Some performers seem to love their work more than others. Danny DeVito, currently seen in Jumanji: The Next Level, is one of those people. Listening to the man talk about his career and the roles that made him is a true delight. And he’s left an indelible mark on the cinema, often playing strange characters in some of our favorite films. DeVito sat down with GQ to talk about these classics and share a few stories from set, working with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Billy Crystal, and Tim Burton, and getting beat up by Russell Crowe in the great L.A. Confidential.
His breakout role came in 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. DeVito had never met Jack Nicholson before and claims he wasn’t too impressed with him prior to their working together on the film. He must not have seen Five Easy Pieces. DeVito would go on to direct and star alongside Nicholson in 1992’s Hoffa. Curiously, he doesn’t mention that film—a well made, well acted biopic on the Teamster boss. That same year, he filled Nicholson’s shoes as the lead villain in Batman Returns. He calls Penguin a “bird who couldn’t fly, and misunderstood.”
We forget about DeVito the director, and his tastes are quite broad. He also helmed the family film, Matilda, which he discusses here, and the largely forgotten, but very funny dark comedy, Death to Smoochy. Though he hasn’t done a feature in a while, he loves doing it, he claims, inserting himself into fray as just another piece in the picture he’s painted in his mind.
Throw Momma from the Train gets a nod here, DeVito remembering the late Anne Ramsey, who plays the titular character whose well-deserved demise is imminent. That film is among the more uproariously weird ‘80s flicks.
As I think back on DeVito’s career, I can’t even remember the first thing I saw him in. He was just always there (it was probably Twins). These days, of course, DeVito is recognized most for his work as Frank Reynolds on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The cast is like family, he says. And calls of “Louie, Louie, Louie!” (from Taxi) have turned to “Frank! Frank! Frank!” on the street. DeVito doesn’t mind. Nor does it bother him that fans have tattooed his “Trashman” persona on their bodies.
Ultimately, DeVito just loves to work, and his lengthy filmography proves that. He’s got an affinity for getting “messed up” in a chair by artists (Batman Returns), and doing “radical, crazy stuff,” like taking his clothes off and emerging from inside a couch.
You can watch him reflect and break down his body of work below. Jumanji: The Next Level opens in theaters today.