The veteran character actor, whose roles in The Sopranos, The Big Lebowski and more than 150 film and TV productions have stamped him as instantly recognizable, could have stayed out of the fray.
Yet it was his time as a former NYC firefighter that drew him down to the former World Trade Center site on September 11, 2001. Buscemi has been reluctant to talk about his experiences, but opened up this week on the podcast WTF With Marc Maron.
“I was depressed, I was anxious, I couldn’t make a simple decision,” said the 63-year-old Buscemi. He worked as firefighter in the 1980s before becoming a big-time actor. Buscemi said he called the firehouse multiple times on 9/11, but after getting no answer, headed down to the site.
He found his old engine company working there.
“I asked if I could join them,” he said, adding, “I could tell they were a little suspicious at first, but I worked with them that day.”
From there, he lasted five days of 12-hour shifts, helping where he could on the massive recovery tasks.
“I haven’t experienced any health issues, and I get myself checked out — but definitely, yeah, post-traumatic stress? Absolutely,” Buscemi said. “I was only there for like five days, but when I stopped going and tried to just live my life again, it was really, really hard.”
He still feels those moments when anniversaries or questions about the time trigger him.
“There are times when I talk about 9/11 and I’m right back there,” he told Maron. “I start to get choked up and I realize, ‘Ah, this is still a big part of me.’ “
Buscemi has contributed to several film projects about the 9/11 events, including co-producing A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY, a 2014 docmentary about NYC firefighters that describes their experiences.
Buscemi also served as executive producer of Dust: The Lingering Legacy of 9/11, which discusses the ongoing health problems faced by firefighters who were at Ground Zero.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.