While the 2000s saw Steve Buscemi creating one of Pixar’s most indelible villains with Randall from “Monsters, Inc.” and dominating “Spy Kids 2” as a mad scientist, the kinds of roles that he had become associated with were drifting away from him. Having aged into his 40s, he was given less of a chance to play eccentric outcasts and criminals. As he told GQ, “I felt like I was at an odd age where I was too old to play some characters, not old enough to play other characters.”
Perhaps the most classically Buscemi role of the 2000s came from his year on “The Sopranos,” as volatile con Tony Blundetto. It was a show he was well-acquainted with by that point, having directed one of the show’s best episodes (and Paulie Walnuts showcase), “Pine Barrens,” just a couple of years before.
Because of the paucity of roles he faced, there was temptation to switch entirely to directing in the late 2000s. He had made a number of well-received independent films like “Animal Factory” and the mini-DV tape beauty “Lonesome Jim,” and his television direction, including the work on “The Sopranos,” saw him leaving his mark on a wide variety of shows. Everything seemed to be adding up to a largely directorial career.
That is, until “Boardwalk Empire” came calling. Given that the show’s creator Terence Winter had already worked with Buscemi on “Sopranos,” he knew what to expect of the actor. And Buscemi, having already resigned himself to not getting the part, assumed Winter would be rejecting him.
Instead, he got to spend five years as Nucky, adding one of the great television antiheroes to his incredibly prolific CV.