Marisa Tomei.Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution — Author: Tony Shek -- License:
They say in Hollywood once a woman is past the age of 40 there are no longer good roles, as a youth-obsessed industry is constantly looking for fresh faces. After reaching that dreaded mark, Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei not only did some of the best work of her career in highly-acclaimed films but she still retained the beauty of her younger self and that irresistible smile. 
Marisa and her family are deeply connected to their Italian heritage. Her father Garrett Tomei and her mother Patricia Adelaide Bianchi are both of Italian descent. Once a little girl Marisa and her younger brother Adam spent a lot of time with their paternal grandparents Romeo and Rita, who along with their own parents, were from Lucca in Tuscany. The Italian family tree goes back for several generations. While the family knew a lot about the father’s side ancestry, not much was known about the mother’s side.

Marisa herself was able to track down the genealogy thanks to the tv program Who do you think you are? After traveling to Cecina and the island of Elba where the great grandparents were from, she embarked in an extensive research through churches archives and family records kept in city halls. By doing so she was finally able to solve the mystery of her great grandfather’s murder. She even came in contact with and old relative who explained in a letter how Marisa’s great-grandmother remarried after the murder of her husband and how consequently they came to New York.
Tomei grew up in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn. Her parents loved Broadway and took their kids to several shows, which definitely had an impact. At a young age both Marisa and Adam were enthralled by stage plays and decided to study to become an actor. Following minor roles, in 1992 Marisa finally had her big break in My Cousin Vinny, which also featured fellow Italian American actors Ralph Macchio and Joe Pesci. The film proved to be very successful and it was the one for which she won the Oscar as best supporting actress. A little controversy generated from her win which quickly turned into one of those urban legends that beset Hollywood.
The story goes that Jack Palance announced the wrong name upon opening the envelope. The Academy has profusely denied the claim over the years, explaining that such mistake should ever happen at the Oscars they have a policy of correcting it immediately during the live cast. After the deserved win, Tomei starred with then boyfriend Robert Downey Jr in two films, Chaplin and Only You. The latter was shot almost entirely in Italy, among the streets and monuments of Positano, Rome, San Gimignano and Venice and it tried to recapture the feeling and magic of classic movies such as Roman Holiday.
In between the two pictures came Untamed Heart, one of my ultimate favorites and one of the most romantic movies ever made. In the film Tomei was at her most radiant and she played the role of a very sweet waitress unlucky in love who falls for a shy busboy with a heart defect, played by Christian Slater, after he saves her from an attempted rape. In 2001 Tomei received her second nomination at the Academy Awards for In the bedroom, in which she slipped into an intense emotional character. It was in fact the first of many emotionally demanding roles she played in the following years.
At age 42 she bared it all in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead helmed by director Sidney Lumet. It was the first time Marisa appeared nude in a film and she explained how it never felt appropriate when she was younger, because it would have made it harder to be taken seriously. The film and her performance received many praises and led to an even more provocative role, an aging stripper in The Wrestler. The movie, which was saluted as the rebirth of Mickey Rourke, appealed to the actress because of the dancing involved, as she really likes the physical challenge and it earned her a third Academy Award nomination.
Nowadays Tomei is busier than ever, defying both the so called Oscar curse and the saying that claims Hollywood wants only younger babes. Her warm laugh and genuine appeal is still what captivates upon meeting her and as a true admirer of Italian culture she confesses to carry dual citizenship that allows her to often travel under the Italian passport.
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