Ving Rhames
Birth Date:
May 12, 1959
Birth Place:
New York, New York, USA
Famous for:
His role in 'Pulp Fiction' (1994)
High School (graduated in 1978)
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"Be careful: The toes you step on today may be connected to the ass you'll be kissing tomorrow." Ving Rhames
Bald-headed, distinctive baritone African American actor Ving Rhames is widely remembered for playing drug lord Marcellus Ward in Pulp Fiction (1994) and ace computer hacker Luther Stickell in the Mission: Impossible films (1996, 2000). The actor, who won a Golden Globe for portraying the title role in Don King: Only in America (1997, TV), had appeared in such films as Bringing Out the Dead (1999, with Nicolas Cage), Lilo & Stitch (2002, voice) and Dawn of the Dead (2004).

Ving Rhames is currently playing the titular character in the TV series “Kojak.” He will soon finish his upcoming films, Idlewild and Mission: Impossible III.

Harlem Roots

Childhood and Family:

Born in New York, New York, on May 12, 1959, Irving Rhames grew up in the neighborhood of Harlem, Manhattan. He received the nickname “Ving” from his one time roommate, aspiring actor Stanley Tucci, when together for a time at SUNY Purchase. The son of a mother called Reatha Rhames, Irving has an older brother, Junior Rhames. Irving attended the High School for the Performing Arts in New York and briefly studied at State University of New York. He then studied at The Juilliard School in New York with a scholarship and graduated with a BFA in drama in 1983.

In 1994, Ving Rhames married Valerie Scott, but they divorced on February 9, 1999. One year later, on Christmas, Ving married Deborah Reed. They have three kids: son Freedom (born in February 2002) and daughters Rainbow (born in 2000) and Tiffany (stepdaughter).

Something Gonna Give


"I must say that some things some men are born to do. I think I was born to kick ass." Ving Rhames

Ving Rhames built his early acting career in a local theater. He then landed roles as the hostile general in director Peter Sellars' English tour of Sophocles' "Ajax" and as Hasting Persuivant in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of "Richard II." He subsequently arrived on television with his first major film role, as a young incarnation of writer James Baldwin's father (played by Paul Winfield), a Baptist preacher trying to break out of the 1920s South, in Stan Lathan-directed autobiographical TV movie Go Tell It On the Mountain (1984, broadcast on PBS after festival screenings).

In 1985, Rhames was spotted as a guest in a February episode of the TV series "Miami Vice" and performed on Broadway’s Vietnam drama "The Boys of Winter." After a tiny part in Jerrold Freedman's drama film, based on Richard Wright's novel, Native Son (1986), Rhames returned to the small screen, playing the regular role of Czaja Carnek (1986) on the long-running drama series "Another World" and delivering a memorable guest spot as Hector Lincoln on an episode of the TV series "Crime Story."

The scary, yet charismatic “Field Marshall” Cinque, the leader of the self-styled revolutionary Symbionese Liberation Army, is Rhames’ breakout feature role, which he played in Paul Schrader's biopic, based on Patricia Hearst’s memoirs, Patty Hearst (1988, starring Natasha Richardson). The next year, Rhames was cast in Brian De Palma's adaptation of Daniel Lang's book, the Vietnam War drama Casualties of War (starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn) before he won the regular lead role of Charlie Hazard on ABC's brief-lived drama series "Men" (costarring with Richard Hughes).

Rising Son (TNT), The Long Walk Home, When You Remember Me (TV), Jacob's Ladder, Flight of the Intruder, Homicide, Amérique en otage, L' (a.k.a. Iran: Days of Crisis, TV), Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Terror on Track 9 (TV), Bound by Honor, Dave (as an uptight Secret Service man), The Saint of Fort Washington and the TV series "Philly Heat" dotted Rhames' acting resume during the early 1990s. In 1994, he caught attention for portraying the well-known and feared drug lord Marcellus Ward in Quentin Tarantino's surprising box-office hit Pulp Fiction (with John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman).

