James Woods

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For other people named James Woods, see James Woods (disambiguation).
James Woods
James Woods 2015.jpg
Woods in Beverly Hills, California on December 24, 2015
Born James Howard Woods
(1947-04-18) April 18, 1947 (age 70)
Vernal, Utah, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Pilgrim High School
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology (did not graduate[1])
Occupation Actor, producer
Years active 1970–present
Political party Republican
  • Kathryn Morrison
    (m. 1980; div. 1983)
  • Sarah Owen
    (m. 1989; div. 1990)

James Howard Woods (born April 18, 1947) is an American actor and producer. He is often known for villainous roles and appeared in a variety of films, including The Way We Were (1973), The Onion Field (1979), Videodrome (1983), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Best Seller (1987), Chaplin (1992), Casino (1995), Nixon (1995), Vampires (1998), Straw Dogs (2011) and White House Down (2013). On television, he is known for portraying the titular protagonist of Shark (2006–2008).

Woods has been twice recognized by the Academy Awards as a nominee, first in the Best Actor category for Salvador (1986) and again in the Best Supporting Actor category for Ghosts of Mississippi (1996). He is also the recipient of three Emmy Awards for the television movies Promise (1986) and My Name Is Bill W. (1989) and the animated series Hercules (1998–1999). Promise additionally brought him a Golden Globe Award.

He has lent his distinctive voice to animated characters in The Simpsons, Family Guy, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and in films such as Disney's Hercules (1997) (as Hades) and Stuart Little 2 (2002) (as Falcon).

Early life[edit]

Woods was born in Vernal, Utah,[2] and had a brother ten years younger than he.[3] His father, Gail Peyton Woods, was an army intelligence officer who died in 1960[4] after routine surgery. His mother, Martha A. (née Smith), operated a pre-school after her husband's death[5] and later married Thomas E. Dixon.[6] Woods grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, where he attended Pilgrim High School, from which he graduated in 1965. He is of part Irish descent and was raised Catholic, briefly serving as an altar boy.[7][8]

Woods ultimately chose to pursue his undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he majored in political science[9] (though he originally planned a career as an eye 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. To pursue a career in acting, he dropped out of MIT in 1969 before his graduation.[1]

Woods has said that he became an actor thanks to Tim Affleck (father of actor Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck), who was a stage manager at the Theatre Company of Boston while Woods was a student there.[10]



Woods appeared in thirty-six plays before making his Broadway debut in 1970 at the Lyceum Theatre, in the first US production of Frank McMahon's Borstal Boy. He got the part by pretending he was British. He returned to Broadway the following year to portray David Darst in Daniel Berrigan's The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. In 1971, he played 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 in 1973 to portray Steven Cooper in the original production of Jean Kerr's Finishing Touches.

Film and television[edit]

Woods at an AIDS Project Los Angeles benefit in September 1990

A prominent Hollywood character actor, Woods has appeared in over 130 films and television series as of 2013, beginning with his first television appearance All the Way Home in 1971 and his film debut The Visitors in 1972. He is known for his dark, intense characters and villains. Early examples include his portrayals of a sadistic murderer in 1979's The Onion Field,[9] and of serial killer Carl Panzram in 1994's Killer: A Journal of Murder. He appeared in an episode of The Rockford Files, playing a son whose parents were murdered. He was first recognized by the The Oscars when he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the Oliver Stone drama Salvador (1986), portraying real-life journalist Rick Boyle as he chronicles events in El Salvador. He was recognized again with a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), in which he portrayed another real-life figure: infamous white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith.[9] One of his favorite film roles is Max, the domineering gangster, in Sergio Leone's epic Once Upon a Time in America (1984).[11] In 1995, Woods took the role of pimp Lester Diamond 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. In one of his most prominent television roles, Woods starred in the CBS legal drama series Shark, which ran for two seasons between 2006 and 2008. He played an infamous defense lawyer who, after growing disillusioned when his client commits a murder, becomes a successful prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.

