The Stunning Transformation Of Marisa Tomei

While many audiences these days know Marisa Tomei as the newest Aunt May to Tom Holland's Peter Parker in the current "Spider-Man" films, the actress has had a long and successful career in Hollywood. Tomei got her start in soap operas when she starred as Marcy Thompson on "As The World Turns." Her Oscar win for best supporting actress following her role in "My Cousin Vinny" was huge, and many believed it would set Tomei up for a long, successful career.

Truthfully, that has been the case. While Tomei has recently expressed regret over the current direction of her career, telling Collider that she "regrets" taking on roles that are maternal in nature, it's hard to argue that she hasn't enjoyed a level of success that many actors and actresses only dream of.

Tomei has also often captured public interest for the fact that she's often expressed having no interest in being married or having children, instead focusing on her career and making work her "life force" (per Closer Weekly). Here's a glimpse at the transition one of Hollywood's greatest has gone through, from co-starring with real-life roommate Lisa Bonet to her time as Marvel's Aunt May.

Maria Tomei began training as an actor from a young age

Marisa Tomei was born in Brooklyn, New York City. She got into acting early, telling RoundAbout Theatre that her technical training included plenty of non-acting sources and inspirations, including "literature, feminist studies, spiritual texts" and tap dancing. Tomei also mentioned that she regularly works with fellow actress Kate McGregor-Stewart, whom she met in her early 20s when she was just starting out as an actor. The relationship has had an invaluable impact on Tomei's career. She says the two have "had a life long relationship of pondering plays and movie scripts and laughing and learning together."

Things really kicked off for Tomei as an actress when she made the decision to drop out of college and pursue acting full time. She told NPR in 2010 that while most people associate her first role with her time on the soap opera "As The World Turns," she actually earned a small part in the movie "The Flamingo Kid" first. As she explained, she filmed "The Flamingo Kid" in the summer between classes and then asked her parents what she should do.

Tomei says, "I talked with my parents about it, and my mom ... said stay in school, and my father said, take this chance. And so I took the chance." Obviously, it worked out well for her.

Marisa Tomei and Lisa Bonet were real-life roommates

As fans of "A Different World" know, Marisa Tomei co-starred alongside Lisa Bonet on the show. Their characters were roommates on the show, and it turns out the arrangement mirrored their real-life living situation. As IMDb notes, they lived together off-set as well. It turns out the twosome really hit it off, and Tomei is godmother to all three of Bonet's children (per PopSugar).

Both Bonet and Tomei eventually left the show, though for very different reasons. As actress Dawnn Lewis told Vanity Fair, while Bonet's departure was personal (the actress was pregnant with her first daughter, Zoe Kravitz, and show creators didn't want to write the pregnancy in), Tomei was asked to leave after the show shifted direction. Lewis said that the show's creators "wanted to go in a different direction culturally, which meant Marisa was also gone. She and Lisa are incredible women, and they were so much fun to work with. It was sad for me — because we had started this journey together — for them to not be there anymore."

Whatever might have happened behind the scenes, it's clear that Tomei has a lot of fond memories of the show. Tomei admitted to HipHollywood that filming the show was "one of the most fun times in my life."

Her big break was My Cousin Vinny

When Marisa Tomei landed the role of Mona Lisa Vito in 1992's "My Cousin Vinny," it's likely that she didn't realize doing so would also land her an Academy Award. While chatting with The Guardian in 2017, Tomei marveled at the fact that 25 years had elapsed between when she filmed the movie and the interview, and then shed a little light on how she got the role.

Tomei explained, "It's such a funny movie and it really holds up. I was fresh to the business and didn't know how movies worked but Joe [Pesci] chose me for the part, then took me by the hand and guided me immensely, so I got very lucky." She added that she even keeps her Oscar for best supporting actress at home in her library.

Since that win, Tomei has been nominated for the same award twice more. She told the publication that it often feels like she is "a leading actress caught in a supporting actress vortex," implying that she certainly believes she has the acting chops for weightier roles. It's certainly easy to see why she feels that way; as The Guardian notes, Tomei followed up her Oscar win with "a string of middling '90s comedy-dramas" such as "Only You," "Slums of Beverly HIlls," and "What Women Want."

Marisa Tomei has also dabbled in TV and played herself on Seinfeld

In addition to her time on "A Different World," Marisa Tomei has also had experience on other television shows, including the still-beloved comedy series, "Seinfeld." Tomei appeared in a two-episode arc titled "The Cadillac" in Season 7, playing herself as the love interest of George Costanza. 

Tomei later told The Guardian that she ended up on the show because the team really liked her name. No, really! She says, "They just liked the way my name sounded. [Writer] Larry David told me: 'When you say your name over and over, it has a really strong rhythm: Marisa Tomei ... Marisa Tomei.'" For her part, Tomei was happy to do the show alongside friend Jason Alexander, saying that whenever they bump into each other, they still talk about the experience.

After "Seinfeld," Tomei enjoyed another television role, though this time she was an animated addition to "The Simpsons." In the episode, Tomei plays a film star who has her sights set on Ned Flanders.