"I'm not gay. I'm not homophobic. And I've never been raped. So it was acting. I look at it as the most powerful man in the movie being in one of the most vulnerable positions. And what that did was cause the audience to feel for him. It shows that no matter how hard-core you think you are, this could happen to you." Ving Rhames (on his role in Pulp Fiction)

That same year, Rhames began playing the recurring role of Walt Robbins in several episodes of the popular hospital drama "ER" (1994-1996). During that time, he also appeared in Drop Squad, Ed McBain's 87th Precinct: Lightning (TV), Kiss of Death and Deadly Whispers (TV). Rhames also hit the silver screen again when Brian De Palma handed Rhames the supporting role of Luther Stickell, Tom Cruise's computer specialist assistant, in the modernized, updated big-screen remake of a prior American TV series, Mission: Impossible (1996). He later reprised his role in its 2000 installment, Mission: Impossible II.

"I wouldn't say I'm a fan of it, because quite honestly, I'm more interested in films that deal with the human condition. Mission: Impossible is basically entertainment, and for what it is, it's fine. I don't think most actors become actors to do that type of film." Ving Rhames (on his role in the Mission: Impossible Franchise)

The subsequent years, Rhames won roles in such films as Striptease, Dangerous Ground, Rosewood, and Con Air. He also garnered critical acclaim for portraying the famous fight promoter and boxing manager Don King in the John Herzfeld-directed TV movie, inspired by Jack Newfield's book, Don King: Only in America (1997). Rhames’ divergent performance earned him nominations at the Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie and at the Screen Actors Guilds for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries. Rhames also won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV. At the ceremony, Rhames gave his award to fellow nominee actor Jack Lemmon, saying "I feel that being an artist is about giving, and I'd like to give this to you."

Following the Golden Globe, Rhames costarred with David Caruso in Robert Patton-Spruill's Body Count, alongside George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh's adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel, Out of Sight, with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Jon Amiel's Entrapment, and opposite Nicolas Cage in Martin Scorsese's screen version of Joe Connelly's novel, Bringing Out the Dead. In the new century, Rhames starred in the made-for-TV movies American Tragedy and Holiday Heart before he earned positive reviews for portraying Melvin 'Mel’, the former gangster boyfriend of the title role’s mother, in writer-director John Singleton's romantic drama Baby Boy (2001, also with Tyrese Gibson and Omar Gooding).

Afterward, Rhames costarred as heavyweight champion James 'Iceman' Chambers in Walter Hill's Undisputed (2002, opposite Wesley Snipes), as Assistant Chief Holland, an officer in the L.A.P.D. during the 1992 riots, in Ron Shelton's Dark Blue (2002, opposite Kurt Russell) and played police officer Kenneth in Zack Snyder's remake of George A. Romero's 1978 horror screenplay, Dawn of the Dead (2004, alongside Sarah Polley). More recent, Rhames snagged the title role of Lieutenant Theo Kojak, a bald police detective fighting crime, in a remake of the original 70's police drama series, “Kojak,” a weekly series that debuted on the USA Network in March of 2005. Besides busy acting on the new-running series, Rhames is also busy completing his upcoming film, Bryan Barber's musical drama set in the Prohibition-era American South, Idlewild (alongside André Benjamin and Big Boi). He will also team with Tom Cruise again in the third sequel to Mission Impossible, J.J. Abrams-helmed Mission: Impossible III.

"I bought a new house ... it's just a little, you know, I hate to say it, but even looking at the sort of money that they spend on films now, and looking at the problems that we have in the world, it's a little ridiculous. I just think that the industry is out of hand and something’s gonna give eventually."


  • Locarno International Film Festival: Special Mention, Baby Boy, 2001
  • ShoWest: Supporting Actor of the Year, 2000
  • Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, Don King: Only In America, 1998
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