James Woods

James Woods Headshot

Actor • Producer

Birth Date: April 18, 1947

Age: 76 years old

Birth Place: Vernal, Utah

Partners: Heather Graham

The poster child for "intense actor," James Woods made an indelible impression on moviegoers with his no-holds-barred performances as fast-talking, hard-nosed, often violent men. Possessing a keen intellect and formidable IQ, Woods initially studied political science before turning to theater fulltime in 1969. He turned in impressive performances on the stages of Broadway, followed by small roles in film and on television before gaining notoriety alongside Meryl Streep in the miniseries "Holocaust" (NBC, 1978). His uncompromising performance as an unrepentant killer in "The Onion Field" (1979) only solidified his growing reputation as one of the most incendiary young actors on the scene. Throughout the 1980s, Woods turned in one riveting performance after the other in projects that included "Videodrome" (1983), "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984), "Salvador" (1986), and "True Believer" (1989). He continued into the next decade with films such as "Citizen Cohn" (HBO, 1992), "Casino" (1995), "Ghosts of Mississippi" (1996), and "Another Day in Paradise" (1998). On television, Woods briefly starred in his own legal drama series, "Shark" (CBS, 2006-08), and made recurring appearances as an animated version of his over-the-top self in the cartoon sitcom "Family Guy" (Fox, 1999- ). Over the years, Woods had built a career that encompassed film, television and video games, as well as established him firmly at the upper-echelon of great contemporary American actors.

Born James Howard Woods in Vernal, UT on April 18, 1947, he spent some of his early childhood in transit, due to his father's military career. After Woods' father passed away when he was just 13, his mother remarried and moved the family to Warwick, RI, where he attended high school. He intended to follow in his father's footsteps after graduation by attending the Air Force Academy, but an accidental injury to one of his hands forced him to change his plans. An exceptional student throughout his scholastic career, Woods received a near-perfect score on his SAT tests (he was a member of MENSA, and had been allowed to enroll in college math classes while still in high school) and decided to study medicine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before settling on political science as a major. However, he developed a love for acting while a member of the school's theater group "Dramashop," and appeared in numerous plays at the school and at neighboring playhouses. In 1969, he informed his mother that he was dropping out of MIT to pursue a career in acting, relocating to New York, where he landed roles in several productions, including a stint off-Broadway in "Borstal Boy" in 1970.

Woods also began logging time in episodic television series and supporting roles in several independent films, starting with the Joanne Woodward starrer "All the Way Home" (1971), an adaptation of the James Agee novel, and a rarely-seen thriller called "The Visitors" (1972), which was directed by Elia Kazan. He eventually worked his way up to supporting roles in network TV movies and studio pictures, including the cop comedy "The Choirboys" (1977), the all-star TV drama "Raid on Entebbe" (1977), and the epic "Holocaust" (1978). However, the following year proved to be Woods' biggest to date, following his turn as a psychotic ex-con and killer in Harold Becker's powerful true crime drama, "The Onion Field" (1979). Woods' striking features - a lean, angular frame, sunken cheeks, and heavy-lidded eyes - made him a perfect criminal, and the rage and violence inherent in his every line helped earn him a Golden Globe nomination and several critical association awards. For the next few years, Woods was the go-to performer for hot-wired villains and men of questionable character, playing them with relish in films like "Eyewitness" (1981), "Against All Odds" (1985), "Cat's Eye" (1985) and "Best Seller" (1987).

