D'Onofrio's family moved around in his youth, and he grew up in Hawaii, Florida, and Colorado. He graduated from high school in Florida in 1977 and then attended a Colorado university for about 18 months. He then dropped out of college to pursue acting. He was accepted for study with the American Stanislavsky Theatre in New York City. His sister, Elizabeth D'Onofrio, also studied with the same group.
1984 was an important year for the young D'Onofrio. He became a full member of the American Stanislavsky Theatre and appeared in a number of its productions, including Of Mice and Men and Sexual Perversity in Chicago. He also made his Broadway debut as Nick Rizzoli in Open Admissions. Before this breakthrough, he had been acting in New York University student films and was working as a bouncer.
It was his turn as the disturbed and bullied Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence in Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket, which was the role that first brought him to the film world's attention. In gaining 70 pounds (32 kg) for the role, D'Onofrio showed his commitment to the craft. Since then, he has played a wide variety of roles, including iconic director Orson Welles in Tim Burton's Ed Wood and Yippie founder Abbie Hoffman in Steal This Movie.
He also has dabbled in film production and to date has produced two movies, The Whole Wide World and Guy in 1996 and 1997, respectively, and executive produced two others, The Velocity of Gary in 1998 and Steal This Movie in 2000.
D'Onofrio has moved to the small screen where he has been no less appreciated. He received an Emmy nomination in 1998 for his appearance as John Lange, the doomed accident/murder victim in the acclaimed "Subway" episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. He currently stars as Detective Robert Goren, a principal character, on the NBC television show Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
On 9 February, 2005, NBC announced that Chris Noth, who played Detective Mike Logan in Law & Order (the original series) from 1990 to 1995, will join the cast of Law & Order: Criminal Intent as Detective Logan in the 2005–2006 season. D'Onofrio and Noth will share the lead role, alternating being the lead detective from week to week.
D'Onofrio was married first to actress Greta Scacchi from 1991 to 1993, and then to model/photographer Carin van der Donk from 1997 to 2003. D'Onofrio has two children, daughter Leila George, with Scacchi, born March 20, 1992 and his son Elias, with van der Donk, born in 2000.
D'Onofrio experienced a health scare in 2004 when he collapsed on the set of Law & Order: Criminal Intent on November 10. He collapsed again at home a few days later and was taken back to the hospital for more thorough testing. He was subsequently diagnosed with exhaustion. Subsequently, series producers decided to lessen his workload for the 2005-2006 season by having him appear in alternating episodes with Chris Noth headlining episodes in which D'Onofrio does not perform.
Last name is pronounced "Duh-noff-ree-o".
D'Onofrio portrayed Orson Welles in the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood. Burton disliked D'Onofrio's vocal impression of Welles, so Burton overdubbed a digital combination of D'Onofrio's voice and the voice of Maurice LaMarche, a voice actor particularly noted for his impression of Orson Welles.
Sister Elizabeth is also an actress.
Renée Zellweger thanked him in her Oscar acceptance speech when she won 'Best Actress in a Supporting Role' for Cold Mountain in 2004. They had starred together in the 1996 film, The Whole Wide World.
Gained 70 pounds for his role in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket.
Gained 45 pounds for his role in The Salton Sea.
Nickname is "The Human Chameleon".
His height is 6 foot, 4 inches (1.93 m).
Film and television credits
- Thumbsucker (2005)
- Case of Evil (2002)
- The Salton Sea (2002)
- The Red Sneakers (2002)
- The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002)
- Bark (2002)
- Impostor (2002)
- Chelsea Walls (2001)
- The Cell (2000)
- Steal This Movie (2000)
- Happy Accidents (2000)
- That Championship Season (1999)
- The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
- Spanish Judges (1999)
- The Velocity of Gary (1998)
- Claire Dolan (1998)
- The Newton Boys (1998)
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1998) - TV remake of the 1974 movie.
- Guy (1997)
- Men in Black (1997)
- Boys Life 2 (1997)
- Good Luck (1996)
- Feeling Minnesota (1996)
- The Winner (1996)
- The Whole Wide World (1996)
- Hotel Paradise (1995)
- The Investigator (1994)
- Strange Days (1995)
- Stuart Saves His Family (1995)
- Hotel Paradise (1995)
- Nunzio's Second Cousin (1994)
- Imaginary Crimes (1994)
- Ed Wood (1994)
- Mr. Wonderful (1993)
- Household Saints (1993)
- Being Human (1993)
- Malcolm X (1992)
- Salt on Our Skin (1992) - also known as Desire
- The Player (1992)
- JFK (1991)
- Naked Tango (1991)
- Fires Within (1991)
- Dying Young (1991)
- Crooked Hearts (1991)
- The Blood of Heroes (1989) - also known as Salute of the Jugger
- Signs of Life (1989)
- Mystic Pizza (1988)
- Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
- Full Metal Jacket (1987)
- It Don't Pay to Be an Honest Citizen (1984)
- The First Turn-On!! (1983)
Television (including notable guest appearances)
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent (AKA CI or LOCI or LO:CI) (2001- ) Portrays Detective Robert Goren. Currently in production for its 5th season.
- Men in Black: The Series playing "Bugs" (voice) in episode: "The Big Bad Bug Syndrome" (episode # 2.5) 24 October 1998
- Homicide: Life on the Street playing "John Lange" in episode: "The Subway" (episode # 6.7) 5 December 1997
- The Equalizer playing "Davy Baylor" (as Vincent Phillip D'Onofrio) in episode: "Suspicion of Innocence" (episode # 3.3) 30 September 1987
- Miami Vice playing "Leon Wolf" in episode: "The Afternoon Plane" (episode # 3.17) 20 February 1987
- The Equalizer playing "Thomas Marley" (as Vincent Phillip D'Onofrio) in episode: "Counterfire" (episode # 2.7) 19 November 1986