean A. Gili, Lorenzo Codelli and Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), November 1997.
On TURTURRO: articles—
Tyre, P., "Fast Track: John Turturro's Bad-Guy Blues," in New York, 5 October 1987.
Diamond, Jamie, "John Turturro," in Premiere (New York), September 1989.
Dieckmann, K., "John Turturro's Character Building," in Rolling Stone (New York), 17 May 1990.
Minx, P., "Big Bad John," in Village Voice (New York), 19 June 1990.
Jameson, R.T., and M. Glicksman, "Chasing the Hat, Getting Down to the Bone," in Film Comment (Denville, New Jersey), vol. 26, no. 5, September-October 1990.
Weber, B., "Born into a Cast of Characters, What Can One Do but Act," in New York Times, 5 May 1991.
Solomon, A., "Do the Wrong Thing," in Village Voice (New York), 7 May 1991.
Saada, N., "John Turturro," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), June 1991.
Hoban, Phoebe, "Honest John," in New York, 12 August 1991.
Miller, M., "Brooklyn's Common Man," in Newsweek (New York), 26 August 1991.
Carter, Zoe F., "Not Just Another Face," in Premiere (New York), September 1991.
Merrick, H., "Le jeu de regard," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), no. 474, September 1991.
Chanko, Kenneth M., "John Turturro," in Films in Review (New York), September/October 1991.
Bourguignon, T., "Autour de Barton Fink," in Positif (Paris), no. 367, October 1991.
Wayne, H., "That's Italian," in Playboy (Chicago), March 1993.
Webster, A., filmography in Premiere (New York), September 1994.
Gendron, Sylvie, in Séquences (Montreal), no. 175, November-December 1994.
Gili, Jean A., Lorenzo Codelli, and Michel Ciment, "Francesco Rosi," in Positif (Paris), no. 441, November 1997.
* * *
John Turturro is an actor in the mold of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Harvey Keitel: intense and multitalented, New York City-born and very much the New York performer. After knocking around films for several years, this Yale Drama School grad first earned notice in Five Corners, set in the Bronx, in which he offers a hair-raising performance as Heinz Sabantino, a creep who is sexually obsessed with pet store worker Linda (Jodie Foster).
Turturro's primary strength is that he is a master at playing a range of attitudes. He can portray racists who are either upfront in their bias (Pino, the epithet-spewing pizza man, in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing) or more subtle and cunning (Moe Flatbush, the greedy jazz club owner—a character who is an anti-Semitic caricature—in Lee's Mo' Better Blues). On the other hand, he just as effectively can play a child of the working class who is a gentle soul, one who is put off by the racial prejudices of others and even is open to a relationship with a black woman (Paulie Carbone, the sensitive luncheonette operator, in Lee's Jungle Fever).
Turturro can play a thug with a devilishly comic flair (Bernie Bernbaum, the manic lowlife who earns his keep as an informer and double-crosser, in Miller's Crossing) and a reckless, neurotic nebbish (sore-loser Twenty-One contestant Herbert Stempel, in Quiz Show). He can portray a sweetly eccentric husband and father (Sid Lidz, who is faced with the terminal illness of his wife, in Unstrung Heroes) and a fervently radical, mostly unemployed actor who also is a husband and father (Aldo Silvano, one of the few fictional characters, in Cradle Will Rock). He can play an entertainment industry businessman (Joel Millner, the wig-wearing Brill Building rock 'n roll talent manager, in Grace of My Heart) and an entertainment industry intellectual (the title character in the Hollywood satire Barton Fink, a dedicated New York playwright who heads West in 1941 and whose primary concern is the plight of the "Common Man"; but he finds himself assigned to pen a wrestling picture for Wallace Beery—and promptly develops a severe case of writer's block). Indeed, Turturro can portray characters as diverse as the mobster Sam Giancana (in the TV movie Sugartime) and the Jewish-Italian chemist-turned-writer Primo Levi, who survived ten months in a concentration camp (in The Truce).
