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While most recognizable for his portrayal of Leonardo Di Caprio's doomed Italian sidekick in Titanic (1997), actor Danny Nucci had over three dozen film and television credits on his resumé before he even auditioned for the blockbuster.
Born in Klagenfurt, Austria, and raised just outside of Venice, Italy, Nucci is the second child of a French Moroccan mother and an Italian father. His family relocated to the States when Nucci was only seven years old. They lived temporarily in Queens, NY, (where Nucci attended P.S. 144 in Forest Hills and P.S. 90 in Kew Gardens) before settling in California's San Fernando Valley. Nucci caught the acting bug as a student at Ulysses S. Grant High School in Van Nuys, CA, when the drama teacher recruited him for a production of +West Side Story. Soon afterward, he volunteered to answer phones at a Variety Club charity telethon just for the chance to be on television. In the middle of the broadcast, a stranger approached Nucci and praised his "look," telling the teenager to have his parents call him as soon as possible. The stranger, Bob Villard, has been Nucci's manager ever since.
Forty auditions later, Nucci began his professional acting career at age 14 with a bit part on the ABC soap opera General Hospital. Roles on Richard Pryer's kids show Pryor's Place, Family Ties, and in the teen science fiction film The Explorers (1985) quickly followed. Yet, Nucci suffered a temporary emotional set back when he did not make the cast of Rob Reiner's Stand by Me (1986), after being called back several times. Devastated, he took a five-year hiatus from feature films in order to polish his skills on the small screen. He appeared on Hotel, The Twilight Zone, Growing Pains, Magnum, P.I., and Tour of Duty, and in numerous television films (including a stint as Keanu Reeves' younger brother in 1986's Brotherhood of Justice), as well as garnered three Young Artist Award nominations. Nucci's performance in the 1987 CBS Schoolbreak Special An Enemy Among Us was so powerful that the network showed the telefilm during prime time. He then played Gabriel Ortega on Falcon Crest from 1988 to 1989 -- earning his fourth Young Artist Award nomination for his performance -- before returning to features as Chris Young's sidekick in the teen comedy Book of Love (1991). This led to a small role in Frank Marshall's Alive (1993), the true story of a Uruguayan rugby team that is stranded in the Andes after a plane crash, starring Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano, and Illeana Douglas. Work in several television films, B-movies, and independent features ensued, including A Matter of Justice (1993), Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice (1994), and Blind Justice (1994).
Nucci's big break arrived when casting directors tapped him to play Petty Officer Rivetti in Tony Scott's box-office smash Crimson Tide (1995). He held his own opposite the film's stars, Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, impressing producer Jerry Bruckheimer who immediately cast Nucci as a Navy SEAL in Michael Bay's The Rock with Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, and Ed Harris. He then appeared as a doomed deputy in the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Eraser (1996), before proving his comedic talent as a paparazzo stalking Bette Midler and Dennis Farina in That Old Feeling (1997).
After rapping up his role as Fabrizio De Rossi in 1997's Titanic (which instantly became the world's highest-grossing film), Nucci returned to independent features like the thriller Love Walked In (1998) and the comedy Friends && Lovers (1999). He then joined the supporting cast of producer David E. Kelley's only unsuccessful television series, Snoops. After the show's cancellation, television producer Jonathan Axelrod (who is married to Nucci's Alive co-star, Illeana Douglas) tapped Nucci to star in the CBS sitcom Some of My Best Friends. Based on the independent film Kiss Me, Guido (1997), the show featured Nucci as Frank Zito, a big-hearted wannabe actor from Queens who unknowingly moves in with a gay roommate played by Jason Bateman. Though called "pretty darn funny" by the New York Times, the series was ultimately canceled. Yet, Nucci immediately bounced back with the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Firestarter 2: Rekindled (2002), the sequel to Mark Lester's blockbuster adaptation of the Stephen King novel. The four-part series, which stars Marguerite Moreau, Malcolm McDowell, and Dennis Hopper, gained such a following that the network decided to develop it into a regular series.
In the meantime, Nucci completed filming on Monika Mitchell's Break a Leg (2003) with his girlfriend, actress Paula Marshall, and announced plans to star in a Sylvester Stallone-produced CBS series, tentatively titled Lefty, about a war veteran who becomes a priest in a poor Miami neighborhood. Although appeared to go smoothly with Break a Leg, the fate of Lefty was left hanging after numerous headlines proclaiming sexual abuse by priests left the network worrisome about the protagonist's career. Aubry Anne D'Arminio, All Movie Guide