Things you didn't know about Danny DeVito

Whether you know him from movies like Twins or television shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you probably know Danny DeVito as the guy who plays the slightly curmudgeonly, slightly sleazy, or slightly wisecracking guy in everything he's in; and in some cases, he's a little more than "slightly." DeVito had been on stage and on screens big and small for decades, and in spite of the fact that everyone knows him, it turns out that there's a lot people don't know about him!

The rocky road of marriage

In March 2017, some shocking news broke: DeVito and his wife of 35 years, Rhea Perlman, were splitting for good. Their union is often cited as one of the longest and most stable in Hollywood, but it just goes to show that appearances aren't everything.

The news came via CBS News, when DeVito remarked on the split as almost a footnote to the interview. "We're not getting a divorce, but we separated, yeah," he said. When asked if she was there for the opening of his new Broadway production, Arthur Miller's The Price, he confirmed: "Oh, absolutely, we're really close. Well, we've been friends for 40-something years. We love each other."

It's not the first time that the relationship hit a rocky patch, either. In October 2012, Entertainment Tonight got confirmation from their rep that they had separated. Only a few months later, Extra spoke with DeVito on the split, during which he said that they were working on a reconciliation in a statement that was incredibly similar to what he'd say five years later. "Rhea and I are really close. Actually still together, just separate, but together," he said. "We're working on it." Clearly, he didn't want to say much and clearly it was difficult, and in 2015, Variety got wind of something else going on — their long-term Beverly Hills estate was up for sale, for somewhere in the neighborhood of $32 million. The sale wasn't up on the public market, and the whole thing was super hush-hush.

He started out as a hairdresser

A lot of actors might take a rather roundabout way to stardom, but DeVito's might be the most unexpected. When he chatted with The Independent in 2006, the notoriously down-to-earth star shared just how he went from Catholic school student (he said he "wasn't a great student") who thought he was destined for a career in construction to the stage and screen.

It was all thanks to his sister, Angela. Sixteen years old than him, she already had her own business established by the time he was looking for a job. It was a beauty parlor, and when she asked him to come work for her, he remembers he said, "Oh, what the hell," and gave it a shot. First starting out in hair — shampoos and sets — he says that it was from there he got interested in makeup… and that he has no idea why he found it so fascinating.

He had a gift for it, too, so much so that his sister paid for him to go to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan and take a beauty class. From there, he stumbled into a theatrical makeup class, auditioned for his first play, and was hooked.

He likes to have a trampoline in his dressing room

Every actor has their own way that they use to get into the mindset they need to be in to go to work, and DeVito told CBS News that his way involves jumping on a trampoline in his dressing room. When interviewer Martha Teichner observed that he definitely has a lot of energy, he agreed.

"I DO have a lot of energy!" That was in 2017, when DeVito was on Broadway with Mark Ruffalo in Arthur Miller's The Price. With eight shows a week, that energy was going to come in handy.

According to George Clooney — who's shared a close-quarters dressing room with DeVito — he's still the most considerate roommate he's ever had. When they were interviewed at the SeriousFun Children's Network Gala (via The Daily Mail), Clooney remarked, "I have to say, I've never had a better roommate." DeVito's response? "Don't take your jacket off, George, please!"

His bromance with Michael Douglas is epic

DeVito was living in New York City in the late 1960s, and his roommate was Michael Douglas. When Douglas was honored with the Film Society of Lincoln Center's 37th Chaplin Award in 2010, DeVito was on hand to make the party much, much more entertaining by sharing a story about Douglas's run-in with a poisonous snake while filming The Jewel of the Nile. Douglas was bit, and DeVito stepped up to suck out the venom.

"I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, Michael, you'd be a dead man now if that snake bit you [anywhere else]," DeVito told him (via Vulture). For his part, Douglas topped off the night by calling DeVito his "oldest friend in the business", and giving him some massive thanks. "It's great to see you here tonight," Douglas told him, "standing, after twelve limoncellos."

