The Best Character Actors of all time.

This is a list of the all time greatest character actors in film from the dawn of talking pictures through the present. It is somewhat a subjective exercise in defining exclusively, "character actor", as opposed to leading actor, therefore, what might appear as glaring omissions, e.g., Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn, Walter Huston, P.S. Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Kevin Kline, James Mason, Edward Norton, Kevin Bacon, and many others known for outstanding supporting roles, may be categorized as predominantly lead actors and therefore missing from the list. But it's just for fun anyway. (I've included a memorable role or two for each).
Expanded to 240 great actors as of 2016. Enjoy!
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Karl Malden
Karl Malden resumed his film acting career in the 1950s, starting with The Gunfighter (1950) and Halls of Montezuma (1950). The following year, he was in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), playing Mitch, Stanley Kowalski's best friend who starts a romance with Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). For this role...
“ Memorable role: (of so very many): Gen. Omar Bradley in Patton (1970). ” - John Jacoby
Jason Robards
Powerful and highly respected American actor Jason Nelson Robards, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Hope Maxine (Glanville) and stage and film star Jason Robards Sr. He had Swedish, English, Welsh, German, and Irish ancestry. Robards was raised mostly in Los Angeles. A star athlete at Hollywood High School...
“ Memorable role: As Ben Bradlee in, All the President's Men (1976) ” - John Jacoby
Jack Warden
Jack Warden was born John Warden Lebzelter, Jr. on September 18, 1920 in Newark, New Jersey, to Laura M. (Costello) and John Warden Lebzelter. His father was of German and Irish descent, and his mother was of Irish ancestry. Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, at the age of seventeen, young Jack Lebzelter was expelled from Louisville's DuPont Manual High School for repeatedly fighting...
“ Memorable role (of many): As Mickey Morrisey in The Verdict (1982) ” - John Jacoby
Martin Balsam
Martin Henry Balsam was born on November 4, 1919 in the Bronx, New York City, to Lillian (Weinstein) and Albert Balsam, a manufacturer of women's sportswear. He was the first-born child. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, and his mother was born in New York, to Russian Jewish parents. Martin caught the acting bug in high school where he participated in the drama club...
“ Memorable film: (of many): A Thousand Clowns (1965). ” - John Jacoby
Charles Bickford
American character actor of gruff voice and appearance who was a fixture in Hollywood pictures from the earliest days of the talkies. The fifth of seven children, he was born in the first minute of 1891. He was a boisterous child, and at nine was tried and acquitted for attempted murder in the shooting of a motorman who had run over his dog...
“ Memorable role (of many): As Major Henry Terrill, in The Big Country
(1958). ” - John Jacoby
Paul Giamatti
Actor, Sideways
Paul Giamatti is an American actor who has worked steadily and prominently for over twenty years, and is best known for leading roles in the films American Splendor, Sideways, and Barney's Version (for which he won a Golden Globe), and supporting roles in the films Cinderella Man, The Illusionist, and San Andreas...
“ Memorable role: Miles, (albeit the lead role in this movie), the modern classic, Sideways (2004). ” - John Jacoby
Lionel Barrymore
Famed actor, composer, artist, author and director. His talents extended to the authoring of the novel "Mr. Cartonwine: A Moral Tale" as well as his autobiography. In 1944, he joined ASCAP, and composed "Russian Dances", "Partita", "Ballet Viennois", "The Woodman and the Elves", "Behind the Horizon"...
“ Memorable role: The cantankerous and mean spirited villain, Potter, in the immortal, It's a Wonderful Life (1946). ” - John Jacoby
Thomas Mitchell
Thomas Mitchell was one of the great American character actors, whose credits read like a list of the greatest films of the 20th century: Lost Horizon; Stagecoach; The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Gone with the Wind; It's a Wonderful Life and High Noon. His portrayals are so diverse and convincing that most people don't even realize that one actor could have played them all...
“ Memorable role: The drunken Doctor in Stagecoach (1939). ” - John Jacoby
Van Heflin
Actor, Shane
Craggy-faced, dependable star character actor Van Heflin never quite made the Hollywood "A" list, but made up for what he lacked in appearance with hard work, charisma and solid acting performances. He was born Emmett Evan Heflin in Oklahoma in December 1910, the son of Fanny Bleecker (Shippey) and Emmett Evan Heflin...
“ Memorable role: D.O. Guerrero in Airport (1970). ” - John Jacoby
Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph Richardson was one of the greatest actors of the 20th Century English-language theater, ascending to the height of his profession in the mid-1930s when he became a star in London's West End. He became the first actor of his generation to be knighted. He became Sir Ralph in 1947, and was quickly followed Laurence Olivier in 1948...
“ Memorable role: Dr. Austin Sloper in the classic, The Heiress (1949).
