Bald, gravel-voiced and built like an Italian Oompa-Loompa, Danny DeVito defies every preconceived notion of “Hollywood star” you possibly have. And yet, the tiny man’s contributions are far-reaching and continuous. On the occasion of his 68th birthday (he was hatched on November 17, 1944, in Neptune, New Jersey), we salute the pint-sized powerhouse’s greatest hits.
10. Oswald Cobblepot – “Batman Returns”
It’s the kind of perfect casting (like Patrick Stewart as Prof. X in the X-Men franchise) that goes beyond no-brainer into something seemingly pre-ordained. Tim Burton cast Danny as Bat-nemesis The Penguin in his Batman sequel, and the role tapped right into the actor’s sweet spot: pitch black comedy. The egg-shaped, bile-spewing madman chewed so much scenery you almost forget Christopher Walken was in this movie, too.
9. Louie DePalma – “Taxi”
The role that made Danny a household name. As sleazy cab dispatcher Louie, Danny perfectly captured the tone of the late '70s/early '80s sitcom — crassly funny, but also oddly touching at times. Danny co-starred on the show with legendary comedian Andy Kaufman, and later produced the biopic about him, "Man on the Moon."
8. Jersey Films
Not a lot of people realize how much of an impact Danny has had behind the scenes. Through his production company, Jersey Films, he’s brought us the likes of Steven Soderbergh’s "Out of Sight," the Comedy Central series "Reno: 911," and a little movie you might have heard of called "Pulp Fiction," from some fledgling director…
7. “The War of the Roses”
Danny’s movie and TV characters have always had a dark streak, but he really lets his freak flag fly as a director. If you haven’t seen this Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner grudge match, you need to do so, now. "War" is about a couple in the midst of the most violent divorce you’ve seen outside of the South. Plates are broken, limbs are broken and dinners are pissed on. A true cult classic.
6. Sid Hudgens – “L.A. Confidential”
It’s amazing that a guy who seems so huggable can so easily and readily tap into his inner sleaze. As the narrator and immoral compass of this film noir-inspired drama, Danny manages to steal scenes even when surrounded by the likes of Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. Sid Hudgen’s rat-a-tat-tat dialogue practically scores the film, and if you’ve never referred to someone “boarding the night train to the big adios,” we don’t want to know you.
5. Herb Powell – “The Simpsons”
As Homer Simpson’s “seldom-seen half-brother,” Danny starred in two classic Simpsons episodes, including the one that introduced us to “The Homer” — a concept car so awesome, it would go on to put Powell Motors completely out of business. According to the show producers, Danny got so into his voice acting that they ended up incorporating some of his actual gestures and facial expressions into the Herb animation.
4. “Throw Momma From the Train”
There is no better example of DeVito’s ability to go dark and still maintain his likeability than "Momma." As director, he created the perfect venue for himself and co-star Billy Crystal to mine some pitch black (but always funny) material. As actor, he created the iconic idiot man-child Owen, for which we are forever in debt.
3. Troll Foot
For a guy nearing 70, you wouldn’t expect Danny to embrace social media so profoundly. And yet, he does — he introduced the world to “Troll Foot.” Basically, he takes pictures of his gnarled, hoof-like bare foot in unlikely scenarios — like, say, backstage filming an episode of "Yo! Gabba Gabba" or courtside at a Lakers game or posing with the Jonas Brothers — and posts them on Twitter. It’s bizarre and pointless and therefore genius.
2. Being Drunk on “The View”
Not only is Danny badass enough to appear on a morning talk show still wasted from the previous night — Cancellations? What are those? — he cops to that fact immediately and with zero f**ks given before explaining that he was out carousing with George Clooney. All this before he launches into an anti-George Bush tirade. He is a little nugget of live TV gold.
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1. Frank Reynolds – “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia"
Someone forgot to tell Danny that aging actors aren’t supposed to create their greatest characters so late in their careers. Not only does Frank allow Danny to get darker, sleazier and more depraved than even the director of "War of the Roses" probably thought possible, his decision to join the show (at the start of season two) gave "Sunny" a chance to reach a broader audience and is one of the main reasons it’s still on the air. Good guy, Danny, yet again…