James Woods Biography

Actor, Television Actor, Film Actor (1947–)
James Woods is an award-winning actor of stage and screen, known for his versatility in fare like Salvador, My Name Is Bill W. and Ghosts of Mississippi.


Born on April 18, 1947, in Vernal, Utah, James Woods acted on and off Broadway before turning to film, working in both lead and supporting roles. A versatile actor who often takes on challenging work, he has earned Academy Award nominations for Salvador and Ghosts of Mississippi, and won Emmys for his roles in the films Promise and My Name Is Bill W.


Early Career

Actor James Woods was born on April 18, 1947, in Vernal, Utah. Intelligent, intense and charismatic, Woods studied political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before dropping out to pursue an acting career. He got his start in the theater with dramatic roles on the New York stage.

Woods had his film major film role in The Visitors (1972), which was directed by Elia Kazan. He went on to make a string of guest appearances on television series, such as Barnaby Jones, Family, The Rockford Files and The Streets of San Francisco. He also had roles in several television movies and miniseries, including Holocaust (1978) opposite Meryl Streep.

Career Highlights

In The Onion Field (1979), Woods portrayed a heartless cop killer, perhaps his darkest character to date. Critics and audiences alike were riveted by his performance. He received his first Oscar nomination for Salvador (1986) for his portrayal of a journalist who drives to El Salvador to document the country's military dictatorship.

While he lost the Best Actor Oscar Award to Paul Newman, Woods continued to tackle a mix of dramatic roles in films and on television. He starred in The Boost, a 1988 feature film as a man whose life spirals out of control because of cocaine use. He won his first Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special for Promises in 1987. He has also played a number of famous people in television movies, including the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in My Name Is Bill W. (1989) and the infamous lawyer Roy Cohn in Citizen Cohn (1992). Woods won the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special Emmy Award for both of these performances.

Around this time, Woods took on a challenging film role. He tackled the part of Byron De La Beckwith, the suspected killer of Medgar Evers, the African-American civil rights activist, in 1996's Ghosts of Mississippi. His portrayal brought Woods his second Oscar nomination -- this time in the best supporting actor category.

Small-Screen Success and Recent Roles

Woods went on to find success on the small screen. In 2003, he was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of America's mayor in Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story. Three years later, he made a guest appearance on the hit drama ER. His performance as Dr. Nate Lennox, a former biochemistry professor battling Lou Gehrig's disease, earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.

In 2006, Woods made the leap to series television with Shark, a legal drama. Critics have raved about his performance as Sebastian Stark, a successful, egotistical defense attorney who switches sides to work for the district attorney's office. For Woods, the accolades were bittersweet. He was still mourning the loss of his young brother, Michael J. Woods, who died of a heart attack on July 26, 2006.

More recently, Woods landed the role of Jack Dudman in Jobs (2013), a film based on the life of Apple CEO Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher.

Personal Life

Married twice, Woods has been romantically linked to Ashley Madison, who played his girlfriend during a guest appearance on the hit comedy Entourage. Outside of acting, Woods has earned a reputation for being an excellent poker player. He has competed in such tournaments as the World Poker Tour LA Poker Classic and the Bellagio World Poker Tour Championship.

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