It's a big week for Danny DeVito: the actor turned 66 Wednesday. Friday marks the 35th anniversary of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," the classic film that introduced him to the public.
And Thursday... well Thursday has become our favorite TV-watching night of the week, thanks in part to "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," the beyond-irreverent FX comedy in which DeVito's character stands out as the biggest degenerate among a motley crew of miscreant losers.
After all these years, Danny DeVito is still growing on us.
He's certainly not tall. Few would call him handsome. Some of the characters he’s played over the years are more loathsome than likeable, even if glimmers of humanity occasionally slipped through the holes of the dispatcher’s cage in his breakout TV role as hotheaded Louie DePalma on "Taxi" in the late 1970s.
After long stints in movies an actor, director and producer (he helped bring us “Pulp Fiction”) DeVito heads in the latter half of his sixties again a TV star, playing Frank Reynolds on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” The current season has included episodes in which the sleazy Frank signs up for a sham same-sex marriage and appears in a hilariously offensive homemade version of "Lethal Weapon."
One of the things we love about DeVito is that he offers no apologies for the often-vulgar show. Or for appearing tipsy or worse in at least one memorable TV appearance. Or for starting his Twitter account with a shirtless photo and bawdy tweet.
It’s easy to get the man mixed up with some of his more outlandish characters and his public persona, and forget about the varied roles he’s played over the years, in films ranging from “Romancing the Stone” to “Hoffa” to “Batman Returns.” Perhaps his most memorable movie turn came in his first major part as mental patient Martini in “Cuckoo’s Nest,” in which he shines amid Oscar winners Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher.
DeVito’s secret, if there is one, is that he doesn’t take himself seriously and is happy to let his ample body of work speak for itself. That spirit was on display a few weeks back in an “Inside the Actors Studio” spoof – written by David Mamet and posted on Funny or Die – in which DeVito discusses acting in grandiose terms as he's being made up to star in a remake of "Gandhi."
“It’s not so much preparing for a part as preparing to being taken over by a part,” he bloviates.
Check the video below, and get ready for a few more laughs courtesy of an actor who’s survived and thrived for decades in an entertainment world that’s a cuckoo’s nest unto itself.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.