Born December 13, 1957, Steve Buscemi has mastered the art of the unforgettable character—and his own character is something to celebrate, too. In honor of his noteworthy niceness, join us in celebrating the kindest stars of stage and screen.
The brilliant actor who plays Nucky Thompson, the gangster/politician on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," is a regular guy from Brooklyn who remains unassuming and down to earth. A former firefighter, Steve Buscemi rejoined his old engine company as a volunteer after the attacks of 9/11 and worked 12-hour shifts, digging through the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center in search of missing firefighters. Enough said.
"The funniest guy I know … and I've never heard a bad word said about him," Larry David told Vanity Fair. Nora Ephron, who asked that he speak first at her memorial service, called Martin Short simply "the best person." One small example: Short's kindness in trying not to embarrass Kathie Lee Gifford in 2012 when she asked him about his 36-year marriage— unaware that his wife Nancy had died two years earlier.
The Foo Fighters frontman invited a girl with cerebral palsy to attend a video shoot, did a tour performing in fans' garages, and once left a $1,000 tip. In 2006, when he heard two miners trapped in a collapsed mine in Australia had requested the Foos' music, Dave Grohl sent them a message offering cold beers and free concert tickets when they got out—and delivered on that promise. That's why he's known as the Nicest Dude in Rock.
OK, so he's still feuding with William Shatner. But George Takei once appeared a couple of hours early at a press event just to sign a doll belonging to a sick fan who couldn't be there at the scheduled time. His family was among the Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during World War II, and for years he felt pressure to hide his sexuality. Yet the former "Star Trek" actor has emerged as a gay rights advocate and social media star without a trace of bitterness.
Photo by Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
Let's forget politics for a second. When Stephen Colbert was 10 years old, his father and two of his brothers were killed in a plane crash. How did the youngest of 11 children cope? By following the example of his mother, who was "Broken, yes. Bitter, no," Colbert told GQ just before he took over "The Late Show." Now that perspective and fundamental decency is evident on CBS every weeknight.
"If you have spinach in your teeth, I will tell you," Tim Gunn told Us magazine—but he'll do it so nicely. That's not just the role he plays on "Project Runway." Before venturing into reality TV, he spent 25 years giving patience, understanding and kind but firm direction to students at New York's Parsons School of Design. "Deep down inside," says Gunn, the son of an FBI agent, "I'm a Jewish mother."
Photo: Lifetime/promotional shot for "Project Runway"
"Good Deeds" isn't just the name of one of his films. Entertainment industry multitasker Tyler Perry is also known for his random acts of kindness—like sending 65 Philadelphia kids to Disney World and buying a specially equipped van for a Georgia woman with cerebral palsy after he saw a news report that her vehicle had been stolen. He can be a bit thin-skinned—as when he went off on Spike Lee—but Perry's generosity is undeniable.
"He's one of the nicest people I've ever met in my entire life," says the straight-shooting Rooney Mara, his co-star in the widely panned "Pan." Hugh Jackman is unfailingly considerate, remembers the names of every crew member and has been known to blush when he talks about Deborra Lee Furness, his wife of 20 years. "That nice guy stuff is boring," he recently complained to biography.com. Boring, maybe, but by all accounts true.
When Graham Nash published his 2013 memoir, Critics at Large warned readers not to expect a juicy tell-all: "Nash is too nice a guy, too gentle, too caring to hang his friends out to dry." The British singer-songwriter is the quintessential friend in need—he even stood by former bandmate David Crosby in very dark times, staying in touch with him in 1983 when Crosby was in prison.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Steve Carell is just plain likable, on screen and off. Mindy Kaling, who co-starred with him on "The Office," explained it this way: "His niceness manifests itself mostly in the fact that he never complains. You could screw up a handful of takes outside in 104-degree, smog-choked ... heat, and Steve Carell's final words before collapsing of heat stroke would be a friendly and hopeful 'Hey, you think you have that shot yet?'"
Photo: Universal Studios/still from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"
This summer Johnny Depp showed up, in full Captain Jack Sparrow regalia, at an Australian children's hospital where he stayed for two hours, hamming it up and posing for selfies. (Click here to watch a video of the event produced by Juiced TV, which makes shows for kids in hospitals.) A one-off publicity stunt? To the contrary: Depp routinely packs his pirate costume so he can make similar impromptu hospital visits.
It's not such a secret anymore, but the self-proclaimed King of All Media, famous for fart jokes and feuds with celebrities ranging from Jay Leno to Oprah Winfrey, is actually a warm and approachable family man—a mensch. If you still have doubts, check out this video compilation of his unexpected kindness as a judge on "America's Got Talent."
In the last year, Tom Hanks gave a New York cab driver free tickets to his Broadway show, stopped to buy cookies from a trio of Girl Scouts (and agreed to be photographed with a passing fan, but "only if you buy cookies from these young ladies") and, just this month, launched a Twitter campaign to return a lost ID card to a student he'd never met. Just the kind of guy he is.
"He's a good egg," says Patti Hansen, his wife of 32 years. True, Keith Richards is wildly outspoken, a former junkie and the personification of rock and roll. But ask any roadie or reporter and they'll tell you he's also a genuinely nice guy. You might assume his skull ring is just a badass trademark. In fact, Richards says he wears it to remind himself "that we're all the same under the skin."
Just check out these recent photos, which look like they could have been taken more than a decade ago
40 snapshots of the disco era's ultimate club, which opened exactly 40 years ago
15 things you should know about the first lady of song, born exactly a century ago
What it's like when you've lost that loving feeling
10 unlikely but inspiring celebrity friendships
Because most of us need the eggs