From his earliest days, Michael Badalucco could feel the beacon of show business drawing him ever closer to a career as an actor. There was just something about him that drew people's attention, and his love for film, combined with his natural knack for entertaining friends and family, helped the painfully shy youngster overcome his aversion to the spotlight and develop his talent with the full blessing of his mother and father. Badalucco is a Flatbush native whose Sicilian father worked as a movie set carpenter when he was growing up; his parents instilled in him a strong devotion to family and religion that would serve as a guiding light through his life and career. Badalucco was in the third grade when his father was working on the Sidney Lumet thriller Fail-Safe, and when the script called for a young boy, the elder Badalucco offered the services of his son without hesitation. Though his screen debut as an ill-fated Russian general's son was a non-speaking role that required little more than standing still for a few photographs, the aspiring young actor was already on the path to a successful acting career.
In the following years, Badalucco earned his bachelor's degree in theater arts from the State University of New York at New Paltz, and it was there that he cut his teeth on-stage and made the acquaintance of another up-and-coming talent named John Turturro. During his years at S.U.N.Y. New Paltz, Badalucco essayed roles in over 20 plays. When their appearances in the off-Broadway production of Sam Shepard's Tooth of Crime caught the attention of actor Robert De Niro, both Badalucco and Turturro were called into director Martin Scorsese's office to audition for supporting roles in Raging Bull. Not only did the experience provide young Badalucco with the chance to appear onscreen with one of his cinematic idols, but it also set into motion a career that would find him turning up in such acclaimed films as Miller's Crossing (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), and The Professional (1994).
Throughout the 1990s, Badalucco rose steadily through the ranks with a series of memorable supporting roles. His performance in the romantic comedy One Fine Day (1996) prompted star Michelle Pfeiffer to recommend Badalucco to husband David E. Kelley for a role in Kelley's weekly law drama The Practice. Not only did Badalucco get the part, but his performance as Jimmy Berluti would ultimately serve as his breakout role. After re-teaming with Jungle Fever director Spike Lee to essay the role of disturbed serial killer David Berkowitz in 1999's Summer of Sam, Badalucco stepped into the shoes of notorious gangster George "Baby Face" Nelson for the throwback Coen brothers comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? the following year. His role in the Coens' subsequent film, The Man Who Wasn't There, found Badalucco threatening to become a Coen regular, and after appearing opposite Steve Buscemi in 13 Moons, the Practice star joined old friend Turturro in the comedy drama 2 B Perfectly Honest.