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James Woods

Woods at the 1995 Emmy Awards
Born James Howard Woods
April 18, 1947 (1947-04-18) (age 62)
Vernal, Utah, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1970–present
Spouse(s) Kathryn Morrison (1980–1983)
Sarah Owen (1989–1990)

James Howard Woods (born April 18, 1947) is an American film, stage and television actor. Woods is known for starring in films such as Once Upon a Time in America, Ghosts of Mississippi, Salvador and Casino and as the Disney villain Hades in Hercules.


Early life

Woods was born in Vernal, Utah. His father, Gail Peyton Woods, was an army intelligence officer who died in 1960[1] following routine surgery. His mother, Martha A. (née Smith), operated a pre-school after her husband's death[2] and re-married to Thomas E. Dixon. Woods grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, where he attended Pilgrim High School.

Woods chose to pursue his undergraduate studies at MIT, where he majored in political science (though he originally planned on a career as a surgeon). While at MIT, Woods pledged to 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 just before his graduation in order to pursue a career in acting.[citation needed] Woods has said that he became an actor because of the father of Ben Affleck, Tim Affleck, who was a stage manager at the theatre company in Boston while Woods was at MIT.[3]


Woods began his career in theatre, making his Broadway debut in 1970 at the Lyceum Theatre in the first US production of Frank McMahon's Borstal Boy. He returned to Broadway the following year portraying David Darst in Daniel Berrigan's The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. In 1971 he portrayed the role of Bob Rettie in the American premiere of Michael Weller's Moonchildren at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The production moved to Broadway the following year and Woods won a Theatre World Award for his performance. He returned to Broadway one last time in 1973 to portray Steve Cooper in the original production of Jean Kerr's Finishing Touches. Since then he has been a busy actor, producer, director, and writer for film and television.

Woods is considered one of the finest character actors in Hollywood today. He is known for his dark, intense characters, an early example being his portrayal of a sadistic murderer in 1979's The Onion Field. He appeared in an episode of The Rockford Files, playing a son whose parents were murdered and wanted James "Jim" Rockford to find the murderer. He was nominated for an Academy Award twice: the first in 1987 for Best Actor in Salvador and again in 1996 for Best Supporting Actor for his acclaimed performance as Byron De La Beckwith in Ghosts of Mississippi. He has also garnered critical praise for his voice work as Hades in Disney's Hercules.

Woods' favorite role, however, is Max - the domineering gangster in Sergio Leone's epic film Once Upon a Time in America (1984).

In 1995, Woods took the role of Lester Diamond, the sleazy pimp in Martin Scorsese's Casino. That same year, he portrayed H.R. Haldeman in Nixon, the biopic of Richard M. Nixon directed by Oliver Stone.

He was briefly considered for the role of The Joker by Tim Burton and Sam Hamm for the Batman film in 1989. Hamm recalls that he and Burton thought, "James Woods would be good and wouldn't need any makeup, which would save a couple of hours' work every morning." The role ended up going to Jack Nicholson.[4] Quentin Tarantino wrote a part in Reservoir Dogs with Woods in mind, but his agent rejected the script without showing it to the actor. When Woods learned of this some time later, he fired the agent. Woods was also considered for the part of Donald Kimball in American Psycho, but he turned it down. The part was given to Willem Dafoe.

Woods lent his voice again in Disney's 2001 animated comedy Recess: School's Out as antagonist Phillium Benedict, the twisted former headmaster who attempts to abolish summer vacation. He also appeared as himself in the episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer and Apu" and in two episodes of Family Guy entitled "Peter's Got Woods" and "Back to the Woods". The high school in Family Guy is called James Woods High and a forest that is briefly mentioned in The Fat Guy Strangler called James Woods are named after him. In 2004, Woods played the character Jallak in the animated film "Ark". Woods also more recently performed in the movie Surf's Up, voicing the animated otter who recruited surfers and pitted them against each other.

