Born September 17, 1974, in Los Angeles, Giovanni Ribisi began his career in network television, with recurring and guest roles on a number of shows, including The Wonder Years. As a teenager, he was typecast for several years as a dimwitted slacker in films and on television, with a memorable guest spot in an episode of The X-Files and a recurring role as Lisa Kudrow's brother on Friends. Ribisi was eventually able to break the grunge mold, first with a secondary role in Tom Hanks' That Thing You Do! (1996) and then in Richard Linklater's SubUrbia (1997). It was his role in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998) that caused many critics to dub him one of the leading actors of his generation, a status confirmed by his appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair with a number of fellow up-and-comers. Ribisi was given further opportunities to showcase his sleepy-eyed versatility in such films as 1999's The Mod Squad and The Other Sister.
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If Ribisi's best roles had been unfairly weighed down by an overabundance of commendable but little seen roles in the previous years, all this would change as the young actor began to focus increasingly on roles that were not only high quality, but high profile as well. His role in the high stakes 2000 drama The Boiler Room may have went largely unseen in theaters, but healthy word of mouth combined with an impressive cast of up and comers found the film an enduring shelf life on cable and DVD. After burning rubber in the fast and furious Nicolas Cage action thriller Gone in Sixty Seconds, Ribisi's memorable performance in director Sam Raimi's southern gothic flavored chiller The Gift preceded a touching turn in the affecting made-for-television drama Shot in the Heart. Ribisi's subsequent role as a conflicted police officer in the 2002 drama Heaven may have been a well-intended commentary on the state of crime and terrorism, but audiences largel dismissed the effort as pretentious tripe and the actor took a brief turn into blockbuster territory with Basic before a turn as an aloof, celebrity obsessed photogapher in director Sophia Coppola's art-house hit Lost in Translation. If his turn as a celebrity who turns convention in its head by stalking a fan in I Love Your Work didn't strike home with viewers, an appearance in the same year's Cold Mountain offered him the chance to flex his dramatic skills alongside an impressive cast that included Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Of course Ribisi never was one to be predictable with his choice of roles, and following the romantic comedy Love's Brother he essayed a supporting role in the 2004 sci-fi thriller Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow. A handful of largely forgettable roles followed, and on the heels of recurring television roles in My Name is Earn and Entourage, Ribisi dove back into sci-fi with a role as villainous Chief Administrator Parker Selfridge in James Cameron's phenominally successful Avatar. And if Ribisi's performace in that film failed to make your skin crawl, his turn as a psychotic, heavily-tattooed drug dealer in the fast paced 2012 action thriller Contraband was sure to do the trick. He continued his villainous run as a stalker in the surprise hit film Ted (2012). Ribisi later re-teamed with his Ted director, Seth MacFarlane, in 2014's A Million Ways to Die in the West. He also appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Selma that same year. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi