Danny DeVito has charmed audiences worldwide since he gained fame as Martini, the smiling mental patient who liked to cheat at cards in the Oscar-winning movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." But he solidified his place in entertainment history as wise-cracking Louie De Palma on television's hit sitcom "Taxi." In a 1999 reader's poll conducted by TV Guide, DeVito's De Palma was voted No. 1 in "TV's Fifty Greatest Characters Ever."
Born in New Jersey, DeVito grew up with a passion for films, especially documentaries. Generally, he played comic roles in movies such as "Twins," "Ruthless People" and "Get Shorty." Later, the diminutive star expanded into dramas such as "L.A. Confidential," "The Rainmaker" and "Hoffa," to name a few. Today, DeVito is married to actress Rhea Perlman ("Cheers"), who played his wife in the movie "Matilda," and they have three children -- Lucy, Grace and Jacob.
DeVito has come a long way from his blue-collar roots. Here, he talks with Bankrate about his career and family.
Bankrate: You come from humble beginnings, is that correct?
Danny DeVito: My mother was a stay-at-home mom and my father owned several businesses around Asbury Park, N.J., where we lived. He had a dry cleaning store, a candy store, a diner-type eatery and (a) pool hall. Whenever I go back to visit family and friends, I still meet the guys at the pool hall. I still have a deep connection with New Jersey. There's such loyalty back there, and we were a very tight-knit family. I even bought my mother a home near the Jersey shore, but she has since passed and now my sisters live in it. I just wanted to give her something nice since I could afford it then.
Bankrate: You pay homage to your home state with your various companies. You've become quite successful since your Asbury Park days.
Danny DeVito: Well, I have very fond memories of growing up there, riding my bike down to the shore, shooting pool. I have a production company, Jersey Films; (and) Jersey Television and Jersey Docs.
Bankrate: How involved are you with these companies? I mean, "Be Cool," "Pulp Fiction" and "Garden State" were pretty big hits?
Danny DeVito: Very, I'd say. But remember, "Pulp Fiction" and the others started off as small, independent films, which I love to support to this day. I co-founded the production company, and we've produced over 20 films. The Jersey Docs is with Morgan Freeman's company, and I host a documentary channel.
Bankrate: You talk about supporting independent films and filmmakers. Why is that important to you?
Danny DeVito: You know, I've done a couple of movies, like I produced "Garden State" and "Pulp Fiction," but they weren't truly independent films. The true ones like "Nobel Son," that I had a small part in recently, is where you have maybe two people who have done everything from soup to nuts. I mean every single thing on their own. Whether it's booking the talent or writing the script, those projects are done for very little money. They're done for the love and passion for the project. These are the kind of films that I think we all need to support. And I hope that these films keep on going instead of every film having to be a big studio release.