Born in East Harlem, the young Al Pacino soon moved with his mother’s Sicilian family to the Bronx and, by all accounts, endured a rough childhood, fraught with drugs and schoolyard fights. The trajectory of his life turned around when he acted a street punk in the play The Indian Wants the Bronx alongside future Godfather co-star John Cazale and caught the attention of the agent who would manage his career well into his mid-70s, with starring roles in Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and other iconic films.
This Mean Girl star never fit the mold of the compliant child star, and her Bronx birth and Long Island upbringing almost certainly contributed to her indomitable personality and fiery performances in films that often parody her Hollywood reputation, like The Canyons and Machete.
While many stars from the Bronx yearn to escape and never look back, Out of Sight actress and legendary singer Jennifer Lopez (perhaps the Bronx’s biggest star) has never ceased giving back to her former community, founding the Center for a Healthy Childhood.
Oddly enough, the Oscar-nominated star of Brooklyn was born in the Bronx to Irish parents in 1994 and would rise to fame at a young age with a memorable role in Atonement. Ronan would come to an even wider audience in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The Bronx-born star of Some Like It Hot had his breakthrough performance in the original Sweet Smell of Success during a period when he was threatened by studio heads who disapproved of both his box office potential and his relationship with Janet Leigh, with whom he fathered actresses Kelly and Jamie Lee Curtis. But his career soon proved successful when Curtis was nominated for an Oscar for his role in The Defiant Ones.
Still probably best known for playing an exaggerated version of himself on 30 Rock, Morgan was born in Bronx, where he continued to live in posh Riverdale once his standup career took off, leading to a long-running stint on SNL. Morgan has worked consistently ever since, a true success story for a one-time drug dealer raised in the projects of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn.
George A. Romero
George A. Romero, the auteur behind the popular Dead franchise that became both a milestone in horror and independent film, was born in the Bronx and struggled as a young filmmaker. It was during this time that he made his most terrifying film to date for the Fred Rogers-helmed PBS children’s show: “Mr. Rogers Gets A Tonsillectomy.”
The star of Scandal, in which she plays damage control PR specialist Olivia Pope, Kerry Washington was born in Bronx, where she originally studied dance under fellow Bronx-born star Jennifer Lopez, training she utilized in early performances like Save The Last Dance.
Godfather and Thief star James Caan was born to German-Jewish immigrants in the Bronx; his father would later relocate his butcher business to Sunnyside, where Caan grew up. He attended Hofstra University, where he would meet like-minded Francis Ford Coppola, who directed him in The Rain People and in his career-making performance as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather.
The Golden Age Hollywood actress Anne Bancroft, perhaps known as seductress Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, was born in the Bronx and grew up in Belmont; her original trademark was the heavy Italian-American accent that would make her a Broadway mainstay with roles in Two For the Seesaw (co-starring with Henry Fonda) and The Miracle Worker.
One of the most talented and prolific actresses in the history of film, Lauren Bacall was born in the Bronx and attended lessons at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts alongside Kirk Douglas. But it is with Humphrey Bogart that she found her ideal partner, as a co-star in To Have and Have Not and Key Largo, and eventually as his wife. She continued to act late in life, returning to the screen in films Birth and Dogville (opposite Nicole Kidman) and even in an episode of The Sopranos.
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Born in the Bronx, the Oscar-winning star of Jerry Maguire and Boyz n’ the Hood relocated with his family to Los Angeles when his father’s soul group, The Main Ingredient, scored a hit with the song “Everybody Plays the Fool.” Cuba Gooding Jr. struggled to recreate his early success for years, during which he appeared in many straight-to-DVD films, but has lately made a comeback with critically acclaimed films like Selma and The Butler and particularly as O.J. Simpson in the first season of American Crime Story.