James Howard Woods (born April 18, 1947) is an American film, stage, and television actor renowned for his intense, sharp-edged dramatic roles and charismatic screen presence. With a career spanning over 50 years, Woods has built an acclaimed body of work across film, TV, and theater.
|Full Name||James Howard Woods|
|Birthday||April 18, 1947|
Early Life and Background
James Woods was born in Vernal, Utah on April 18, 1947. His father passed away when Woods was only 12, leaving his family struggling financially. He found refuge in school, where he excelled academically. Woods attended MIT on a scholarship, graduating in 1969 with a degree in political science. During his MIT years, he developed a passion for acting and pursued theatrical roles after graduating. Woods studied under renowned acting coach Uta Hagen and got his start in off-Broadway shows like The Brig (1969) and Moonchildren (1972).
Rise to Fame with Intense, Acclaimed Roles
Woods moved to Los Angeles in 1969 to pursue an on-screen acting career. After some initial struggles, he had his breakthrough playing killer Gregory Powell in the gritty TV movie The Onion Field (1979), based on Joseph Wambaugh’s true crime book. Woods‘ emotionally intense performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination and established him as a serious dramatic actor.
Throughout the 1980s, Woods cemented his reputation in films like Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Salvador (1986) – for which he earned his first Best Actor Oscar nomination – Best Seller (1987), and Cop (1988). He convincingly inhabited complex, often villainous characters, bringing a raw, nervous energy to his work.
Established Character Actor with Depth and Range
By the 1990s, Woods was an established and respected character actor adept at evoking various shades and eccentricities. He earned his second Best Actor Oscar nomination for capturing the volatility of Roy Cohn in Citizen Cohn (1992). Other memorable roles from this period include the vengeful hitman in The Specialist (1994), white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith in Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), and the tormented writer Max Bercovicz in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry (1997).
Woods also displayed his comedic skills voicing the hot-headed god Hades in Disney‘s Hercules (1997). His flair for drama and humor made him perfectly suited for the role. He went on to voice characters in various animated series and video games over the years.
Recent Work Across TV, Film, and Voice Acting
In the 2000s, Woods starred as cutthroat lawyer Sebastian Stark in the CBS legal drama Shark (2006-2008), showing his versatility as a performer. More recently, Woods has played White House Chief of Staff Bob Alexander in XIII: The Conspiracy (2008) and taken roles in Alex Turner‘s Straw Dogs (2011) and Taylor Sheridan’s 1923 (2022).
Now in his mid-70s, Woods continues to work steadily in film, TV and as a voice actor in animated franchises like Kingdom Hearts. Throughout his career, he has brought passion, complexity, and magnetic charisma to over 130 films and TV series.
Accolades and Achievements
- 2 Academy Award Nominations for Best Actor
- 5 Golden Globe Nominations (1 win)
- 3 Primetime Emmy Awards
- Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1998)
What Makes James Woods So Compelling
There are many reasons why James Woods remains such a compelling and singular talent after so many years in Hollywood:
- Dedication to his craft: Woods is renowned for fully immersing himself in each role. He brings an incredible commitment and work ethic.
- Electric charisma: Woods projects an incendiary, unpredictable energy and magnetism that makes him mesmerizing to watch.
- Intensity and intelligence: With his genius IQ, Woods brilliantly inhabits complex, intense characters. He is utterly convincing in darker roles.
- Fearlessness: Woods gravitated towards edgy, challenging material. This risk-taking instinct keeps his work fresh and original.
- Passion for acting: Woods has described acting as "the greatest thing in the world." His lifelong dedication to his craft shines through.
5 Fascinating James Woods Facts
- Woods dropped out of MIT just before graduating to pursue acting, returning in 1972 to finally earn his degree.
- He is an avid poker player and has competed successfully in tournaments like the WPT Invitational Live.
- Woods sued an anonymous Twitter user in 2015 for calling him a cocaine addict – the case was eventually settled.
- Early in their careers, Woods was roommates with director Oliver Stone when both struggled as actors.
- Woods has a genius IQ of 184 and is a member of MENSA.
An Enduring and Commanding Talent
With his intense performances, caustic wit, and total immersion in his roles, James Woods has cemented himself as one of the most talented, compelling, and dedicated actors of his generation. Woods brought authenticity and electricity to complex, frequently unlikable characters throughout his career. His natural charisma and commitment to his craft shine through in every performance.
After over 50 years in Hollywood, Woods remains as busy as ever in his 70s. His extensive body of work across film, TV, and theater attests to a lifetime devoted to his first love – acting. Woods has crafted an extraordinary acting legacy that will continue impacting audiences for decades to come.