In 2006, Woods starred opposite Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the political thriller End Game. Also in 2006, Woods played himself in the premiere episode of Entourage's third season. He also starred in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as Mike Toreno and voiced the falcon in Stuart Little 2.

Woods also starred in the CBS legal drama Shark, which ran for two seasons between 2006 and 2008. Woods played an infamous Los Angeles defense lawyer who, after growing disillusioned, became a successful prosecutor.


Woods was a vocal supporter of former U.S. President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, though he has some politically liberal views as well.[5] He is a particularly ardent supporter of former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. Woods lobbied hard to play Giuliani in the biopic Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story, and considers the role one of the favorites of his career.[6]

In 2001, before the September 11 attacks, while on a commercial flight from Boston to Los Angeles in July, Woods claims to have noticed two men, who were later believed to be two of the 9/11 hijackers, and informed a flight attendant that he felt they were acting very suspiciously. He stated they never ate, drank, slept, or read during the flight, only whispering to each other in low tones. He filed an official report with the FAA about the incident. Woods has been interviewed several times by FBI agents regarding this incident.[7][8]

Woods's name was in an advertisement in the Los Angeles Times (17 August 2006) that condemned Hamas and Hezbollah and supported Israel in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.[9]

Personal life

Woods plays on the World Poker Tour in the Hollywood Home games for the American Stroke Association charity. In 2006, James finished in 24th place out of 692 at the L.A. Poker Classic for $40,000. Woods has shared an endorsement for the online poker website Hollywood Poker which is run in conjunction with Ongame Network, and "co hosted" with poker enthusiast Vince Van Patten. He can be found playing regularly at Hollywood Poker, and contributes content to the website.

His brother, Michael Jeffrey Woods, died of cardiac arrest on July 26, 2006. This occurred shortly after James Woods finished 24th at a World Poker Tour event.

During a press interview for Kingdom Hearts II, Woods noted that he is an avid video game player.[10]



External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

James Howard Woods (born April 18, 1947) is an Oscar-nominated American actor.


  • Here's what I believe a soul is — at least this, I believe it's at least this. I believe that every kindness that we create in our lives, if it came because we were affected by a person we loved and lost, that person lives through that kindness. That's what a soul is.
  • In a world where there is enlightenment, intelligence, kindness, awareness of others' needs and others' well-being, there is no terrorism. And in a world of viciousness and narrow-mindedness and only one way, there will be terrorism. Our challenge, in our country, is to find a way to disagree amongst ourselves without being so awful about it.


  • Reading for a part is very important, actually. There's this sort of agency mentality: If you're a big star, they should offer you a lot of money, and then you deign to read the script. Except — and this is sort of a big secret around town — no matter how big a star is, when you want a part and you ain't gettin' offered it, you find a way to sort of make yourself available.
  • I always have a rule that acting is acting and truth is truth and you just go out there and you do it. But what happens in each medium is that you have other responsibilities. The acting remains the same, but each medium dictates assuming other halves to make the acting work. When I'm working on a film, I just play the absolute purity of the moments. I don't worry about the pacing, because the pacing is going to be dictated by the director and the editor. On the stage I have to give pacing to the play. As an actor, you, in fact, become the editor of the piece, in terms of the timing. You are required to engineer the pace yourself. In television, everything is in so close, that you realize that most of what you do has to register in your thought process.
  • Robert Redford understands film acting better than anybody on the face on the earth. You know how some carnivores get every bit of meat off of a carcass they can? Well, there's nobody who gets as much blood out of a moment as Redford.
  • My nightmare in life, my absolute fundamental, overwhelming, egregious nightmare, is Bill Gates' vision of the future, where there will be a video camera on every corner and every conversation will be recorded. Man, I'd rather put a pitchfork in my eyes than live in a world like that.
  • I love George Bush right now — and I always have! I'm the only guy in L.A. who voted for him.
    • January 2002
  • I listen to these feminists rave about, "How dare they attack Bill Clinton for having a little consensual sex act", but went nuts because Clarence Thomas allegedly made a joke about a Coke can.

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