'Kingpin' Vincent D'Onofrio Flies Under The Radar But Is One Of Hollywood's Best Working Actors Today

Aug 03, 2022 by apost team

Underdogs are often underrated and take little credit for the effort they put in. Vincent D'Onofrio is one such character in the entertainment industry. He has been in the business for ages but has flown under the radar, despite the critical success he has received for the wide range of parts he has played.

D'Onofrio was born on June 30, 1959, in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up, the young D'Onofrio grew interested in the theater industry and sought employment at local theaters. He remained behind the curtains until he graduated from high school, after which he began studying method acting under the tutelage of coaches Sonia Moore and Sharon Chatten

While pursuing acting, D'Onofrio took on small jobs working as a bouncer for the Hard Rock Café and was also a bodyguard for Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant.

After playing bit parts on Broadway, he landed his first major screen role in Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" in 1987. He won critical acclaim – and gained 70 pounds – playing the role of the clumsy and overweight Marine Private Leonard Lawrence.

He went on to star in "Mystic Pizza" and "Dying Young" with Julia Roberts, "The Blood of Heroes" and "JFK" with Kevin Costner. In Robert Altman's "The Player" in 1992, he played the character of a bitter and idealistic screenwriter who can't stand the fact that smart and innovative screenplays are quickly disappearing from Hollywood.

In 1994, he played Orson Welles in the Oscar-winning "Ed Wood" alongside Johnny Depp and Bill Murray. In 1997, he secured the role of the antagonist in "Men in Black." Starring opposite Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, he endeared himself to a new generation and set the pace for future roles as villains that he would come to perfect.

Vincent D'Onorio (2005), (J.Sciulli/WireImage/Getty Images)

At an intimidating 6'3½" tall, D'Onofrio excelled in the 2000 Jennifer Lopez vehicle "The Cell" playing a serial killer. 

From 2001 to 2011, D'Onofrio would take on what is arguably his most well-known role in "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" as Robert Goren, one of TV's most hardened investigators. D'Onofrio described his character to The Los Angeles Times as someone that is hard to understand.

"It's not for everybody, especially the way I play him is not to everybody's taste. People, I think, unless they allow themselves to take the leap of faith, they don't like the intelligence, the ridiculous amount of knowledge he has. It doesn't make it easy in a 40-minute show to solve a crime [persuasively] in the first place, but then to have a guy who's as clever as Goren solve it, it kind of makes it even harder to get away with. It's a battle for people to like that show, I think."

Working on the show was not easy for D'Onofrio, however, and in November 2004, he collapsed on the set of the show and was later diagnosed with nervous exhaustion. He attributed the incident to his overwhelming workload at the time.

He announced he was leaving the show in 2009 and was replaced by Jeff Goldblum. He returned to film the last season of the show in 2010.

D'Onofrio's next major role would be in 2015's "Jurassic World" as head of security of the park's bioengineering division, InGen, and he had a ball filming it, saying, "It's so cool! … You're seeing the jeep from one movie and flying in the helicopter from another movie, you see this statue of (John) Hammond and the logo everywhere – it's fantastic. It's exactly what you would imagine it being like."


Vicnent D'Onofrio (2019), (JB Lacroix/WireImage/Getty Images)

It turns out 2015 would be a big year for D'Onofrio as, apart from "Jurassic World," he also joined the Marvel universe playing big bad guy Wilson Fisk in Netflix's "Daredevil" with Charlie Cox. The first Marvel series to premiere on the streaming service received stellar reviews, including for D'Onofrio's spine-chilling turn as the comic book villain known as The Kingpin that The Guardian called "an impeccably tailored bald powerhouse in the imposing physical form of Vincent D'Onofrio." 

"(Fisk is) about emotional brutality, and he is just a mess. He's a broken monster, and he is capable of many different kinds of brutality," D'Onofrio said in describing his character. The show ran for three seasons before it was canceled by Netflix, but not before introducing the less well-received "The Defenders" spin-off.

The role endeared the actor to a whole new comic book fanbase, and in 2021, he reprised his role as the titan villain in the Disney+ series "Hawkeye." As the two shows were produced by different networks, some questioned whether he was playing the same or different iteration of the character, to which he said, "it's very clear with the writers and the producers and the directors that I'm continuing the same man that was in the series a few years ago, in 'Daredevil'. His emotional life, he operates through the pain of his childhood. … And so that's the same character to me."

Since their last appearance onscreen together in 2018, D'Onofrio and Cox are set to return as their comic book characters in the Disney+ series "Echo." On July 24, 2022, D'Onofrio tweeted a teaser for "Daredevil: Born Again," the fourth season of the series due to drop in 2024 to the delight of hardcore fans.

Leila George, Vincent D'Onofrio (2021), (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

With such a full acting life, it's a wonder how D'Onofrio manages to juggle the work and his personal life, but this family man has been married for more than 25 years.

Before meeting his now wife, D'Onofrio had been in a long-term relationship with actress Greta Scacchi, with whom he had a daughter, Leila George, before they broke it off in 1993. In 1997, he married Dutch model Carin Van Der Donk. The couple has two children, sons Elias and Luka.

On July 30, 2020, D'Onofrio's then 28-year-old daughter George married then 59-year-old actor Sean Penn. This was the actor's third marriage after he was married to Madonna from 1985 to 1989 and Robin Wright from 1996 to 2010. The tabloids were abuzz with news of the nuptials between the pair with a 31-year age gap, with many highlighting the fact that Penn was only a year younger than D'Onofrio. However, he told The Guardian there was no drama, saying, "I used to father her, and now, she daughters me. … It's enlightening, it's incredible, and Sean has a lot to do with that."

However, George filed for divorce in October 2021, which was finalized in April 2022.

Meanwhile, D'Onofrio spread his creative wings by publishing a book, "Mutha: Stuff And Things," in May 2018. The Guardian called his process "largely free-associative, translating his daily doings and other musings into a clipped stream of consciousness marked by a raw sort of intimacy." 

With such a storied body of work, D'Onofrio could happily retire, but that would be a disservice to his fans who want nothing more than to be entertained by the talented actor. While he may not have Hollywood headliner status, his reputation of nailing every role he takes on makes him a superstar in our eyes.

Vincent D'Onofrio (2014), (Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images)

What do you think of Vincent D'Onofrio's career so far? What's your favorite D'Onofrio film or TV show? Let us know and pass this on to all the TV and movie buffs out there.

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