Profile: Danny DeVito

Hamish Smith tracks the career of Hollywood superstar Danny DeVito to the launch of his beloved limoncello brand

"All of my close friends love limoncello,” says Danny DeVito. “You know who they are…” Not many people can get away with a line like that, but he’s right, I could probably guess at a few. “…From George Clooney, to Michael Douglas to Jack Nicholson…” he obliges, erasing any conceivable doubt. 

Danny Devito’s Limoncello is not only the toast of Hollywood’s inner circle. The eponymous brand launched in the US in 2007 but is now circling global markets, capitalising on DeVito’s stature (not physical) and Italian name. But let’s head back to Beverly Hills – it would be remiss not to indulge in a little celebrity digging. I wonder, for instance, which of DeVito’s Hollywood pals is known to like a lemon liqueur tipple too many? Or, as I put it to the man, who would you least trust with your last bottle of limoncello? “If you mean who would drink it all in one sitting,” he replies. “I would have to say Michael Douglas – but I would be helping him.” 

Devito’s entrance into the global drinks world surely makes him the highest profile liqueur owner in the world (take that, Pharrell Williams). And, like it or not, he joins what is perceived to be an unholy church of name-lenders presumably hoping to pile a few more dollar bills on top of their mountains of cash. But why DeVito? An established star estimated to be worth upwards of $70m who is still very much in Hollywood favour at nearly 68. Perhaps more pertinently, why limoncello? 

DeVito explains: “I am an Italian who loves lemon-based liqueurs – I am a giant fan of limoncello and always have been. It’s a wonderful drink that should be enjoyed by everyone.” 

Perhaps unlike some of the industry’s other name-lending mega-stars, DeVito does indeed drink and enjoy the product he sells. Back in 2006, on US morning chat show The View, he appeared drunk, admitting he had been partying most of the night with George Clooney and didn’t know whether he had slept. “I knew it was the last seven limoncellos that were gonna get me,” he said to a live studio audience. Three million people have watched the clip. Which, in marketing value, is three million people that would trust the authenticity of a Danny DeVito limoncello endorsement, should he ever launch one.

With an actor’s timing, in 2007 he launched his brand alongside wife Rhea Perlman (Carla from Cheers). Greeting press at the unveiling was his own limoncello-themed song (definitely worth a listen on Youtube) followed by more on his inseparable bond: “I’ve been drinking limoncello since I was a kid, it’s in my heritage. My family would always have a liqueur at the end of the day and one of them was always limoncello. People send me cases of limoncello. My house is full of limoncello and, wherever I go, people buy me limoncello.” Even in a world as cynical as this, it’s safe to say Danny DeVito genuinely likes limoncello.