Richardson was astonishing in this movie and should have won the Oscar for Best supporting actor for 1949. ” - John Jacoby
John Gielgud
Actor, Gandhi
Sir John Gielgud is a highly distinguished and prolific performer who is considered to be one of the finest actors of his generation. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, Gielgud played his first Hamlet in 1930 and quickly established himself as one of the most eminent Shakespearean interpreters of his time...
“ Memorable role (of many): Beddoes, in Murder on the Orient Express.
(1974). ” - John Jacoby
George Sanders
George Sanders was born of English parents in St. Petersburg, Russia. He worked in a Birmingham textile mill, in the tobacco business and as a writer in advertising. He entered show business in London as a chorus boy, going from there to cabaret, radio and theatrical understudy. His film debut, in 1936...
“ Memorable role: Addison DeWitt in the classic, All About Eve (1950).
It does not get much better than this performance. ” - John Jacoby
John C. Reilly
Character actor, dramatic leading man, or hilarious comic foil? With an astonishing range of roles already under his belt, John C. Reilly has played a eclectic host of rich characters to great effect over the years, from seedy ne'er-do-wells, to lovable, good-natured schlepps. The fifth of six children...
“ Memorable role: The Hours (2002) ” - John Jacoby
Arthur Kennedy
Arthur Kennedy, one of the premier character actors in American film from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, achieved fame in the role of Biff in Elia Kazan's historic production of Arthur Miller's Pultizer-Prize winning play "Death of a Salesman." Although he was not selected to recreate the role on screen...
“ Memorable film: Some Came Running (1958). ” - John Jacoby
Edmund Gwenn
There are very few character actors from the 1930s, '40s or '50s who rose to the rank of stardom. Only a rare man or woman reached the level of renown and admiration, and had enough audience appeal, to be the first name in a cast's billing, a name that got marquee posting. Charles Coburn comes to mind, but there aren't many others. However, one who made it was Edmund Gwenn...
“ Memorable role: Santa Claus, of course, in Miracle on 34th Street. (1947) ” - John Jacoby
Charles Coburn
A cigar-smoking, monocled, swag-bellied character actor known for his Old South manners and charm. In 1918 he and his first wife formed the Coburn Players and appeared on Broadway in many plays. With her death in 1937, he accepted a Hollywood contract and began making films at the age of sixty.
“ Memorable film: The More the Merrier (1943) ” - John Jacoby
Arthur O'Connell
Though veteran character actor Arthur O'Connell was born in New York City in 1908, he looked as countrified as apple pie, looking ever more comfy in overalls than he ever did in a suit. He made his stage debut in the mid 1930s and came into contact with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. As a result, he earned the bit role of a reporter in the final scenes of Citizen Kane (1941)...
“ Memorable films: dead heat: Picnic (1955) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) ” - John Jacoby
Benicio Del Toro
Actor, Snatch
Benicio Del Toro emerged in the mid-'90s as one of the most watchable and charismatic character actors to come along in years. A favorite of film buffs, Del Toro gained mainstream public attention as the conflicted but basically honest Mexican cop in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic. Born on February 19...
“ Memorable role: Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez, Traffic (2000). ” - John Jacoby
Ed Begley
Charismatic character star Edward James Begley was born in Hartford, Connecticut of Irish parents and educated at St.Patrick's school. His interest in acting first surfaced at the age of nine, when he performed amateur theatricals at the Hartford Globe Theatre. Determined to make his own way, he left home aged eleven and drifted from job to job...
“ Memorable role: Juror #10 in, 12 Angry Men (1957) ” - John Jacoby
Walter Brennan
In many ways the most successful and familiar character actor of American sound films and the only actor to date to win three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying engineering. While in school he became interested in acting and performed in school plays...
“ Memorable film: Even though Walter won Oscars in 3 other films,
my favorite screen appearance was Sergeant York (1941) ” - John Jacoby
Trevor Howard
Actor, Gandhi
The son of an insurance underwriter, who represented Lloyd's of London in Ceylon, Trevor Wallace Howard-Smith was born in Margate, Kent. He spent his early childhood globetrotting with his mother, frequently left in the care of strangers. After attending private school, he subsequently trained at RADA (due to his mother's insistence)...
“ Memorable role: A formidable Captain Bligh in, Mutiny on the Bounty
(1962). ” - John Jacoby
Barry Fitzgerald
One of Hollywood's finest character actors and most accomplished scene stealers, Barry Fitzgerald was born William Joseph Shields in 1888 in Dublin, Ireland. Educated to enter the banking business, the diminutive Irishman with the irresistible brogue was bitten by the acting bug in the 1920s and joined Dublin's world-famous Abbey Players...