Turturro made his directorial debut with Mac, a heartfelt comedy-drama about one man's determination to realize his American Dream. The film is set in the mid-1950s and tells the story of three Italian-American brothers, sons of an immigrant tradesman who has just died. The story focuses on the title character, Niccolo "Mac" Vitelli, played by Turturro. The eldest of the trio, Mac is a carpenter like his dad, and he labors for a bullheaded, penny-pinching contractor who offends his sense of professionalism; he decides to start his own construction company, satisfied he can erect better houses and be a more humane employer. Mac, which Turturro co-scripted (with Brandon Cole), clearly is a film from his heart. It is dedicated to his own carpenter father, and inspired by the senior Turturro's life. The result is a refreshingly sincere depiction of the lives and struggles of average, working-class Americans, a subject rarely explored in mainstream Hollywood movies. But more than anything else, Mac is a film about the dignity of work. "You know what I think happiness is?" Mac asks at one point. "To love your job. Not many people know this—that's why they take vacations—but it's the truth. If you hate your work, you hate your life. I love my work."
Clearly, Turturro loves his work. And if he permits scenes in Mac to run a tad too long, one suspects it is because his respect for the acting craft obscured his good judgment as a director-storyteller.
He went on to direct, co-script, and star in a second feature: Illuminata, a farce detailing the screwball antics of a group of struggling theater-folk in turn-of-the-twentieth-century New York. Turturro plays Tuccio, an embattled playwright who will go to all extremes to see his play performed. In tone and setting, Illuminata may be the polar opposite of Mac. Yet both are linked in that they explore the dynamics of what it means to create something, whether it be building a house or writing and mounting a stage play.
Turturro, John 1957–
TURTURRO, John 1957–
Born February 28, 1957, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Nicholas and Katherine Turturro; brother of Nicholas Turturro (an actor); married Katherine Borowitz (an actress), 1985; children: Amadeo, Diego. Education: Graduated from State University of New York at New Paltz, B.S., 1978; Yale University School of Drama, M.F.A., 1983.
Addresses: Agent—International Creative Management, 40 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
Career: Actor, screenwriter, producer, and director. Worked as a history teacher and bartender.
Awards, Honors: Theatre World Award, and Obie Award, Village Voice, both 1985, for Danny and the Deep Blue Sea; Independent Spirit Award nomination, best supporting male, 1989, for Five Corners; Gotham Award, 1991; Cannes Film Festival Award, best actor, 1991, David Award, best foreign actor, David di Donatello Awards, 1992, for Barton Fink; Tribute to Independent Vision Award, Sundance Film Festival, 1992; Camera d'Or Award, Cannes Film Festival, 1992, Independent Spirit Award nominations, best director and best first feature (with Brenda Goodman and Nancy Tenenbaum), 1994, all for Mac; Golden Globe Award nomination, best supporting actor—drama, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role, 1995, both for Quiz Show; Independent Spirit Award nomination, best male lead, 1998, for Box of Moonlight; Golden Palm Award nomination, Cannes Film Festival, 1998, for Illuminata; FIPRESCI Prize—Special Mention, Taormina International Film Festival, 2000, for Two Thousand and None; Independent Career Achievement Award, Video Software Dealers Association, 2001; MTV Movie Award nomination (with others), 2001, for O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Charles Chaplin Award, Wine Country Film Festival, 2003; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a male actor, 2003, for Monday Night Mayhem; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding guest actor in a comedy series, 2004, for Monk; Bodil Award nomination, best actor, 2004, for Fear X.
(Film debut; uncredited) Man at table, Raging Bull, United Artists, 1980.
First Guy, Exterminator II, Cannon, 1984.
Ted from Pinky's, The Flamingo Kid, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1984.
Carl Cody, To Live and Die in L.A., Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer/United Artists, 1985.
Ray, Desperately Seeking Susan, Orion, 1985.
Neil Pepper, Off Beat, Touchstone, 1986.
Julian, The Color of Money, Buena Vista, 1986.
Willie, Gung Ho (also known as Working Class Man), Paramount, 1986.
Writer, Hannah and Her Sisters, Orion, 1986.
Aspanu Pisciotta, The Sicilian, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1987.
Heinz Sabatino, Five Corners, Cineplex Odeon, 1987.
Pino, Do the Right Thing, Universal, 1989.
Himself, The Making of Do the Right Thing (documentary), First Run Features, 1989.
Pinella, Backtrack (also known as Do It the Hard Way and Catchfire), 1989.
Nick, State of Grace, Orion, 1990.
Mike Battaglia, Men of Respect, Sugar Entertainment, 1990.
Moe Flatbush, Mo' Better Blues, Universal, 1990.
Bernie, Miller's Crossing, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1990.
Title role, Barton Fink, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1991.
Paulie Carbone, Jungle Fever, Universal, 1991.
Roland T. Flakfizer, Brain Donors (also known as Lame Ducks), Paramount, 1992.
Bill Perlman, Fearless, Warner Bros. 1993.
Niccolo "Mac" Vittelli, Mac, Samuel Goldwyn, 1993.
Lucinnius, Being Human, Warner Bros., 1994.
Herb Stempel, Quiz Show, Buena Vista, 1994.
Detective Larry Mazilli, Clockers, Universal, 1995.
Ron, Search and Destroy (also known as The Four Rules), October Films, 1995.
Sid Lidz, Unstrung Heroes, Buena Vista, 1995.
At Sundance, 1995.
Murray the Agent, Girl 6, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 1996.
Disco Bean, The Search For One–Eye Jimmy, Northern Arts Entertainment, 1996.
Primo Levi, La tregua (also known as The Truce, La treve, and Die Atempause), Miramax, 1996.
Joel Millner, Grace of My Heart, Gramercy, 1996.
Al Fountain, Box of Moonlight, Miramax, 1997.
Jesus Quintana, The Big Lebowski, Gramercy, 1997.
Leon, Lesser Prophets (also known as The Last Bet), 1997.
Tuxedo man, Animals, 1997.
Joey Knish, Rounders, Miramax, 1998.
Johnny Candellano, O.K. Garage (also known as All Revved Up), 1998.
Tuccio, Illuminata, Artisan Entertainment, 1998.
Coach Billy Sunday, He Got Game, Buena Vista, 1998.
The Source, Winstar Cinema, 1998.
Voice of Harvey the black dog, Summer of Sam, Buena Vista, 1999.
Aldo Silvano, The Cradle Will Rock, Buena Vista, 1999.
Crocker Johnson, Company Man, Paramount, 2000.
Pete, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (also known as O' Brother), Buena Vista, 2000.
Aleksandr Ivanovich 'Sascha' Luzhin, The Luzhin Defense (also known as La defense Loujine), Sony Pictures Classics, 2000.
Benjamin Kasparian, Two Thousand and None (also known as SOS la vie), Pandora, 2000.
Dante Dominio, The Man Who Cried (also known as The man who cried—Les larmes d'un homme), Universal Focus, 2000.
Voice of title role, Monkeybone, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2001.
Walker, Thirteen Conversations about One Thing (also known as 13 Conversations), Sony Pictures Classics, 2001.
Sean Armstrong, Collateral Damage, Warner Bros., 2002.
Emilio Lopez, Blake's butler, Mr. Deeds, New Line Cinema, 2002.
Himself, Rosy–Fingered Dawn: A Film on Terrence Malick, 2002.
Himself, Beyond the Skyline, 2003.
Himself, Skull Session: The Making of 'Anger Management' (also known as The Making of 'Anger Management'), 2003.
Harry, Fear X, Moviehouse, 2003.
Chuck, Anger Management, Columbia, 2003.
Paolo Zane, Secret Passage, Zephyr, 2003.
