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For other people named James Woods, see James Woods (disambiguation).

James Howard Woods (born April 18, 1947) is an American film, stage and television actor. Woods is known for starring in films such as Once Upon a Time in America, Ghosts of Mississippi, Salvador and Casino and as the Disney villain Hades in Hercules. Acting awards include two Emmy Awards and two Academy Award nominations.

Early life

Woods was born in Vernal, Utah. His father, Gail Peyton Woods, was an army intelligence officer who died in 1960[1] following routine surgery. His mother, Martha A. (née Smith), operated a pre-school after her husband's death[2] and re-married to Thomas E. Dixon. Woods grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, where he attended Pilgrim High School.

Woods 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.[citation needed] Woods has said that he became an actor because of the father of Ben Affleck, Tim Affleck, who was a stage manager at the Theatre Company of Boston while Woods was at MIT.[3]


Woods began his career in theatre, making his Broadway debut in 1970 at the Lyceum Theatre in the first US production of Frank McMahon's Borstal Boy. He returned to Broadway the following year portraying David Darst in Daniel Berrigan's The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. In 1971 he portrayed the role of Bob Rettie in the American premiere of Michael Weller's Moonchildren at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The production moved to Broadway the following year and Woods won a Theatre World Award for his performance. He returned to Broadway one last time in 1973 to portray Steven Cooper in the original production of Jean Kerr's Finishing Touches. Since then he has been a busy actor, producer, director, and writer for film and television.

Woods is considered one of the finest character actors in Hollywood today. He is known for his dark, intense characters, an early example being 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 as Hades in Disney's Hercules.

Woods' favorite role, however, is Max - the domineering gangster in Sergio Leone's epic film Once Upon a Time in America (1984).

In 1995, Woods took the role of Lester Diamond, the sleazy pimp in Martin Scorsese's Casino. That same year, he portrayed H.R. Haldeman in Nixon, the biopic of Richard M. Nixon directed by Oliver Stone.

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.[4] 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 lent his voice again in Disney's 2001 animated comedy Recess: School's Out as antagonist Phillium Benedict, the twisted former headmaster who attempts to abolish summer vacation. He also appeared as a fictional version of himself in the episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer and Apu" and in four episodes of Family Guy entitled "Peter's Got Woods", "Back to the Woods", "Brian Griffin's House of Payne, and "And Then There Were Fewer", in which his character was killed. Woods also appeared in the Family Guy episode "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side", but not as himself. Other references in Family Guy include the local high school, James Woods High School, and a forest briefly mentioned in The Fat Guy Strangler named James Woods. In 2004, Woods played the character Jallak in the animated film "Ark". Woods also more recently performed in the movie Surf's Up, voicing the animated otter who recruited surfers and pitted them against each other.

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.

Woods also starred in the CBS legal drama Shark, which ran for two seasons between 2006 and 2008. Woods played an infamous defense lawyer who, after growing disillusioned when his client commits a murder, became a successful prosecutor with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.


Woods was a vocal supporter of former U.S. President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, though he is still a registered Democrat.[5] He is a particularly ardent supporter of 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.[6]

In 2001, before the September 11 attacks, while on a commercial flight from Boston to Los Angeles in August, Woods claims to have noticed two men, who were later believed to be two of the 9/11 hijackers, and informed a flight attendant that he felt they were acting very suspiciously. He stated they never ate, drank, slept, or read during the flight, only whispered to each other in low tones. He filed an official report with the FAA about the incident. Woods has been interviewed several times by FBI agents regarding this incident.[7][8]

Woods's name was in an advertisement in the Los Angeles Times (17 August 2006) that condemned Hamas and Hezbollah and supported Israel in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.[9]

Personal life

Woods was romantically involved with Julie Wright, ex-wife of television host, pianist, composer John Tesh, and spoke out frequently during their divorce proceedings.

In 1988, Woods sued Sean Young for $2 million, accusing her of stalking him after they appeared together in the movie The Boost. Young later countered that he had overreacted after she had spurned his advances on set.[10] The suit was settled out of court in 1989.

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.

His brother, 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. Drew Barrymore calls him Mowley One after the cat they worked alongside in Cat's Eye.

During a press interview for Kingdom Hearts II, Woods noted that he is an avid video game player.[11]


  • Hickey and Boggs (1972)
  • The Visitors (1972)
  • The Way We Were (1973)
  • Kojak: Death is Not a Passing Grade (1974)
  • Night Moves (1975)
  • Billion Dollar Bubble (TV movie) (1976)
  • Raid on Entebbe (1977)
  • Holocaust (TV miniseries) (1978)
  • The Onion Field (1979)
  • Fast-Walking (1982)
  • Split Image (1982)
  • Videodrome (1983)
  • Against All Odds (1984)
  • Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
  • Terror in the Aisles (1984)
  • Cat's Eye (1985)
  • Joshua Then and Now (1985)
  • Salvador (1986)
  • Promise (1986)
  • Best Seller (1987)
  • Cop (1987)
  • The Boost (1988)
  • My Name is Bill W. (1989) (TV movie) Best Actor Emmy Award
  • True Believer (1989)
  • Immediate Family (1989)
  • The Hard Way (1991)
  • Straight Talk (1992)
  • Diggstown (1992)
  • Citizen Cohn (1992)
  • Chaplin (1992)
  • The Specialist (1994)
  • The Getaway (1994)
  • The Simpsons, episode "Homer and Apu" (TV series) (1994)
  • Next Door (1994) (TV movie)
  • Casino (1995)
  • Indictment: The McMartin Trial (1995)
  • Nixon (1995)
  • Ghosts of Mississippi (1996) as Byron De La Beckwith
  • Killer: A Journal of Murder (1996)
  • Contact (1997)
  • Hercules (voice of Hades) (1997)
  • John Carpenter's Vampires (1998)
  • Another Day in Paradise (1998)
  • True Crime (1999)
  • Any Given Sunday (1999)
  • The General's Daughter (1999)
  • The Virgin Suicides (1999)
  • Clerks (2000)
  • Dirty Pictures (2000)
  • Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
  • Recess: School's Out (voice) (2001)
  • Scary Movie 2 (2001)
  • Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (voice) (2001)
  • Race to Space (2002)
  • Rolie Polie Olie (2002)
  • Kingdom Hearts (video game) Hades (2002)
  • Stuart Little 2 (voice of the Falcon) (2002)
  • John Q (2002)
  • This Girl's Life (2003)
  • Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story (2003)
  • Northfork (2003)
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (video game) (2004) as Mike Toreno
  • Be Cool (2005)
  • Family Guy: Peter's Got Woods (voice) (2005)
  • Pretty Persuasion (2005)
  • Kingdom Hearts II (video game) Hades (2006)
  • Scarface: The World Is Yours (video game) (2006)
  • Shark (TV series) (2006-2008)
  • ER (2006)
  • Entourage (2006)
  • End Game (2006)
  • Surf's Up (voice) (2007)
  • Family Guy: "Back to the Woods" (voice) (2008)
  • Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories (video game) Hades (2008)
  • An American Carol (2008)
  • Family Guy: "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side" 2009
  • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (voice of Owlman) (2010)
  • Family Guy: "Brian Griffin's House of Payne" (voice) (2010)
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep (Voice) Hades (2010)
  • Family Guy: "And Then There Were Fewer" (voice) (2010)
  • Straw Dogs (2011)
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom (2011)


External links

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