Under the Circuit: John Turturro

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Most Known For: “Transformers,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” “Barton Fink”

Snubbed For: “Barton Fink,” “Quiz Show”

Just a little less than a year ago I picked up our weekly Under the Circuit articles and started with John Goodman, a frequent collaborator of the Coen brothers. Now it’s time to take a look at another member of the Coen brothers company of actors that has so far been shut out by the Academy. To limit John Turturro’s work to just the Coens would be a mistake, as the actor has been a fixture for the likes of Spike Lee, the indie world, and even Adam Sandler. And save for the last collaborator, Turturro has given many great turns throughout his career.

That career couldn’t have started off with a much higher profile movie. Turturro’s first screen role was in Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.” IMDB has him down as “Man at Webster Hall Table” in an uncredited role, but hey, not to shabby to start your career off with one of the best films ever made. Turturro would find himself in a number of high profile films from the 80s, including “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “The Color of Money” and “Do the Right Thing.”

barton_fink_2Turturro’s first brush with true awards consideration would come in his second collaboration with the Coen brothers, when he played the titular character in “Barton Fink.” As a New York City playwright who goes to Hollywood to write for the movies, Turturro’s Fink quickly realizes that Hollywood isn’t the glitz and glamour that is was made up to be. Turturro took home Best Actor from the Cannes Film Festival and Best Foreign Actor from the David di Donatello Awards. Outside of the Chicago Film Critics giving him a nomination for Best Actor, Turturro would not find the same love stateside.

That would not be the case a couple of years later when Turturro starred in Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show.” As a game show contestant forced to lose to improve ratings, Turturro was a fixture on the awards circuit. He would receive nominations from both the Golden Globes and SAG for Best Supporting Actor. When Oscar nominations came in, however, the Academy went with his co-star Paul Scofield in Supporting Actor, a former Best Actor winner for “A Man of All Seasons.”

QuizShow_25Since “Quiz Show,” Turturro hasn’t come as close to shaking hands with Oscar, though he has provided a number of memorable roles. To name a few, his last two collaborations with the Coen brothers in “The Big Lebowski” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and his role in Sandler’s “Mr. Deeds” was by far the best thing about that movie — though I guess that isn’t saying much.

It’s not just in front of the camera that Turturro has been a success; the actor has also crafted some nice films as a writer and director. Most recently he made “Fading Gigolo,” a sweet little film, which wasn’t anything special, but it did show his range of talent on all three fronts as an actor, writer and director.

One thing that is great about Turturro is that he rarely does anything boring. With his mix of indie and major films, Turturro offers something fun and interesting in nearly all of his films. Despite approaching his 60s, Turturro isn’t slowing down as he has four films on tap potentially for 2015, including the boxing movie “Hands of Stone” with Robert DeNiro and Edgar Ramirez. If Turturro’s Oscar role is out there though, don’t be surprised to see a big push for him after a long and steady career.

You can next see Turturro in Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”