About James Russo
James Vincent Russo was born on April 23, 1953 in New York City, NY. While attending New York University, he wrote and starred in the prize-winning short film, "The Candy Store." Before he became an actor, Russo worked in some very interesting fields - he was a cab driver and a professional gravedigger - the latter, some have said, might have been a harbinger of the many dark and sinister roles that he would soon begin playing. Russo made his acting debut in the made-for-television drama, "Chicago Story" (NBC, 1981), which followed the lives of cops, lawyers and doctors, and starred Dennis Franz and Craig T. Nelson. Russo received his first big break in the 1982 cult classic comedy, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" as a nasty convenience store robber. His first starring role was in the indie film "Vortex" (1982), by the filmmaking couple Scott B and Beth B. In the private-eye spoof, Russo played a foul-mouthed chauffeur who dealt with a variety of shady individuals, junkies, and a midget bartender who doubled as a hit man. He continued to rack up a variety of supporting roles in many hit films in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1984, Russo appeared in the action/comedy blockbuster "Beverly Hills Cop," starring Murphy who played a Detroit cop who goes to California to investigate and track down the killer of his best friend, Mikey Tandino (Russo). While he did not have much screen time in "Beverly Hills Cop," Russo's image as a hard-line bad boy had started to emerge and heralded subsequent gangster roles in crime dramas such as "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984), in which he played the infamous small-time hood Bugsy. He also played Vince Hood in "The Cotton Club" (1984), Francis Ford Coppola's film about Harlem's legendary nightclub of the 1930s where only African-Americans performed to a strictly white audience.
Critics were all over Russo's career-defining role in the Golden Globe-nominated film thriller, "Extremities," where he played Joe, a self-pitying psychopath who terrorizes Marjorie (Fawcett) in her home. The film was based on the controversial 1982 off-Broadway play by William Mastrosimone, which had also cast him and Fawcett. Russo's performance in the movie as a sadistic aggressor was frighteningly convincing that was most effective and terrifying when he was tender to his victim. With a performance that could have come from any seasoned serious actor, the relative newbie earned a World Theatre Award in 1983.
Russo's rough and tough image was once again sought out in the mystery thriller "A Kiss Before Dying" (1991) where he played a private investigator that helped Sean Young's character investigate the murder of her twin sister. His bad boy image worked equally well in another genre - slasher films. Legendary filmmaker and master of horror Dario Argento cast Russo as a cop who tried to help a distraught teenage girl in the gory horror flick, "Trauma" (1993). Russo's reputation as an intense character actor continued to gain ground. In 1997, he delivered a convincing performance as Idaho, the brutal sergeant of the fascist military group called the Holnist army in the post-apocalyptic film, "The Postman," starring Kevin Costner. In the same year, critics praised Russo's powerful performance as gangster Paulie in the crime thriller "Donnie Brasco," based on the true story of FBI agent Joe Pistone (Depp) as he infiltrated the Mafia in New York in the 1970s.
Russo had a critically acclaimed cameo as Frank Sinatra in the mad caper, "Stealing Sinatra" (2003), starring David Arquette and William H. Macy, and directed by Ron Underwood. The film was based on a true story about a young man who enlisted his friends to kidnap Frank Sinatra's son. He appeared with Costner again in "Open Range" (2003), a classic Western film set in Montana, as Sheriff Poole, the corrupt town marshall who displayed a strong aversion to open range cattlemen.
He stayed true to his gangster roots in the epic drama "Public Enemies" which told the story of John Dillinger (Depp), a notorious bank robber from Chicago, and the FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) who led a manhunt to catch Dillinger in the 1930s. Russo's character was Walter Dietrich, Dillinger's friend and mentor who gets killed during the opening scene's frantic shootout. In the same year, he starred in the mystery thriller "Dark Woods" written by John Muscanero and is based on true events. The film followed a couple that moved to an isolated cabin in the woods to cope with the wife's (Tracy Coogan) terminal illness. Russo gave a dark, layered performance as the husband who gets entangled in a dangerous and obsessive relationship with a local teenaged girl.
|New York University, New York , New York|
|Had featured role as a mobster in the CBS drama "Falcone", adapted from the same source material as "Donnie Brasco"|
|Appeared opposite Johnny Depp in Roman Polanski's "The Ninth Gate"|
|Co-starred in "Donnie Brasco" and "The Postman"|
|TV debut, "Intimate Stranger"|
|Reprised stage role in the film version of "Extremities" opposite Farrah Fawcett|
|Breakthrough theater role, Raul in "Extremities"|
|Film acting debut, "A Stranger Is Watching"|