“ Memorable film: Going My Way (1944) ” - John Jacoby
James Whitmore
Born on October 1, 1921, in White Plains, New York, gruff veteran character actor James Whitmore earned early and widespread respect with his award-winning dramatic capabilities on Broadway and in films. He would later conquer TV with the same trophy-winning results. The son of James Allen Whitmore and Florence Crane...
“ Memorable role: As, Harry Truman, in Give Em Hell Harry (1975) ” - John Jacoby
Anthony Quayle
Anthony Quayle was born in Ainsdale in September 1913, the son of a Lancashire lawyer. He completed his education at Rugby School and had a brief spell at RADA, before treading the boards for the first time as the straight man in a music hall comedy act in 1931. Tall, burly, round-faced and possessed of a powerful and resonant voice...
“ Memorable role: As Cardinal Wolsey, in Anne of the 1000 Days (1969) ” - John Jacoby
George Kennedy
George Harris Kennedy, Jr. was born on February 18, 1925 in New York City, to Helen A. (Kieselbach), a ballet dancer, and George Harris Kennedy, an orchestra leader and musician. Following high school graduation, Kennedy enlisted in the United States Army in 1943 with the hope to become a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps...
“ Memorable role: Dead heat; Dragline in Cool Hand Luke (1967) and
Joe Patroni in Airport (1970) ” - John Jacoby
Dean Jagger
Dean Jagger was born in Lima, Ohio, on November 7, 1903. He dropped out of high school twice before finally graduating from Wabash College. Working first as a school teacher, he soon became interested in acting and enrolled at Chicago's "Lyceum Art Conservatory". Mr. Jagger made his first movie and only silent film...
“ Memorable film: 12 O'Clock High (1949) ” - John Jacoby
Jack Palance
Actor, Batman
Jack Palance exemplified evil incarnate on film -- portraying some of the most intensely despised villains witnessed in 50s westerns and melodrama. He received two Best Supporting Actor nominations early in his career, but it would take a grizzled, eccentric comic performance 40 years later for him to finally grab the coveted statuette...
“ Memorable film: City Slickers (1991) ” - John Jacoby
Peter Ustinov
Actor, Robin Hood
Peter Ustinov was a two-time Academy Award-winning film actor, a director, writer, journalist and raconteur. He wrote and directed many acclaimed stage plays and led numerous international theatrical productions. He was born Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov on April 16, 1921, in Swiss Cottage, London...
“ Memorable film: Spartacus (1960) ” - John Jacoby
Victor McLaglen
Rambunctious British leading man (contrary to popular belief, he was of Scottish ancestry, not Irish) and later character actor primarily in American films, Victor McLaglen was a vital presence in a number of great motion pictures, especially those of director John Ford. McLaglen (pronounced Muh-clog-len...
“ Memorable role: Gypo Nolan in the classic, The Informer (1935) ” - John Jacoby
Ralph Bellamy
Ralph Bellamy was a veteran actor who was so well-liked and respected by his peers that he was the recipient of an honorary Oscar in 1987 for his contributions to the acting profession. Ralph Rexford Bellamy was born June 17, 1904 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Lilla Louise (Smith), originally from Hamilton...
“ Memorable role: As Franklin D. Roosevelt, in Sunrise at Campobello (1960). ” - John Jacoby
Robert Morley
Bushy-browed, triple-chinned and plummy-voiced English actor and raconteur of wide girth and larger-than-life personality. The son of a career army officer, Morley was expected to join the diplomatic corps. As a 'compromise', he tried his hand as a beer salesman. However, bitten by the acting bug since first performing in a kindergarten play...
“ Memorable film: Beat the Devil (1953). ” - John Jacoby
Basil Rathbone
Basil Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1892, but three years later his family was forced to flee the country because his father was accused by the Boers of being a British spy at a time when Dutch-British conflicts were leading to the Boer War. The Rathbones escaped to England, where Basil and his two younger siblings...
“ Memorable role: The consumate Sherlock Holmes in (several), but
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1938), the best of the lot. ” - John Jacoby
Claude Rains
Actor, Casablanca
William Claude Rains, born in the Camberwell area of London, was the son of the British stage actor Frederick Rains. The younger Rains followed, making his stage debut at the age of eleven in "Nell of Old Drury." Growing up in the world of theater, he saw not only acting up close but the down-to-earth business end as well...
“ Memorable film: Dead heat: Casablanca (1943); Notorious (1946). ” - John Jacoby
Paul Henreid
Actor, Casablanca
The son of aristocratic banker Baron Carl Alphons and Marie Luise von Hernried, Paul grew up in Vienna and studied at the prestigious Maria Theresa Academy (graduating in 1927) and the Institute of Graphic Arts. For four years, he worked as translator and book designer for a publishing outfit run by Otto Preminger...
