James Howard Woods (born April 18 1947) is an Oscar-nominated and three-time Emmy Award winning American actor.
Woods was born in Vernal, Utah to Gail Peyton Woods, an army intelligence officer who died in 1960 following routine surgery, and Martha Dixon, who operated a pre-school after her husband's death; he had a brother, Michael Woods (7 January 1957–26 July 2006).
He was raised in his Irish American mother's Catholic religion, grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, where he attended Pilgrim High School. Woods, an army brat, had been accepted to attend the United States Air Force Academy with the intention of becoming a fighter pilot. Unfortunately, several weeks before he was to depart, Woods suffered an accident involving a plate glass window which injured his hand tendons severely enough to result in his acceptance being retracted.
Woods then 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 a surgeon), but dropped out in 1969 just before his graduation in order to pursue a career in acting. Woods headed to New York City, calling his mother to tell her of his plans.
While his mother wasn't thrilled at the news, she gave him her blessing to pursue a career in acting. At the 2006 CBS UpFront James Woods told the audience that his mother told him that if he was going to switch careers to acting that he be the best actor he could possibly be. Before this transition to acting, however, he was considered a brilliant student and had been permitted to enroll in a linear algebra course at UCLA while still in high school.
Woods' career has been noted for the intense characters he has chosen. He was nominated for an Academy Award twice: the first in 1987 for Best Actor in Salvador and again in 1996 for Best Supporting Actor for Ghosts of Mississippi.
He has also garnered critical praise for his voice work for Hades in Disney's Hercules. His personal favorite of all of his roles, however, is as the domineering gangster Max in Sergio Leone's gangster epic Once Upon A Time In America (1984).
He was briefly considered for the role of The Joker by Tim Burton and Sam Hamm for the Batman film in 1989. Hamm recalls that he and Burton thought, "James Woods would be good and wouldn't need any makeup, which would save a couple of hours' work every morning." The role ended up going to Jack Nicholson ().
Woods appeared as himself in the episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer and Apu" and in an episode of Family Guy entitled "Peter's Got Woods." In 2006, Woods starred opposite Cuba Gooding Jr. in the political thriller End Game. Also in 2006, Woods played himself in the premiere episode of Entourage's third season. He also starred in Grand Theft Auto:San Andreas as Mike Toreno.
Woods now stars in the new CBS legal drama Shark. Woods plays an infamous Los Angeles defense lawyer who, growing disillusioned, becomes a prosecutor. Shark is directed by Spike Lee.
Woods is a self-described Democrat, although he has been a vocal supporter of U.S. President George W. Bush and former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. Woods lobbied hard to play Giuliani in the biopic Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story, and considers the role one of the favorites of his career. 
Connection to 9/11
Following the September 11 attacks, Woods appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where he stated that six or seven weeks prior to the attacks, in August 2001, he was on a flight from Boston to Los Angeles on which he noticed four Arab men sitting in the first class section -— the only other first-class passengers except himself -— behaving in a highly suspicious manner.
Woods stated that the men never spoke to each other except in muted tones, did not eat, drink or sleep, and mostly sat upright in their seats and stared directly ahead. Woods, fearing that the plane was about to be hijacked, alerted a flight attendant, who confided that she herself also noticed their behavior, and who in turn informed the first officer. No overt action was taken against them. One day after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Woods called the FBI and informed investigators about what he had seen the previous month. He was interviewed on September 13.
Woods repeated the anecdote when he appeared again on The Tonight Show on September 11, 2006, adding that Seymour Hersh, when writing about the incident in The New Yorker magazine, informed Woods that the FAA did not investigate the incident at the time because they considered it an act of racial profiling. Woods learned that he positively identified two of the 19 hijackers involved in the actual attacks weeks later, one of whom was on United Airlines Flight 175, and another of whom was on American Airlines Flight 77. Woods observed that this contradicts the testimony of possible 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui, who asserted that members of different cells never had contact with one another. Woods believes that the flight was a test run for the hijackers' impending plot.
In the same episode, Woods provided a potentially chilling addendum, stating that according to one FBI agent who interviewed him, other airplanes were discovered at Boston’s Logan Airport with box cutters taped under their seats, a possible indicator that other flights were intended as part of the hijackers' plans that went unused only because they were grounded following the attacks on the World Trade Center.
