James Howard Woods (born April 18, 1947) is a two-time Academy Award-nominated, Emmy Award-winning and Golden Globe-winning American film, stage and television actor. He is best known for starring in films such as Once Upon a Time in America, Ghosts of Mississippi, Salvador, and Hercules.
Woods was born in Vernal, Utah. His father, Gail Peyton Woods, was an army intelligence officer who died in 1960 following routine surgery. His mother, Martha A. (née Smith), operated a pre-school after her husband's death and re-married to Thomas E. Dixon. Woods grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, where he attended Pilgrim High School. Woods, an army brat, had been accepted to attend the United States Air Force Academy with the intention of becoming a fighter pilot. But, several weeks before he was to depart, Woods suffered an accident involving a plate glass window which injured his hand tendons severely enough to result in his acceptance being retracted.
Woods received a score of 1580 on the SAT, which included a perfect score of 800 on the verbal section of the test. He 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. Woods moved to New York City, calling his mother to tell her of his plans.
While his mother wasn't thrilled at the news, she gave him her blessing to pursue a career in acting. At the 2006 CBS UpFront James Woods stated that his mother told him that if he was going to switch careers to acting that he needed to be the best actor he could possibly be.
Woods' career has been noted for the intense characters he has chosen, the earliest of which was 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 for Hades in Disney's Hercules. His personal favorite of all of his roles, however, is as the domineering gangster Max in Sergio Leone's gangster epic Once Upon A Time In America (1984).
Woods appeared in 1995 in Casino directed by Martin Scorsese and as H.R. Haldeman in Nixon, the biopic of Richard M. Nixon directed by Oliver Stone.
Woods also more recently appeared in the hit movie Surf's Up playing the otter who recruited surfers and competed them against each other.
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. 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 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 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 and 'Arry and Bert in Thomas and Friends.
Woods also starred in CBS legal drama Shark, which ran for two seasons between 2006 and 2008. Woods played an infamous Los Angeles defense lawyer who, growing disillusioned, became a successful prosecutor.
Woods is a Republican, but was a vocal supporter of U.S. Vice President Al Gore and 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.
Woods has dated Dana Delany, Nicholas Fischer, Sean Young, Teri Hatcher, Heather Graham, Nicolette Sheridan, Lauren Holly, as well as other lesser-known actresses in Hollywood.
He has twice divorced and has recently ended a 2-year long relationship with Ashley Madison, an up-an-coming actress 39 years his junior.
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.
During a press interview for Kingdom Hearts II, Woods noted that he is an avid video game player.
His brother and fellow actor, 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.
Woods reportedly has an I.Q. of 180 or 184 (Stanford-Binet) and is a member of Mensa.
He also volunteers as a Reserve Police Officer for the LAPD.
In 2001, before the September 11 attacks, Woods claims to have observed four of the hijackers doing dry runs.
References to and appearances by James Woods in the animated comedy Family Guy has become something of a recurring motif, the most prominent of which is the local high school, which is named after him, as is the local forest which is simply named "James Woods".
Woods has also appeared in several episodes in which he is voiced by himself. In his first appearance, "Peter's Got Woods", he befriends Peter Griffin who had called him over to prevent the high school name from being changed. However, Woods becomes incredibly obsessed with Peter, who resorts to trapping him in a wooden box with candy as bait (à la E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and having him shipped away to a government warehouse under the pretense of being "studied by 'top men'" (à la Raiders of the Lost Ark). A disgruntled Woods returns in the episode "Back to the Woods" where he seeks revenge against Peter by stealing his identity, leading Peter to do the same for Woods; in the end, Woods suffers the exact same fate as before (Peter and Brian resolve to tempt Woods with candy right away next time should he return). His name is also mentioned in Fat guy strangler when Peter and a group of fat people run to the forest called James' Woods.
The Visitors (1972)
The Way We Were (1973)
Kojak: Death Is Not A Passing Grade (1974)
Raid on Entebbe (1977)
Holocaust (TV mini-series) (1978)
The Onion Field (1979)
Against All Odds (1984)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Cat's Eye (1985)
Joshua Then and Now (1985)
Best Seller (1987)
The Boost (1988)
My Name is Bill W. (1989) (T.V. Movie) Best Actor Emmy Award
True Believer (1989)
The Hard Way (1991)
Straight Talk (1992)
Citizen Cohn (1992)
The Specialist (1994)
The Simpsons, episode "Homer and Apu" (TV series) (1994)
Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)
Killer: A Journal of Murder (1996)
Another Day in Paradise (1997)
Hercules (voice) (1997)
John Carpenter's Vampires (1998)
True Crime (1999)
Any Given Sunday (1999)
The General's Daughter (1999)
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Clerks (TV series) (2000)
Dirty Pictures (2000)
Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
Recess: School's Out (voice of Dr. Philium Benedict) (2001)
Thomas and Friends (TV series and voice of 'Arry and Bert) (2001)
Scary Movie 2 (2001)
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (voice) (2001)
Race to Space (2002)
Kingdom Hearts (video game) (2002)
Stuart Little 2 (voice of the falcon) (2002)
John Q (2002)
This Girl's Life (2003)
Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story (2003)
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (video game) as Mike Toreno (2004)
Be Cool (2005)
Family Guy: Peter's Got Woods (voice) (2005)
Pretty Persuasion (2005)
Kingdom Hearts II (video game) (2006)
Scarface: The World Is Yours (video game) (2006)
Shark (TV series) (2006-2008)
End Game (2006)
Surf's Up (voice) (2007)
Family Guy: Back to the Woods (voice) (2008)
Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories (video game) (2008)
An American Carol (2008)
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