Were you aware of the fact that James Woods has been displaying his acting talents in television and movies for 32 years now? That is complete insanity. Sure, now he’s doing kid movies about monkeys in space and commercials for a certain video chain where he is the voice of a creepy looking rabbit, but things weren’t always so bad. Seriously. Back in the day, James Woods was everywhere. The man can be the hero, the villain, the best friend, the cameo, the guy in old man make-up, the comic relief, the straight man, sometimes even the romantic lead. James Woods can do it all.
In fact, directors believe so strongly in James that they cast him in films of epic length, knowing the audience and the actor are like old school buddies, they just can’t get enough of him. While most actors only have one two-hour-plus film under their belt, Woods has four. Impressive, to say the very least.
Woods’ first foray into marathon cinema was 1978’s “Holocaust.” This made-for-television World War II drama clocks in at an astounding 475 minutes. Can you say eight hours of pure Woods? Biff sat through this one last year on the final day of summer break, proving once and for all he really has nothing better to do.
Marvin J. Chomsky, director of the famous mini-series “Roots” and “Inside the Third Reich,” does an impressive job of making an eight-hour movie seem like four. In Biff’s opinion, this is still the best holocaust-related movie ever done. Yes, even better than “Schindler’s List.” “Holocaust” follows two families, one Jewish and one German, in Germany from the beginning to the end of the war. We follow Woods as his situation is made progressively worse and worse just as the young German officer, played by Michael Moriarty, finds his getting better and better. Don’t be intimidated by the eight hours.
Six years after “Holocaust” came probably the best film of James Woods’ career, the super-long and highly detailed “Once Upon a Time in America.” Director Sergio Leone worked on this film for 10 years in order to make it exactly the way he envisioned. This 1920s gangster film possesses a running time of 227 minutes, as long as you rent the original version (the studio re-cut it down to 139 minutes for its American release). Now, a second ago I said that this movie was “highly detailed.” I was not kidding. Leone is really in no hurry to get anywhere, but he sure does make sure that everything looks pretty while you’re waiting.
On the James Woods side of things, it is great to see him sharing the screen with a young Robert De Niro, who apparently at the time had a “long movies only” clause in his contract as well. I mean, have you seen “1900”? Four hours of Gerard Depardieu is three-and-a-half too many, but I digress. Woods is on top of his game in this movie and tries to act through the really awful old-man makeup Leone cakes on him at the end. The film is a bit hard to follow and is marred only by the appearance of Treat Williams, but overall, it’s pretty insane.
1995 found James in two lengthy features, “Nixon” and “Casino.” Now, Biff is going to admit right off the bat that although he loved Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” he for some reason has never seen Stone’s “Nixon.” Nor has he wanted to. So, he has no idea what Woods says or does in that movie at all. However, it’s still really long and James Woods related, so it might not be that bad.
Here’s the lowdown on “Casino”: it rules, De Niro rules in it, Joe Pesci does a whole lot of ruling in it, Sharon Stone is kind of annoying but better than usual, and James Woods just plain rules the school. Woods plays Stone’s greasy, coked-out ex-boyfriend and does a convincing job of taking beatings. Running times? Casino: 178 minutes. Nixon: 192 minutes.
So there you have it, James Woods and all of his long movies, which, if you weren’t paying attention, spanned three decades. Let’s do the math. In four movies alone, James Woods has provided all of his adoring fans with 1,072 minutes of entertainment. Folks, that’s almost 18 hours. What does the future hold for Hollywood’s hardest-working actor? Biff thinks the time is right for a good-old-fashioned James Woods-Bobby De Niro epic. Perhaps something about the way in which people give and receive beatings. It could work.