On December 4th, 1964 in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York, a girl named Marisa was born to trial lawyer Gary A. Tomei and his wife Patricia, an English teacher.
Several years later when their son Adam was born, the Tomeis left Brooklyn for Manhattan.
The family lived in a middle-class neighborhood. They had Victorian designs in their house of carved wood and stained glass. Both parents were busy at their jobs, so Grandma Rita Tomei looked after the children. Marisa loved her grandmother - optimistic, young at heart and a true friend.
Marisa Tomei with Robert Downey jr. in Only You
For a while, Marisa wanted to be an archeologist. However, she saw the play A Chorus Line when she was twelve and was awestruck. She gained reverence for the magic of theater, and wanted to be an actress from then on. She loved going to theatres and all kinds of places in New York. Marisa loved New York. Her greatest thrills were riding the Brooklyn-Queens expressway. She also loved seeing old movies and was a major fan of Gene Kelly.
During her junior high school years she studied acting and dancing. During the summers she was in plays at the Golden Bridge Colony in upstate New York. Marisa attended Boston University for one year. That summer she had a six-week career as a waitress at Tony Romas. Her father wanted her to return to college. Her best friend Allison encouraged her to go further into acting.
Marisa Tomei had a small role in the movie The Flamingo Kid. She was in As The World Turns for eighteen months. Her major stage debut was in the play Daughters, which won her a Theatre World Award. She was in the off-Broadway play Beirut, which won her a Dramalouge Award. She was the title character in the afterschool special Supermom's Daughter, which won an Emmy Award. During the 1987-1988 television season, she had a regular role in A Different World. She then returmed to the stage in a play called What the Butler Saw. She was in a movie called Two for Tijuanna. She was in a two-hour TV movie called Parker Kane. She played a floozy in the movie Zandalee.
Between movies she was on the stage in New York with the elite group, Naked Angels. There she met playwright Frank Pugliese, and they lived together in Greenwhich Village for three years. After they broke up, Marisa lived in hotels before buying a one-room apartment in Manhatten.
She was in the movie Oscar with Sylvester Stallone. She had a small role in Chaplin, with Robert Downey Jr. She was in the movie My Cousin Vinny , which won her an Oscar. She was in the movie Untamed Heart , which won her and co-star Christian Slater an MTV-movie award for best movie kiss. The next movie she was in was The Paper with Michael Keaton. The next movie she starred in was Only You , with Robert Downey Jr. She guest-hosted Saturday Night Live on Oct.1st,1994 - seven years to the day after her first Different World appearance. Her next movie,which she had to gain 18 pounds for was The Perez Family.
Essay written by: Richard Ranke
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