Since 2010, he has starred in the critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire, which earned him two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe, and a nomination for an Emmy Award.
He made his directorial debut in 1996, with Trees Lounge, in which he also starred. Other works include Animal Factory (2000), Lonesome Jim (2005) and Interview (2007).
Buscemi was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Dorothy, who worked as a hostess at Howard Johnson's, and John Buscemi, a sanitation worker and Korean War veteran. Buscemi's father was of Italian descent, his ancestors were from the town of Menfi in Sicily, and Buscemi's mother was of part Irish ancestry. He has three brothers: Jon, Ken and Michael. Buscemi was raised Roman Catholic.
He graduated in 1975 from Valley Stream Central High School in Valley Stream, New York, a school which he attended with actress Patricia Charbonneau. In high school, Buscemi wrestled for the varsity squad and participated in the drama troupe, at the time directed by Mr. Lynne C. Lappin. Buscemi's 1996 film Trees Lounge, in which he not only starred but served as screenwriter and director, is set in and was largely shot in his childhood village of Valley Stream.
Buscemi briefly attended Nassau Community College before moving to Manhattan to enrol in the Lee Strasberg Institute. In the early 1980s, Buscemi also worked as a firefighter for four years on FDNY Engine 55. After 9/11, Buscemi returned to Engine 55 and worked alongside other firefighters to sift through the rubble from the World Trade Center.
His first role in a major motion picture was in the 1987 film Parting Glances, for which his performance in the role of Nick received praise. Other early films include Slaves of New York in 1988, and Tales from the Darkside, a 1990 film with three segments, Buscemi starred in the first segment, playing Bellingham, a college student who orders a mummy and unleashes it on fellow college students played by Christian Slater and Julianne Moore.
During 1990, Buscemi had a couple of additional crime roles. He played the henchman of Laurence Fishburne named Test Tube in Abel Ferrara's King of New York. He also played Mink in the Coen Brothers' Millers Crossing. Although he had to audition twice for this role, it marked the first of six of the Coen Brothers' films in which Buscemi appeared. Before his work with the Coen Brothers, he played a small but important role in Jim Jarmusch's independent anthology film Mystery Train, released in 1989, for which he received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Male.
In 1991, he played the bellboy, Chet, in the Coen Brothers film, Barton Fink. His first lead role was in 1992, where he played Adolpho Rollo in Alexandre Rockwell's In the Soup. Then he came to public attention for playing Mr. Pink is Quentin Tarantino's 1992 film, Reservoir Dogs, a role that Tarantino wrote for himself.
Buscemi's other most notable character roles include Garland Greene in Con Air, Rockhound in Armageddon, Randall Boggs in Monsters Inc., Donny in The Big Lebowski, Carl Showalter in Fargo, Norther Winslow in Big Fish and Seymour in Ghost World, for which he won several awards. Buscemi often plays characters that are neurotic and paranoid. He has appeared in a number of films by the Coen Brothers, in which his character tend to die in grisly, prolonged or unexpected manners. He has frequently appeared in Adam Sandler films such as Airheads, Billy Madison, The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Grown Ups. He also had worked with Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Jim Jarmusch, Robert Rodriguez, and Michael Bay on various occasions.
In 2003, Buscemi made a brief celebrity guest appearance as himself on the long-running FOX animated television show The Simpsons in the episode "Brake My Wife, Please". Most recently, Buscemi provided the voice for Dwight, a bank robber whom Marge promises to visit in jail if he turns himself in to the authorities. This episode, entitled "I Don't Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", originally aired on October 14, 2007.
In 2004, Buscemi joined the cast of The Sopranos as Tony Soprtano's cousin and childhood friend, Tony Blundetto, a role for which he was nominated an Emmy Award. Buscemi had previously contributed to the show as director of the third season episode "Pine Barrens," which was one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series, and the fourth season episode "Everybody Hurts." He appeared in the third episode of season 6, as a doorman in the afterlife, which is portrayed as a country club, in Tony Soprano's dream. He returned to direct the episodes "In Camelot", the seventh episode of season five, and "Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request...", the fifth episode of season 6.
1995, Buscemi played suspected cop-shooter Gordon Pratt in the episode "End Game" at the end of a three-episode arc of Homicide: Life on the Street. He also had a role as Phil Hickle, Ellen's father and older Pete's guidance counsellor, in The Adventures of Pete and Pete, as well as guest-starring in Miami Vice in 1986. Buscemi was rumoured to be considered for the role of The Scarecrow in Joel Schumacher's proposed fifth instalment of the first Batman franchise, Batman Triumphant, before Warner Bros. cancelled the project.
In 2004, Buscemi appeared in the music video for Joe Strummer's cover of the Bob Marley track "Redemption Song". The video is shot after Strummer's death, and Buscemi appears beside a graffiti portrait of Strummer.
In 2002, Steve contributed to Lou Reed's concept album The Raven with the song "Broadway Song", and poems "Old Poe" and "The Cask".
Buscemi currently stars in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. He plays Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (based on Enoch L. Johnson), a corrupt Atlantic City politician who rules the town during the Prohibition era. Buscemi won a Golden Globe award for best lead actor in a drama series in 2011.
In 2011, he hosted Saturday Night Live on NBC.
