Mostly Credited As: Michael Wincott
Birth Name: Michael Anthony Claudio Wincott
Date Of Birth: January 21, 1958 (Age 56)
Country Of Birth: Canada
Birth Place: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Michael Wincott was born on January 21, 1958 in Ontario, Canada. He was raised in Scarborough, a community north of Toronto, which was amalgamated into the megatropolis of Toronto in 1998. However, it manages to maintain it's own uniqueness; from its quaint murals on the Heritage Trail of Canada’s famous Mural Route to the Scarborough Bluffs, overlooking Lake Ontario on it's Northwest Shore.
His father, William Wincott, was born in Birmingham, England. While stationed in Northern Italy during the war, he met and married Lucia Buzzetti of Milano. After William was discharged from the British military, he and Lucia moved to Ontario, Canada where they raised three sons. There is no information on the eldest, Bill, but middle son, Jeff Wincott, is known for his work in martial art/action movies.
He is a Capricorn/Aquarius cusp. Children of the C/A cusp tend to be ambitious and visionaries, peace loving and friendly. However, they can also be stubborn, narrow-minded and overcritical of those not as ambitious as they are. The Capricorn/Aquarius cusp is mostly attracted to Cancer/Leo (July 19-25) and Scorpio/Sagittarius (November 19-24). As a Cusp, he has two elements-Earth and Air. They are practical like the Capricorn, yet unpredictable as the Aquarius. They are also known for having a strong need to find a creative outlet for their creative energy. Fellow Aquarius/Capricorn cusps are Edgar Allen Poe, Danny Kaye, Janis Joplin and Geena Davis.
Michael attended elementary school at Techumseh Senior Public and high school at Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute.Classmates remember him as a good kid from early school. He was friendly and always ready with a smile and had a great sense of humor. One classmate recalls how he and Michael would constantly get into trouble in high school because they were always joking and laughing. He would have been a poster boy for the “Got Milk” campaign as he drank it by the gallon. He enjoyed watching Barbara Striesand movies, and drummer Buddy Rich was his inspiration for playing the drums. He played the drums in a jazz band as a kid, as well as on his desk at school. Michael was always a bit ”out there”, and definitely different, being one of the few people in his class to have long hair. But he was warm and friendly, and very funny and was considered a genuinely nice guy once you got to know him.
Michael’s first foray into film was in 8th grade with an 8mm movie of “Lord of the Flies”, which he filmed down at the Scarborough Bluffs, just on the waterfront. Although a depressing story, Michael still managed to “squeeze in a few laughs”. And he also managed to receive some kudos for the project. The greatest influence on his early acting was Monty Python, and he was always acting out scenes from the show. In the 9th grade, he and a classmate performed the Monty Python “Happy Valley” skit in front of the whole school. As it was pretty much Michael’s idea, he performed as the director as well as the King. His classmate was the gruesome Princess Mitzi. And when they dropped the body of the Prince from the rafters onto to the stage, they “scared the hell out of everyone!” It was about this time his interest in acting surpassed his interest in music and he went on to take classes in drama in both high school and college.
Michael attended Victoria College at the University of Toronto in 1977-78. He took up residence in the South House. Classmates believed it was because Donald Sutherland had roomed there some years before. Michael apparently held Sutherland somewhat as an idol, and was eventually able to act with him in the 1980 film "Nothing Personal". During his tenure at Victoria College, he went by the unlikely nickname of "Roxy". It was given to him by a friend also named Mike, from the Nick Gilder song “Roxy Roller” which was played at the Vic Pub during that time. Although considered a bit of an oddball, his classmate knew that he wanted to be an actor and was determined to attain his dream.
Michael’s first job was at the Public Theater in New York working for Joseph Papp in such productions as “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder” and “Tis a Pity She’s a Whore”. "I still remember how exciting it was with these checks at $150 for eight plays a week. This is life, I thought, standing at a stage - and getting paid for it...” While he was there, fellow actors Gary Oldman, one of his idols, and Sean Penn were a great influence on him. He also appeared in Sam Shepard’s Broadway drama “States of Shock”. During his lean years on New York stages, he met and became close friends with artist Julian Schnabel.
1979 was a pivotal year in Michael’s life. He worked on several Canadian film projects, such as the popular TV series, “The Littlest Hobo”, and the Canadian boxing thriller “Title Shot”, and two TV movies, “An American Christmas Carol” and “The Family Man”. But his feature film debut was the Canadian production “Wild Horse Hank”, playing rodeo cowboy Charlie Conners opposite of Linda Blair’s title character Hank. Although he appears to be an accomplished horseman, it wasn't until he secured the part of Charlie that he actually learned to ride. In an informal interview with Wincott admirer Kate, when asked if Michael was as experienced a horseman as he appeared to be in the movie: "Ms. Blair gave a little apologetic smile and said, 'No, not at all. He'd never ridden or had a lesson before, and he needed ALOT of help with the riding.... but all the cowboys worked with him, and he was very determined to get it right.' She thinks he's probably had more training since."
