Saturday, February 28, 2009
Born on February 28, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York, John Turturro is an extraordinary character actor who has had more television AND film roles than you can shake a stick at. He's won an Emmy playing Ambrose Monk, the agoraphobic brother of Adrian Monk on the hit show "Monk" from USA network. He's played Billy Martin on the NY Yankees themed series, "The Bronx is Burning". Because of his distinctive (some might say peculiar) looks, Mr. Turturro (whose name means "turtle dove" in Italian) is usually unforgettable in the many quirky roles he has embodied. I actually find his overbite charming. Although he has appeared in countless dark comedies and is a highly skilled comic actor, I find the pathos of his "everyman" portrayals to be the most memorable and sometimes even heartbreaking moments of his long career.
John Turturro has had many successful alliances with auteur directors such as Spike Lee (Summer of Sam, Do the Right Thing) and the Coen Brothers (O Brother Where Art Thou, The Big Lebowski and Barton Fink). He also played Herbie Stemple, the brainy patsy in "Quiz Show", the movie about the 1950's TV quiz show scandals.
Since his filmography is longer than the New Jersey turnpike, it's very odd that I could not find many video examples of Mr. Turturro to post here. I settled on a trailer for "Barton Fink", which is my favorite Turturro role of all time. It's a pitch black and pitch perfect performance about a Hollywood screenwriter discovering that writer's block can be, quite literally, hell. The look of dread on his face as he stares at the blank page in the typewriter when the ideas just won't come is sublime. His fixation on a piece of curling wallpaper in an ancient Hollywood hotel room is the ultimate portrayal of claustrophobia and pending insanity. John Tuturro is the master of quirky, fidgety, anxious and eccentric. The only other actor that comes even close in this category is Steve Buscemi, but I prefer Turturro because he is less menacing and ultimately more empathetic.
Happy Birthday John Turturro! We look forward to more of your wonderful characters and hope you will return as Ambrose Monk on "Monk's" final season this summer!