Buscemi has worked extensively as a writer and director since making his debut feature during the 1990s. His directorial credits include:
- What Happened to Pete (1992) (Short Film)
- Trees Lounge (1996)
- Animal Factory (2000)
- Lonesome Jim (2005)
- Interview (2007)
In addition to feature films, he directed episodes of the television shows Homicide: Life on the Street, four episodes of The Sopranos, as well as two episodes of HBO's prison-drama series Oz, entitled "U.S. Male" and "Cuts Like a Knife". He has also directed two episodes of 30 Rock ("Retreat to Move Forward" and "Leap Day") and six episodes of Showtime's Nurse Jackie. In the latter, his brother Michael played the character God in several episodes.
While scouting a location for a film, Buscemi visited the Philadelphia Eastern State Penitentiary. He found the building so interesting that he later provided the majority of the narration for the audio tour there.
Buscemi was a New York City firefighter from 1980 to 1984, with Engine Company #55 in the Little Italy section of New York. He showed up at his old firehouse the day after the World Trade Center tragedy in New York to volunteer, working twelve-hour shifts for a week after the terrorist act, and digging through rubble with his old comrades looking for missing firefighters. Buscemi was arrested, along with eleven others, on May 25, 2003 while protesting the closing of his former firehouse.
Buscemi pronounces his name as "Bu-semmy", but the correct Sicilian pronunciation is "Bu-shemmy". He once said about the pronunciation of his name: "I had to go to Sicily to find out I pronounce my name wrong."
In April 2001, while shooting the film Domestic Disturbance in Wilmington, North Carolina, Buscemi was slashed and badly scarred on the face while at the Firebelly Lounge, intervening in a bar fight between his friend Vince Vaughn, screenwriter Scott Rosenberg and a local man, who allegedly instigated the brawl.
Buscemi, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, is adamant about not altering his teeth saying "I've had dentists who have wanted to help me out, but I say, "You know, I won't work again if you fix my teeth."
|1986||The Way It Is||Raphael/Willy|
|1987||Kiss Daddy Goodnight||Johnny|
|No Picnic||Dead Pimp|
|Heart of Midnight||Eddy|
|1989||Slaves of New York||Wilfredo|
|Mystery Train||Charlie the Barber|
|New York Stories||Gregory Stark|
|Bloodhounds of Broadway||Whining Willie|
|1990||Tales from the Darkside: The Movie||Bellingham|
|Force of Circumstance|
|King of New York||Test Tube|
|1991||Life Is Nice||Convenience Store Clerk|
|1992||In the Soup||Adolpho Rollo|
|Reservoir Dogs||Mr. Pink|
|Rising Sun||Willy "The Weasel" Wilhelm|
|The Adventures of Pete & Pete||Phil Hickle|
|Ed And His Dead Mother||Ed Chilton|
|Tales from the Crypt||Ike|
|1994||The Search for One-eye Jimmy||Ed Hoyt|
|The Hudsucker Proxy||Beatnik Barman at Ann's 440|
|Pulp Fiction||"Buddy Holly" waiter|
|The Last Outlaw||Former Confederate Soldier and Outlaw Philo|
|Somebody to Love||Mickey|
|Who Do I Gotta Kill?|
|1995||Billy Madison||Danny McGrath|
|Living in Oblivion||Nick Reve|
|Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead||Mister Shhh|
|Escape from L.A.||Map to the Stars Eddie|
|Kansas City||Johnny Flynn|
|1997||Con Air||Garland "The Merietta Mangler" Greene|
|The Real Blonde||Nick Reve|
|1998||The Big Lebowski||Theodore Donald "Donny" Kerabatsos|
|The Imposters||Happy Franks|
|The Wedding Singer||David "Dave" Veltri|
|Louis & Frank||Drexel|
|1999||Big Daddy||Homeless Guy|
|2000||28 Days||Cornell Shaw|
|Animal Factory||A.R. Hosspack|
|Final Fantasy: The Spirts Within||Neil Fleming|
|They Grey Zone||"Hesch" Abramowics|
|Double Whammy||Jerry Cubbins|
|Domestic Disturbance||Ray Coleman|
|Monsters, Inc.||Randall Boggs|
|Love in the Time of Money||Martin Kunkle|
|Mr. Deeds||Crazy Eyes|
|13 Moons||Bananas The Clown|
|The Laramie Projects||Doc O'Connor|
|Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams||Romero|
|2003||Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over||Romero|
|Coffee and Cigarettes||Waiter (Segment "Twins")|
|Big Fish||Norther Winslow|
|2002-2006||The Sopranos||Tony Blundetto/Man|
|2004||Home on the Range||Wesley|
|The Island||James McCord|
|2006||Art School Confidential||Broadway Bob D'Annunzio|
|Charlotte's Web||Templeton the Rat|
|Dust to Dust: The Health Effects of 9/11||Narrator|
|2007||I Think I Love My Wife||George Sianidis|
|Paris, je T'aime||The Tourist (Segment "Tuileries")|
|I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry||Clint Fitzer|
|Romance & Cigarettes||Angelo|
|30 Rock||Lenny Wosniak|
|John Rabe||Dr. Robert Wilson|
|The Messenger||Dale Martin|
|Handsome Harry||Thomas Kelley|
|2010||Saint John of Las Vegas||John Alighieri|
|Youth in Revolt||George Twisp|
|The Chosen One||Neal|
|Pete Smalls Is Dead||Bernie Lake|
|2010||Boardwalk Empire||Enoch "Nucky" Thompson|
|2011||Portlandia||Book Store Customer|
|Saturday Night Live||Host|
|2012||On the Road||TBA|
|2013||Monsters University||Randall Boggs|
|The Incredible Burt Wonderstone||Anton Lovecraft|