Who: Buscemi is the ubiquitous and bug-eyed actor who now stars on HBO's Boardwalk Empire.

Backstory: The half-Italian, half-Irish Brooklyn native caught the acting bug during his senior year in high school, where he was also a bantamweight wrestler (at 125 pounds). After graduation Buscemi spent time working the stand-up comedy circuit and took classes at the Lee Strasberg Institute; he also signed up for the firefighting academy on his dad's advice. He worked for four years as a firefighter with Engine Company 55 in New York's Little Italy in the early '80s to pay the bills before landing his first film role as an AIDS-suffering 20-something in the 1986 drama Parting Glances. Though his not-exactly-comely visage suggested he wouldn't become a leading man, Buscemi has managed to parlay his peculiar look into a successful career playing a series of petty criminals, endearing losers, and depressive creeps.

Among the directors who have sought out his services again and again are Quentin Tarantino (Buscemi was Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs and a grouchy waiter in Pulp Fiction), and the Coen brothers (he appeared in five of their movies and was famously fed through a wood chipper in Fargo). But for every cred-building part he's taken—his turn as pathetic record hoarder Seymour in 2001's Ghost World was especially lauded—he's accepted a supporting role in a piece of sheer garbage like Con Air, Armageddon, and any number of abominable Adam Sandler movies such as I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. The writer/director of a handful of films (his first was the 1996 indie Trees Lounge), Buscemi directed several episodes of The Sopranos, including the much-beloved "Pine Barrens," and joined the cast for the 2004 season as Tony's (what else?) doomed cousin Tony Blundetto.

Most recently—and much to Buscemi's surprise—he landed a leading man role in 2010 when Boardwalk Empire, HBO's new series about Atlantic City during the era of Prohibition, made its debut.

Close call: In 2001, Buscemi and buddy Vince Vaughn got into a barroom brawl with the locals while filming a movie in Wilmington, NC. Buscemi was stabbed in the throat, head, and arm in the fight, and ended up in the hospital.

Personal: Buscemi's wife is Jo Andres, a filmmaker and choreographer. Their teenage son Lucian is in a band, Fiasco, which the New York Times called "kingpins of the Park Slope kid-rock scene." The Buscemi family lives in a townhouse in Park Slope, and Steve is occasionally spotted riding the F train.

True story: In the days after 9/11, Buscemi worked 12-hour shifts with his old firefighting crew at Engine Company No. 55, searching for the bodies of missing firefighters.

Vital Stats

Full Name: Steven Vincent Buscemi
Date of Birth: 12/13/1957
Place of Birth: Brooklyn, NY
High School: Valley Stream Central High School
Residence(s): Brooklyn, NY
Filed Under: Celebrity, Film

[Photo via Getty Images]