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
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 Color of Money (Scorsese) (as Julian); Gung Ho ( Working Class Man ) (Ron Howard) (as Willie); Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen) (as Writer); Off Beat (Dinner) (as Neil Pepper)
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)
"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.
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.
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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.