However, several directors took notice that Woods possessed qualities that exceeded the boundaries of his bad guy roles, so cast him against type as anti-heroes and even straight-forward protagonists. Maverick horror filmmaker David Cronenberg made him the sole voice of sanity in his disturbing technological fantasy "Videodrome" (1983), and the legendary Sergio Leone cast him as a tough but loyal gangster in his epic, "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984), which Woods would later cite as his favorite role to date. Meanwhile, Woods played a sympathetic lead in Ted Kotcheff's comedy-drama "Joshua Then and Now" (1985), and Oliver Stone found the heroic elements in his dogged investigative reporter in "Salvador" (1986). TV seemed to have the most diverse roles for him; he paired with James Garner in two powerful TV movies, "Promise" (1986), in which he played a schizophrenic and "My Name is Bill W.," which depicted the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous; as well as "In Love and War" (1987), he played real-life Vietnam War POW Jim Stockdale, who suffered eight years in captivity. Woods was nominated for an Academy Award for "Salvador" and won Emmys for "Promise" and "Bill W.," as well as a Golden Globe for the former.

As the Eighties drew to a close, Woods enjoyed more diverse roles on the big screen, including a sweetly sympathetic turn with Glenn Close as a couple hoping to adopt a child in "Immediate Family" (1989). His career hit a slight snag that same year when he co-starred with then-rumored girlfriend/onset lover, Sean Young in "The Boost," an overwrought drama about wealthy suburbanites who fall into a drug-fueled morass. The relationship exploded shortly after the production wrapped, and Woods publicly accused Young of stalking him and his girlfriend, which irreparably damaged her rising star in Hollywood. Woods, however, came away from the scandal largely unscathed, continuing to contribute impressive lead performances in a variety of genres. He proved a sharp comic actor willing to spoof his own onscreen persona in "Diggstown" (1992) and "The Hard Way" (1991), also showing his true versatility in a string of TV movies, including infamous lawyer and closeted homosexual Roy Cohn in "Citizen Cohn" (1992), for which he was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe; "Jane's House" (1994), as a widowed father looking for love; "Curse of the Starving Class" (1994), as a violent alcoholic; and "Indictment: The McMartin Trial" (1995), as the lawyer for a family accused of horrific child abuse, which earned him another Emmy and Golden Globe nomination.

In theaters, he added several significant rogues to his growing gallery of villains, including a show-stopping turn as Sharon Stone's pimp boyfriend in Martin Scorsese's "Casino" (1995); Watergate conspirator H.R. Haldeman in Oliver Stone's "Nixon" (1995); real-life white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith, who stood trial for the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evans, in "Ghosts of Mississippi" (1996), which brought him an Oscar nomination; and vicious serial killer Carl Panzram in "Killer: A Journal of Murder" (1996). Woods tempered this river of viciousness with a tongue-in-cheek performance as a sympathetic junkie thief in Larry Clark's "Another Day in Paradise" (1997), which he also produced; a fast-talking vampire hunter in "John Carpenter's Vampires" (1998); and a hilarious turn as the voice of Hades, the Hollywood hustler-like Lord of the Dead in Disney's animated film, "Hercules." He apparently enjoyed the latter part so much, he repeated the role in the direct-to-video sequel in 1999 and on the animated TV version (syndicated, 1998-2000), which netted him a Daytime Emmy in 2000.

His turn as Hades launched Woods into a lucrative and lengthy career in voiceover work for countless animated projects and video games. He spent much of the late '90s and early 21st century dividing his time between animation and live-action performances. 1999 alone yielded four excellent turns in "True Crime" as Clint Eastwood's newspaper boss, a deceptive football team doctor in Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday," a shady military man in "The General's Daughter," and the head of an emotionally disturbed family in Sofia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides." He also hammed it up as an exorcist in "Scary Movie 2" (2001) and played a surgeon held hostage by Denzel Washington's irate father in "John Q" (2002).

In a disturbing turn of events, Woods became entwined in the government's investigations into the hijackings that lead to the September 11th tragedies. Woods happened to notice four men of Middle Eastern descent acting very strangely on a flight from Boston to Los Angeles in August of 2001, and notified a flight attendant that he feared the men were planning to take over the plane. No further action was taken in regard to this incident - as Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker, the FAA feared charges of racial profiling - but Woods later discovered that two of the men were among the 19 who hijacked the planes involved in the September 11th attacks.

