James Woods

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

Woods in Beverly Hills, California on December 24, 2015
Born James Howard Woods
(1947-04-18) April 18, 1947
Vernal, Utah, United States
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 nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, first for Salvador (1986) and next 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

Woods was born in Vernal, Utah,[2] and had a brother ten years younger than him.[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), 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

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

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

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] However, in November 2015, Woods endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz.[37]



Year Title Role Notes
1972 The Visitors Bill Schmidt
1972 Hickey & Boggs Lt. Wyatt
1973 The Way We Were Frankie McVeigh
1974 The Gambler Bank Officer
1975 Night Moves Quentin
1976 The Billion Dollar Bubble Art Lewis
1976 Alex & the Gypsy Crainpool
1977 The Choirboys Harold Bloomguard
1979 The Onion Field Gregory Ulas Powell
1980 The Black Marble The Fiddler
1981 Eyewitness Aldo Mercer
1982 Fast-Walking Fast-Walking
1982 Split Image Charles Pratt
1983 Videodrome Max Renn
1984 Against All Odds Jake Wise
1984 Once Upon a Time in America Maximilian 'Max' Bercovicz
1985 Cat's Eye Dick Morrison
1985 Joshua Then and Now Joshua Shapiro
1986 Salvador Richard Boyle
1987 Best Seller Cleve
1988 Cop Lloyd Hopkins Also producer
1988 The Boost Lenny Brown
1989 True Believer Eddie Dodd
1989 Immediate Family Michael Spector
1991 The Hard Way Detective Lt. John Moss, NYPD
1992 Straight Talk Jack Russell
1992 Diggstown Gabriel Caine
1992 Chaplin Joseph Scott
1994 The Getaway Jack Benyon
1994 Curse of the Starving Class Weston Tate
1994 The Specialist Ned Trent
1995 For Better or Worse Reggie Makeshift
1995 Killer: A Journal of Murder Carl Panzram
1995 Casino Lester Diamond
1995 Nixon H. R. Haldeman
1996 Ghosts of Mississippi Byron De La Beckwith
1997 Kicked in the Head Uncle Sam
1997 Hercules Hades (voice)
1997 Contact Michael Kitz
1998 Vampires Jack Crow
1998 Another Day in Paradise Mel Also producer
1999 True Crime Alan Mann
1999 The Virgin Suicides Ronald Lisbon
1999 Hercules: Zero to Hero Hades (voice) Direct-to-video
1999 The General's Daughter Col. Robert Moore
1999 Any Given Sunday Dr. Harvey Mandrake
1999 Play It to the Bone Ringside Fan
2001 Recess: School's Out Dr. Philliam "Phil" Benedict (voice)
2001 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within General Hein (voice)
2001 Scary Movie 2 Father McFeely
2001 Riding in Cars with Boys Mr. Leonard Donofrio
2001 Race to Space Dr. Wilhelm von Huber
2002 John Q Dr. Raymond Turner
2002 Stuart Little 2 Falcon (voice)
2002 Mickey's House of Villains Hades (voice) Direct-to-video
2002 Rolie Polie Olie The Great Defender of Fun Gloominus Maximus (voice) Direct-to-video
2003 Northfork Walter O'Brien Also executive producer
2003 This Girl's Life Pops
2005 Pretty Persuasion Hank Joyce
2005 Be Cool Tommy Athens
2005 Ark Jallak (voice)
2006 End Game Vaughn Stevens
2007 Surf's Up Reggie Belafonte (voice)
2008 Big Fat Important Movie Agent Grosslight
2010 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Owlman (voice) Direct-to-DVD
2011 Straw Dogs Tom Heddon
2012 Officer Down Captain Verona
2013 White House Down Martin Walker
2013 Jobs Dean Jack Dudman
2014 Jamesy Boy Lt. Falton
2016 Bling Victor (voice)


