John Turturro was born in Brooklyn, New York, his father an World War II veteran and construction worker, his mother a singer performing in jazz clubs. After college, John worked for father’s construction business, devoting free time for auditions and casting calls. While performing in an off-Broadway production of The Tooth of Crime
, Robert De Niro
suggested he audition for Martin Scorsese
’s Raging Bull
. Acting on the suggestion, he arrived at the set with a friend, bearing Italian pastries, and when coming for callbacks showed up in authentic period costumes. Eventually Turturro landed a one-liner in the film.
After making his film debut, Turturro returned to college in 1980 and won a highly coveted scholarship to Yale’s graduate drama program. Fresh out of that in 1983, he landed a lead role on stage in New York. His performance in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea won him an Obie award in 1984.
Newly confident, Turturro focused again on establishing a cinema career, obtaining small roles in mainstream fare such as The Exterminator 2, The Flamingo Kid and Desparately Seeking Susan. 1984 had him debuting on Broadway in Death of a Salesman; the movie roles led him back to Scorsese and a strong supporting role in The Color of Money, 1986.
Turturro landed prominent roles in three other films that year, including Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters. These led to his being cast by Spike Lee in Five Corners. His breakthrough performance caught the attention of critics and audiences, shifting his career into high gear.
John Turturro appeared in several movies of the course of the next several years; Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), Clockers (1995) and Girl 6 (1996), as well as other films including Do the Right Thing (1989), Dennis Hopper’s Backtrack (1989), State of Grace (1990) and the Coens’ Miller ‘s Crossing (1990) and Barton Fink (1991). In 1991 were also roles in Men of Respect and Jungle Fever.
In 1992, Turturro tackled his most personal project: Mac, which he cowrote, directed, and starred in. The movie was based on his father’s life, and won an award at Cannes for Best New Director. Still, the film was largely ignored by American audiences.
Following credits include Fearless (1993), Being Human (1994), Quiz Show (1994) (for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination) and both Search and Destroy, Clockers in 95. After the whimsical 1996 comedy Box of Moonlight, the actor again collaborated with both Lee and the Coen Brothers in 1998; with the former on He Got Game and the latter on The Big Lebowski. Also in 1998, Turturro wrote, directed, produced and starred in Illuminata, as well as performing in Rounders. Summer of Sam in 1999 was his seventh film for Spike Lee. That same year he joined the cast of Cradle Will Rock.
In the years 2000 and 2001, Turturro appeared in several more films, notable among them the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Luzhin Defence.
Turturro’s stage credits include (besides for ”Danny and the Deep Blue Sea”) ”Italian-American Reconciliation”,”Troilus and Cressida”, “Tile Bald Soprano”, ”The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” and ”Waiting for Godot”.