“I am self-centred. I just adore myself.” – Danny DeVito
American comedian Danny DeVito has garnered a cult following over the years for his brilliant performances in television series like Taxi but more notably, Redditors have come to a unanimous decision that he is, indeed, the most attractive man on this planet. It is hard to refute that claim, especially after bearing witness to his iconic nude scene in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. On his 76th birthday, we take a look at Danny DeVito’s inspiring life as a tribute to the sexiest man alive.
Born in New Jersey, DeVito grew up in a family of five was raised as a Catholic. He was drawn to the performing arts since he was a student, starring in school productions of St. Francis of Assisi and the Billion Dollar Saint and his desire to perform was birthed. Growing up, DeVito was bullied by neighbourhood kids for his diminutive figure and he joked that it didn’t help him out with the ladies, “I was plagued; I couldn’t slow-dance with the girls I wanted to because my face would be in a spot where I might be thought of as moving too fast.” Initially, DeVito did not consider acting as a possible career option and even contemplated working as a hairdresser at his sister’s salon so that he would have the opportunity of meeting girls. However, at the age of 19, he decided to move to New York City in order to make it in show business and applied to the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York for makeup classes. Despite his modest beginnings, he soon realised that he might be a talented actor when the monologue he submitted for the application received positive feedback. To make ends meet, he worked as an operator for the kids’ carnival rides in the neighbourhood, “It was very romantic for me. Of course, nobody had any money in those days,” he once commented. “All we could afford to do was get a White Castle hamburger. You would literally stop for 50 cents of gas. Everybody chipping in. Topping off the needle, we called it.”
DeVito wanted to get out of New Jersey since he was 14, convincing his parents to send him to a Catholic boarding school. He did not like the rampant substance abuse which the neighbourhood kids indulged in and feared that he would end up like that as well. DeVito’s father was an alcoholic, something that the actor had to come to terms with early on in his life and made him want to improve his own. He graduated from the American Academy in 1966, briefly working at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Centre in Waterford, Connecticut, where he became good friends with fellow actor Michael Douglas. It was there that he read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and decided to audition for a film adaptation of the book in Los Angeles. In what would be a series of rejections, DeVito failed to get the part and struggled at the start of his career, “I worked as a car parker and I hung around the Sunset Strip with all the flower children,” he once explained. “I had long hair and I wore a raincoat and sneakers, and I fit right in. But I wanted to act.” He returned to New York, appearing in off-Broadway productions including the 1971 stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s classic novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. DeVito would go on to reprise the role of Martini in the critically acclaimed film version four years later, earning him widespread appreciation for his iconic performance.
Three years after One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, DeVito would audition for the new television series Taxi which ran for five years between 1978 and 1983, earning three Emmy nominations and won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in 1981. He landed the part of Louie De Palma, a despotic cab dispatcher, by famously flinging the script down on the table during his audition and asking, “One thing I want to know before we start: Who wrote this shit?” DeVito’s career really took off from there and he landed multiple films after that, appearing with Jack Nicholson in the 1983 film Terms of Endearment and co-starring with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1988 comedy Twins. His portrayal of the comical antagonist Penguin in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns in 1992 which earned him critical acclaim once again. Apart from acting, DeVito has had success with his work as a director and a producer, making his directorial debut in 1984 with The Ratings Game but he received critical and commercial success for his filmmaking only after his 1989 black comedy War of the Roses. DeVito’s production company Jersey Films also has producer credits on well-regarded films such as Pulp Fiction (1994), Erin Brockovich (2000) and Be Cool (2005). When asked about the industry, DeVito said, “Hollywood is a jungle. It’s full of quicksand, vermin and flesh-eating beasts. Making a movie is not a walk in the park. Every movie is like navigating treacherous terrain.”
The actor has been busy in the latter part of his career as well, returning to television in 2006 with a starring role in the cult hit FX series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He has also appeared in several relatively recent films, including the drama Solitary Man in 2009 and the romantic comedy When in Rome a year later. DeVito has also been venturing into voice-acting work, voicing the title character in the hit animated film The Lorax, based on the popular book by Dr. Seuss. DeVito’s journey has been inspiring, one where the talented actor challenged the odds against him and made it all the way to the top. His birthday has been declared as “Danny DeVito Day” in New Jersey as a tribute to his undeniable contribution to the world of comedy. When asked how he would like us to celebrate his birthday, DeVito answered:
“I want you to do whatever makes you feel really good. That would make me happy. Just think of Danny a little bit while you’re doing it.“