The Flamingo Kid (1984)
Born in Brookyln to an Italian-American brood, Marisa Tomei fell in love with acting as a youngster. Taken to Broadway shows by her theatre-loving parents, she decided at a young age that she wanted to become a professional actress.
Her high school stage productions included How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying , but it wasn’t until she was 20 that Tomei made her movie debut, landing a small role in this Matt Dillon comedy.
Award Worthy? A modest debut, nothing flashy.
The Toxic Avenger (1984)
Tomei’s sophomore filmic outing wasn’t quite so prestigious as her debut, the young actress landing an uncredited role in Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman’s icky, cult-y comedy horror.
Released under the radar and only gaining cult status years later, Toxic Avenger follows a Health Club worker who ends up in a vat of toxic waste and transforms into a superhero. Tomei appears as Health Club Girl, wearing only a towel.
Award Worthy? We’re sure she’d swipe the Best Scream gong at the MTV Awards if this was released now.
As The World Turns (1984)
As her acting career began to gather momentum, Tomei decided to drop out of university. She originally enrolled at Boston University, but after bagging a role in this soap she transferred to New York University. A year later, she dropped higher education altogether.
Not that she needed it. In the end, Tomei appeared in only one episode of the long-running soap as Marcy Thompson Cushing, a dim-witted teenager who accuses Bob Hughes of sexual harassment.
Award Worthy? The role’s certainly controversial enough to be an awards magnet.
Playing For Keeps (1986)
Tomei breaks good ground, managing to bag a spot on this comedy’s poster. Sadly, the movie was a critical flop.
The plot follows the endeavours of high school graduate Danny, who discovers the deed for a huge house and dreams of transforming it into a rock n’ roll hotel. With the help of his buddies – and Tomei’s Tracy – he attempts to make his dream a reality.
Award Worthy? Charming enough, but not exactly awards bait.
A Different World (1987)
After appearing in a failed pilot entitled Leg Work , Tomei landed regular work the very same year with this Cosby Show spin-off. She appeared in the show’s first season as student Maggie Lauten, a student at Hillman College.
Tomei was dropped after just one season, alongside a whole host of her co-stars, when new showrunners came in and lead actress Lisa Bonet departed after falling pregnant. The show ran for five more years.
Award Worthy? Very promising signs of comedy potential. Shame she got the boot.
Glitch! Tomei received a Golden Raspberry nomination for her supporting performance in John Landis’ Depression era comedy. That’ll teach her for signing on to a Sylvester Stallone film.
Tomei plays Lisa, the spoiled daughter of gangster Angelo ‘Snaps’ (Stallone), who dreams of travelling the world but is forbidden by her father. In a desperate bid for freedom, Lisa lies that she’s pregnant and attempts to break free from the family house. Needless to say, the film bombed with critics.
Award Worthy? Sadly the wrong kind of award.
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Tomei catches an updraft, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in this courtroom comedy – fitting considering her father was a trial lawyer.
Atoning for that mean-spirited Raspberry, Tomei proves she's capable of rising above the backlash with a role that showcases her precision comedy timing. She’s the fiancée of the titular Vinny (Joe Pesci), a bad-mouthed irascible attorney who travels to Alabama to help his cousin, who’s been convicted of murder.
Award Worthy? Yep, she won the big one.
Untamed Heart (1993)
Tomei takes the lead for the first time, taking a break from comedy to co-star with Christian Slater in this romantic drama.
She’s Caroline, a young waitress who’s never had any luck with men. When two brutes attack and attempt to rape her, Caroline’s saved by shy busboy Adam (Slater). The two grow close, but Caroline’s devastated when she learns Adam’s got a heart defect.
Award Worthy? MTV lavish Tomei with love, awarding her smooch with Christian Slater the Best Kiss gong.
The Paper (1994)
Tomei dons a giant fake pregnancy pad to play the preggers wife of New York tabloid editor Henry (Michael Keaton), who loves his job, but is finding the long hours and low pay hard to handle.
Meanwhile, Martha (Tomei) is unhappy at how much time Henry spends away from his family. When Henry’s offered a big new job with more money, he finds himself facing a tough decision – especially when he stumbles onto a white hot story that could change his life...
Award Worthy? No awards for Tomei, but Randy Newman’s score was nominated for an Oscar.
Only You (1994)
A pre-second wind Robert Downey Jr. stars opposite Tomei in this romantic comedy from director Norman Jewison. Tomei nabbed the role from first choice Bridget Fonda.
She plays Faith, who uses a Ouija board to discover the name of her one true love. Fourteen years later she's unhappily married. But when she discovers a man with the name her Ouija predicted, she’s whisked off to Italy for a chance at happiness. A warm, fuzzy romcom that benefits from the involvement of Tomei and Downey Jr.
Award Worthy? Not really.