James Howard Woods (born April 18, 1947) is an American actor and producer. He is often known for villainous roles, and appeared in a variety of films, including The Onion Field (1979), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Salvador (1986), Casino (1995), Nixon (1995), Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), Hercules (1997) and White House Down (2013). On television, he is known for acting in Shark (2006–2008).
He has been nominated twice for an Academy Award and has won one Golden Globe Award. Additionally, he has won three Emmy Awards – for television movies Promise and My Name Is Bill W., and for the animated series Hercules.
His voice work has been heard in The Simpsons, Family Guy, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and in films such as Stuart Little 2 (as Falcon) and Disney’s Hercules (as Hades).
Woods was born in Vernal, Utah. His father, Gail Peyton Woods, was an army intelligence officer who died in 1960 after routine surgery. His mother, Martha A. (née Smith), operated a pre-school after her husband’s death and later married Thomas E. Dixon. Woods grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, where he attended Pilgrim High School. He is of part Irish descent and was raised Catholic, briefly serving as an altar boy.
Woods ultimately chose to pursue his undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he majored in political science (though he originally planned on a career as an eye surgeon). 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. In order to pursue a career in acting, he dropped out of MIT in 1969 before his graduation. Woods has said that he became an actor thanks to Tim Affleck (father of actor Ben Affleck), who was a stage manager at the Theatre Company of Boston while Woods was a student there.
During a press interview for Kingdom Hearts II, Woods noted that he is an avid video game player. He is a dealer of antiques in Rhode Island.
Woods is an avid poker player, playing in cash games and many tournaments. He played in the WPT’s Hollywood Home Game series in 2004 for the American Stroke Association charity. As of 2015, he has to his credit over 35 major event finishes, including a seventh place at the 2015 World Series of Poker in the $3000 No Limit Shootout event.