JOHN TURTURRO Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Born February 28, 1957, in Brooklyn, NY, Turturro became fascinated by movies during childhood, and after graduating from college he won a scholarship to study at the prestigious Yale School of Drama. He first gained notice in regional theater and off-Broadway, earning an Obie Award for his starring role in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. He made his film debut in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 masterpiece Raging Bull but did not reappear onscreen prior to 1984’s The Exterminator 2. That same year, he debuted on Broadway in Death of a Salesman. Small roles in diverse fare including Susan Seidelman’s 1985 comedy Desperately Seeking Susan, Scorsese’s 1986 drama The Color of Money, and Woody Allen’s masterful Hannah and Her Sisters kept Turturro busy throughout much of the decade.


Brother of fellow actor, Nicholas Turturro, John Turturro is an impressively versatile, stage-trained native New Yorker whose dark intensity has served him well in such volatile, neurotic film roles as the psychopathic parolee in “Five Corners” (1988) and the racist pizza-maker in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (1989). He has also displayed a knack for sly comedy: he played an alternately cocky and sniveling, double-crossing Jewish gangster in the Coen brothers’ “Miller’s Crossing"; a greedy nightclub owner in Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues” (both 1990); and the title character, an idealistic playwright lured to Hollywood in the 1940s, in the Coens’ dark satire, “Barton Fink” (1991).


Turturro had sports-related aspirations as a highschooler until a basketball injury changed his plans. While he might actually possess the body of an athlete, one would not know it from his films; his physique and demeanor seem to adjust to the role. Turturro is equally convincing playing little sleazeballs, tough guys, and geeks, as well as nice quiet fellows like his poignant characterization in Lee’s “Jungle Fever” (1991). In addition to starring, he took on new roles as the director and co-writer of “Mac” (1992). This critically successful little film about an Italian-American carpenter struggling to start a business in Queens, New York in the 1950s was inspired by the life of Turturro’s late father. He followed up with a supporting role as an airline therapist in Peter Weir’s “Fearless” (1993) and an acclaimed performance as a game show contestant who is rejected via rigged TV tapings in favor of a more photogenic winner in Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show” (1994).


Turturro had a rare opportunity to shine in a meaty domestic role as Sid Lidz, scientist, frustrated inventor, devoted husband to a fatally ill wife (Andie MacDowell) and distracted father to an impressionable little boy in Diane Keaton’s “Unstrung Heroes” (1995). He had less to do as a homicide detective in his old collaborator Spike Lee’s “Clockers” (also 1995). “Box of Moonlight” (1996) offered him a chance to play a straightlaced individual who learns to cut loose while “The Truce” (1997) cast him as Holocaust survivor Primo Levi. Returning to the director’s chair, he helmed his sophomore effort, “Illuminata” (1998), a spin on the French bedroom farce that won some admirers, particularly for its fine cast which included Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken and Ben Gazzara. Turturro is married to actress Katherine Borowitz, whom he acted opposite in “Men of Respect” (1991), a modern-day updating of “Macbeth", and “Iluminata".