Woods at the Emmy Awards 1993

Woods was offered a leading role in the low-budget film Reservoir Dogs, but his agent rejected the script without showing it to the actor. When Woods learned of this some time later, he fired his agents (CAA), replacing them with ICM.[12][13] In 2006, Woods starred in End Game. He makes a cameo appearance as himself in the first episode of the third season of Entourage. In 2011, Woods appeared as Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, in HBO's Too Big to Fail, for which he gained an Emmy Award[14] nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Mini-series or Movie.[15]

Voice work[edit]

Woods has lent his voice talents to many animated television shows and feature films. He garnered critical praise for his voice work as Hades in the 1997 Disney film Hercules[16] and he won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2000 for the role in the follow-up television series (for the 1999 season). He also voiced Phillium Benedict, the twisted former headmaster who attempts to abolish summer vacation in the 2001 film, Recess: School's Out. He also appeared as a fictional version of himself in the episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer and Apu" and in seven episodes of Family Guy, which is set in Woods's home state of Rhode Island. Other references in Family Guy include the local high school, James Woods High School, and a forest named James Woods mentioned in the episode "The Fat Guy Strangler". In 2004, Woods voiced Jallak in the animated film Ark and Mike Toreno in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Personal life[edit]

During a press interview for Kingdom Hearts II, Woods noted that he is an avid video game player.[17] He is a dealer of antiques in Rhode Island.[18] On December 14, 2015, while Woods was driving alone westbound through an ice storm on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, a driver who was speeding lost control and crashed into five other cars. Woods swerved his Jeep Grand Cherokee to avoid the accident and collided with a retaining wall, but slid backwards into a guard rail 100 feet (30 m) above the Colorado River. Woods suffered a minor concussion from the accident.[19][20]


Woods playing poker at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in California in 2005

Woods is an avid poker player, playing in cash games and many tournaments. He played in the WPT's Hollywood Home Game series in 2004 for the American Stroke Association charity. As of 2015, he has to his credit over 35 major event[21] finishes, including a seventh place at the 2015 World Series of Poker in the $3000 No Limit Shootout event.[22]


In 1988, Woods sued Sean Young for $2 million, accusing her of stalking him after they appeared together in the movie The Boost.[23] Young later countered that Woods had overreacted after she had spurned his advances on set.[24] The suit was settled out of court in August 1989.[25][26] Young was awarded $227,000 to cover her legal costs.[27]

On July 26, 2006, Woods' younger brother, Michael Jeffrey Woods, died from cardiac arrest at the age of 49. Woods sued Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, alleging negligence. The suit was settled in 2009.[28][29]

On July 30, 2015, he sued a Twitter user for $10 million over an allegedly libelous tweet.[30] In October 2015, Woods lost his legal bid to learn who was behind the Twitter account who accused him of being a "Cocaine Addict".[31] However, on February 2, 2016, Judge Mel Recana gave the go ahead to pursue the case further. It was believed that this would force Twitter to reveal the identity of the anonymous user.[32] On October 21, 2016, attorney Lisa Bloom revealed that the anonymous user had died.[33]


Woods's name was in an advertisement in the Los Angeles Times (August 17, 2006) that condemned Hamas and Hezbollah and supported Israel in the 2006 Lebanon War.[34] He has become well known for supporting conservative political views on Twitter.[35] Early in the 2016 presidential race, Woods endorsed Carly Fiorina for the Republican nomination.[36] In November 2015, he shifted his endorsement to Senator Ted Cruz.[37]


Woods was raised Roman Catholic and stated on September 23, 2015 that he is involved in his faith.[38] He has criticized Pope Francis for tolerating what he called "pro-abortion hospitality".[39]


Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ a b New York Times Service, published by New York Times and Arno press, 1989, page 788
  2. ^ "Utah Local News - Salt Lake City News, Sports, Archive - The Salt Lake Tribune". sltrib.com. Retrieved January 18, 2015. 
  3. ^ Fernandez, Maria Elena (October 4, 2006). "Very James Woods". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 24, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Warwick Online: Michael Woods remembered for a smile, and a laugh". Archived from the original on November 11, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  5. ^ "James Woods Biography (1947-)". filmreference.com. Retrieved January 18, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Martha A. Woods Dixon - Warwick Beacon". Warwick Beacon. Retrieved January 18, 2015. 
  7. ^ "James Woods on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved January 18, 2015. 
  8. ^ McCardle, Kevin (September 17, 1999). "Face of the Day". The Herald. 
  9. ^ a b c Stated on Inside the Actors Studio, 2000
  10. ^ Lidz, Franz (10 September 2000), "FILM; Ben Affleck Shocker: I Bargained With Devil for Fame", New York Times, retrieved 4 March 2012 
  11. ^ Turner Classic Movies biography, James Woods, accessed January 2, 2011
  12. ^ Hollywood's new radicalism: war, globalisation and the movies from Reagan to George W. Bush, by Ben Dickenson, 2006, page 157
  13. ^ Film voices: Interviews From Post Script, by Gerald Duchovnay, 2004, pages 244–245
  14. ^ "James Woods". Television Academy. Retrieved January 18, 2015. 
  15. ^ 2011 Emmy Nominations List: 63rd Primetime Emmy Nominations Announced, Huffington Post, July 14, 2011. Accessed July 15, 2011
  16. ^ New York Magazine, July 7, 1997, page 54
  17. ^ Video on YouTube
  19. ^ Hensley, Nicole (December 15, 2015). "James Woods walks away from Colorado wreck with 'little concussion,' says 'old tank' Jeep saved his life". New York Daily News. Retrieved March 12, 2016. 
  20. ^ Hickey, Chuck (December 16, 2015). "Actor James Woods survives multivehicle wreck in Glenwood Canyon". FOX 31 Denver. Retrieved March 12, 2016. 
  21. ^ Generally, a major event is one with a prize pool of at least $10K.
  22. ^ "James Woods Poker Tournament Results". CardPlayer.com. December 3, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  23. ^ Woods Suit May be Settled, by Anne Trebbe, USA Today, August 23, 1989
  24. ^ "Young Revisits 20-Year-Old James Woods Harassment Controversy," ContactMusic.com, 17 September 2007
  25. ^ "Time Out". Orlando Sentinel. August 25, 1989. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  26. ^ Puig, Claudia; Cerone, Daniel (August 24, 1989). "Legal File". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  27. ^ Danny Leigh. "Blade Runner's Sean Young: 'If I were a man I'd have been treated better' | Film". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-02-06. 
  28. ^ James Woods – Shark Halted After Woods' Brother Dies, ContactMusic.com, July 28, 2006
  29. ^ James Woods settles suit over brother’s death, by Associated Press, published by MSNBC.com, December 1, 2009
  30. ^ James Woods Sues Twitter User, HollywoodReporter.com, July 30, 2015
  31. ^ Kenneally, Tim (October 30, 2015). "James Woods Loses Legal Bid to Learn Twitter Foe's Name in 'Cocaine Addict' Lawsuit". thewrap.com. Retrieved January 29, 2016. 
  32. ^ http://www.engadget.com/2016/02/11/james-woods-vs-twitter/
  33. ^ Strachan, Maxwell (October 21, 2016). "James Woods Hopes Anonymous Twitter User He Hated Died 'In Agony'". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  34. ^ "Nicole Kidman and 84 Others Stand United Against Terrorism" Hollywood Grind. 18 August 2006.
  35. ^ "How James Woods Became Obama's Biggest Twitter Troll". The Daily Beast. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  36. ^ Hod, Itay (September 17, 2015). "Carly Fiorina Scores James Woods Endorsement". TheWrap.com. The Wrap. Retrieved September 22, 2015. 
  37. ^ Giaritelli, Anna (23 November 2015). "Fiorina loses Hollywood endorsement to Cruz". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  38. ^ James Woods [RealJamesWoods] (23 September 2015). "For the record I am a practicing Roman Catholic. I share that to clarify my personal interest in my previous tweet." (Tweet). Retrieved 4 February 2017 – via Twitter. 
  39. ^ Judge, Mark (25 September 2015). "Actor James Woods: 'His Holiness is Accepting Pro-Abortion Hospitality'". CNSNews.com. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 

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