Daniel Michael DeVito Jr. was born on November 17, 1944, in Neptune, New Jersey. His father, Daniel, Sr., was a small business owner whose ventures included a dry cleaning shop, a dairy outlet, a diner, and a pool hall. His mother, Julia, was a homemaker.
While growing up in Asbury Park, his parents sent him to private schools. He attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel grammar school and Oratory Prep School.
Following graduation in 1962, he took a job as a cosmetician at his sister's beauty salon. A year later, he enrolled at New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts so he could learn more about cosmetology. While at the academy, he fell in love with acting and decided to further pursue an acting career. During this time, he met another aspiring actor Michael Douglas at the National Playwrights Conference in Waterford, Connecticut. The two would later go on to collaborate on numerous projects.
Soon after he also met an actress named Rhea Perlman. The two fell in love and moved in together. They later married and had three children.
In 1968, Danny landed his first part in a movie when he appeared as a thug in the obscure Dreams of Glass (1970). Despite this minor triumph, Danny became discouraged with the film industry and decided to focus on stage productions.
He made his Off-Broadway debut in 1969 in "The Man With the Flower in His Mouth." He followed this up with stage roles in "The Shrinking Bride," and "Lady Liberty."
In 1975, he was approached by director Milos Forman and Michael Douglas about appearing in the film version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), which would star Jack Nicholson in the leading role. With box office success almost guaranteed and a chance for national exposure, Danny agreed to the role. The movie became a huge hit, both critically and financially, and still ranks today as one the greatest movies of all time.
Unfortunately, the movie did very little to help Danny's career. In the years following, he was relegated to small movie roles and guest appearances on television shows.
His big break came in 1978 when he auditioned for a role on an ABC sitcom pilot called "Taxi" (1978), which centered around taxi cab drivers at a New York City garage. Danny auditioned for the role of dispatcher Louie DePalma. At the audition, the producers told Danny that he needed to show more attitude in order to get the part. He then slammed down the script and yelled, "Who wrote this sh**?" The producers, realizing he was perfect for the part, brought him on board.
The show was a huge success, running from 1978 to 1983. Louie DePalma, played flawlessly by Danny, became one of the most memorable (and reviled) characters in television history. While he was universally hated by TV viewers, he was well-praised by critics, winning an Emmy award and being nominated three other times.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Danny maintained his status as a great character actor with memorable roles in movies like Romancing the Stone (1984), Ruthless People (1986), Throw Momma from the Train (1987) and Twins (1988/I). He also had a great deal of success behind the camera, directing movies like The War of the Roses (1989) and Hoffa (1992).
In 1992, Danny was introduced to a new generation of moviegoers when he was given the role of The Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot in Tim Burton's highly successful Batman Returns (1992). This earned him a nomination for Best Villain at the MTV Movie Awards.
That same year, along with his wife Rhea Perlman, Danny co-founded Jersey Films, which has produced many popular films and TV shows, including Pulp Fiction (1994), Get Shorty (1995), Man on the Moon (1999) and Erin Brockovich (2000).
Despite being a diminutive 5' tall, overweight and balding, Danny has managed to overcome long odds to become one of Hollywood's most versatile actors. These days, he continues to work with many of today's top talents as an actor, director and producer.
Roomed with Michael Douglas when starting out.
Has his own film company: Jersey Films.
Went to Oratory Prep. School in Summit, New Jersey.
Before he became an actor he was a qualified hairdresser (stylist)
Son-in-law of Philip Perlman.
Brother-in-law of Heide Perlman.
In his New Jersey hometown, one of his relatives ran a hair salon with the relatives of another actor from his neighborhood, Jack Nicholson.
He was considered for the role of Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) but couldn't do it due to his TV commitments.
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. Pg. 136-137. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
Brought a bag of carrots to munch on during the 73rd Annual Academy Awards. Host Steve Martin presented him with an impromptu bowl of ranch dip in the middle of the ceremony.
Daughters: Lucy DeVito (born 1983), Grace Fan DeVito (born March 1985), son: Jake Daniel DeVito (born October 1987).
Often appears in Tim Burton movies.
In 1975, under a grant from the American Film Institute, he and Rhea Perlman wrote and produced 'Minestrone', which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and has been translated into five languages.
Often portrays sinister people in the movies he's in. He played a crime boss in Batman Returns (1992), a gambler in Space Jam (1996) and Mars Attacks! (1996), a sleazy agent in Death to Smoochy (2002) and greedy businessman in Ruthless People (1986), What's the Worst That Could Happen? (2001), Matilda (1996) and Other People's Money (1991).
Graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA).
Attended the final Phish concert with his son and 75,000 others in Coventry, Vermont on August 16, 2004.
Appeared alongside his former roommate Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in three films, Romancing the Stone (1984), its sequel The Jewel of the Nile (1985), and the black comedy The War of the Roses (1989).
Has appeared alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in three films/movies - two of these films directed and produced by Ivan Reitman - Twins (1988/I) & Junior (1994), and in Last Action Hero (1993), playing a minor-role, as the voice of Detective Whiskers. Both have played Batman villains, DeVito as The Penguin in Batman Returns (1992), Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin (1997).
Was considered for the role of Det. John Kimble in Kindergarten Cop (1990), but couldn't secure it due to his small stature. The part went to Arnold Schwarzenegger instead.
Was originally set to play Mario in Super Mario Bros. (1993) but backed out and was replaced by Bob Hoskins.
Is a huge fan of musician Mike Patton and his bands Fantomas and Peeping Tom, and requested to feature in the video clip for the Peeping Tom single 'Mojo'. He was given a cameo.
Was considered for the role of George Costanza in "Seinfeld" (1990).
Provides the voice of Herbert Powell, Homer Simpson's half-brother.
Cousin of filmmaker Jonathan M. Parisen.
Frequently appears in films with Jack Nicholson, including Goin' South (1978), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Terms of Endearment (1983), Hoffa (1992), and Mars Attacks! (1996). They have also both played Batman villains: The Joker in Batman (1989) and The Penguin in Batman Returns (1992).
Lives in Beverly Hills, California.
A staunch supporter of The Democratic Party.