Michael applied to attend the prestigious Juilliard School of Drama in New York in 1982. Juilliard's drama department accepts a maximum of 20 students into the first year of the acting program each year. They receive an average of 1,000 applications a year for these positions so competition is fierce. He spent the next four years supporting his training with roles on the TV series “Miami Vice”, “The Equalizer”, and “Crime Story” as well as a minor role in the low budget film “Curtains”. He graduated Julliard in 1986 and from there, he roles became meatier and heavier. His first post graduation film was the biographic drama “The Sicilian” starring Christopher Lambert in which Michael portrayed Corporal Silvestro Canio. But a more impressive role was waiting. He had been performing in the Oliver Stone stage play “Talk Radio”, back at the Public Theatre where Michael began. Casting the role of Kent for the film version of the play was a short debate. Director Stone was concerned that although Michael could be convincing on stage, the cameras would betray his true age. But Michael’s intense and singular performance could not be duplicated and he was cast for the role in the film version. And with that wild hair and that crazy laugh, the cameras never seemed to notice his age. However, Michael despised the "character" of Kent; he considered him the epitome of disturbed youth.
Although capable of great performances in humor, he is most remembered as a dramatic actor. More precisely, a villain. Performed with Michael's chilling coolness, corrosively alluring voice and sharp brooding features, characters created to accent a story often become a focal point, be they short lived...as most villains are. Truly remarkable, even loveable characters, such as Rene Ricard from the Julian Schnabel film “Basquiat” are overshadowed by the larger than life villains such as Top Dollar from the Brandon Lee tragic cult classic “The Crow”. His incredible voice, capable of purring, hissing and growling, all at the same time, overshadows his talent at ad-libbing such great oratories as “The Anarchy Speech” from “The Crow” to the comic rambling of Conway Twill in the Jim Jarmusch film “Dead Man” starring Johnny Depp. But when you’re a great bad guy…you’re a great bad guy. As Moxica would say… “We are everything, we are immortal.”
Those that have worked with Michael echo a common thread...that his approach to acting is professional. Off camera, Michael is a cut-up with a great, and sometimes odd, sense of humor, often being the center of much amusement and laughter. But once the cameras are rolling, his focus is absolute. Tony Todd, who played Grange in "The Crow", describes him as "...a great actor, brilliant, and a pleasure to work with". Johan Kruger, Line Producer for the film "The Red Phone: Manhunt" in which Michael played villain "Van Eyck" said; "He is a bit eccentric (in a nice way). He 'lives' his role which is what makes him such a good actor. Disciplined and always very well prepared - all elements of a true professional. However, he believes “Obedience won’t get you anywhere in acting.” So you won’t find him lying down in the creative development department. He never casually creates a character. Minor roles make major impact.
Michael has never forgotten his first love, music. He plays the guitar, harmonica and drums with impressive talent. Although he claims to have been “…too much of an elitist to play rock and roll" he has an appreciation for all types of music. As a teen he liked to listen to Steppenwolf, and was into Ginger Baker of the band Cream. One of his favorite musicians is Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. More recently, he’s been seen playing harmonica with Bill Morrison’s “Camp Freddy” in October 2002 as well as with former head banger hair band “Guns and Roses” member Slash at the Vanity Fair “In Concert” in November 2003.
Michael has managed an impressive social circle during his career. In August 2000 he was seen partying hard with Jesse Wood, son of Rolling Stone Rod Wood, in Dublin Ireland, along with REM’s Michael Stipe and Irish band “The Corr’s”, and film director Neil Jordan. One of his closest friends is artist/director Julian Schnabel, whom he met early in his career as a struggling actor in New York. In an interview with PopMatters.com Film and TV Editor, Cynthia Fuchs, Schnabel is states “…I’ve known him a long time, he lived around the block from me and I kind of took care of him for years when he was unemployed. But he also took care of me.” Fellow actor Tom Sizemore is also a close friend; they acted together in the film “Strange Days”.
Michael currently lives in Los Angeles California, where he's often seen at coffee shops and resteraunts or attending social events such as charities, grand opening and art shows. But he’s often on location, and frequently visits, and attends social events in New York. He loves live theater and often returns to New York where his career began. Like most stage trained actors, he always returns “home”.
Many thanks to Brandy for assistance with the biography.