James Howard Woods (born April 18, 1947) is an American film, stage and television actor. Woods is known for starring in films such as Once Upon a Time in America, Ghosts of Mississippi, Casino, Hercules, and in legal drama Shark. He has won two Emmy Awards, and has gained two Academy Award nominations.
Woods was born in Vernal, Utah. His father, Gail Peyton Woods, was an army intelligence officer who died in 1960 following routine surgery. His mother, Martha A. (née Smith), operated a pre-school after her husband's death and re-married to Thomas E. Dixon. Woods grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, where he attended Pilgrim High School.
Woods chose to pursue his undergraduate studies at MIT, where he majored in political science (though he originally planned on a career as a surgeon). While at MIT, Woods pledged to Theta Delta Chi Fraternity. He was also an active member of the student theatre group "Dramashop" where he both acted in and directed a number of plays. He dropped out of MIT in 1969 just before his graduation in order to pursue a career in acting. Woods has said that he became an actor because of the father of Ben Affleck, Tim Affleck, who was a stage manager at the Theatre Company of Boston while Woods was at MIT.