Danny DeVito – Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore
CAIRO – 17 November 2017: November 17, 1944 is the birthday of beloved comedic Hollywood actor Danny DeVito. Best known for his long list of roles as a grumpy, morally bankrupt yet lovable character, DeVito is also an expert director and producer.
Born in New Jersey, DeVito had been ashamed of his small size, which made him a target for bullies. Given his appearance, he did not really think acting would be a viable career for him, and so went to work at a hairdresser his sister owned. DeVito would not have had any idea that would mark the start of his future career in Hollywood.
While looking to pursue cosmetics as his career, he enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York to learn more about makeup. Instead, he found himself taking acting classes and found that he truly enjoyed it. He graduated from the Academy in 1966 and began acting in theatre. He met fellow actor Michael Douglas when he was still an unknown at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut, and the two became fast friends.
It was Douglas who suggested that DeVito audition for the film adaptation of Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood,’ which he flew to Los Angeles for, but wound up not getting the role. DeVito then went on to work as a car parker, but kept the passion for acting alive in his heart. Danny went through small roles various films such as first movie, 1970’s Dreams of Glass. It was thanks to Douglas that DeVito would get his big break in 1974 for the film adaptation of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,’ which he had starred in the play version a few years back.
Winning five Academy Awards, the film proved to be such a critical success that DeVito was now on his way to stardom. Here’s a look at some of the roles he’s been in throughout the ages, evidence of his timeless talent and sheer diversity;
In this sitcom TV show DeVito plays Louie De Palma, the owner of a Taxi Cab company who rules with an iron fist, while the weirdos who drive with him bond together and go through life how they can. For this role Danny earned his first Emmy Award nomination.
Throw Momma From the Train (1987)
While DeVito had previously directed the 1984 TV movie ‘The Ratings Game,’ this film marked his first feature film. In this black comedy DeVito is Larry Donner, a successful author and writing professor who finds his ex-wife has stolen one of his books and gotten rich under her name. Furious, he is contacted by one of his students, Owen, who hands him an odd deal; if Donner murders Owen’s tyrant of a mother, he’ll take care of Donner’s former wife. Though seems like a simple whack-job quickly spirals into madness. Actress Anne Ramsey earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Directed by Ivan Reitman, DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger join forces as the most unlikely possible duo; Twin brothers. Separated at birth, Schwarzenegger plays the innocent and perfect Julius Benedict, who searches for his long-lost twin brother. That turns out to be Vincent Benedict, played by DeVito, who is the polar opposite of Julius in every way; a short, unattractive crook in trouble with loansharks.
The War of the Roses (1989)
Another black comedy film directed by DeVito, where he also stars divorce lawyer Gavin D'Amato, who opens up the film in his office to a client, detailing the story of what happened between his friend, Oliver Rose (Douglas) and wife Barbara Rose (Kathleen Turner). Starting off madly in love, the pair seemed like the perfect couple until long after settling down with kids. The cracks in their relationship finally appear, and Barbara begins demanding a divorce, though things get ugly as they fight for custody of their mansion.
Featuring Jack Nicolson in the lead, this film is amongst the more serious directed by DeVito. Here Nicolson is Jimmy Hoffa, an American Union leader who organizes a workers strike in the 70s and fights for the rights of workers all around the country. His friend, Bobby Ciaro (DeVito) watches from the sidelines as Hoffa spirals into an unlawful path, which eventually leads to his mysterious disappearance in 1975.
Batman Returns (1992)
In this oddball Batman film adaptation by Tim Burton, DeVito plays the main villain, the hideously deformed the Penguin, who aims to seize control of Gotham City alongside evil businessman Max Shreck, played by Christopher Walken. Batman (Michael Keaton) finds his efforts to thwart them further complicated by the appearance of the mysterious Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer).
DeVito directs something more for the family in this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved novel. Here, DeVito plays both the narrator and the cruel, abusive father of Matilda, Mr. Wormwood, who looks down on his daughter and discourages her from going to school. Thankfully, Matilda’s bright mind refuses to be silenced, and the emergence of her psychic powers helps her turn her life around.
Big Fish (2003)
DeVito returns to Tim Burton with this quirky adventure about a young man who searches for the truth as to wheter or not the tall tales his father told him were any true, meeting a wide range of fantastical people and places along the way. Amongst them is DeVito’s character, Amos Calloway, the ringmaster of a Circus who hides a strange secret. The film features an ensemble cast with names such as Ewan McGregor, Steve Buscemi, Helena Bonham Carter and more, and was nominated for an Oscar thanks to its original score by Danny Elfman.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-Ongoing)
This ridiculous comedy series proves DeVito still has it in him even after decades in the business, where he plays Frank Reynolds, a scheming, morally bankrupt not-so-good father figure to the rest of the gang, who own an Irish bar in Philadelphia and finds themselves involved in all sorts of hilarious/hideous antics. This series was nominated for 3 Primetime Emmy Awards.