She received two more Oscar nominations

In 2001, Marisa Tomei joined the cast of "In The Bedroom." Unlike many of her films, she didn't have a lot of time to prepare. As she told The GW Hatchet, director Todd Field called her up, gave her the role, and then told her she had three days to create the character. And what a character she was! In the movie, Tomei stars as a divorced mom of two who has accidentally played a role in the death of her ex-boyfriend.

Tomei admits that she was worried about putting the role together, but Field found a local woman with a similar backstory who was willing to share her life to help Tomei create the character she wanted. She told The GW Hatchet that thkind of work is part of the job for her. Tomei explained, "To be an actor you are incredibly vulnerable and you are opening yourself up." Clearly, something worked, because she was subsequently nominated for the Oscar for best supporting actress for a second time.

Seven years later, Tomei took on Darron Aronofsky's "The Wrestler." As The Guardian notes, this time around, she was playing character who was new to her in a whole different way: A single mom and sex worker who had a lot of nude scenes. She found herself nominated for the best supporting actress prize again, though a win for Tomei wasn't in the cards that year either.

The actress isn't interested in marriage or having children

Since she's a famous woman in Hollywood, it seems that the public can't help but fixate on Marisa Tomei's personal life, especially her stance on marriage and kids: She doesn't need (or want) either of them. While speaking to Closer Weekly, a friend told the publication that getting married and having kids "wasn't something she ever truly pursued — even in her twenties. Work has really been her life force."

The friend added that part of Tomei's current success might be due to the fact that she has more freedom to pursue roles she wants to take. After all, as the friend says, "She is living life to the fullest and getting offers other actors would kill for." This echoes something Tomei herself said when she told Manhattan Magazine (via Glamour U.K.), "I'm not that big a fan of marriage as an institution, and I don't know why women need to have children to be seen as complete human beings."

Of course, that doesn't mean she hasn't come close. In 2013, Glamour U.K. reported that Tomei was engaged to her boyfriend at the time, fellow actor Logan Marshall Green. At the time, a friend told Glamour U.K. that Tomei was "very happy" about the engagement, though it's now clear that things didn't work out for the pair. The following year, Tomei was spotted out and about alongside boyfriend Josh Radnor (per the Daily Mail). 

She was cast as Aunt May in Spider-Man in 2017

After being recommended by former co-star (and ex-boyfriend) Robert Downey Jr, Marisa Tomei took on the role of Aunt May in the Tom Holland-driven "Spider-Man" films in 2017 (per The Guardian). Tomei told The Guardian that the experience of working with Marvel is a little like the days of old Hollywood, explaining, "It's so old-fashioned in a way: proper spectacle, gloriously larger than life. 'Spider-Man' comes with fervent fans and intense scrutiny. They keep the script so secret, you have to give back your pages at the end of the day."

Tomei has admitted that when she was first approached for the role, she was focused on negotiating a great deal with Marvel — and she had no idea how Aunt May has been portrayed in the past, which is as quite an older woman. She told the New York Times that seeing the illustration of her character, who Marvel kept praising as being "iconic," crushed her. Clearly, Tomei negotiated a reality that meant Aunt May has been portrayed as younger, more vibrant, and as a hugely influential role in Peter Parker's life.

Despite that, it seems that when it comes to her family, the only person who really cares that Tomei is in a "Spider-Man" movie is her six-year-old nephew. As she puts it, "I mean, honestly, I don't think anyone's too impressed with me" (via YouTube).

Marisa Tomei took time to perform on stage in 2019

In 2019, Marisa Tomei returned to her theatrical roots when she performed in "The Rose Tattoo." At the time, Tomei told Roundbaout Theatre that she took on the role to hopefully bring some light to the world. Of course, this was before the ongoing health crisis, which makes her explanation all the more poignant in hindsight. As she put it, "I think it's important to do this play now because the play's mysticism and poetry are extremely uplifting, especially in the context of the intense grief in our world right now."

Tomei also enjoyed the role because it allowed her to lean into her Italian roots. It turns out the actress is a quarter Sicilian, but as she told the theatre company, that lineage wasn't always celebrated at home. She added, "Through this play, I reclaimed Sicily and a part of my mother's lineage."

Tomei also infamously teamed up with Oscar Isaac when the pair performed a reading of "Beirut," a one-act play featuring a sexually explicit scene, via Zoom in April 2020, which many people online were quite enthusiastic about. As you might suspect, their performance had a decidedly ... different reception (via Pajiba).

Marisa Tomei played Pete Davidson's mom in 2020

In 2020, Marisa Tomei took on the role of mother to Pete Davidson's character in the semi-biographical film, "The King of Staten Island." She told Vogue that the part definitely required some research, and she was lucky that she could tap into the mind and heart of Pete's actual mom, Amy Davidson. Tomei admitted that she called Amy up quite a few times to understand how she was so patient with Pete in real life, adding, "I could not wrap my head around how patient she is, but she's a very different person than I am."

Pete admitted to the magazine that Tomei was the first and only person that the team had in mind for the role, saying, "I wanted her to do whatever she wanted because she's amazing and brings so much to the table." 

Taking the role was a curious choice for Tomei, as around the same time period she lamented making the decision to Collider, saying that she's not sure taking on "mom roles" was the best idea. As she put it, "I really regret starting down this road and I really regret starting to do that. I was, you know, talked into it ... that change, and I really always felt like, 'Oh, I could play a lot of things.'"