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Creator / Steve Buscemi

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Townsperson: Oh, he was a little guy... kinda funny lookin'.
Officer Olson: Uh-huh. In what way?
Townsperson: Oh, just in a general kinda way.
Fargo describes every character Steve Buscemi has ever played.

Steven Vincent Buscemi (born December 13, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York) is a character actor beloved by The Coen Brothers, Adam Sandler, Quentin Tarantino, and anyone and anything related to the world of independent cinema.

In a career spanning over thirty years, Buscemi has carved himself a niche playing an assortment of freaks, losers, weirdos, creeps, and psychos. It is possible that his role as Carl Showalter in Fargo may well have him forever pegged as that "kinda funny lookin'" guy.

In addition to his work as an actor, he's also directed a number of feature films and episodes of such television series as Homicide: Life on the Street, OZ, Nurse Jackie, and The Sopranos, notably the latter's celebrated "Pine Barrens" episode.

Buscemi later stepped out of his "creepy weirdo" oeuvre to play the lead character Enoch "Nucky" Thompson in HBO's Prohibition Era drama Boardwalk Empire, and in The Death of Stalin, he played the closest thing the movie had to a hero, Nikita Khrushchev.

Prior to his acting career, Buscemi was a firefighter with the FDNY. On September 11th, 2001, he dropped everything he was doing and went to help out his old firehouse once news of the attack broke.

Notable roles:

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Associated Tropes:

  • Ax-Crazy: Comes with playing criminals with hair-trigger tempers.
  • Butt-Monkey: Particularly in his early career, Buscemi's characters were rarely taken seriously by others, usually being the objects of abuse. This usually went against their desire for respect, often culminating in them getting way in over their heads and then killed. Later, this would often be subverted wherein his characters would turn out to be genuinely dangerous or even successful, particularly in Fargo and The Death of Stalin.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: He's well aware of it, too. Especially in The Coen Brothers movies, and the brothers note that his remains get smaller and smaller through each film.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: The comic book The Ultimates redesigned Bruce Banner after Buscemi's likeness.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: In addition to dying a lot, most of his deaths are gratuitously graphic and violent, most notably being fed through a wood-chipper in Fargo.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Particularly in his more comedic roles, like Spy Kids.
  • Deadpan Snarker: His dialogue in most of his roles is drenched with sarcasm and withering disdain for everyone he's forced to interact with.
  • Evil Is Petty: His characters aren't just evil, they're just incredibly immature and petty over the smallest things, especially Carl.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Buscemi is very good at portraying the pent-up agitation of characters like Mr. Pink and Carl Showalter.
  • Hidden Depths: He worked as a firefighter before becoming an actor, and famously aided in relief efforts following the 9/11 attacks. Even that tidbit wasn't made public until years after the fact because he didn't want to make a spectacle of it.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Invoked; many of his characters would be sympathetic if they weren't so unpleasant or ruthless.
  • Kavorka Man: In addition to being "kinda funny looking", his characters are generally snide, condescending, short-tempered weasels who aren't anywhere near as smart or tough as they think they are and are just unpleasant to be around yet it's never stopped them from success with beautiful women.
  • Leslie Nielsen Syndrome: Downplayed in that he stills does plenty of recognizable drama roles. However, it wasn't until Airheads and his resulting collaborations with Adam Sandler and Happy Madison Productions that he became just as well known as a comedy actor. During his speech at Sandler's Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Comedy ceremony, Buscemi jokingly berated Sandler for ruining his rep as a serious actor.
  • Lunatic Loophole: Armageddon (1998), Con Air, Reservoir Dogs.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Most notably with Armageddon (1998), which he openly admitted making solely to afford a larger house, but he's not shy about taking roles for the paycheck - though he's frequently one of the best things about those movies nonetheless.
  • Motor Mouth: A recurring trait of his in most roles. Lampshaded with Donny in The Big Lebowski, who is frequently told to "shut the fuck up" by Walter.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: In Barton Fink, Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, and Con Air.
  • Playing Against Type: As the adorably affable and harmless Donny in The Big Lebowski.
    • While he's played plenty of villainous criminals, they're typically weasley, low-end hoodlums. Nucky Thompson, however, is a charismatic and cunning crime boss.
    • In fact, his mostly comedic roles feature him as a Nice Guy, which is a more accurate description of Buscemi in Real Life.
    • Pretty much everyone in Animal Factory is some kind of criminal - which is fitting seeing as it's set in a prison, making it a surprise that Buscemi plays a law-abiding prison official trying to keep the place in order. Admittedly, he's still an out-of-touch Jerkass, but he's nowhere near as bad as the prisoners in his custody.
  • Production Posse: With Quentin Tarantino, The Coen Brothers, Jim Jarmusch, and Adam Sandler.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Many of his characters, but Fargo's Carl Showalter stands out. Also best shown in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street where his character is a pretentious longshoreman with delusions of genius who talks down to the detectives whom he views as inferior. They bring in his copy of a Greek manuscript which he cannot read but which Pembleton, who's been playing thick in accordance with Buscemi's racism, can. Averted in his later career: He gets to play characters in Armageddon (1998), Spy Kids, Boardwalk Empire, and others who really are as smart as they think they are.
  • Smug Snake: His go to casting is as condescending jerks who think they're a lot more impressive and intelligent than they actually are and have no issue letting everyone around them know it.
  • Typecast: Usually as wise-asses, psychos, criminals, or some variation of "the creepy guy."