Most Known For: Boardwalk Empire, Fargo, The Big Lebowski,
Snubbed For: Reservoir Dogs, Fargo, Ghost World
When Steve Buscemi was given the lead in “Boardwalk Empire” Hollywood rejoiced. The well-respected character actor deserved to finally have a lead role after great work throughout his career. He would even go on to win a Golden Globe for the first season of “Boardwalk.” But while he has been one of many film stars to blaze a new path on TV, his work in film shouldn’t be overlooked despite the Academy doing so.
Buscemi began his career in the mid-1980s and had some high-profile early work, including roles on popular TV series “Miami Vice” and “The Equalizer,” and a part in Richard Price’s section of “New York Stories.” But when the 90s rolled around he would find some of his most important collaborators – the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino.
1992’s “Reservoir Dogs” was the world’s first introduction to the wild mind of Tarantino, and Buscemi gave us a glimpse of the filmmakers unique style right of the bat with his monologue about Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Buscemi was handed the reins of Tarantino’s first big monologue, and he killed it. That was his shinning moment, as he is takes a back seat to Harvey Keitel and others once the movie really gets going in the warehouse, but outside of Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde, Buscemi’s Mr. Pink is the standout of the film. The world just wasn’t completely ready for the film, as it made a measly $2 million and received no major awards consideration, though Buscemi did win Best Supporting Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Buscemi would also appear in a cameo role in Tarantino’s follow-up, the more widely acclaimed “Pulp Fiction,” but it is his collaborations with the Coen brothers that provide some of the actor’s best work. With roles in “Miller’s Crossing,” “Barton Fink,” “The Big Lebowski,” and playing the main role in their section of “Paris, je t’aime” make Buscemi a favorite of the Coen’s, but his best role with them is definitely in their dark comedy “Fargo.”
As one half of the bumbling kidnappers along with Peter Stormare, Buscemi gives off the sense early in the film that he actually knows what he is doing, but as the film goes on we find out that couldn’t be farther from the truth, and he handles the chaos fantastically. “Fargo” is brilliantly acted from the top down, and there are no arguments made against the nominations for William H. Macy and win for Frances McDormand, but it is a real shame that they couldn’t find room for Buscemi as well.
Buscemi’s biggest snub, at least in terms of support, came in the form of “Ghost World.” In the comic book adaptation from Terry Zwigoff, Buscemi plays Seymour, the lonely man who the two leads, Enid and Becky, first prank but then form a close relationship with. Buscemi was showered with critic’s awards and nominations, was nominated for AFI’s Featured Actor of the Year, won another Spirit Award for Supporting Actor and landed his first ever Golden Globe nomination for what Kevin Thomas of the LA Times called Buscemi’s most “full and challenging role.” “Ghost World” is another film though that has found most of its fan base after its initial release, and the Academy saw fit to nominate it only for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Buscemi has become one of Hollywood’s most beloved character actors, and after the success of “Boardwalk Empire,” which will wrap up this fall, Buscemi will likely have more opportunities come his way because of it. One can hope a reunion with the Coen brothers may be somewhere down the pipe, or even Tarantino. And if that Academy Award nomination ever were to come, you can predict next to no one would have any qualms about it.
“Boardwalk Empire’s” final season premiere this Sunday, Sept. 7, on HBO.