“ Memorable role: Hands down, the anti Nazi hero Victor Laszlo, in
Casablanca (1943). ” - John Jacoby
Brian Dennehy
Imposing, barrel-chested and now silver-haired Brian Dennehy is a prolific US actor, well respected on both screen and stage for the best part of 25 years. He was born in July 1938 in Bridgeport, CT, and attended Columbia University in New York City on a football scholarship. He majored in history, before moving on to Yale to study dramatic arts...
“ Memorable role: Raymond Horgan, in Presumed Innocent (1991). ” - John Jacoby
Brian Donlevy
It seems that Brian Donlevy started out life as colorfully as any character he ever played on the stage or screen. He lied about his age (he was actually 14) in 1916 so he could join the army. When Gen. John J. Pershing sent American troops to invade Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa--Mexican rebels under Villa's command raided Columbus...
“ Memorable film: Beau Geste (1939). ” - John Jacoby
Sydney Greenstreet
Actor, Casablanca
Sydney Greenstreet's father was a leather merchant with eight children. Sydney left home at age 18 to make his fortune as a Ceylon tea planter, but drought forced him out of business and back to England. He managed a brewery and, to escape boredom, took acting lessons. His stage debut was as a murderer in a 1902 production of "Sherlock Holmes"...
“ Memorable role: Caspar Guttman in Maltese Falcon (1941). ” - John Jacoby
Peter Lorre
Actor, Casablanca
As a youth Peter Lorre ran away from home, worked as a bank clerk and, after stage training in Vienna, made his acting debut in Zurich. He remained unknown, traveling for several years and acting in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, until Fritz Lang cast him as the psychopathic child killer in M...
“ Memorable role: dead heat: Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), and Joel Cairo in Maltese Falcon (1941). ” - John Jacoby
Henry Travers
British-born Henry Travers was a veteran of the English stage before emigrating to the U.S. in 1917. He gained more stage experience there on Broadway working with the Theatre Guild, and began his long film career with Reunion in Vienna. Travers' kindly, grandfatherly demeanor became familiar to filmgoers over the next 25 years...
“ Memorable role: Clarence (the angel) in the immortal classic,
It's a Wonderful Life (1946). ” - John Jacoby
Frank Morgan
Jovial, somewhat flamboyant Frank Morgan (born Francis Wuppermann) will forever be remembered as the title character in The Wizard of Oz, but he was a veteran and respected actor long before he played that part, and turned in outstanding performances both before and after that film. One of 11 children of a wealthy manufacturer...
“ Memorable role: We're off to see again and again, the wonderful
Wizard of Oz in: The Wizard of Oz (1939). ” - John Jacoby
Akim Tamiroff
Though born in Russia and having a Russian-sounding name, Akim Tamiroff is actually of Armenian descent. At 19 he decided to pursue acting as a career and was chosen from among 500 applicants to the Moscow Art Theater School. There he studied under the great Konstantin Stanislavski, and launched a stage career...
“ Memorable film: For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943). ” - John Jacoby
Clifton Webb
Actor, Laura
Already trained in dance and theater, he quit school at age 13 to study music and painting. By 19 he was a professional ballroom dancer in New York, and by his mid-twenties he was performing in musicals, dramas on Broadway and in London, and in silent movies. His first real success in film came in middle age as the classy villain Waldo Lydecker in Laura...
“ Memorable role: Waldo Lydecker in Laura (1944). ” - John Jacoby
William Demarest
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, William Demarest was a prolific actor in movies and TV, making more than 140 films. Demarest started his acting career in vaudeville and made his way to Broadway. His most famous role was in My Three Sons, replacing a very sick William Frawley. Demarest was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting role in the real-life biography...
“ Memorable film: The Jolson Story (1946). ” - John Jacoby
Cecil Kellaway
Though a native of South Africa, Cecil Kellaway spent many years as an actor, author and director in the Australian film industry until he tried his luck in Hollywood in the 1930s. Finding he could get only gangster bit parts, he got discouraged and returned to Australia. Then William Wyler called and offered him a part in Wuthering Heights...
“ Memorable film: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). ” - John Jacoby
Harry Morgan
Actor, M*A*S*H
Harry Morgan was a prolific character actor who starred in over 100 films and was a stage performer. Known to a younger generation of fans as "Col. Sherman T. Potter" on M*A*S*H. Also known for his commanding personality throughout his career, he tackled movies and television in a way no other actor would do it...
“ Memorable role: The Judge in the immortal classic, Inherit the Wind. (1960). ” - John Jacoby
Eddie Albert
Eddie Albert's television career is the earliest of any other performer. It began years before electronic television was introduced to the public. In June of 1936 Eddie appeared in RCA/NBC's first private live performance for their radio licensees in New York City. This was very early experimental all electronic television system...
