Biagio Anthony “Ben” Gazzara (born August 28, 1930) is an American actor in television and motion pictures.
Gazzara was born in New York City, the son of Italian immigrants Angelina (née Cusumano) and Antonio Gazzara, who was a laborer. Gazzara grew up on New York's tough Lower East Side. He attended New York City's famed Stuyvesant High School. He found relief from his bleak surroundings by joining a theater company at a very young age. Years later, he said that the discovery of his love for acting saved him from a life of crime during his teen years. Despite his obvious talent, he went to City College of New York to study electrical engineering. After two years, he relented. He took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator and afterwards joined the Actors Studio.
In the 1950s, Gazzara starred in various Broadway productions, most notably Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, directed by Elia Kazan. However, he lost out on the film role to Paul Newman. He was nominated three times for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play—in 1956 for A Hatful of Rain, in 1975 for the paired short plays Hughie and Duet, and in 1977 for a revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opposite Colleen Dewhurst.