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Marisa Tomei Biography



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Plucky Brooklyn-born actress Marisa Tomei was one year into her college education at Boston University when she was tapped for a costarring role on the CBS daytime drama As the World Turns. Her role on that show, as well as work on another soap, One Life to Live, paved the way for her entrance into film: in 1984, she made her film debut with a bit part in The Flamingo Kid. Three years later Tomei became known for her role as Maggie Lawton, Lisa Bonet's college roommate, on the sitcom A Different World. Her real breakthrough came in 1992, when she co-starred as Joe Pesci's hilariously foul-mouthed girlfriend in My Cousin Vinny, a performance that won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Later that year, she turned up briefly as a snippy Mabel Normand in director Richard Attenborough's mammoth biopic Chaplin, and was soon given her first starring role in Untamed Heart (1993). A subsequent starring role--and attempted make-over into Audrey Hepburn--in the romantic comedy Only You (1994) proved only moderately successful. Tomei's other 1994 role as Michael Keaton's hugely pregnant wife in The Paper was well-received, although the film as a whole was not. Worse luck hit with her participation in the critically thrashed Four Rooms in 1995. Fortunately for Tomei, she was able to rebound somewhat the following year with a solid performance as a troubled single mother in Nick Cassavetes Unhook the Stars. She turned in a similarly strong work in Welcome to Sarajevo in 1997, and in 1998 did some of her best work in years as the sexually liberated, unhinged cousin of Natasha Lyonne's Vivian Abramowitz in Tamara Jenkins' The Slums of Beverly Hills. -- Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide 


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Tomei up for Sandler comedy

By JAM! Movies

After enjoying the strongest reviews of her career for "In The Bedroom," Marisa Tomei is now in talks to co-star with Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson in director Pete Segal's comedy "Anger Management."

The film casts Sandler as a meek man who is sentenced to undergo anger-management training, but the man running the sessions (Nicholson) has a chaotic effect on his life. Tomei would star as Sandler's girlfriend, the report said.

Monday, September 17, 2001

Marisa's man MIA

By LOUIS B. HOBSON -- Calgary Sun

HOLLYWOOD -- Marisa Tomei has misplaced an important man in her life.

It's Oscar, the little gold man she won in 1992 for her supporting role in the comedy My Cousin Vinnie."I haven't lost him. I just don't know where he is right at this moment," insists Tomei.

"I just finished renovating my New York apartment. I had put everything in boxes. I've unpacked most of them, but Oscar hasn't turned up in any of them yet.

"He's probably in one of the boxes I stored at my mom's place."

This isn't the first time Tomei's Oscar was in danger of being lost.

A few days after her win, rumours surfaced presenter Jack Palance had not actually opened the Oscar envelope, but had just read the name at the top of the list of nominees.

"I was really hurt by that rumour. I was so young. I was new in the business and particularly new in Hollywood.

"It was such a cruel and brutal thing for people to do. I asked the Academy to make a statement, but they said they didn't want to fuel the rumour and that it would go away quickly on its own," recalls Tomei.

"Of course, it didn't. It really hasn't. It's become something of an urban legend."

For Tomei, it was a bit like "Carrie going to the prom, being named prom queen and then having pig's blood spilled all over her.

"It took the glow off that wonderful night much quicker than it ever should have."

The Carrie analogy came to Tomei because she stars opposite Sissy Spacek (the horror flick's star) in her next film In The Bedroom, which opens in October.

When Tomei is reunited with Oscar, she'll return him to his little shrine.

"I keep him in my bathroom on a vanity. He's surrounded by pictures of people I love and all my favourite perfume bottles."

Wednesday January 31, 2001

Tomei, Graham cast in 'Sex'

Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei and "Boogie Nights" star Heather Graham are in talks to co-star in "The Guru Of Sex," The Hollywood Reporter says.

The film begins shooting in April under the direction of Daisy Mayer ("Woo"). It tells the story of a young man from India who comes to America and finds fame as a teacher of spiritual enlightenment through sex.

Graham will play the love interest of the lead character (not yet cast), while Tomei's character will help orchestrate his rise to fame, the report said.

-- JAM! Movies

Thursday, April 2, 1998

Oscar-winning actor to open on Broadway

NEW YORK (AP) -- Marisa Tomei says her sudden stardom from My Cousin Vinny left her jittery.

After winning an Oscar in 1993 for her second film, she said she felt "a little exposed all of a sudden, like I was just naked out there. I guess I got a little scared."

That's why Tomei went against the Hollywood grain and took on quirky roles in smaller films such as Untamed Heart and Unhook the Stars.

"I chose to play a lot of different characters with some young directors and learn as I went along," she said in Wednesday's Daily News.

Tomei, 33, opens Sunday on Broadway in Wait Until Dark, about a blind housewife harassed by bad guys who include Quentin Tarantino.

"I've got that starry-eyed theatre thing going and I almost don't want to say how excited I am because I don't want to jinx it in any way," she said.

Tuesday, April 15, 1997

Marisa Tomei has Stars in her eyes

BEVERLY HILLS -- While filming the bittersweet comedy Unhook the Stars, Marisa Tomei was a woman under the influence.

It was an influence Tomei coveted. Her co-star was Gena Rowlands, the Oscar-nominated star of Woman Under The Influence and Gloria.

"Gena is one of the greatest actresses ever. She is so raw and real. Gena is absolutely the kind of actress I dream of being," says Tomei.

"As an actress, Gena has it all. She is so drop-dead gorgeous, talented and real. It's such a cool thing that, in (film director) John Cassavetes, she found herself a talented man for a husband."

Before he died in 1989 of cancer, Cassavetes and Rowlands collaborated on several classic independent films.

"I want to have the kind of relationship Gena had with John. It would mean having some safety in my life. When you know you're loved, you know you're safe."

Tomei lived with off-Broadway playwright Frank Pugliese for three years but the couple broke up in 1995.

"When my last relationship ended, I cut down on my filming schedule to get my personal life in order. I realized I need roots and I need a home of my own."

In Unhook The Stars, now playing at the Plaza Theatre, Tomei plays a single mother who bonds with her neighbor (Rowlands) when the older woman agrees to care for Tomei's preschool child (Jake Lloyd).

Tomei says her character is "a woman who is painfully uncomfortable with herself. That's why she allows her boyfriends to abuse her.

"She also has this weird desire to be macho so she hangs out with all these older truck drivers.

"Anxiety is her drug of choice. I think that was the one thing about her that I could connect with immediately."

Tuesday, February 25, 1997

Tomei reaching out to Unhook The Stars

Toronto Sun

HOLLYWOOD -- Did you hear the one about the fake blonde who didn't know how long it would take to get her black hair back?

"I didn't have to know, it fell out," says Marisa Tomei, who bleached her hair for her role in Unhook The Stars, which opens Friday.

Tomei plays a scattered single mother to Gena Rowlands' caring widow in the Nick Cassavetes movie. The role was worth the dye job, but Tomei had her doubts.

"At first a clump of hair came out," she recalls. "And somebody said, 'Oh, don't worry, this happened to Madonna, too.' And I was like, `I don't care, it's happening to me now.' "

Tomei, back in black-hair mode, says her follicles have recovered fully.

Just like the 32-year-old Brooklyn-born Tomei, who went through an unhappy stint of being criticized for cranky on-set behavior, while wallowing in an unfulfilled personal west-coast lifestyle after winning the Oscar for her My Cousin Vinny performance.

She may or may not have her instant success to blame for her misfortune. But she does concede that she was naive about the ways and means of the fame-oriented movie industry.

Previously, Tomei had appeared on TV soaps, was sort of remembered for one year on A Different World, or maybe even as Sly Stallone's daughter in Oscar.

The statue Oscar changed all that big time. "There definitely was the great expectation thing, and I didn't realize it at the time, because I didn't have any great expectations," says Tomei.

The fact that her mid-'90s My Cousin Vinny follow ups - Untamed Heart, The Paper, Only You and The Perez Family - received less than favorable attention didn't help the Tomei cause. Gossip about actor tantrums also seemed to be conveniently leaked to the Hollywood press during that time.

"I had really just started," admits Tomei. "Sometimes, it was like, `Oh, I have to learn how to live in public and under a microscope.' I didn't think I'd be judged that harshly."

Tomei retreated - back to New York. She did some stage work, and slowly tried to rebuild her confidence and her career.