- Scarface: The World Is Yours (video game) (2006)
- Shark (2006)
- Entourage (2006)
- End Game (2006)
- The Fairly OddParents Movie (2006)
- Kingdom Hearts II (video game) (2006)
- Family Guy (voice) (2005)
- Be Cool (2005)
- Ark (voice of Jallak) computer-generated film
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (video game) (2004) (as Mike Toreno)
- Northfork (2003)
- Race to Space (2002)
- Kingdom Hearts (video game) (2002)
- Stuart Little 2 (voice) (2002)
- John Q (2002)
- Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
- Recess: School's Out Voice of Dr. Philium Benedict (2001)
- Scary Movie 2 (2001)
- Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (voice) (2001)
- True Crime (1999)
- Any Given Sunday (1999)
- The General's Daughter (1999)
- The Virgin Suicides (1999)
- John Carpenter's Vampires (1998)
- Contact (1997)
- Another Day in Paradise (1997)
- Hercules (voice of Hades) (1997)
- Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)
- Nixon (1995)
- Casino (1995)
- The Specialist (1994)
- The Simpsons (TV series) (1994)
- Straight Talk (1992)
- Diggstown (1992)
- Citizen Cohn (1992)
- Chaplin (1992)
- The Hard Way (1991)
- True Believer (1989)
- My Name Is Bill W. (1989)
- The Boost (1988)
- Best Seller (1987)
- Cop (1987)
- Salvador (1986)
- Cat's Eye (1985)
- Joshua Then and Now (star, 1985)
- Against All Odds (1984)
- Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
- Videodrome (1983)
- Eyewitness (1981)
- The Onion Field (1979)
- Holocaust (TV mini-series) (1978)
- The Choirboys (1977)
- The Way We Were (1973)
- When asked, Woods lists Blade Runner as his favorite film (after first jokingly claiming his favorite was Starship Troopers).
- The "[Homer and Apu" episode of The Simpsons was originally intended to feature Michael Caine, but Woods was brought in after Caine declined.
- Recently, Woods has shared an endorsement for the online poker website Hollywood Poker with poker enthusiast Vince Van Patten. James can be found playing regularly at Hollywood Poker, and contributes content to the website.
- Woods' endorsement of Phil Gordon's Little Green Book, an instructional poker text, appears on the back of the book jacket.
- Quentin Tarantino wrote a part in Reservoir Dogs with Woods in mind, but his agent rejected the script without showing it to the actor. When Woods learned of this some time later, he fired the agent.
- Disney animators studied Woods' appearance in most of his films over and over again to perfect the look of his voice character in Hercules, Hades, especially his face, which is striking in similarities. They also featured him in the 2001 film, Recess: School's Out as Dr. Philium Benedict.
- Woods was considered for the part of Donald Kimball in American Psycho, but he turned it down. The part was given to Willem Dafoe.
- Woods received a score of 1580 on the SAT, which included a perfect score on the verbal section of the test. (Note: test was taken under the "old" scoring methods, which was only out of 1600, and before revisions to the scoring system, which made higher scores more likely)
- Very close to his family, Woods makes frequent trips back to his childhood home Rhode Island to visit.
- Woods plays on the World Poker Tour in the Hollywood Home games for the American Stroke Association charity. In 2006, James finished in 24th place out of 692 at the L.A. Poker Classic for $40,000.
- During a press interview for Kingdom Hearts II, Woods admitted that he is an avid video game player.
- His brother and fellow actor, Michael Woods, died of cardiac arrest on July 26, 2006. This occurred shortly after the two of them returned after James finished 24th at a World Poker Tour event.
- James Woods Regional High School is a fictional setting in the animated TV show Family Guy, set in Rhode Island, Woods' home state. There is also reference to a nearby forest, called "James Woods".
- Woods played Dr. Nate Lennox, an ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) sufferer, in the 12th season episode of ER entitled “Body and Soul”. In the episode Woods’ character complains about the policies of the George W. Bush administration, specifically a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. In reality Woods is a vocal supporter of the G.W. Bush administration.
- Woods lived in Clark County Illinois for a time, and revealed on the Tonight Show that he would ride shotgun with his grandmother while she ran moonshine, because Clark County was a dry county.