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Giovanni Ribisi Biography


Home > Actors > R > Ribisi, Giovanni > Biography


Birth Name: Giovanni Ribisi
Born: 12/17/1974
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA


Ribisi was born one of a pair of show business twins into a show business family in Los Angeles on Dec. 12, 1974. His father was a musician and his mother's career as a talent manager helped facilitate the launch of Ribisi's career and that of his twin sister Marissa, who also became an actress. Billed as Vonni, Ribisi landed in a two-part episode of "Highway to Heaven" (NBC, 1984-89) playing a boy stricken with cancer. From 1987 to 1990, he had a recurring role on "My Two Dads" (NBC, 1987-1990) playing the boyfriend of Staci Keanan's paternally confused Nicole Bradford. Ribisi was featured in a recurring role on "The Wonder Years" (ABC, 1988-1993), and with guest roles on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002), he transitioned from boy-next-door to more demanding characters. On "Chicago Hope," the actor gave a powerful and disturbing performance as a skinhead in need of a heart transplant, whose only hope lies with a non-white organ donor. On "The X-Files," he showcased his strength at making bizarre characters sympathetic by playing a weird teenager who receives electric powers after being struck by lightning. In 1996, he snared his first career-boosting role on "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004) as Phoebe's obtuse yet oddly endearing brother, Frank Junior, whose ecstatic hospital room proclamation - "My sister's having my baby!" - provided the show with not only one of its biggest audience laughs, but noticeably cracked up the veteran cast as well.



The 22-year-old actor's career turned a corner with his film debut as the injured and ousted drummer of fictional pop group The Wonders in Tom Hanks' comedy "That Thing You Do!" (1996). By the following year, he was taking the lead as sensitive and disenchanted youth Jeff in Richard Linklater's film adaptation of Eric Bogosian's play, "subUrbia" (1997). Small roles in "Lost Highway" and "The Postman" that same year further boosted his promising film career. In 1998, Ribisi starred opposite Natasha Gregson Wagner in the dark teen romance "First Love, Last Rites" and appeared alongside Tom Hanks in the blockbuster "Saving Private Ryan," where he offered a critically acclaimed turn as the medic who functions as the conscience of a group sent behind enemy lines to save the last surviving member (Matt Damon) of four Ryan brothers serving in the European theater. Ribisi seemed on the verge of a breakout into leading man stardom, earning the title of ShoWest's Newcomer of the Year and landing on the cover of the Hollywood edition of Vanity Fair. However, his next releases, "The Other Sister" (1999) and the big screen version of the 1960s TV series "The Mod Squad" (1999) failed to attract the attention of moviegoers or the acclaim of critics.



Ribisi recovered somewhat with a lauded leading role in the 2000 drama "Boiler Room," as a young ne'er-do-well who hits the big time as a broker for a fraudulent financial firm. He capably handled his character's ethical struggles and also served as the film's narrator, perfectly setting the mood with the quiet, matter-of-fact delivery he had employed to similar effect as the voice of the author in 1999's "The Virgin Suicides." In 2000, Ribisi took more high-profile supporting turns, playing Nicolas Cage's brother in the forgettable actioner "Gone in 60 Seconds" and a young man seeking advice from a psychic (Cate Blanchett) in the more impressive thriller "The Gift," for which he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards. He returned to the small screen, where he was nominated for an American Film Institute TV Award for his compelling turn as famed serial killer Gary Gilmore's journalist brother in the HBO original film, "Shot in the Heart" (2001). Reuniting with Blanchett in German director Tom Tykwer's "Heaven" (2002), Ribisi gave a riveting performance (in Italian, no less) as a young cop who falls in love with a terrorism suspect (Blanchett) held at his station. The beautiful film only reached limited theaters, however.



Ribisi's next string of films were much more widely seen, beginning with the thriller "Basic" (2003), starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson. In Sofia Coppola's meditative "Lost In Translation" (2003), Ribisi had a small but entertaining role as a workaholic photographer and absentee husband to a bored but pampered woman (Scarlett Johansson) looking for excitement - a role rumored to be inspired by Coppola's then-real-life husband, director Spike Jonez. Ribisi had an amusing turn in the blockbuster drama "Cold Mountain" (2003) starring Nicole Kidman, as a backwoods hick whose generosity with food, moonshine and the women of his hillbilly clan turns out to be less benevolent than it first appears. He headlined the ensemble cast of the lackluster indie celeb satire "I Love Your Work" (2003), and returned to the multiplex as co-star to Dennis Quaid in "Flight of the Phoenix" (2004). His performance as a skittish oddball who hatches a wacky plan to save a group of plane crash survivors stranded in the Mongolian desert amused some but irritated others; ultimately the movie crashed at the box office. After playing a determined insurance investigator who rejects the get-rich-quick scheme of a destitute Alaskan travel agent (Robin Williams) in "The Big White" (2005), Ribisi earned an Emmy nomination in 2007 for a three-episode stint on "My Name is Earl" (NBC, 2005-09) as Earl's (Jason Lee) ex-con buddy who unsuccessfully tries to follow in Earl's footsteps by going legit.



Continuing to build a resume of odd and troubled characters, Ribisi played a mischievous and amusingly morbid supermarket clerk who helps a grieving mother (Toni Collette) find her daughter's killer in "The Dead Girl" (2006), then played a hard-edged mobster in the little-seen crime thriller "10th and Wolf" (2006). Ribisi next played a resourceful computer hacker in "Perfect Stranger" (2007), a dull thriller about an investigative reporter (Halle Berry) who poses as a temp at an advertising agency in order to unravel the murder of a friend connected to a powerful ad executive (Bruce Willis). Sticking close to below-the-radar indies for a spell, Ribisi made a charming showing in the festival-screened "The Dog Problem" (2007), written and directed by Scott Caan, and offered a supporting turn in the slacker comedy "The Gardener of Eden" (2008). Ribisi made an about-face turn to big budget extravaganzas with a supporting role in James Cameron's futuristic adventure "Avatar" (2009) and Michael Mann's period crime drama "Public Enemies" (2009), which found him portraying Alvin Karpis, one of the more formidable career criminals of the 1930s.



In a return to his offbeat indie roots, Ribisi next appeared opposite Luke Wilson and Gabriel Macht as a late-1990s Internet entrepreneur who runs afoul of the Russian mob while making millions on website porn in the comedy-drama, "Middle Men" (2010). The following year, he teamed with star Johnny Depp to play a drunken, deadbeat reporter stationed in Puerto Rico for the big screen adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's early novel, "The Rum Diary" (2011). He then channeled his inner villain to play a ruthless mobster in the Mark Wahlberg action-drama, "Contraband" (2012), prior to reteaming with his co-star for Seth MacFarland's comedic fantasy, "Ted" (2012), about a man (Wahlberg) whose best friend is a living, breathing, foul-mouthed teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane). Following a supporting role in the ill-fated film noir thriller "Gangster Squad" (2013), Ribisi reteamed with MacFarlane, who was executive producer of the sitcom "Dads" (Fox 2013-14). A vehicle for Ribisi and Seth Green as business partners whose politically incorrect fathers (Martin Mull and Peter Riegert) move in with them, the show was a lightning rod for controversy before the series even aired, due to jokes that preview audiences found racist and sexist. Poorly reviewed and garnering mediocre ratings, the series was canceled after one season. Nevertheless, Ribisi stuck with MacFarlane, playing a key supporting role in the writer-director's second feature, "A Million Ways To Die in the West" (2014).