Fast Facts

  • Met his wife, actor Lisa Benavides, while they were both attending The Juilliard School.
  • First big-screen appearance was in Nora Ephron's 1991 drama This Is My Life.
  • Made his feature writing and directing debut in 1997 with Eye of God.
  • O, a violent, teen-oriented adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello that Nelson directed in 1999, was shelved for two years following a series of school shootings.
  • Breakout film role was the dim-witted Delmar in the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000).
  • Contributed vocals to "In the Jailhouse Now," a track from the Grammy-winning O Brother soundtrack.
  • Produced plays he has written include The Grey Zone, Eye of God and Anadarko.


  • 2006, Critics' Choice Awards — Best Acting Ensemble: Nominee
  • 1998, Independent Spirit Awards — Someone to Watch Award: Nominee
  • 2001, Grammy — Album of the Year: Winner


  • Lisa Benavides — Wife
  • Elijah — Son
  • Henry — Son
  • Ruth Kaiser Nelson — Mother
  • Teddy — Son


  • Brown University, Providence, RI (BA in Classics, 1986); The Juilliard School, New York, NY (1990)