He was born in Astoria, Queens, in a big Italian family. His father, Sal, was born in southern Italy, and though his mother, Maria (neé Rulli), was born in America, her family came from southern Italy as well. When Robert was five, the family, including Grandpa Stefano and his wife, Michelina, moved to a two-story brick house on a rural patch of Long Island. With three generations living under the same roof, the common language at the table was frequently Italian, so he speaks fluent Italian.
He went to Catholic primary schools on Long Island as a kid and then to Seton Hall, a Catholic high school in Patchogue (Long Island), New York. While he shone in sports at school, and he was a school standout in football and baseball, at home he was exposed to a different sort of calling: music. Opera and classical music filled the Davi house, with Puccini being a family favorite. At school young Robert gravitated toward classes in drama and oratory and at home he often played the family clown; he began acting formally in the ninth grade with one of his first roles being in a school production of Macbeth.
His move into music came soon thereafter, when he found he had a voice for opera; his mother encouraged him to give it a try but the clincher was that All the pretty Irish girls were in the glee club. Still in high school, he had begun entering local competitions for dramatic interpretation... and he began winning prizes. The duality would last until he damaged his voice.
When he was 16, Robert contracted a mysterious illness, with severe pain in his right arm and joints, combined with bad congestion and inflammation in his chest and lungs that made him lost over 40 pounds. There was no definitive diagnosis, even though he got better. The illness ultimately gave him a clearer sense of purpose and direction, made him drop out of sports and he plunged headlong into theater arts.
With a drama scholarship, he attended Hofstra University and began working with its famous Shakespeare program, which includes a campus replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theater, but he became frustrated so he moved to Manhattan where he worked as a waiter and at a fruit-and-vegetable stand, while living in a cheap railroad flat and taking classes at Julliard. And he held a larger ambition: to work with the great Stella Adler. He ended up studying with Adler for three years and also studied with Lee Strasberg as a member of the Actors Studio. During his apprenticeship, he acted in a rich variety of plays, from Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull to Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He also got involved in the start-up opera company Long Island's Lyric Opera Company.
In 1978, when Davi was 24 and still looking for his breakthrough role, he heard about an audition for a movie starring the Italian kid from Hoboken who was his family's hero and his mother's heartthrob. Told to come back the next day with a photo and résumé, Davi instead raced home, got the photo and résumé and came right back. The tactic worked; he was assigned an audition time immediately. He landed the part, of course, went to Los Angeles and played the role of Mickey Sinardos playing opposite Frank Sinatra in the detective drama Contract on Cherry Street.
Davi never moved back to New York. He began working regularly, in the TV miniseries From Here to Eternity and The Gangster Chronicles, about the beginnings of the mob, and got several small roles in a number of feature films. Those years constituted a very painful period of his life because, between 1977 and 1979, his parents, his sister and two of his grandparents died.
His roles during this period and into the 80s were not stupendous, playing bad guys on TV in popular series like The Fall Guy, The A-Team and Wiseguy. Having been mostly a supporting actor, his first lead role came then as a Palestinian terrorist in the award-winning TV movie Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami, Davi used this time to hone his acting and developed a flair for foreign accents. His gift for music was a definite asset in this regard and so was his childhood facility with Italian. To prepare for a role with a foreign accent, Davi starts by immersing himself in the music of his character's country of origin because, as he explains The music gives you a blood rhythm; you have to feel the language, not just get the words right.
His performance in Terrorist impressed the producers of the James Bond series, and they cast him in the high-profile role of Franz Sanchez in License to Kill. To prepare, Davi immersed himself in Colombian music and culture, and in search of authenticity and feel he even met with the architect of the home of the fabled drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The research and hard work paid off; he gave a convincing, and chilling, portrayal of Sanchez. The role also gave Davi a taste of the international big time; he was on the road promoting the movie worldwide for 4 ½ months.
That role helped to cement the vision of Davi as one of the film industry's most recognized tough guys, whether on the big screen or on television, as did roles such as Vietnam veteran and Special Agent Johnson in Die Hard and as the frustrated by-the-book Police Chief Philip Heinemann in Predator 2. After that, he occasionally broke out of the pattern and appeared in comedies and dramas.
His first leading good guy part was in 1996 as FBI Task Force director Bailey Malone in the drama The Profiler; a stickler for research as always, Davi contacted Quantico and arranged to meet Bill Hagenmeyer, the real-life FBI profiler. Later he landed a recurring role as the erstwhile Genii military leader, Commander Acastus Kolya, on Stargate Atlantis. And he even went so far as to star in the comedies The 4th Tenor and The Hot Chick.
