Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he was raised in the Greenwich Village section of New York when his parents took over a bookstore. His film debut came in 1961 in The Hoodlum Priest, when he placed a juvenile delinquent. He playedan emotionally disturbed youths in a number of films, including David and Lisa (1962) and Bunny Lake is Missing (1965). He has not equalled the film success of 2001, not even when he returned to the role in the sequel 2010 (1984).
Dullea has had a long and successful career on stage, in New York City and in regional theaters.