Having starred in some unbelievable movies and made hilarious appearances in legendary TV shows such as Friends, Danny DeVito is undeniably a true acting and comedy great. Famous for his short stature and larger-than-life charisma, DeVito has become an icon for his 80s comedies and 90s family films – and he isn’t done yet.
Here are some facts you might not have realised about Danny DeVito.
20. DeVito and wife Rhea cared for Matilda star Mara Wilson after her mother passed away during production
DeVito directed the 1996 film Matilda, which saw him and Rhea Perlman feature as Matilda’s neglectful parents.
Tragically, the mother of leading actress Mara Wilson passed away from cancer during the film’s production.
DeVito and Perlman had looked after Wilson while her mother was ill, having offered to look after her while she was in hospital.
The couple continued to care for Wilson after she lost her mother, often inviting her over to their house.
DeVito also ensured that Wilson’s mother saw clips of the film before she passed away.
While DeVito and Perlman were mean parents on-screen, it’s clear that they were an invaluable source of support to Wilson in reality.
19. He asked his father to send him to boarding school “to keep him out of trouble”
At the age of 14, DeVito asked his father to send him to boarding school “to keep him out of trouble.”
DeVito’s It’s Always Sunny co-star, Rob McElhenney, posted a photo to Instagram of DeVito showing off his cutout of Allison.
The caption reads: “Hey Allison – I heard you took cardboard Danny to prom. What a coincidence. He took cardboard Allison to Paddy’s…” – the pub that features in It’s Always Sunny.
Allison took to social media to express her shock and gratitude, tweeting “I AM SHOOKETH.”
She later wrote: “Thank you SO, SO MUCH @RMcElhenney and @DannyDeVito for fulfilling my dream of visiting Paddy’s Pub from @alwayssunny!!”
13. A monkey attacked him on the set of Batman Returns
DeVito’s no stranger to working with animals. He starred alongside sausage dogs for the 2016 film Wiener-Dog, and even saved Michael Douglas from a snake while shooting Romancing the Stone.
DeVito also had to work with a spider monkey for Batman Returns – but this was no walk in the park.
Speaking on The Graham Norton Show, DeVito said working with the monkey was a “horrifying experience.”
DeVito related the story of how his threatening Penguin costume resulted in the monkey attacking him on set.
“Everybody went crazy, you know, ‘cut! cut! cut!’,” he said. “The guy comes over, the trainer comes over, pulling the monkey off, and just rips the monkey off of my leg.”
DeVito says that he didn’t feel a thing thanks to the extra padding on his costume.
12. Marlon Brando was considered for The Penguin before DeVito
Unbelievably, Danny DeVito wasn’t the first choice to play The Penguin in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns.
Marlon Brando was one of many actors to be considered for the role.
Dustin Hoffman, John Candy, Bob Hoskins, Ralph Waite, Dean Martin, Dudley Moore, Alan Rickman, John Goodman, Phil Collins, Charles Grodin, Christopher Lee, Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Rocco and Christopher Lloyd were all also in the running for the part.
DeVito won the role after he was suggested by his friend Jack Nicholson, who played the Joker in the first Batman film.
Writer Daniel Waters claimed that once he knew of DeVito’s casting, he “ended up writing the character for Danny DeVito.”
According to DeVito, it took four-and-a-half-hours to do his makeup and get into costume for the role.
11. He launched his own brand of limoncello in 2007
DeVito’s acting career has gone from strength to strength – but he didn’t have as much luck with efforts to break into alcohol production.
Launched in 2007, Devito’s Premium Limoncello was made in Italy using lemons from Sorrento.
The sweet Italian liqueur is evidently one of the actor’s favourites – he ascribed his tipsy appearance on The View in 2006 to one too many limoncellos.
Unfortunately, in 2011, DeVito admitted that sales were flagging, while acknowledging that the whole endeavour had at least produced some good publicity for him.
DeVito’s net worth is currently estimated to be around $80 million, so we think he’ll be OK despite his failed booze business.
10. He moved in with future wife Rhea Perlman just two weeks after they met
While Devito and his wife Rhea Perlman are no longer together, the story of their initial romance is still undeniably very sweet.
The two met in 1971 after Perlman saw DeVito’s performance in a play called The Shrinking Bride.
After the show, fellow actress Perlman went out to eat with the cast and ended up sitting across from DeVito. The two were instantly smitten with each other.
“She was vibrant, with a great sense of humor, and real warm,” DeVito told People.
Just two weeks later, the pair moved into a Manhattan apartment that they sublet from Michael Douglas.
They married in 1982, around 10 years after they first met. Though they’ve since fallen out of love, DeVito and Perlman are still fierce friends.
9. He’s still married to Rhea Perlman, despite the two separating in 2017
DeVito and Rhea Perlman were together for 40 years and married for 30 before they sadly ended their relationship in 2017.
While they no longer live together, they have remained friends and do not plan to divorce.
“I’m not getting divorced,” the actress said on talkshow Watch What Happens Live in October 2019.
She went on: “That’s not in the picture, no, no, no. Not happening… what for? We do live separately. We see each other a lot, too.”
Perlman has claimed that the pair are “better friends than ever” after splitting in 2017.
The couple have three children together – Lucy, 36, Grace, 35, and Jake, 32.
8. He worked as a valet when he first moved to Hollywood
After seeing an advertisement for Hollywood auditions for a movie adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood, DeVito moved to Los Angeles in the 60s.
He wanted the role of Perry Smith, the killer the story centres around, but DeVito did not get the part.
Regardless, he stuck around in LA for a while: “I worked as a car parker and I hung around the Sunset Strip with all the flower children. I had long hair and I wore a raincoat and sneakers, and I fit right in,” he told Cigar Aficionado in 1996.
“But I wanted to act,” DeVito recalls. After being told that no one in LA would cast a five-foot-tall actor, he moved back to New York.
He pursued his dreams and worked in several off-Broadway shows, including a stage adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
It was this role which helped him land his big break in 1975, when he was cast as Martini in the film adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel.
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was his screen debut
Before he starred in Taxi, DeVito played Martini in the brilliant 1975, Oscar-winning film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
This was a part he already knew well from starring in the same role in the Broadway version, which opened in 1971.
In the book, show and film, Martini suffers from delusions, and is largely characterised as a sweet-natured and innocent man.
DeVito, producer Michael Douglas’ oldest friend, was the first to be cast in the film – way before his friend and leading man Jack Nicholson was signed up.
While the film features some particularly dark moments, it was the fishing trip scene which proved the most difficult to shoot for DeVito.
All of the cast – bar Nicholson – got seasick, and to this day DeVito claims he still suffers nightmares about the scene.
6. He voiced The Grundle King in the My Little Pony movie
DeVito has appeared in some classics in his time, and has even won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his work.
But his least famous role is potentially The Grundle King in My Little Pony: The Movie.
Released in 1986, the animated film follows a group of ponies living at Dream Castle.
DeVito’s character, The Grundle King, is the leader of the ‘Grundles’ – five ugly but well-meaning creatures.
The film also featured the voice of DeVito’s wife, Rhea Perlman.
DeVito went on to voice several other animated characters, including Phil in Disney’s 1997 hit Hercules.
5. He’s signed up for a Twins sequel called Triplets – and Eddie Murphy will co-star
It has recently been revealed that DeVito is going to star in a sequel to the classic 1988 comedy film Twins, which is unsurprisingly going to be called Triplets.
It will reunite Arnold Schwarzenegger and DeVito while also introducing Eddie Murphy into their rather strange family.
Schwarzenegger recently revealed that the script is finished and confirmed Murphy’s role in the film.
Which begs the question – when will this long-awaited sequel be released?
There’s been no word on filming starting, but with the script and cast good to go, it seems that an announcement is imminent.
4. His height is an effect of Fairbank’s disease
DeVito’s famously short height is the result of multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, otherwise known as Fairbank’s disease.
The disease is a rare genetic disorder that disrupts bone growth, and affects roughly 1 in 10,000 people.
DeVito stands at just 4’10”, while the average height for an American man is 5’9″.
Other prominent people with the condition include David Wetherill, British Paralympian, and Robert Reich, former United States Secretary of Labor.
DeVito seldom plays roles where his unique stature is acknowledged. However, the producers of Taxi did refer to DeVito’s height in the show.
“I couldn’t go to a store and get clothes right off the rack. So, I used to have to go to the large boys’ department. I told [producers] Ed [Weinberger] and Jim [Brooks] this story. We put that in the show. It’s always good to draw from your life if you can,” he told LA Mag earlier this year.