Woods returned to TV movies throughout this period; he played a real-life museum director who was put on trial for exhibiting the works of Robert Mapplethorpe in 2000's "Dirty Pictures," which earned him another Golden Globe nomination, and in 2003, he played New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the highly sanitized "Rudy: The Rudolph Giuliani Story" (2003), which brought him another Emmy nomination. During this period, Woods also dabbled in behind-the-scenes work, co-producing the indie drama "Northfork" (2003) for brothers Michael and Mark Polish, and directed a short film, "Falling in Love in Pongo Ponga," which was commissioned by SKYY Vodka for its film festival in 2002.

In 2006, Woods returned to episodic television in a big way with the lead role in "Shark," a legal drama which allowed the acclaimed actor to tweak his screen persona and dig into meaty courtroom scenes. That same year, he also netted another Emmy nomination as a doctor suffering from an advanced case of ALS on "E.R." (NBC, 1990-2009) and proved himself an excellent sport by playing a hot-wired version of himself on "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-11). An avid poker player, Woods competed on several poker-related television programs, including "World Poker Tour" (Travel Channel, 2003-08) and "Celebrity Poker Showdown" (Bravo, 2003-06) alongside his brother, fellow actor Michael Jeffrey Woods. He routinely contributed his proceeds to the American Stroke Association. Sadly, Michael Woods died of a heart attack shortly after James finished 24th out of 692 players at a World Poker Tour event. The event rattled Woods deeply, and he spoke about it to newspapers while in production for "Shark." After his series left the airwaves, Woods kept busy with work in the Republican-centric satire "An American Carol" (2008), alongside fellow right-leaning actors Kelsey Grammar and Jon Voight. He later provided the voice of Owlman, the evil counterpart to Batman in the animated DVD feature "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" (2010). The following year, Woods portrayed former Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld in "Too Big to Fail" (HBO, 2011), the Curtis Hanson-directed docudrama detailing the financial meltdown of 2008, a role that earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie. He next appeared in writer-director Rod Lurie's remake of Sam Peckinpah's brutal tale of suppressed violence and sexual politics, "Straw Dogs" (2011).

Credits

Once Upon a Time in America

Actor
Max
Show
2023

OppenheimerStream

Executive Producer
Movie
2023
93%

First Contact

Actor
Show
2020

Vice Guide to Film

Actor
Show
2016

Bling

Voice
Victor
Movie
2016

First Contact

Narrator
Movie
2016

Jamesy Boy

Actor
Lt. Falton
Movie
2014

Futurescape With James Woods

Executive Producer
Show
2013

Futurescape With James Woods

Host
Show
2013

Ray DonovanStream

Actor
Sully Sullivan
Series
2013
72%

Ray DonovanStream

Guest Star
Sully Sullivan
Series
2013
72%

Mary and Martha

Actor
Mary's Father
Movie
2013

White House DownStream

Actor
Walker
Movie
2013
51%

Officer Down

Actor
Capt. Verona
Movie
2013

Jobs

Actor
Jack Dudman
Movie
2013

Coma

Actor
Show
2012

Too Big To FailStream

Actor
Dick Fuld
Movie
2011
77%

Straw Dogs

Actor
Tom Heddon
Movie
2011

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Voice
Owlman
Movie
2010

AFI's 10 Top 10

Guest
Show
2008

An American Carol

Actor
Agent Grosslight
Movie
2008

Mia and the Migoo

Voice
Show
2008

Surf's Up

Voice
Reggie Belafonte
Movie
2007

SharkStream

Actor
Deputy D.A. Sebastian Stark
Series
2006
52%

End Game

Actor
Vaughn Stevens
Movie
2006

Ark

Voice
Show
2005

The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson

Guest
Talk
2005

Ark

Voice
Jallak
Movie
2005

Be CoolStream

Actor
Tommy Athens
Movie
2005
30%

Pretty PersuasionStream

Actor
Mr. Joyce
Movie
2005
33%

EntourageStream

Guest Star
James Woods
Series
2004
65%

The Easter Egg Escapade

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Grab Takit
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2004