Year Title Role Notes
1974 Kojak Caz Episode: "Death Is Not a Passing Grade"
1974 The Rockford Files Larry Kirkoff Episode: "The Kirkoff Case"
1975 Welcome Back, Kotter Alex Welles Episode: "The Great Debate"
1975 The Streets of San Francisco Doug Episode: "Trail of Terror"
1975 The Rookies Ted Ayres Episode: "A Time to Mourn"
1976 Barnaby Jones Danny Reeves Episode: "Sins of Thy Father"
1976 The Disappearance of Aimee Asst. Disty. Atty. Joseph Ryan Television film
1976 Police Story Lewis Packer Episode: "Thanksgiving"
1976 Raid on Entebbe Capt. Sammy Berg Television film
1977 Family Dr. Robert Styles Episode: "An Eye to the Future"
1978 Holocaust Karl Weiss 4 episodes
1979 The Incredible Journey of Doctor Meg Laurel Sin Eater Television film
1979–1980 Young Maverick Lem Fraker 2 episodes
1985 Badge of the Assassin Robert K. Tannenbaum, Assistant District Attorney Television film
1986 Promise D.J. Television film
1987 In Love and War James B. 'Jim' Stockdale Television film
1989 My Name Is Bill W. Bill Wilson Television film
1991 The Boys Walter Farmer Television film
1992 Citizen Cohn Roy Cohn Television film
1993 Dream On Dennis Youngblood Episode: "Oral Sex, Lies and Videotape"
1993 Fallen Angels Mickey Cohen Episode: "Since I Don't Have You"
1994 Jane's House Paul Clark Television film
1994 The Simpsons Himself (voice) Episode: "Homer and Apu"
1994 Next Door Matt Coler Television film
1995 Indictment: The McMartin Trial Danny Davis Television film
1996 The Summer of Ben Tyler Temple Rayburn Television film
1998–1999 Hercules: The Animated Series Hades (voice) 27 episodes
2000 Dirty Pictures Dennis Barrie Television film
2001 Clerks: The Animated Series Major Baklava (voice) Episode: "Leonardo Is Caught in the Grip of an Outbreak of Randal's Imagination and Patrick Swayze Either Does or Doesn't Work in the New Pet Store"
2001–2002 House of Mouse Hades (voice) 10 episodes
2003 Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story Rudy Giuliani Television film
2005 Odd Job Jack Manny Kowalski Episode: "Orgy: The Musical"
2005–2016 Family Guy Himself (voice) 8 episodes
2006 ER Dr. Nate Lennox Episode: "Body & Soul"
2006 Entourage Himself Episode: "Aquamom"
2006–2008 Shark Sebastian Stark 38 episodes
2009 iCarly Security Guard #2 Episode: "iWant My Website Back"
2011 Too Big to Fail Richard Fuld Television film
2012 Coma Dr. Theodore Stark 2 episodes
2013 Mary and Martha Tom Television film
2013 Ray Donovan Patrick Sullivan 6 episodes
2016 Justice League Action Lex Luthor (voice)[38]

Video games

Year Title Voice role
1997 Hercules Hades
2002 Kingdom Hearts
2004 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Mike Toreno
2005 Kingdom Hearts II Hades
2006 Scarface: The World Is Yours George Sheffield
2007 Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+ Hades
2010 Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
2011 Kingdom Hearts Re:coded
2012 Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1980 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor The Onion Field Won
1980 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama The Onion Field Nominated
1980 National Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actor The Onion Field Nominated
1980 New York Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actor The Onion Field Nominated
1987 Academy Awards Best Actor Salvador Nominated
1987 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Promise Won
1987 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Promise Won
1987 Independent Spirit Awards Best Male Lead Salvador Won
1988 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film In Love and War Nominated
1988 Independent Spirit Awards Best Male Lead Best Seller Nominated
1989 Independent Spirit Awards Best Male Lead The Boost Nominated
1989 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie My Name Is Bill W. Won
1990 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Hallmark Hall of Fame Nominated
1993 CableACE Awards Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Citizen Cohn Nominated
1993 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Citizen Cohn Nominated
1993 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Citizen Cohn Nominated
1994 CableACE Awards Best Actor in a Drama Series Fallen Angels Nominated
1995 CableACE Awards Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Indictment: The McMartin Trial Nominated
1995 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Indictment: The McMartin Trial Nominated
1996 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Indictment: The McMartin Trial Nominated
1996 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nixon Nominated
1997 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Ghosts of Mississippi Nominated
1997 Chicago Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actor Ghosts of Mississippi Nominated
1997 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Ghosts of Mississippi Nominated
1997 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film The Summer of Ben Tyler Nominated
1997 Satellite Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film The Summer of Ben Tyler Nominated
1997 Satellite Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Killer: A Journal of Murder Won
1999 Saturn Awards Best Actor Vampires Won
2000 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program Hercules Won
2000 Las Vegas Film Critics Society Best Supporting Actor The Virgin Suicides Nominated
2001 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Dirty Pictures Nominated
2001 Satellite Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Dirty Pictures Won
2001 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Dirty Pictures Nominated
2003 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story Nominated
2004 Satellite Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story Won
2006 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series ER Nominated
2006 Satellite Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Shark Nominated
2006 Spike Video Game Awards Best Supporting Male Performance Scarface: The World Is Yours Nominated
2011 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Too Big to Fail Nominated
2011 Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Too Big to Fail Nominated
2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Too Big to Fail Nominated


  1. 1 2 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 at the Wayback Machine (archived November 11, 2007)
  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. 1 2 3 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. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/fiorina-loses-hollywood-endorsement-to-cruz/article/2577028

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