She says that Unhook The Stars is part of that process. So is the comedy-drama Brother's Keeper, with Rosie Perez and John Leguizamo, which will be released this year.

Tomei's also featured in Sarajevo with Woody Harrelson. "I jumped at the chance to go," she says of the movie, where she plays a reporter covering the civil war strife. It was shot on location - "the physical devastation was not to be believed."

Happier memories? Working with Rowlands, for one. In some ways, Rowlands became the mentor that Tomei never had. "She has a phenomenal talent, and a wonderful warmth as a person. She was so kind. I think she used to mess up on purpose to put me at ease."

Ah yes, that was during Tomei's blonde period - much like her great-expectations Hollywood-movie period.

"Yeah, life is different as a blonde," she says smiling. "Lots of quantity. Like, the quantity of guys you really don't want to talk to goes up.

"Qwality," says Tomei reverting to her Brooklynese twang, "definitely goes down."

October 7, 1996

Tomei on the battlefield

Calgary Sun

BEVERLY HILLS -- Marisa Tomei has just returned from Sarajevo where she filmed the drama Sarajevo for director Michael Winterbottom.

"I play a children's aid worker who goes to Sarajevo to save abandoned children," says Tomei. "It wasn't just the role that appealed to me. I wanted the experience. The war was over by the time we got there but the effects of the war were still everywhere.

"We had to have all these briefings about land mines which was wonderful irony. My drama coach used to tell us that acting was a mine field. It literally was in Sarajevo."

September 11, 1996

Marisa Tomei, in the raw!

By BRUCE KIRKLAND -- Toronto Sun

In person, the tiny, perky, pretty Marisa Tomei looks so kitten-like sweet you'd swear she's never cussed in her life.

On screen, especially in her hot new movie, Unhook The Stars, Tomei explodes in expletives. In a word, she is raw!

"This `raw' thing," she mused yesterday before Unhook made its debut as a special presentation in the Toronto International Film Festival. "I like that adjective. A lot! And I like it in other actors. There's something in their bodies, in their words. It's finished but it's unfinished sometimes. They're not too heavy on technique, not too neat and clean."

Neat and clean is boring, says Tomei. "It's not as real. It's not as affecting to watch and also to play."

Tomei was the surprise 1993 Oscar winner as best supporting actress for her dynamic performance as a gun-chewing automobile expert in My Cousin Vinny. That was raw, all right. She is still proud, although the golden statue is hidden in a box after a recent move into another New York apartment. "I began, and I got a lot of attention early on," she admits almost guiltily. "I'm now learning about film acting."

In Unhook The Stars, Tomei plays a white trash mother of one who befriends a classy neighbor after her abusive boyfriend is kicked out. As Monica to Gena Rowlands' Mildred, Tomei curses a blue streak while coming to terms with the responsibility of motherhood. The film was directed by Rowlands' son, Nick Cassavetes, heir to his father John Cassavetes' directorial mantle.

"Gena," Tomei enthuses about her co-star, who also appeared at the Toronto filmfest yesterday, "that's why it was a dream to be able to be in this movie, to be able to work with her. She is beautiful beyond belief and just could have been shoved into this ingenue thing (when she was young). But she exerted herself and played these roles that blow your mind.

"The characters she has chosen to play are not conventional. They're in the earth and they're in the sky and they're fire and they're not just air." So she is the perfect career inspiration for any actress, including her, says Tomei.

The word 'ingenue' gives Tomei - who never admits her age but must have hit thirty while still passing for her early twenties in looks and vitality - the creeps.

"I think I've never been an ingenue. I've never wanted to be an ingenue, even when I was a little girl. I've always liked the sidekick roles. I've never wanted to be the prissy, one-note lead who always had to be perfect and look pretty. It's just too hard for me to fit into a stereotypical idea of what an ingenue is, an archetype. It's the fairy princess. I like watching it but I have a very hard time squeezing myself into that."

In her best roles, such as in My Cousin Vinny and now Unhook The Stars, there's no squeeze. It's all freedom, passion, explosion. "He wrote it that way," says Tomei of writer/director Cassavetes. "It all came out of him."

So making the film, says Tomei, now goes down as one of her great life experiences. "It was rock 'n' roll!"