Ving Rhames Biography

Film Actor, Actor (1959–)
Ving Rhames is an actor known for roles in such films as Pulp Fiction and the Mission: Impossible franchise.


After modest stage and film work, Ving Rhames gained critical acclaim and public appeal for his role as Marsellus Wallace in Quentin Tarantino's 1994 blockbuster hit, Pulp Fiction. Not long after, Rhames was cast alongside Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible (1996), and won a Golden Globe for his performance in the HBO biopic Don King: Only in America. He has continued working steadily ever since.

Early Life

Actor Ving Rhames was born Irving Rameses Rhames on May 12, 1959, in New York City, to parents Reatha and Ernest Rhames. From a young age, Rhames was a conscientious student who was well spoken and earned frequent praise for his good elocution. His ninth-grade English teacher, who saw potential in the young man, steered Rhames toward acting. Inspired by a poetry reading that he had attended with schoolmates, Rhames auditioned for entrance into New York's prestigious High School for the Performing Arts, and was accepted into the program.

Following his high school graduation in 1978, Ving Rhames went on study drama at the State University of New York, Purchase. There, he met fellow actor Stanley Tucci, who gave him the nickname "Ving." While he enjoyed the company of his fellow actors at SUNY, Rhames wanted a greater challenge as an actor. As fate would have it, he soon earned a scholarship to New York City's Juilliard School of Drama, and transferred there to study classical theater after his first year at SUNY. Rhames earned his degree from Juilliard in 1983, and went on to perform in Shakespeare in the Park productions.

Breakthrough Role

Ving Rhames's first big break came in 1984, when he was chosen to appear in the Broadway production of The Winter Boys opposite Matt Dillon. That same year, he made his television debut in the drama Go Tell It on the Mountain. He continued appearing on TV through recurring roles on soap operas, including Another World and Guiding Light.

Rhames moved to the big screen in the 1980s, playing Jack in the 1986 film Native Son, co-starring with Natasha Richardson in the 1988 biopic Patty Hearst, and landing the part of Lieutenant Reilly in the Brian de Palma Vietnam War saga Casualties of War (1989), among other roles.

Career Highlights

Ving Rhames went on to gain critical acclaim and public appeal for his role as Marsellus Wallace in Quentin Tarantino's 1994 blockbuster, Pulp Fiction. Not long after, he was cast alongside Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible (1996), then starred in the drama Con Air (1997). In 1998, Rhames won a Golden Globe Award for his performance in the HBO biopic Don King: Only in America. Rhames made headlines for the win when he gave his award to fellow nominee Jack Lemmon during the ceremony, saying, "I feel that being an artist is about giving, and I'd like to give this to you."

Lemmon graciously accepted the award to a standing ovation. Lemmon later told reporters that the event was "one of the sweetest moments I've ever known in my life." He later tried, unsuccessfully, to give the award back to Rhames. Instead, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced that they would have a duplicate award prepared for Rhames.

Rhames continued working in film throughout the 1990s, appearing in movies such as Bringing Out the Dead (1999), Mission: Impossible II (2000) and Dawn of the Dead (2004). In 2006, he reprised his role in Mission: Impossible III, making him the only actor besides Tom Cruise to appear in all three films of the Mission: Impossible franchise.

In addition to his film credits, Rhames has continued to appear on TV over the years. His TV credits include the detective program Kojak, the medical drama E.R. and the series Football Wives.

Personal Life

In 1994, Ving Rhames married Valerie Scott. The couple divorced five years later, on February 9, 1999. In December 2000, Rhames wed actress Deborah Reed, with whom he has three children: daughter Reignbeau, son Freedom and Reed's daughter from a previous marriage, Tiffany.

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