For Better or Worse

Actor
Show
2003

A Casa dos Vilões da Disney

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Show
2003

Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story

Actor
Rudolph "Rudy" Giuliani
Movie
2003

Northfork

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Walter O'Brien
Movie
2003

Northfork

Executive Producer
Movie
2003

This Girl's Life

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Pops
Movie
2003

Robbie the Reindeer in Hooves of Fire

Narrator
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2002

Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire & Legend of the Lost Tribe

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2002

Robbie the Reindeer in Legend of the Lost Tribe

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Prison Guard/Head Viking
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2002

Founding Brothers

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John Adams (voice)
Show
2002

John QStream

Actor
Dr. Turner
Movie
2002
25%

Stuart Little 2

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Falcon
Movie
2002

Rolie Polie Olie: The Great Defender of Fun

Voice
Gloomius Maximus
Movie
2002

Recess: School's Out

Voice
Benedict
Movie
2001

Scary Movie 2Stream

Actor
Priest
Movie
2001
14%

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Voice
General Hein
Movie
2001

Riding in Cars With Boys

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Mr. Donofrio
Movie
2001

Race to Space

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Dr. Wilhelm Von Huber
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2001

Clerks: The Animated SeriesStream

Guest Voice
Series
2000

Dirty Pictures

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Dennis Barrie
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2000

Family Guy

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Himself
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1999

Family GuyStream

Guest Voice
Himself
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1999

The Daily Show With Jon StewartStream

Guest
Talk
1999

Another Day in Paradise

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Mel
Movie
1999

Another Day in Paradise

Producer
Movie
1999

True Crime

Actor
Alan Mann
Movie
1999

The General's DaughterStream

Actor
Col. Robert Moore
Movie
1999
21%

The Virgin SuicidesStream

Actor
Mr. Lisbon
Movie
1999
80%

Any Given SundayStream

Actor
Dr. Harvey Mandrake
Movie
1999
52%

Hercules: Zero to Hero

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Hades
Movie
1999

HerculesStream

Voice
Hades
Series
1998

VampiresStream

Actor
Jack Crow
Movie
1998
43%

The View

Guest
Talk
1997

Kicked in the Head

Actor
Uncle Sam
Movie
1997

HerculesStream

Voice
Hades; Lord of the Underworld
Movie
1997
82%

ContactStream

Actor
Michael Kitz
Movie
1997
68%

For Better or Worse

Actor
Reggie Makeshift
Movie
1996

Killer: A Journal of Murder

Actor
Carl Panzram
Movie
1996

The Summer of Ben Tyler

Actor
Temple Rayburn
Movie
1996

Ghosts of MississippiStream

Actor
Byron De La Beckwith
Movie
1996
43%

Curse of the Starving Class

Actor
Weston Tate
Movie
1995

Indictment: The McMartin Trial

Actor
Danny Davis
Movie
1995

CasinoStream

Actor
Lester Diamond
Movie
1995
79%

NixonStream

Actor
H.R. Haldeman
Movie
1995
75%

ERStream

Guest Star
Dr. Nate Lennox
Series
1994

Inside the Actors Studio

Guest
Talk
1994

Jane's House

Actor
Paul Clark
Movie
1994

Next Door

Actor
Matt Coler
Movie
1994

The Specialist

Actor
Ned Trent
Movie
1994

The Getaway

Actor
Jack Benyon
Movie
1994

Straight TalkStream

Actor
Jack Russell
Movie
1992
46%

DiggstownStream

Actor
Gabriel Caine
Movie
1992
60%

ChaplinStream

Actor
Joseph Scott
Movie
1992
60%

Citizen Cohn

Actor
Roy Marcus Cohn
Movie
1992

The 12th Annual ACE Awards

Actor
Show
1991

The Hard Way

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Detective Lt. John Moss
Movie
1991

The Boys

Actor
Walter Farmer
Movie
1991

Women & Men: Stories of Seduction

Actor
Robert
Movie
1990

The SimpsonsStream

Guest Voice
Himself
Series
1989
85%

True Believer

Actor
Eddie Dodd
Movie
1989

My Name Is Bill W.