Spike Lee's '25th Hour': The Evolution of an American Filmmaker, 2003.
The swimmer, Ore 2: Calma piatta, Mikado, 2003.
Voice, Opopomoz, Mikado, 2003.
John Shooter, Secret Window, Columbia, 2004.
Sal/Roberto, 2BPerfectlyHonest, ZAM Entertainment, 2004.
Don Angelo Bonasera, She Hate Me, Sony Pictures Classics, 2004.
Director, Mac, Samuel Goldwyn, 1993.
Producer and director, Illuminata, 1998.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Sam Giancana, Sugartime, HBO, 1995.
Howard Cosell, Monday Night Mayhem, TNT, 2002.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Larry, Mario Puzo's "The Fortunate Pilgrim" (also known as The Fortunate Pilgrim and Mamma Lucia), NBC, 1988.
Baseball (also known as The History of Baseball), PBS, 1994.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
David Traynor, "Rites of Passage," Miami Vice, 1985.
Late Night with David Letterman, 1991, 1993.
Host, Saturday Night Live, 1994.
Late Show with David Letterman, 1995, 1997.
The Rosie O'Donnell Show, 1996.
"Hitmakers: The Teens Who Stole Pop Music," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2001.
Voice of Grant, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," Frasier, NBC, 2002.
Ambrose Monk, "Mr. Monk and the Three Pies," Monk, USA Network, 2004.
Also appeared in American Cinema, PBS.
Television Appearances; Specials:
The 67th Annual Academy Awards, 1995.
The Italian Americans II: A Beautiful Song, PBS, 1998.
Mother–Tongue: Italian American Sons & Mothers, 1999.
The Comedy Central Presents the New York Friars Club Roast of Rob Reiner, Comedy Central, 2000.
Presenter, The 10th Annual IFP Gotham Awards, Bravo, 2000.
Narrator, Words and Music by Leiber & Stoller (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2001.
Interviewee, Jeff Bridges: Building Bridges (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2002.
Reel Comedy: Mr. Deeds, 2002.
New York at the Movies (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2002.
Host, IFP Gotham Awards, 2002.
Tusind former for frygt, 2003.
Astopovo, Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, CT, 1982.
Niccollo "Mac" Vittelli, Steel on Steel, West Side Y Arts Center, New York City, 1983.
Title role, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Louisville, KY, 1983.
(Off–Broadway debut) Title role, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Circle in the Square, 1984.
(Broadway debut) Understudy for the roles of Biff, Happy, and Stanley, Death of a Salesman, Broadhurst Theatre, New York City, 1984.
Jesse, Chaos and Hard Times, West Side Y Arts Center, 1985.
Sal, "Men without Dates," Marathon '85, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York City, 1985.
Mac, "The Workers Life," Marathon '86, Ensemble Studio Theatre, 1986.
Chino, "Nijinsky Choked His Chicken," and Angelo, "Poppa Dio!," La Puta Vida Trilogy, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, New York City, 1987.
The Bald Soprano/The Leader, Open Space Theatre, New York City, 1987.
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, 1991.
Mickey Marcus, The Normal Heart, Criterion Center/Roundabout Theatre, New York City, 1993.
Estragon, Waiting for Godot, Classic Stage Co., New York City, 1998.
Henry, Life (x) 3, Circle in the Square Theatre, New York City, 2003.
Also appeared in Of Mice and Men; Jamie's Gang; and The Tooth of Crime.
(With Brandon Cole) "The Worker's Life" (sketch), produced as Marathon '86, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York City, 1986.
(With Brandon Cole) Mac, Samuel Goldwyn, 1993.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, St. James Press, 2000.
Entertainment Weekly, April 2, 1993, p. 35; September 22, 1995, p. 58.
Harper's Bazaar, September, 1992, pp. 123–25; July, 1997, p. 52.
Interview, March, 1993, pp. 76–79.
Premiere, February, 1993, p. 31.