One of the most important character actors of the 1990s, Steve Buscemi is unmatched in his ability to combine lowlife posturing with weasely charisma. Although active in the cinema since the mid-'80s, it was not until Quentin Tarantino cast Buscemi as Mr. Pink in the 1992 Reservoir Dogs that the actor became known to most audience members. He would subsequently appear to great effect in other Tarantino films, as well as those of the Coen Brothers, where his attributes blended perfectly into the off-kilter landscape.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 13, 1957, Buscemi was raised on Long Island. He gained an interest in acting while a senior in high school, but he had no idea of how to pursue a professional career in the field. Working as a fireman for four years, he began to perform stand-up comedy, but he eventually realized that he wanted to do more dramatic theatrical work. After moving to Manhattan's East Village, he studied drama at the Lee Strasberg Institute, and he also began writing and performing skits in various parts of the city. His talents were eventually noticed by filmmaker Bill Sherwood, who was casting his film Parting Glances. The 1986 drama was one of the first feature films to be made about AIDS (Sherwood himself died from AIDS in 1990), and it starred Buscemi as Nick, a sardonic rock singer suffering from the disease. The film, which was a critical success on the independent circuit, essentially began Buscemi's career as a respected independent actor.