Vincent D'Onofrio

Active - 1974 - 2021  |   Born - Jun 30, 1959 in Brooklyn, New York, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy Drama, Comedy, Romance

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

An actor whose hulking presence belies his ability to slip quietly into an astonishing variety of roles, Vincent D'Onofrio is one of Hollywood's most unpredictable and compelling performers. Throughout his career, D'Onofrio has played a diverse range of characters, from Full Metal Jacket's fatally unhinged army recruit to a wholly convincing Orson Welles in Ed Wood to a bisexual porn star in The Velocity of Gary.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 30, 1959, D'Onofrio was raised in the diverse locales of Hawaii, Colorado, and Miami's Hialeah section. His career as an actor began on the stage, with study under Sonia Moore of New York's American Stanislavsky Theatre and Sharon Chatten at the Actors Studio. D'Onofrio's early years in the theater were filled with an obligatory helping of obscurity and miniscule paychecks (so miniscule that he worked for a time as a bouncer to help pay the bills). His fortunes began to shift in 1984, when he joined the American Stanislavsky Theatre as a performer. There, he appeared in such well-regarded productions as Of Mice and Men and David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and also made his Broadway debut in Open Admissions.

D'Onofrio debuted onscreen in the straight-to-oblivion 1983 comedy The First Turn-On!, but it was not until his haunting portrayal of Pvt. Pyle (a role for which the actor gained 70 pounds) four years later in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket that he earned much-deserved notice for his work. Defying easy categorization, D'Onofrio next appeared in the romantic comedy Mystic Pizza (1988), slimming down to his normal weight and giving a convincing portrayal as Lili Taylor's lovestruck boyfriend.

Having thus given audiences a glimpse of his remarkable versatility, D'Onofrio spent the next few years making his presence felt in such films as JFK (1991), in which he played assassination witness Bill Newman; The Player (1992), which cast him in the pivotal role of ill-fated screenwriter David Kahane; and Nancy Savoca's Household Saints (1993), which, through a particularly odd feat of casting, had him playing the father of Lili Taylor. Although D'Onofrio worked at a prolific pace, it was not until he portrayed Conan the Barbarian author Robert E. Howard in the 1996 The Whole Wide World that he really had his screen breakthrough. A low-key romantic drama about the relationship between Howard and a schoolteacher (Renée Zellweger), the film allowed D'Onofrio to take center stage, rather than lend support to better-known co-stars. Critics roundly applauded his performance, but although the actor kept working steadily, he was by no means a Hollywood fixture. Eschewing the limelight, he turned in particularly memorable performances in Feeling Minnesota (1996) as Cameron Diaz's cuckolded fiancé and in the 1997 blockbuster Men in Black, which cast him as the film's resident bad guy.

D'Onofrio had long since become an established actor by the 2000's, and he would remain a solid force on screen in such films as The Cell, Happy Accidents, Steal This Movie, andThumbsucker. D'Onofrio would also find just as much notoriety on the small screen, most notably as Detective Robert Goren on the phenomenally successful Law & Order spin-off Criminal Intent, and even step behind the camera, penning, helming and starring in the drama Mall.

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  • During the 1980s, worked as a bouncer in New York dance clubs and as a bodyguard for celebrities, including Robert Plant and Yul Brynner.
  • Shaved his head and gained nearly 70 pounds for his breakthrough movie role as an unstable marine recruit in Full Metal Jacket.
  • Director Tim Burton disliked his vocal impression of Orson Welles in Ed Wood (1994), so he dubbed over D'Onofrio with the voice of Maurice LaMarche (best known for playing Brain from Pinky and the Brain).
  • Was diagnosed with exhaustion after being hospitalized twice for fainting on the set of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. As a result, beginning in 2005, his character of Det. Robert Goren and partner Det. Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe) began alternating episodes with a detective team portrayed by Chris Noth and Annabella Sciorra.
  • Twice played real-life John F. Kennedy assassination eyewitness Bill Newman, in Oliver Stone's JFK (1991) and Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992).