“ Memorable film: Roman Holiday (1953). ” - John Jacoby
Lee J. Cobb
Lee J. Cobb, one of the premier character actors in American film for three decades in the post-World War II period, was born Leo Jacoby in New York City's Lower East Side on December 8, 1911. The son of a Jewish newspaper editor, young Leo was a child prodigy in music, mastering the violin and the harmonica...
“ Memorable role: Juror #3, in 12 Angry Men (1957). ” - John Jacoby
Edmond O'Brien
Oscar-winner Edmond O'Brien was one of the most-respected character actors in American cinema, from his heyday of the mid-1940s through the late 1960s. Born on September 10, 1915, in the New York City borough of The Bronx, O'Brien learned the craft of performance as a magician, reportedly tutored by neighbor Harry Houdini...
“ Although Eddie O'Brien won the Oscar for Barefoot Contessa, I liked
best (of his many great roles), Mr. Dutton Peabody in the John Ford
classic, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." ” - John Jacoby
E.G. Marshall
With over 150 Film and TV appearances to his credit, E.G. Marshall was arguably most well known as the imperturbable Juror No. 4 in the Sidney Lumet mystery 12 Angry Men. Some of his stand-out performances are in Creepshow, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and Nixon. Marshall married three times and had seven children.
“ Memorable role: Juror #4 in 12 Angry Men (1957). ” - John Jacoby
Gig Young
Affable, immensely likable American actor, usually in second leads. A native of Minnesota, his parents John and Emma Barr raised him in Washington, DC. He developed a passion for the theatre while appearing in high school plays. After some amateur experience, he applied for and received a scholarship to the acclaimed Pasadena Community Playhouse...
“ Memorable film: They Shoot Horses, Don't They (1969). ” - John Jacoby
Hugh Griffith
Actor, Ben-Hur
Enjoyably larger-than-life character actor Hugh Emrys Griffith was born in Marianglas, Anglesey, North Wales, to Mary (Williams) and William Griffith. Griffith left the world of banking (having been employed as a teller) after winning a scholarship to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art...
“ Memorable film: Ben-Hur (1959). ” - John Jacoby
Hal Holbrook
Hal Holbrook is an Emmy- and Tony-Award winning actor who is one of the great craftsman of stage and screen. He is best known for his performance as Mark Twain, for which he won a Tony and the first of his ten Emmy Award nominations. Aside from the stage, Holbrook made his reputation primarily on television...
“ Memorable role: "Deep Throat" in the classic, All the President's Men
(1976). ” - John Jacoby
Wilford Brimley
Actor, The Thing
He was a farmer and rodeo rider who, after gaining weight, became a blacksmith and then a film actor.
“ Memorable film: The Natural (1984). ” - John Jacoby
Richard Farnsworth
Actor, Misery
An American stuntman who, after more than 30 years in the business, moved into acting and became an acclaimed and respected character actor, Richard Farnsworth was a native of Los Angeles. He grew up around horses and as a teenager was offered an opportunity to ride in films. He appeared in horse-racing scenes and cavalry charges unbilled...
“ Memorable film: The Straight Story (1999). ” - John Jacoby
David Strathairn
David Russell Strathairn was born on January 26, 1949 in San Francisco, California. He is the son of Mary Frances (Frazier), a nurse, and Thomas Scott Strathairn, Jr., a physician. He has two siblings, Tom and Anne. His ancestry includes English, Scottish, Irish, Portuguese, Native Hawaiian, and one sixteenth Chinese (the latter three from his paternal grandmother)...
“ Memorable film: Good Night and Good Luck (2003). ” - John Jacoby
Michael Madsen
Michael Madsen's long career spans 25 years and more than 170 films in which he has played memorable characters in myriad box office hits, including: Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 Sin City, Hell Ride, Die Another Day, Donnie Brasco, Species, The Getaway, Thelma & Louise...
“ Memorable role: dead heat: Thelma and Louise (1991) and
Donnie Brasco (1997). ” - John Jacoby
Danny DeVito
Danny DeVito has amassed a formidable and versatile body of work as an actor, producer and director that spans the stage, television and film. Daniel Michael DeVito Jr. was born on November 17, 1944, in Neptune, New Jersey, to Italian-American parents. His mother, Julia (Moccello), was a homemaker...
“ Memorable film: tie: L.A. Confidential (1997) and The Rainmaker (1997). ” - John Jacoby
Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman is a talented British born movie actor who played Sid Vicious in Sid & Nancy, Drexl in True Romance, and George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He starred in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the remake of RoboCop. He is also an English filmmaker, musician and author. Renowned for his "big" acting style...
“ Memorable role: As Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK (1991). ” - John Jacoby
Joaquin Phoenix
Actor, Gladiator
Joaquin Phoenix is an American actor, producer, music video director, musician and activist. He started his career by appearing in episodes of television shows with his brother River Phoenix and sister Summer Phoenix. His first major film release was in the comedy-drama film Parenthood (1989). During his period as a child actor he was credited as Leaf Phoenix...
