Alessandro Antine Nivola is an American actor and producer. He is best known for his work in Face/Off and American Hustle and recently starred in The Art of Self-Defense. In this biography, Nivola tells his story in his own words.

Alessandro Nivola Bio: Early Life, Family, Education

Nivola was born on June 28, 1972 (Alessandro  Nivola age: 49) in Boston, Massachusetts. He and his brother Adrian were raised by their mother, artist Virginia Nivola, and their father, professor Pietro Salvatore Nivola. They lived in Burlington, Vermont, where Nivola attended the Mater Christi School from a young age. He moved on to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and later graduated from Yale with a degree in English. His true passion, however, was acting.

Alessandro Nivola Bio: Exclusive Interview on His Acting Roots

In July 2019, Nivola sat down with uInterview to discuss his early acting days. He explained that his first role was that of Toto in an elementary school production of The Wizard of Oz. “All I had to do in the play was just to walk around on all fours,” he explained. “I didn’t say anything – nothing. I just roamed around in that furry outfit. Maybe I barked a couple times; I don’t remember.”


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What Nivola did recall, however, was his excitement. “I just remember coming home to my parents, just all excited because I was in every scene,” he told uInterview. “I wanted to be an actor since I was a little kid, and I don’t know if that was the experience that really lit a fire under me, but that was my first role.”

Check out the full autobiographical interview at the top of this page.

Alessandro Nivola Bio: Career

Nivola made his acting debut in 1995 in the Broadway production of A Month in the Country. Appearing opposite Helen Mirren, he earned a Drama Desk Award nomination and made a name for himself in the industry. The following year, Nivola acted in one episode of the series Remember WENN, in addition to films Emma and The Ring.

Nivola’s career continued to rise the next year. He appeared in Inventing the Abbotts and the TV movie The Almost Perfect Robbery. 1997 also brought Nivola his first major role – that of Pollux Troy in the action film Face/Off. It won 11 awards and nominations for 21 more, including an Oscar.

Nivola continued his film career through 1998, appearing in Reach the Rock and I Want You. The next year, he starred in Best Laid Plans alongside Reese Witherspoon and Josh Brolin. Also in 1999, Nivola starred in the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. The movie was nominated for five awards and boasts a 77% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

Nivola branched out in the new millennium. In addition to the film Timecode, he appeared in the Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. He performed six songs with the cast as his first musical endeavors. The next year, he garnered more fame as Billy Brennan in Jurassic Park III.

In 2002, Nivola starred in the short film Imprint as well as the dramedy Laurel Canyon. He performed the song “Shade and Honey” in the latter, continuing to implement music into his acting. Nivola appeared in Carolina and The Clearing over the next two years but did little more. His career picked back up in 2005 with four films: Turning Green, The Sisters, Junebug and Goal! The Dream Begins. While none of these movies was a blockbuster, Nivola moved back into the public eye with The Darwin Awards (2006), starring Ty Burrell and David Arquette.

2007 was a notable year for Nivola. He landed roles in The Girl in the Park and Goal II: Living the Dream, as well as the family drama Grace Is Gone. He also appeared in the six-episode TV series The Company, featuring Chris O’Donnell and Michael Keaton.

A year later, Nivola took on roles in three minor films: Who Do You Love, The Eye and $5 A Day. He also acted in Coco Before Chanel (2009), an Oscar-nominated film detailing the fashion designer’s rise to fame. Nivola took to the stage briefly in 2010 in Ethan Hawke’s off-Broadway revival of A Lie of the Mind. He returned to the screen later that year in Howl and Janie Jones, performing nine songs for the latter.

In 2012, Nivola decided to move behind the scenes of film and TV. He founded the company King Bee Productions with his wife, actress Emily Mortimer, and began development on the movie Ginger & Rosa. The next year, he starred in the Broadway revival of The Winslow Boy and the crime drama Devil’s Knot.

Nivola’s most famous work of 2013, however, was American Hustle. This film – starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams and Christian Bale received a 92% Rotten Tomatoes rating and ten Oscar nominations.

Following the release of American Hustle, Nivola turned much of his attention to King Bee Productions. He and Mortimer wrote, directed and starred in an original TV series called Doll & Em. At the same time, Nivola acted in A Most Violent Year (2014) and the critically acclaimed Selma. Additionally, he reunited with former co-star Bradley Cooper in a Broadway revival of The Elephant Man.

Nivola expanded his production credits in 2016 with the short films Wig Shop and Broken Night. He resumed acting the following year with roles in five separate movies. Among the lower-ranking titles were The Wizard of Lies, Weightless, One Percent More Humid and You Were Never Really Here. However, Nivola’s fifth 2017 film – Disobedience – broke the mold. This Rachel McAdams drama won four awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Nivola, at the 2018 British Independent Film Awards.

Later in 2018, Nivola produced the movie To Dust, which stars Matthew Broderick and won the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Nivola then acted in the miniseries Chimerica and is set to appear in The Red Sea Diving Resort later this year. In 2020, he will grace the screen as Dickie Moltisanti in The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel to The Sopranos.

Alessandro Nivola Bio: Exclusive Interview on ‘The Art Of Self-Defense’

Nivola’s most recently released project is The Art of Self-Defense, a karate film with a sinister twist. Its talented cast includes Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network and Imogen Poots of That Awkward Moment.  In July 2019, Nivola sat down with uInterview to discuss his latest film.

The Art of Self-Defense is a movie … about a kind of wimpy guy who chooses the wrong person to teach him how to man up,” Nivola explained. According to him, the main character – played by Eisenberg – “feels kind of uncomfortable in his own skin and kind of impotent in the world and decides that he wants to do something about it.”

That “something” takes the form of karate lessons taught by Nivola’s character, Sensei. The actor classifies him as a “charismatic, mysterious and seductive teacher” whose true colors come to light slowly but surely. Though he “appears at first to be the answer to Casey’s dreams,” Nivola hints at Sensei’s dangerous and “totally unhinged” nature.

Nivola identified his son’s former hapkido dojo as the basis for Sensei’s character. “I mean, he wasn’t a sociopathic murderer or anything,” Nivola clarified. “But he’d set himself up as the lord of a very small manor, and he had all these little kids in his throes and kind of talked to them in this super-intense and kind of hushed-tone voice, and I just used him as my inspiration for the role.”

In terms of karate itself, Nivola admitted that he needed some coaching before taking his moves to the big screen. “I definitely had no martial arts training at all,” he said. “I had 48 hours, I think, to try and pull it together.” He told uInterview that immediately upon arriving at his hotel, he heard a knock at his door. “This amazing woman named Mindy just pushed me away and came storming into my room,” he said. “And the next thing I knew, I was doing these high leg kicks.”

Alessandro Nivola Bio: Personal Life, Wife, Children, Quotes

When Nivola and Mortimer are not directing a film together, they enjoy life together in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, New York. They have two children – May Rose Nivola and Samuel John Nivola – and have been married since 2003. You can keep up with Nivola on Instagram at @alessandro.nivola or Twitter at @SandroNivola.

“One of the pleasures of being an actor is kind of getting out of yourself and trying to stretch and reshape yourself into someone else that’s had a very different kind of experience. Obviously, you bring whatever you know about life and about the way that people behave and everything to a performance.”

“The only thing is that on a small movie you don’t have to wait around very long to shoot your scenes, but then when you shoot them they don’t spend very much time with them. On a big movie you wait for hours and days to actually do your bit, but then when it comes, with some exceptions, you tend to be able to spend more time doing it and over it. And I don’t know, I tend to get better as I go along, whereas some people sort of hit their first takes and they get worse from there.”

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