In 2002, Davi appeared in The Sorcerer's Apprentice as Merlin, lent his voice to the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, experience he would repeat with the video games Halo 2 and Halo 3. The same year he produced and starred in Hitters (2002), a film that takes a realistic look at the struggles that occur within a neighborhood mob crew.
He directed his first feature film, a doo-wop/heist movie called The Dukes, receiving great acclaim at European film festivals in the fall of 2007. More recently he accepted guest star roles in the TV series Nip/Tuck and Criminal Minds.
Besides work and family, Davi stays busy volunteering his time in such charities such as The Dream Foundation, Exceptional Children's Foundation, Heart Of A Child Foundation, The National Italian-American Foundation, Unico, and he is the national spokesperson for I Save America.
He portrayed Detective Eric Kurzbard in the Season Five finale episode Our Darkest Hour and in the Season Six premiere episode The Longest Night. His song "Day In-Day Out" was later featured in the Season Seven episode Snake Eyes.
- The Irishman (2011) - Ray Ferrito
- Game of Death (2010) - Smith
- Spring Break '83 (2010) - Dean Whitter
- One in the Gun (2010) - Vincent
- Criminal Minds - Our Darkest Hour and The Longest Night (2010) TV episodes - Detective Eric Kurzbard
- Ballistica (2010) - Macarthur
- Nip/Tuck - Christian Troy II (2010) TV episode - Christian's Dad
- Spring Break '83 (2010) - Dean Whitter
- Magic Man (2009) - Simpson
- The Butcher (2009) - Murdoch
- Stargate: Atlantis - 6 episodes (2004-2008) TV episodes - Commander Acastus Kolya
- An American Carol (2008) - Aziz
- Halo 3 (2007) (VG) (voice) - Shipmaster
- The Dukes (2007) - Danny
- Scarface: The World Is Yours (2006) (VG) (voice)
- Huff - Which Lip Is the Cervical Lip? (2006) TV episode - Dickins
- In the Mix (2005) - Fish
- Breaking Vegas (2005) TV series - Narrator (unknown episodes)
- The Plot to Kill Nixon (2005) - Narrator
- Halo 2 (2004) (VG) (voice) - SpecOps Leader
- Karen Sisco - No One's Girl (2004) TV episode - Denton
- Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss (2004) - Ivan Nagy
- One Last Ride (2003) - Father
- Hitters (2002) - Nick
- The Hot Chick (2002) - Stan
- The 4th Tenor (2002) - Ierra
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002) (VG) (voice) - Colonel Juan Garcia Cortez
- Verdict in Blood (2002) - Wade Waters
- The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2002) - Merlin/Milner
- Soulkeeper (2001) - Mallion
- Profiler - 82 episodes (1996-2000) TV episodes - Agent Bailey Malone
- The Pretender - End Game (1999) and Spin Doctor (2000) TV episode - Agent Bailey Malone
- My Little Assassin (1999) - Frank Sturgis
- Batman Beyond - Heroes (1999) TV episode (voice) - Magma/Dr. Mike Morgan
- The Bad Pack (1997) - McQue
- The Beneficiary (1997) - Gil Potter
- An Occasional Hell (1996) - Trooper Larry Abbott
- For Which He Stands (1996) - Carlito Escalara
- Absolute Aggression (1996) - R. D. Crowley
- The Zone (1995) - Rowdy Welles
- Showgirls (1995) - Al Torres
- The Dangerous (1995) - Billy Davalos
- Delta of Venus (1995) (voice) - The Collector
- Codename: Silencer (1995) - Eddie Cook
- VR.5 - Simon's Choice (1995) TV episode - Simon Buchanan
- Cyber Vengeance (1995) - R.D. Crowley
- Blind Justice (1994) - Alacran
- Cops and Robbersons (1994) - Osborn
- The November Men (1994) (unaccredited) - Robert Davi
- No Contest (1994) - Sergeant Crane
- Quick (1993) - Matthew Davenport
- Son of the Pink Panther (1993) - Hans Zarba
- Night Trap (1993) - Mike Turner
- Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993) - Det. Sean McKinney
- Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) - Martin Pinzon
- Illicit Behavior (1992) - Lt. Matt Walker
- Center of the Web (1992) - Richard Morgan
- Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue (1991) - Sully