“ Memorable role: As Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2006). ” - John Jacoby
“ Memorable role: Jerry Lundergaard in "Fargo" (1996).
Astonishingly memorable performance. ” - John Jacoby
Christopher Walken
Nervous-looking lead and supporting actor of the American stage and films, with sandy colored hair, pale complexion and a somewhat nervous disposition. He won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Deer Hunter, and has been seen in mostly supporting roles, often portraying psychologically unstable characters...
“ Memorable role: As Nicky in "The Deer Hunter" (1978).
One of the most provocative performances of all time. ” - John Jacoby
Ian Holm
Sir Ian Holm is an Academy Award-nominated British film and stage actor who was a star of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and played more than 100 roles in films and on television. He was born Ian Holm Cuthbert on September 12, 1931, in Goodmayes, Essex, UK, to Scottish parents who worked at the Essex mental asylum...
“ Memorable film: Chariots of Fire. (1981). ” - John Jacoby
“ Memorable film: Alien (1979). ” - John Jacoby
Brian Cox
Actor, Troy
Brian Cox is an Emmy Award-winning Scottish actor. He was born on June 1, 1946 in Dundee, Scotland, to Mary Ann Guillerline (McCann), a spinner, and Charles McArdle Campbell Cox, a shopkeeper and butcher. His father was of Irish ancestry and his mother was of Irish and Scottish descent. Cox first came to attention in the early 1970s with performances in numerous television films...
“ Memorable role: As Melvin Belli in "Zodiac" (2007). ” - John Jacoby
Harry Dean Stanton
Actor, Alien
Prolific character actor Harry Dean Stanton's drooping, weather-beaten appearance and superb acting talent have been his ticket to appearing in over 100 films, and 50 TV episodes. Stanton was born in West Irvine, Kentucky, to Ersel (Moberly), a cook, and Sheridan Harry Stanton, a barber and tobacco farmer...
“ Memorable film: Paris, Texas (1984). ” - John Jacoby
William Fichtner
A small-town guy with a big heart, William Fichtner has been captivating the hearts of Western New Yorkers for decades. Bill was born in 1956 on Long Island, New York, to Patricia A. (Steitz) and William E. Fichtner. He is of German, Irish, and English descent. Fichtner was raised in Cheektowaga, and graduated from Maryvale High School in 1974...
“ Memorable film: The Perfect Storm (2000). ” - John Jacoby
Djimon Hounsou
Actor, Gladiator
Djimon Hounsou was born in Cotonou, Benin, West Africa, to Albertine and Pierre Hounsou, a cook. He moved to Lyon, France, when he was 13. Hounsou has graced the catwalks of Paris and London as a popular male model. He has since left his modeling career and has worked on Gladiator by Ridley Scott and Amistad by Steven Spielberg.
“ Memorable film: Amistad (1997). ” - John Jacoby
Steve Buscemi
Actor, Fargo
Steve Buscemi was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Dorothy (Wilson), a restaurant hostess, and John Buscemi, a sanitation worker. He is of Italian (father) and English, Dutch, and Irish (mother) descent. He became interested in acting during his last year of high school. After graduating, he moved to Manhattan to study acting with John Strasberg...
“ Memorable role: Carl Showalter in "Fargo" (1996). ” - John Jacoby
Terence Stamp
Actor, Wanted
Terence Henry Stamp was born and lived in Canal Road, Bow, until German bombers forced his family to move to Plaistow. An icon of the 1960s, he dated the likes of Julie Christie, Brigitte Bardot and Jean Shrimpton. After an extremely successful early career, starring in Modesty Blaise, Poor Cow and Far from the Madding Crowd...
“ Memorable role: As Billy Budd in "Billy Budd" (1962). ” - John Jacoby
Sam Rockwell
Actor, Moon
Sam Rockwell was born on November 5, 1968, in San Mateo, California, the child of two actors, Pete Rockwell and Penny Hess. The family moved to New York when he was two years old, living first in the Bronx and later in Manhattan. When Sam was five years old, his parents split up, at which point he and his father moved to San Francisco...
“ Memorable role: As Wild Bill in "The Green Mile" (1999). ” - John Jacoby
Harvey Keitel
Came to prominence in the early films of Martin Scorsese after working in theatre for around a decade, particularly Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. Faded into anonymity in the 1980s even though he turned in some impressive performances in films by some of America's leading directors. He reemergered into star status with his role as Mr...
“ Memorable film: Pulp Fiction (1994). ” - John Jacoby
Will Patton
Will Patton was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Bill Patton, is a playwright, acting/directing instructor, and Lutheran minister. Patton attended the North Carolina School of the Arts. He has won two OBIE awards for best actor for the off-Broadway plays, Sam Shepard's "Fool for Love" and the Public Theatre production of "What Did He See?".