After DeVito's role on Taxi, he told The Independent that he faced one of the biggest challenges of his career, and that was getting into movies. He credits Douglas for getting him there, saying, "Michael was my good buddy and it had a lot to do with him. I was a star on Taxi but he put me in Romancing The Stone and gave me my name above the title. There are a lot of selfish people in the world who might not have done that, and it did help me break through the barrier of TV, because that is always hard."

He went deep into his role for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

DeVito is famous for a lot of things, and one of those is something that's actually one of his earliest pieces of work: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He played Martini not only in the 1975 film version with Jack Nicholson, but it was also his first off-Broadway role, and his casting in the 1971 production was a major break for him. He also went to some pretty shocking lengths to make the character as authentic as he could.

He told the New York Post that he spent some time working with the patients that were confined to Wards Island, one of a handful of islands near New York's boroughs. Known as one of the islands of undesirables, it was home to the New York City Asylum for the Insane and the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, which was home to those deemed criminally insane. "I was pulling bits from them, stuff that wasn't in the book," DeVito says. "There was a guy who always said 'hello' to you a million times. And Martini was shot down into the sea during World War II, so I always pictured the water rising in the room. That's why I always sat on my legs in the chair — 'cause in his mind, the water's rising."

The film was shot on location at the Oregon State Hospital, and the cast and crew were a mix of actors and actual patients and hospital staff. The movie's hospital administrator, Dr. Spivey, was played by the hospital's real-life director, Dr. Dean Brooks. During filming, DeVito had something of a breakdown, and sought out Brooks' advice on how to deal with the separation anxiety he was feeling, and the imaginary friend he made up to keep himself company. According to the Independent, Brooks said that he would be fine as long as he still knew that the character he was playing was fictional; and while that was DeVito's only brush with uncertainty, there was another actor that did have a breakdown and needed to be removed from where they were living in hospital bunks.

His favorite roles are the family ones

Even though he's been in all sorts of movies and played all sorts of roles, DeVito still has his favorites. When he talked to the Independent, he said that Matilda and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest were at the top of the list of his favorite experiences he's had as an actor. You can't get too much different than those two movies, and it turns out that as a whole, he's particularly fond of some of the family films he's been in, like Deck the Halls.

"I enjoy all different genres, but truthfully, nothing gives me as much joy as family entertainment like Deck the Halls," he says. "I remember years ago taking my daughters to see a production of Peter Pan, and when that window opened at the top of the stage and Peter flew in, I looked over at my kids and there is no way for me to communicate the look on their faces. When you can get that kind of response from children, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world, to sit there and listen to that laughter and those gasps."

He says there's just something about making that type of movie that's an entirely different feeling, too, and admits that he definitely enjoys just being an actor and letting everyone else worry about things like lighting. When it comes to watching movies, though, he says that he prefers things with a dark streak. Speaking at the 2015 SeriousFun Children's Network Gala (via the Irish Independent), he admitted that his favorite movies to watch are "things like, you know, bloody, scary movies that keep you up at night."

He's never had problems with his height

When DeVito talked to The Guardian in 2012, the topic of his height came up. According to him, it's precisely what made his stand out among the countless hopefuls auditioning for the same parts early in his career, and he says that his height made casting directors look at a part differently, and rewind audition tapes back to him. "I wasn't so average," he says. "Early on, when I'd go in for a part, people would go, 'Oh'. [Interested stare.] [...] I got two Shakespeare parts like that."

He also says that it forced him to learn how to dance, because it was early on that he realized his height made slow dancing not only awkward, but off the table in his Catholic school upbringing. When he gave Rolling Stone an incredibly candid interview in 2015, he says that even growing up, he never got any real bullying for his height, which is an even five feet. He does reminisce about his friends' skepticism when he announced he was going to be an actor, saying they promptly responded with, "[...] Dan, who do you think you are, Gregory Peck, Clark Gable? Look at yourself. You stupid bastard [...]."

He asked to be sent off to boarding school

When he was 14, DeVito asked his father to send him away to boarding school, and the elder DeVito — Dan, Sr. — did. He told Rolling Stone that there were a couple of reasons for his request, and those reasons say a lot about what was going on with him as a teenager.

