by Jason Koenigsberg
I started this column writing about Sean Connery, one of my favorite actors and one of the most legendary screen icons of all time. I would love to see him get back in front of the camera for at least one more film role. Now I plan to finish this column writing about another of my personal favorite actors that certainly is not in the same realm of greatness as Sir Sean Connery, but has carved out a nice thirty year career for himself and has since walked away from show business.
David Caruso started getting acting jobs in the early 80’s but he would first receive national attention for his supporting roles in two very big movies from 1982. He starred as a classmate of Richard Gere’s in An Officer and a Gentleman and as a deputy for Brian Dennehy’s sheriff as they hunted Sylvester Stallone in the original Rambo movie First Blood. His piercing blue eyes, low-key but intense voice, and red hair made David Caruso instantly recognizable. Throughout the rest of the 80’s he starred in small parts both in television and motion pictures.
For the next ten years Caruso worked consistently bouncing between roles on the big screen and the small screen but never getting a lead or star making performance. That all changed in 1993 when he was cast as the lead in the ABC cop drama NYPD Blue. The show was an instant success and David Caruso won the Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy on NYPD Blue. I guess the desire for stardom got to his head because Caruso would make one of the biggest career blunders of any big actor when he decided to leave NYPD Blue after only one season to focus on only making movies. Even on the set of NYPD Blue, Caruso was described by coworkers as “cancerous” and an “egomaniac”.
Instead of having a supporting role in a film David Caruso was finally the top billed actor in two major motion pictures in 1995. The problem was, nobody saw them. Kiss of Death flopped big time, and so did Jade a few months later. Which is a real shame because I think both of those films were very good adult crime dramas. They had all the elements to succeed yet failed to find an audience or garner any positive critical reception. Kiss of Death I think is David Caruso’s finest acting of his career. Leading a talented cast that included Nicolas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson, Helen Hunt and Stanley Tucci, and directed by Barbet Schroeder who was very much in demand after the successes of Reversal of Fortune (1990) and Single White Female (1992). Kiss of Death was tailored for Caruso’s strength’s to be a success. The only problem was, nobody cared and it died quickly at the box office. His performance as a reformed criminal trying to go straight but forced to work for the police to ensnare a volatile mobster is outstanding and he deserves to share the screen with the talented cast of Kiss of Death.
Jade was not as special, but still a good adult thriller with a loaded cast including Linda Fiorentino (also featured in this series of actors that retired too soon), Chazz Palminteri, Michael Biehn and fellow First Blood alum Richard Crenna. Directed by William (The Exorcist) Friedkin, Jade is often looked at as the work of a has-been and a star coasting on his bravado which is not entirely there. I thought it worked well but I realize I am in the minority.
After his dreams of a full time movie career failed to take off, David Caruso reluctantly returned to television with his tail between his legs for the CBS legal drama Michael Hayes (1997). That was cancelled after one season. He starred in some movies during the late 90’s and early 2000’s that were either low budget thrillers like Session 9 (2001) or supporting roles in big budget films like Russell Crowe’s partner in Proof of Life (2000) which was more famous for the real life affair between its stars Crowe and Meg Ryan. Then in 2002 he finally found success again, ironically on television, the medium he thought he was too good for. His role as Horatio Caine on CSI: Miami is probably the character he is most well known for. It makes sense because he was Horatio Caine for ten seasons and over 200 episodes on CSI: Miami. Since the show ended on CBS in 2012 David Caruso has done absolutely nothing. He has no imdb credits after CSI: Miami. This is peculiar but I suppose he made enough money from television that he does not have to act unless he wants to. He lives in Florida and had a girlfriend. They have two children together so perhaps he has resigned himself to the life of a family man. His sudden departure from the spotlight probably raised a lot of eyebrows placing a one time red hot actor into the “where are they now?” category. I would love to see Caruso return either as a character actor in films or make some appearances on television.