“ Memorable film: No Way Out (1987). ” - John Jacoby
James Cromwell
Born in Los Angeles but raised in Manhattan and educated at Middlebury College and Carnegie-Mellon University, James Cromwell, the son of famous film director John Cromwell, studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon. He went into the theater (like both his parents) doing everything from Shakespeare to experimental plays...
“ Memorable film: Babe (1995). ” - John Jacoby
Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman was born on a council estate in Acton, West London, to Margaret Doreen Rose (Bartlett) and Bernard Rickman, who worked at a factory. He had English, Irish, and Welsh ancestry. Alan had an older brother David, a younger brother Michael and a younger sister Sheila. When Alan was 8 years old...
“ Memorable film: Die Hard (1989). ” - John Jacoby
Dennis Hopper
Actor, Speed
With an amazing cinematic career of more than five decades, Dennis Hopper was a multi-talented and unconventional actor/director, regarded by many as one of the true "enfants terribles" of Hollywood. Hopper was born on May 17, 1936 in Dodge City, Kansas, to Marjorie Mae (Davis) and James Millard Hopper...
“ Memorable film: Easy Rider (1969). ” - John Jacoby
Melvyn Douglas
Two-time Oscar-winner Melvyn Douglas was one of America's finest actors. In addition to his two Oscars, he also won a Tony Award and an Emmy. Douglas would enjoy cinema immortality if for no other reason than his being the man who made Greta Garbo laugh in Ernst Lubitsch's classic comedy Ninotchka, but he was much, much more...
“ Memorable film: Being There (1979). ” - John Jacoby
Tom Sizemore
Tom Sizemore rose in prominence throughout the 1990s, establishing himself as a memorable tough-guy actor, sought by the most respected directors in the business. Thomas Edward Sizemore, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Judith (Schannault), an ombudsman staff member, and Thomas Edward Sizemore...
“ Memorable role: Sergeant Mike Horvath in "Saving Private Ryan" (1998). ” - John Jacoby
John Carradine
John Carradine, the son of a reporter/artist and a surgeon, grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York. He attended Christ Church School and Graphic Art School, studying sculpture, and afterward roamed the South selling sketches. He made his acting debut in "Camille" in a New Orleans theatre in 1925. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1927...
“ Memorable film: The Grapes of Wrath (1940). ” - John Jacoby
“ Memorable film: Rudy (1993). ” - John Jacoby
Robert Prosky
Member of Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage repertory company in 60's and 70s, where he worked with Jane Alexander James Earl Jones Robert Foxworth and others.
“ Memorable film: Dead Man Walking (1995). ” - John Jacoby
Charles Durning
Actor, The Sting
WWII veteran, dance instructor and diversely talented stage & screen actor were all inclusions on the resume of this perpetually busy US actor who didn't get in front of the cameras until around the time of his fortieth birthday. The stockily built Charles Durning was one of Hollywood's most dependable and sought after supporting actors...
“ Memorable film: Dog Day Afternoon (1975). ” - John Jacoby
“ Memorable film: Moonstruck (1987). ” - John Jacoby
Giovanni Ribisi
Antonino Giovanni Ribisi is an American actor who was born in Los Angeles, California. His parents both have careers in the entertainment industry. His mother, Gay Ribisi (née Landrum), is a talent manager for actors and writers, and his father, Albert Anthony Ribisi, is a musician. He has a twin sister...
“ Memorable film: Saving Private Ryan (1998). ” - John Jacoby
Oliver Platt
Oliver Platt was born in Windsor, Ontario, to American parents, Sheila Maynard, a social worker, and Nicholas Platt, a career diplomat. His parents were both from upper-class families, and his maternal great-grandmother, Cynthia Roche, was the sister of Princess Diana's maternal grandfather, Maurice Roche...
“ Memorable film: A Time to Kill (1996). ” - John Jacoby
Barry Pepper
Barry Robert Pepper was born on April 4, 1970, in Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada, as the youngest of three sons. He has two older brothers named Alex and Doug Pepper. The Peppers didn't stick around Campbell River for too long. They had been building a ship in their backyard for years. When Barry was five years old...
“ Memorable film: Saving Private Ryan (1998). ” - John Jacoby
Joe Pantoliano
Actor, Memento
With more than 100 film, television and stage credits to his name, Joseph Peter Pantoliano is a prolific American character actor who has played many diverse and memorable roles, from Guido in Risky Business to Eddie Moscone in Midnight Run, Cosmo Renfro in The Fugitive, Cypher in The Matrix and Teddy in Memento...
“ Memorable film: Midnight Run (1988). ” - John Jacoby
Kenneth McMillan
Actor, Amadeus
Character actor Kenneth McMillan was born on July 2, 1932 in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to becoming an actor, McMillan was a manager at Gimbels Department Store. At age 30, McMillan decided to pursue an acting career. He attended the LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts and took acting lessons from Uta Hagen and Irene Dailey...
