Denis spells his name with one n, not two. But it's not just the unusual way that he spells his name that sets him apart from the rest of the up and coming actors. The famed actor/producer/musician/stand-up comic was born in 1958 and grew up in an Irish Catholic family. He was raised in Worcester, Massachusetts and while growing up he had his heart set on attending Emerson College in Boston, where he did some acting and writing. He became a charter member of Emerson's Comedy Workshop and upon his graduation, he went on to teach at Emerson for five years. During this time he had his first chance to perform stand-up comedy. Most recently, Denis' writing earned him publication in several magazines, ranging from Playboy to New York. Today he is a contributing editor at Details magazine.
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Awards and Accomplishments
In 1990, Denis and his wife Ann were on their way to London to perform in the BBC's Paramount City. However, their weekend trip turned into a much longer stay when Ann's water broke in London. Denis spent most of his time writing a one-man comedy act and later, he invited his friends from the United States to see him in London. Together, they wrote songs and material to perform on stage. The performance No Cure For Cancer won the Critic's Award and was honored with the BBC Festival Recommendation award. Denis, along with Chris Phillips and Adam Roth on guitar, performed No Cure For Cancer in Scotland at the Edinburgh International Arts Festival. The next year the show moved to the United States and was broadcast on Showtime. Due to the popularity of No Cure For Cancer, a book, videotape and CD/cassette quickly followed.
His acting debut goes back to 1991 when he starred in Strictly Business and his big break came when he played Gus, the smart-talking thief in The Ref. Most recently, Denis was awarded the 1997 Cable Ace Award for Best Director of a Comedy for Lust, a Showtime movie starring Annabella Sciorra. Denis jokes about his Cable Ace Award and acknowledges that they went out of business shortly after he was given his award, "Obviously they realized, 'If we're going to start giving them out to guys like Leary, what's the point?'" said Denis.
After winning respect as a director, Denis chose to focus on his acting career, and starred in Barry Levinson's Wag the Dog. In this film he worked with Hollywood giants including Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman. Suicide Kings starring Denis and Christopher Walken, is another one of his films, and he made a cameo appearance in Tom Dicillo's The Real Blonde.
The creative partnership of Denis and director Ted Demme began with MTV spots, the critically acclaimed The Ref, No Cure for Cancer, and Leary's Lock 'N Load, a one-man show that was watched by over 16 million HBO viewers last November. And then there was the 1999 film Two If By Sea, a romantic comedy co-starring Sandra Bullock. Denis' first independent feature Love Walked In debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and was described by the Boston Globe as "One of the few contemporary rejiggerings of the genre that achieves classica noir status." His second independent feature Monument Ave. emerged this year from Apostle -- Leary's production entity. Last year, Denis starred in the remake of the 1968 original The Thomas Crown Affair, a romantic comedy featuring Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo and Faye Dunaway.
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