Who Is Marisa Tomei?

Marisa Tomei got her start acting on TV in shows like As the World Turns and A Different World. She went on to become a highly successful film actress, beginning with her Academy Award-winning role in My Cousin Vinny (1992). Tomei also earned Oscar nominations for In the Bedroom (2001) and The Wrestler (2008), and later joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Spider-Man's Aunt May.

Early Life

Born on December 4, 1964, in Brooklyn, New York, Tomei began developing her acting talents in school plays. While attending Boston University, she was cast in the CBS daytime soap opera As the World Turns; Tomei subsequently left school and played teenager Marcy Thompson on the show from 1983 to 1985.

Films, TV and Theater

'The Flamingo Kid,' 'A Different World'

She made her feature film debut in 1984 in The Flamingo Kid, starring Matt Dillon. After leaving As the World Turns, Tomei appeared in Off-Broadway productions like Daughters (1985) before moving to Los Angeles. In 1987, she landed a role as a roommate of Lisa Bonet's character during the first season of A Different World, a popular spinoff of The Cosby Show.

Oscar Win for 'My Cousin Vinny'

Overcoming the comedic flop Oscar (1991), Tomei gave what appeared to be a bona fide star-making performance in the 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny, co-starring Joe Pesci and The Karate Kid's Ralph Macchio. Critics agreed that Tomei's sharp comedic performance as Mona Lisa Vito, the wisecracking auto mechanic and fiancée of Pesci's Vinny, merited good reviews and even the Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress she received.

When Tomei's name was read aloud on Oscar night as the winner, however (she beat out four well respected British actresses: Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave), the shock was almost universal, and nasty rumors persisted that the award's presenter, the elderly Jack Palance, had read the wrong name.

'Chaplin,' 'Untamed Heart,' 'Only You'

Tomei's Oscar win failed to produce the kind of career boost usually expected, as she went on to star in a number of films that didn't do justice to her talents and barely made it onto the radar screen at the box office. She gave a good performance as the silent screen actress Mabel Normand in Chaplin (1992), starring Robert Downey Jr., but her first project as a romantic lead in the weepy romance Untamed Heart (1993), co-starring Christian Slater, was a critical and commercial disappointment. Tomei next appeared opposite Michael Keaton in The Paper (1994) and reteamed with Downey Jr. in Only You (both 1994).

'Slums of Beverly Hills,' 'My Own Country,' 'Wait Until Dark'

After co-starring with veteran actresses Anjelica Huston in The Perez Family (1995) and Gena Rowlands in Unhook the Stars (1996), Tomei earned her best reviews since My Cousin Vinny for the eccentric comedy Slums of Beverly Hills (1998), in which she played the flaky cousin of the main character, a precocious teenage girl played by Natasha Lyonne. Also in 1998, Tomei returned to the small screen for the Showtime feature My Own Country (also featuring her younger brother Adam) and the CBS miniseries Erich Segal's Only Love, and made her first appearance on Broadway in a revival of Wait Until Dark, alongside Quentin Tarantino.

'Happy Accidents,' 'The Watcher,' 'What Women Want'

Tomei's fortunes improved with a string of big-screen roles in 2000, beginning with the independent film Happy Accidents, co-starring Vincent D'Onofrio, which screened at Sundance in 2001. She also appeared with Keanu Reeves and James Spader in the more mainstream thriller The Watcher, and had a featured role in the hit comedy What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.

'Someone Like You,' 'In the Bedroom'

In early 2001, Tomei appeared as the sidekick of Ashley Judd's character in the romantic comedy Someone Like You. That same year, she emerged as a serious dramatic actress with an acclaimed performance in In the Bedroom, playing a mother of two whose estranged husband kills her younger lover. Tomei's affecting supporting performance earned her rave reviews, and a second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

'The Guru,' 'Anger Management,' 'Alfie'

The next several years saw Tomei in many lighthearted films, including a voiceover role in the children's animated feature The Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002), and lead roles in The Guru (2002) and the Adam Sandler vehicle Anger Management (2003). Tomei also proved her mettle in the film remake of the 1966 romantic comedy, Alfie (2004), as well as the indie feature Factotum (2005).

'Rescue Me,' 'The Wrestler,' 'Cyrus'

After a stint on the small screen in Dennis Leary's firefighter drama, Rescue Me, and the comedy The Rich Inner Life of Penelope Cloud, Tomei returned to feature films. Her role opposite Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (2008) again wowed critics and garnered her more Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Then in 2010, Tomei starred in the indie comedy Cyrus, with co-stars John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill. The film received a positive response from critics.

'The Lincoln Lawyer,' 'Parental Guidance,' 'The Big Short'

Tomei remained busy into the next decade with roles in dramas like The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), The Ides of March (2011) and Love Is Strange (2014), as well as in comedies like Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and Parental Guidance (2012), the latter film starring icons Bette Midler and Billy Crystal. The actress then co-starred with Hugh Grant in the rom-com The Rewrite (2014) and appeared in the well-received The Big Short (2015).

'Spider-Man,' 'The Handmaid's Tale,' 'All in the Family'

Tomei joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Spider-Man's Aunt May in Captain America: Civil War (2016), a role that carried into Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). During this time she also was cast in the 2018 films The First Purge and Dark Was the Night, and appeared on highly regarded programs like Empire, The Handmaid's Tale and a 2019 revival episode of All in the Family.

Personal Life

Along with her impressive record of work on stage and screen, Tomei in 2010 released a fitness DVD program titled Marisa Tomei: Core & Curves.

The actress has been romantically linked to other high-profile celebrities over the years, including her Chaplin co-star Downey Jr. and rocker Lenny Kravitz. From 2008 to 2012, she was in a relationship with actor Logan Marshall-Green.


  • Name: Marisa Tomei
  • Birth Year: 1964
  • Birth date: December 4, 1964
  • Birth State: New York
  • Birth City: Brooklyn
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Female
  • Best Known For: Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei has starred in such successful films as 'My Cousin Vinny,' 'In the Bedroom,' 'The Wrestler' and 'Spider-Man: Homecoming.'
  • Industries
    • Drama
    • Comedy
  • Astrological Sign: Sagittarius
  • Schools
    • Boston University
    • Edward R. Murrow High School

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  • Article Title: Marisa Tomei Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/actors/marisa-tomei
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: May 25, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014