“ Memorable film: The Pope of Greenwich Village. (1984). ” - John Jacoby
John Randolph
Actor, Serpico
Veteran performer John Randolph was a Tony Award-winning character actor whose union and social activism in the '40s and '50s caused him to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era. The balding performer may not have been a household name, but he was a regular face in movies and TV for over four decades...
“ Memorable role: As Arthur Hamilton in "Seconds" (1966). ” - John Jacoby
Lee Richardson
Born in Chicago in 1926, Richardson trained for the stage at the Goodman Theatre there. After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he moved to New York and worked in off-Broadway productions. In the 1950s, he worked on television drama programs. In the 1960s, he moved to Minneapolis where he was one of the founders of the Guthrie Theater...
“ Memorable role: As Dominic Prizzi in "Prizzi's Honor". ” - John Jacoby
Kevin Pollak
Kevin Pollak was born in San Francisco in 1957, to Elaine (Klein) and Robert Pollak. A stand-up comedy performer at age 10, he turned professional comedian a decade later and was puttering around from city to city when film roles beckoned. Pollak refocused thereafter on acting in what would be a wise and profitable career move...
“ Memorable film: The Usual Suspects (1995). ” - John Jacoby
Robert Loggia
Actor, Scarface
Born and raised in New York City, Robert Loggia studied journalism at the University of Missouri before moving back to New York to pursue acting. He trained at the Actors Studio while doing stage work. From the late 1950s he was a familiar face on TV, usually as authoritative figures. Loggia also found work in movies such as The Greatest Story Ever Told...
“ Memorable film: An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). ” - John Jacoby
F. Murray Abraham
F. Murray Abraham was born on October 24, 1939 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and raised in El Paso, Texas. Primarily a stage actor, Abraham made his screen debut as an usher in the George C. Scott comedy They Might Be Giants. By the mid-1970s, Murray had steady employment as an actor, doing commercials and voice-over work...
“ Memorable role: As Salieri in "Amadeus" (1984). ” - John Jacoby
Clifton Collins Jr.
An acting chameleon who can easily lose himself in the life of his film and television characters, Clifton Collins Jr. is a native Angeleno who grew up destined to become a part of the Latino entertainment industry. His great-grandparents on his mother's side were a Mexican trumpet player and Spanish dancer who formed a traveling family act...
“ Memorable role: dead heat; as Frankie Flowers in "Traffic" (2000),
and as Perry Smith in "Capote" (2005). ” - John Jacoby
Tom Wilkinson
Popular British character actor Tom Wilkinson was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, and comes from a long line of urban farmers. He is the son of Marjorie (Percival) and Thomas Wilkinson. Economic hardships forced his family to move to Canada for a few years when Wilkinson was a child; after he had returned to England...
“ Memorable role: Dr. Matt Fowler in "In the Bedroom" (2001). ” - John Jacoby
J.K. Simmons
Actor, Whiplash
J.K. Simmons is an American actor. He was born Jonathan Kimble Simmons in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to Patricia (Kimble), an administrator, and Donald William Simmons, a music teacher. He attended the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; University of Montana, Missoula, MT (BA in Music). He had originally planned to be a singer and studied at the University of Montana to become a composer...
“ Memorable film: Whiplash (2014). ” - John Jacoby
“ Memorable film: JFK (1991). ” - John Jacoby
Bruno Kirby
Native New Yorker and Italianate Bruno Kirby tended towards assertive, pushy, streetwise characters and was armed with a highly distinctive scratchy tenor voice that complemented his slim eyes and droopy puss and accentuated his deadpan comedic instincts on film and TV. The well-regarded character actor was born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu on April 28...
“ Memorable role: As young Peter Clemenza in, "The Godfather, Part II" (1974). ” - John Jacoby
Jason Miller
Character actor and playwright Jason Miller had a variety of jobs before he started a writing career and wrote his own play, "That Championship Season", for which he received the Pulitzer Prize Award. Miller gave up his professional writing career in the early seventies to start acting. In 1973, he starred as a troubled priest in the horror film classic The Exorcist...
“ Memorable role: Indelible characterization as Father Damien Karras
in "The Excorcist" (1973). ” - John Jacoby
“ Memorable role: Doc Brown, in Back to the Future (1985). ” - John Jacoby
Martin Sheen
Multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Martin Sheen is one of America's most celebrated, colorful, and accomplished actors. Moving flawlessly between artistic mediums, Sheen's acting range is breathtaking. Martin Sheen was born Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estevez in Dayton, Ohio, to Mary-Ann (Phelan)...
“ Apocalypse Now (1979) ” - John Jacoby