One reason was heroin. At the time, he was growing up in Asbury Park and surrounded by friends who dabbled in drugs — mostly of the stolen pharmaceutical variety, but the potential and the likelihood for something stronger was always there. He wanted to get away from the temptation of heroin, but he also wanted to get away from home.

"When I was a kid, family-wise, you always want everything to be smooth and easy. Calm. And my father was a sweet man during the day. But as soon as he had a drink, he went off the deep end. I felt vulnerable. And so, yeah, get out of the house."

After getting out of high school, he found himself at home again, working alongside his sister. He told Rolling Stone, too, that he "married 'cause my mother was still around. Gonna have kids. Italians. [...] it's all about the kids, man. That's what happens."

He turned a drunken appearance on The View into a new opportunity

In 2006, he appeared on The View in a less-than-sober state and, because he's Danny DeVito, the appearance was less the stuff of scandal and more the stuff of epic opportunities. According to the Sun-Sentinel, DeVito's X-rated appearance was later explained by DeVito himself, who said he'd been out drinking with George Clooney the night before, and was still feeling the effects of seven limoncellos. The internet loved it, and responded as only the internet can: by sending him boxes of lemons and limoncello.

The publicity was too good to pass up, and DeVito decided to do something about it. A few years prior, he had met a Boca Raton entrepreneur who had his eye on restaurants, and the resulting partnership created not only DeVito South Beach, but a product line that included Danny DeVito's Premium Limoncell

Things were far from rosy on the business side of things, in spite of a strong opening helped along by the fact that DeVito was often at the restaurant chatting with customers. Gossip Extra says that his entrepreneurial partner, David Mainiero, left the business amid not a few accusations and controversy. In 2010, employees filed a lawsuit against restaurant management that claimed they weren't getting paid the regular wages or tips they were due. The Miami New Times reported that it was so bad that one member of the wait staff snuck into management's office, logged into the computers, and got proof that they were being deliberately shorted. NBC Miami reported on other issues, too, saying that Florida Health inspectors found 10 code violations, including the misrepresentation of Kobe beef, and that all makes it not entirely surprising that DeVito walked away from the restaurant not long after the split from his business partner, who refrained from discussing what was going on behind the scenes. It closed in 2011.

He started a meme

Starting in 2013, a very simple, very straightforward, and undeniably direct meme started circulating, mostly in regards to the political climate. It's typically someone's name, simply followed by, "retire b****." As the politics of the times just kept getting stranger and stranger, the meme kept showing up more and more often, and DeVito started it, likely unintentionally.

His target was Antonin Scalia, and DeVito's tweet was sent out on March 2, 2013. According to New York magazine, no one from DeVito's camp responded to their requests to find out more, but they're pretty sure it was in response to a recent ruling on a court case that impacted voting rights. Regardless, the tweet was retweeted and retweeted over the next few years, and by the end of 2016 a few thousand retweets had elevated it to a worldwide sentiment.

As for DeVito's own political stance, he gave The Guardian a few insights: he backed Bernie Sanders, considered Brexit a tragedy, and when asked about a Trump presidency, said, "[We] can't let that happen. Can't have that xenophobia and building walls and kicking everybody out."

He's a huge environmentalist

DeVito did the main voice for The Lorax, and when Momtastic talked to him about the role and the beliefs behind it, they found that it was more than just a movie, it was in line with what he'd been practicing and teaching for a long time. Impressively, not only was he dedicated enough to the cause to take the role, but he did the dubs in German, Russian, Spanish, and Italian, too.

When asked about responsibility, he was quick to point out that not only does he drive a Nissan Leaf, but among the things that are banned in his house are one-time use napkins and water bottles, and he feels so strongly about that he gifted friends and family reusable, personalized water bottles for Christmas.

DeVito doesn't consider himself an extremist when it comes to environmentalism, but he completely stands by the message of the movie. "[It's] for us to be aware of the fact that we can make a difference, and that we can still be commercially viable, and we can still do all the things that we naturally do as long as we're not hurting the environment," he says. And while his kids were all in their 20s by the time he was working on The Lorax, he also says that he's doing it — and spreading the message — for the kids. "I'm doing it for our kids. And I'm doing it for us, too."