Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
December 4, 1964
1992 - Present
Currently Known For:
My Cousin Vinny, In the Bedroom, The Wrestler and as Aunt May in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming
“I feel like theatre gives me the grounding, and keeps me alive, basically. Film gives me the thrill, and it’s like a one night stand. But I do enjoy being around people who love it so much.” Once told that she would never act in summer stock, Marisa Tomei has spent the last three decades proving her harshest critics wrong with her talent reaching across genres in television, film and theater. First rising to fame in the 1990s after her Academy Award-winning performance in My Cousin Vinny, Tomei has appeared in successful flicks like Anger Management and What Women Want with award-nominated performances in The Wrestler and In the Bedroom. Apart from starring in productions of Top Girls and Realistic Joneses that have earned her top-billing with the Naked Angels Theater Company, the 53-year-old Tomei has recently taken on a new role as Aunt May in Marvel blockbusters like Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Are older roles now the only thing in Tomei’s future? Let’s find out as we take a look at her career and her efforts to put her own spin on Aunt May!
The daughter of an English teacher and a trial lawyer, Marisa Tomei was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 4, 1964. Growing up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Midwood, Tomei’s love of acting came early after her parents shared their passion for the theater by taking her to various Broadway shows. As her passion grew, Tomei tried her hand at acting at Andries Huddle Junior High School where she starred in the school’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. After graduating from Edward R. Murrow High School in 1982, she enrolled at Boston University but was determined to pursue acting full time and left college after a year.
Tomei made her acting debut on television in two episodes of As the World Turns in 1984 and made the transition over to the silver screen with appearances in The Flamingo Kid and Toxic Avenger. Adding in a cameo in Playing for Keeps in 1986, she made her stage debut in the Off-Broadway production of Daughters, which earned her rave reviews as she appeared in a string of unknown flicks before finally catching her big break in 1992 when she was cast as Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny. Tomei’s breakout performance earned her praise as Hollywood’s most promising new actress with Tomei even taking home an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress in 1993.
“I was here and doing a lot of plays, but I think the mess I’d made for myself was starting to come to an end around that time. Hollywood was so alien to me, like another planet. I had no relationship to it at all, and then after one movie, I was in the thick of it. There was no time to adjust or step back and see what it was all about,” Tomei said of her experience on the film. “I was fresh to the business and didn’t know how movies worked but Joe Pesci chose me for the part, then took me by the hand and guided me immensely, so I got very lucky.”
Amid her growing good fortune in Hollywood, Tomei starred alongside her then-boyfriend, Robert Downey Jr., in Chaplin and joined Christian Slater in Untamed Heart, which earned the duo an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss. She received critical praise and a Screen Actor’s Guild Award nomination for her performance in Unhook the Stars and turned heads for her spunky and sexy act in the cult film, Slums of Beverly Hills. Adding in television appearances in Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld, Tomei brought the new millennium in with a bang when she joined Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt in What Women Want before earning widespread critical acclaim in 2001 for In the Bedroom, which earned her nominations at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
In 2008, Tomei was 44 years old when she took a huge leap of faith and accepted the role of Cassidy/Pam in Darren Aronofsky’s film, The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. “That could have been a disaster,” she later admitted. “Aronofsky was at the helm so it wasn’t going to be a disaster, but in my mind, I was thinking, ‘What the f—k am I doing right now?’ I’m finding myself in January in Jersey in a place less than strip club—like a flophouse. I thought, ‘This could be the worst thing I’ve decided to do.’ Just being at that age and playing that kind of role, and doing nudity, which was something I hadn’t done before. But I’m really happy that I got to be a part of it, and it’s all thanks to Aronofsky, who’s one of our finest filmmakers.”
With critics praising her performance in The Wrestler as the standout of her career, Tomei embraced a new wave of confidence and was listed on FHM’s “100 Sexiest Females in the World” as she wowed audiences in The Lincoln Lawyer, The Ides of March, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. In 2016, she accepted another huge role when she stepped in to play Aunt May in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, even reprising her role in the 2017 film, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Because of her stellar performance in The Wrestler, Marvel fans were shocked with the announcement but not any more shocked than Tomei who didn’t know much about Aunt May before she agreed to the role.
“It’s lucky I didn’t know much about Aunt May, because I might have been horrified if I’d seen the original image of a grey-haired person. Don’t toy with my heart, Marvel. Is that really how you view me?” Tomei asked. Turning to her brother, Adam, for advice and learning that Aunt May isn’t related to Peter Parker by blood, she toyed with the character until Aunt May developed into a teasing big-sister type that coaxes Peter to broaden his interests. “Hopefully, fans will love this new iteration and we’ll do more,” Tomei said of her performance. “Anyway, I think Aunt May should get her own spinoff. Something should go on with Tony Stark, and those two should get into their own capers.”
For now, we’re not holding our breath that Marvel will take Tomei up on her offer to star in a spinoff that would put her back in the arms of her ex, Robert Downey Jr., who plays Tony Stark. After all, Tomei already had an on-again, off-again romance with one of her Spider-Man costars, Logan Marshall-Green. And, with Tomei recently saying she doesn’t believe in marriage as an institution, we don’t expect the 53-year-old to settle down anytime soon!