- FBI: The Untold Stories - Undercover (????) TV episode - Donnie Brasco/Joe Pistone
- The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991) - Robert Masterson
- White Hot: The Mysterious Murder of Thelma Todd (1991) - Lucky Luciano
- Legal Tender (1991) - Fix Cleary
- Under Surveillance (1991)
- Predator 2 (1990) - Captain Phil Heinemann
- Amazon (1990) - Dan
- Maniac Cop 2 (1990) - Det. Sean McKinney
- Peacemaker (1990) - Det. Sgt. Frank Ramos
- Deceptions (1990) - Jack 'Harley' Kessler
- Wiseguy - 5 episodes (1989) TV episodes - Albert Cerrico
- License to Kill (1989) - Franz Sanchez
- Traxx (1988) - Aldo Palucci
- Die Hard (1988) - FBI Special Agent Big Johnson
- L.A. Law - Leapin' Lizards (1988) TV episode - Dominic Simonetti
- Action Jackson (1988) - Tony Moretti
- Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami (1988) - Salim Ajami
- Wild Thing (1987) - Chopper
- Raw Deal (1986) - Max Keller
- The Equalizer - Wash-Up (1986) TV episode - Michael Riegert
- Hunter - Million Dollar Misunderstanding (1985) TV episode - Sonny Dunbar
- The Goonies (1985) - Jake Fratelli
- City Heat (1984) - Nino
- The A-Team - Sheriffs of Rivertown (1984) TV episode - Boyle
- The Fall Guy - The Molly Sue (1983) - Scar De Bond and Dead Bounty (1984) TV episode - Dan Kowal
- Hart to Hart - Always, Elizabeth (1984) TV episode - Tony Bairos
- T.J. Hooker - Second Chance (1982) - Joseph Picartus and Exercise in Murder (1984) TV episode - Tom Warfield
- Bay City Blues - Beautiful Peoples and Zircons Are Forever (1983) TV episodes
- The Rousters (1983) - Norman Clayton
- The Optimist - Burning Rubber (1983) TV episode - The Cabbie
- Bring 'Em Back Alive - The Shadow Women of Chung Tai (1983) TV episode
- St. Elsewhere - Samuels and the Kid and Legionnaires: Part 2 (1982) TV episodes - Patrick
- Hill Street Blues - Stan the Man (1982) TV episode - Stan Mizell
- The Powers of Matthew Star - The Italian Caper (1982) TV episode - Zealotta
- Shannon - Gotham Swansong (1981) TV episode
- The Gangster Chronicles (1981) TV series - Vito Genovese
- Dynasty - The Honeymoon (1981) TV episode - Amos
- Gangster Wars (1981) - Vito Genovese
- Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story (1980) - Hubbard
- Rage! (1980) - Resident #1
- The $5.20 an Hour Dream (1980) - Bobby Jim
- Nick and the Dobermans (1980) - Lieut. Anthony Elbone
- Trapper John, M.D. - Licensed to Kill (1979) TV episode - Officer Ed Buxton
- Barnaby Jones - False Witness (1979) TV episode - Pete Cerilla
- The Incredible Hulk - The Slam (1979) TV episode - Rader
- Lou Grant - Slammer (1979) TV episode - Hector
- The Legend of the Golden Gun (1979) - William Quantrill
- From Here to Eternity (1979) TV mini-series - Guard
- ...And Your Name Is Jonah (1979) - Dickie
- Charlie's Angels - Mother Angel (1978) TV episode - Ritchie
- Contract on Cherry Street (1977) - Mickey Sinardos, Greek hijacker
- Ballistica (2010) (executive producer)
- Magic (2010) (producer)
- The Dukes (2007) (producer)
- Hitters (2002) (producer)
- Magic (2010)
- The Dukes (2007)
- The Dukes (2007) (writer)
- The November Men (1994) (presentation)
- For an up-to-date Filmography: imdb.com/Robert Davi
- Davi is often described as funny, light-hearted guy and a perpetual prankster with a love for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
- His maternal grandfather, Stefano Rullo, was a colorful character who had a big impact on Robert as he grew up. Stefano worked for a while laying railroad track in the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania and also worked for a while as a bootlegger.
- Davi is not a casual cigar smoker; he's a passionate devotee and has been since long before cigars became high chic in the Hollywood of the 90s. In his work in movies and television, Davi also likes to have a cigar in hand, to help him add a distinctive flair to his many memorable characterizations of heavies and bad guys.