James Howard Woods is an American film, stage and television actor. Woods is known for starring in films such as Once Upon a Time in America, Ghosts of Mississippi, Salvador and Casino and as the Disney villain Hades in Hercules. Acting awards include two Emmy Awards and two Academy Award nominations.
Woods was born in Vernal, Utah. His father, Gail Peyton Woods, was an army intelligence officer who died in 1960 following routine surgery. His mother, Martha A., operated a pre-school after her husband’s death and re-married to Thomas E. Dixon. Woods grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, where he attended Pilgrim High School.
Woods chose to pursue his undergraduate studies at MIT, where he majored in political science. While at MIT, Woods pledged to Theta Delta Chi Fraternity. He was also an active member of the student theatre group “Dramashop” where he both acted in and directed a number of plays. He dropped out of MIT in 1969 just before his graduation in order to pursue a career in acting. Woods has said that he became an actor because of the father of Ben Affleck, Tim Affleck, who was a stage manager at the Theatre Company of Boston while Woods was at MIT.
Woods began his career in theatre, making his Broadway debut in 1970 at the Lyceum Theatre in the first US production of Frank McMahon’s Borstal Boy. He returned to Broadway the following year portraying David Darst in Daniel Berrigan’s The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. In 1971 he portrayed the role of Bob Rettie in the American premiere of Michael Weller’s Moonchildren at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The production moved to Broadway the following year and Woods won a Theatre World Award for his performance. He returned to Broadway one last time in 1973 to portray Steve Cooper in the original production of Jean Kerr’s Finishing Touches. Since then he has been a busy actor, producer, director, and writer for film and television.