Steve Buscemi is perhaps the greatest character actor
of our time. He has appeared in over 80 films in only twenty years and is frequently used by Quentin Tarantino
, producer Jerry Bruckheimer
, Jim Jarmusch
, Robert Rodriguez
, The Coen Brothers
and Adam Sandler
. And while Buscemi is obviously best known as an actor, its worth noting that he's also quite a fascinating person offscreen and offstage.
While many see Buscemi's performances and see an odd, squirrelly and perhaps even creepy man that could never get a girl, Buscemi has been happily married to a beautiful woman for years. He wed Jo Andres in 1987 and in 1990 Jo gave birth to Lucian, their only child. Jo directed, wrote, produced, edited, acted in and designed the special effects for "Black Kites," which won Best Short Film at the 1996 New York Film Festival. The film also starred Lucian, Steve and Steve's brother Michael Buscemi, who is an established performer as well.
In March 2003, while scouting for film locations, Steve visited the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There, Steve was offered a chance to narrate the tour of the former prison. He agreed, and you can still hear his voice on the tour to this day. It is quite fitting that a prison tour features a voice over from Steve Buscemi.
In 1999 and 2000, Steve took on another odd task when he modeled for the exclusive European fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz. In that same time Patricia Arquette, Johnny Depp, Gary Oldman and Isabella Rosselini also modeled for that company. Obviously, Steve was a bit out of place, but when is he ever not?
In 1999 the Cincinnati, Ohio based folk/pop quintet Blessid Union of Souls released their third album Walking Off The Buzz. The album featured what would go on to be the band's biggest hit, "Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me For Me)." The song included the following lyrics:
She likes me for me
Not because I
Hang with Leonardo
Or that guy who played in Fargo
I think his name is Steve
In 2003 when singer/songwriter Lou Reed (of "Walk On The Wild Side" fame) released an album titled The Raven, Steve provided dramatic readings from Edgar Allan Poe's work and provided the vocals on the album's eleventh track "Broadway Song."
In 2001, while filming the film Domestic Disturbance, co-star Vince Vaughn, screenwriter Scott Rosenberg and Buscemi were enjoying some drinks at the Firebelly Lounge in Wilmington, North Carolina when Vaughn and Rosenberg got into an argument, and eventually, a fight with a local resident Timothy Fogerty. Buscemi stepped in to try to break up the altercation and was stabbed in the throat, head and arm by Fogerty. Buscemi now has a scar on his face that requires heavy amounts of make up to conceal in films.
From 1980 to 1984, prior to becoming a professional performer, Steve was a fire fighter in New York City with Engine Company #55 in the Little Italy section of town. On September 12th, 2001, Steve showed up to his old firehouse. He spent the next week working twelve hour shifts at Ground Zero working anonymously as to not attract any attention to himself. Also in response to the attacks, he spoke at The Concert for New York City held in October 2001 at Madison Square Garden, at the 2002 Memorial Day celebration on the U.S Capitol lawn and provided an introduction for the Emmy winning 2002 documentary 9/11.
In 2003, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that in an effort to close a $3.4 billion budget deficit the city should eliminate eight firehouses and that if the city didn't receive state or federal financial assistance that at least 30 more may have to be closed. Buscemi actively protested the closings, and in May 2003, was arrested at a protest.
In May 2004, Buscemi visited his very proud fire fighter past one last time. During production of John Turturro's film Romance & Cigarettes in which Buscemi appears, a fantasy sequence scene was being filmed in which Kate Winslet dreams her love interest is a fire fighter and rescues her from a burning building. Yet when a spark started an out of control fire, the crew panicked and the local FDNY station in New York City was called. Buscemi, who was on the set that day, came out and worked with the fire fighters in their effort to help dampen the fire. Nobody was hurt and the fire was put out within an hour.
Onscreen and off, Steve Buscemi is one hell of an interesting character.