Actor
Bill Wilson
Movie
1989

Immediate Family

Actor
Michael Spector
Movie
1989

Cop

Actor
Lloyd Hopkins
Movie
1988

Cop

Producer
Movie
1988

The Boost

Actor
Lenny Brown
Movie
1988

Crimes of Passion

Self
Movie
1988

État de choc

Actor
Movie
1988

Best Seller

Actor
Cleve
Movie
1987

In Love and War

Actor
James B. `'Jim'` Stockdale
Movie
1987

Duel de tueurs

Actor
Movie
1987

Promise

Actor
D.J.
Movie
1986

Salvador

Actor
Richard Boyle
Movie
1986

La Griffe de l'assassin

Actor
Movie
1985

Badge of the Assassin

Actor
Robert K. Tannenbaum
Movie
1985

Joshua Then and Now

Actor
Joshua Shapiro
Movie
1985

Cat's Eye

Actor
Dick Morrison
Movie
1985

Against All OddsStream

Actor
Jake Wise
Movie
1984
64%

Once Upon a Time in AmericaStream

Actor
Maximilian 'Max' Bercovicz
Movie
1984
88%

Videodromo

Actor
Movie
1983

VideodromeStream

Actor
Max Renn
Movie
1983
83%

Split Image

Actor
Charles Pratt
Movie
1982

Eyewitness

Actor
Aldo Mercer
Movie
1981
75%

Fast-Walking

Actor
Fast-Walking
Movie
1981

The Black Marble

Actor
The Fiddler
Movie
1980

...And Your Name Is Jonah

Actor
Movie
1979

And Your Name Is Jonah

Actor
Danny Corelli
Movie
1979

The Onion Field

Actor
Gregory Ulas Powell
Movie
1979
86%

Un Autre monde

Actor
Movie
1979

The Gift of Love

Actor
Alfred Browning
Movie
1978

Raid on Entebbe

Actor
Capt. Sammy Berg
Movie
1977

The Choirboys

Actor
Harold Bloomguard
Movie
1977

Alex and the Gypsy

Actor
Crainpool
Movie
1976

The Disappearance of Aimee

Actor
Asst. Disty. Atty. Joseph Ryan
Movie
1976

F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood

Actor
Leonard "Lenny" Schoenfeld
Movie
1976

Saturday Night LiveStream

Host
Series
1975

Welcome Back, KotterStream

Guest Star
Series
1975

Foster and Laurie

Actor
Walter the Addict
Movie
1975

Distance

Actor
Larry
Movie
1975

Night MovesStream

Actor
Quentin
Movie
1975
83%

The Rockford FilesStream

Guest Star
Larry Kirkoff
Series
1974

The GamblerStream

Actor
Bank officer
Movie
1974
82%

KojakStream

Guest Star
Caz
Series
1973

Barnaby JonesStream

Guest Star
Series
1973

The Way We WereStream

Actor
Frankie McVeigh
Movie
1973
63%

The Streets of San FranciscoStream

Guest Star
Doug
Series
1972

The RookiesStream

Guest Star
Series
1972

The Visitors

Actor
Bill Schmidt
Movie
1972

Footsteps

Actor
Reporter
Movie
1972

A Great American Tragedy

Actor
Rick
Movie
1972

Hickey & Boggs

Actor
Lt. Wyatt
Movie
1972

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonStream

Guest
Talk
1962

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