Right after his graduation, DeVito started working at the ‘Eugene O'Neill Theater Center’ in Waterford, Connecticut. After seeing an advertisement, he auditioned for a role in the film version of ‘In Cold Blood.’
DeVito did not get the part in the movie and started working as a car parker to earn his living. He soon moved back to New York, where he got parts to play in several off-Broadway plays.
In 1971, DeVito landed the role of Martini in the stage production of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.’ Four years later, Michael Douglas produced its film version and asked him to reprise his stage role.
DeVito auditioned for a new ‘NBC’ series titled ‘Taxi’ in 1978 and landed the part of the endearingly oppressive cab dispatcher, Louie De Palma. The show ran for five years and he won an ‘Emmy Award’ for ‘Best Supporting Actor.’
After ‘Taxi’ was taken off air, DeVito’s Hollywood career started with ‘Terms of Endearment’ in 1983. The movie, which starred actors like Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson, won five ‘Academy’ awards.
Now that his Hollywood career had started, DeVito gradually gained popularity among filmmakers. He became part of another successful venture titled ‘Romancing the Stone’ in 1984. The film was an action-adventure romantic comedy, starring his friend Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.
The following year, a sequel to ‘Romancing the Stone’ titled ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ released where all the actors reprised their respective roles. The movie turned out to be a commercial hit but failed to impress the critics.
In 1987, DeVito came up with his first directorial venture ‘Throw Momma from the Train,’ a dark comedy in which he also played a role. Inspired by Hitchcock’s ‘Strangers on a Train,’ the movie also starred actors like Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner.
DeVito once again joined hands with Michael Douglas for his next directorial venture ‘The War of the Roses’ in 1989, which was another black comedy. The movie was based on Warren Adler’s novel of the same name.
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In an attempt to avoid being stereotyped as a comedy actor, he starred in movies like ‘The Rainmaker’ (1997), ‘Hoffa’ (1992) – a biographical film which he also directed, ‘Heist’ (2001), etc.
During 2002-2003, DeVito directed two movies, ‘Death to Smoochy’ (2002), starring Robin Williams and Edward Norton, and ‘Duplex’ (2003), starring Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore. Both the movies were black comedies, a genre close to DeVito’s heart.
As DeVito was always interested in documentaries, he got into a partnership with Morgan Freeman's company ‘ClickStar’ in 2006, which gave him an opportunity to host a documentary channel called ‘Jersey Docs.’
In 2012, he debuted at the ‘West End’ in a play titled ‘The Sunshine Boys’ by Neil Simon. He acted in the play along with Richard Griffiths. The play previewed at the ‘Savoy Theatre’ for a 12-week season.
From 2012 to 2019, DeVito played many characters with different shades in several movies like ‘Hotel Noir’ (2012), ‘All the Wilderness’ (2014), ‘Weiner-Dog’ (2016), and ‘Dumbo’ (2019).
He returned to direction with the 2016 short comedy film ‘Curmudgeons’ in which he starred alongside David Margulies.
As a voice actor, DeVito has voiced several characters in movies, such as ‘Look Who’s Talking Now’ (1993), ‘Space Jam’ (1996), ‘Hercules’ (1997), ‘The Lorax’ (2012), ‘Animal Crackers’ (2017), and ‘Smallfoot’ (2018).
In 2019, he was cast to play important roles in movies like ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ and ‘Harry Haft.’ He was also selected to voice a character named Bob in a fantasy film titled ‘The One and Only Ivan.’