They make any movie better just by being in it.
Reliable, remarkable, versatile, underrated. Character actors can never be appreciated enough.
Rules: Can never have won or been nominated for a Best Actor or Actress Oscar, but Best Supporting is okay.
Gary Oldman - nominated for Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy
Ernest Borgnine - won for Marty
Walter Huston - nominated twice for lead actor
Lee Marvin - won for Cat Ballou
James Mason - nominated for A Star Is Born
Max von Sydow - nominated for Pelle the Conqueror
Kathy Bates - won for Misery
Emily Watson - nominated twice for lead actress
John Hurt - nominated for The Elephant Man
Alan Arkin - nominated twice for lead actor
Ralph Fiennes - nominated for The English Patient
Helena Bonham Carter-nominated for The Wings of the Dove
Philip S. Hoffman-won for Capote
Emma Thomps - nominated once and won for Howards End
Rod Steiger - won for In the Heat of the Night
Jessica Chastain - nominated for Zero Dark Thirty
Albert Finney-nominated FIVE TIMES (four for lead) and HAS NOT WON! what a crime.
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...
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
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...
Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson arrived in the United States at age ten, and his family moved into New York's Lower East Side. He took up acting while attending City College, abandoning plans to become a rabbi or lawyer. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts awarded him a scholarship, and he began work in stock...
Ron Perlman is a classically-trained actor who has appeared in countless stage plays, feature films and television productions. Ronald N. Perlman was born April 13, 1950 in Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York. His mother, Dorothy (Rosen), is retired from the City Clerk's Office. His father, Bertram "Bert" Perlman...
Actor, writer, and gourmet, Vincent Leonard Price, Jr. was born in St Louis, Missouri, to Marguerite Cobb (Wilcox) and Vincent Leonard Price, Sr., president of the National Candy Company. He traveled through Europe, studied at Yale and became an actor. He made his screen debut in 1938, and after many minor roles...
Harry Dean Stanton
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...
Michael Ironside has made a strong and indelible impression with his often incredibly intense and explosive portrayals of fearsome villains throughout the years. He was born as Frederick Reginald Ironside on February 12, 1950 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Ironside was a successful arm wrestler in his teenage years...
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...
M. Emmet Walsh
Wonderfully talented, heavyset character actor (from New York, but regularly playing Southerners) M. Emmet Walsh has made a solid career of playing corrupt cops, deadly crooks, and zany comedic roles since the early 1970s. Michael Emmet Walsh was born in Ogdensburg, to Agnes Katharine (Sullivan) and Harry Maurice Walsh...
A veteran of nearly 100 films, Jon Polito is most recognized for his work with The Coen brothers, as well as his many television appearances as a series regular and guest star. Notable Motion Picture roles are in Millers Crossing, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn't There, The Crow, Blankman, and The Freshman with Marlon Brando...
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...
Rotund comic character actor of American films. Born Andrew Vabre Devine in Flagstaff, Arizona, the later-to-be Rotund comic character actor was raised in nearby Kingman, Arizona, the son of Irish-American hotel operator Thomas Devine and his wife Amy. Devine was an able athlete as a student and actually played semi-pro football under a phony name (Jeremiah Schwartz...
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...
He was interested in directing films at the age of 19 and he made several shorts. As he wasn't admitted to the National Film School, he decided to dedicate himself to acting, and made his debut in the theatre in 1988 before moving to cinema and television. Fame came with the parts he played in such films as Riff-Raff
by Ken Loach
Danny Trejo was born Dan Trejo in Echo Park, Los Angeles, to Alice (Rivera) and Dan Trejo, a construction worker. A child drug addict and criminal, Trejo was in and out of jail for 11 years. While serving time in San Quentin, he won the lightweight and welterweight boxing titles. Imprisoned for armed robbery and drug offenses...
R. Lee Ermey
A talented character actor known for his military roles, Ronald Lee Ermey was in the United States Marine Corps for 11 years. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant, and later was bestowed the honorary rank of Gunnery Sergeant by the Marine Corps, after he served 14 months in Vietnam and later did two tours in Okinawa...
Son of Greek immigrants. Soldier during World War II. Studied psychology. Worked as journalist for ABC News. The bald-headed actor played character roles, often as sadistic or psychotic types. He became a TV favorite in the 1970s when his role as Det. Theo Kojak in the TV movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders
was expanded into the gritty Kojak
TV series, lasting from 1973-78.
Blonde, blue-eyed, tall and handsome Dutch actor Rutger Hauer has an international reputation for playing everything from romantic leads to action heroes to sinister villains. Hauer was born in Breukelen, a town in the province of Utrecht, the Netherlands. He is the son of Teunke (Mellema) and Arend Hauer
Michael Clarke Duncan
Michael Clarke Duncan was born on December 10, 1957 in Chicago, Illinois. Raised by his single mother, Jean, a house cleaner, on Chicago's South Side, Duncan grew up resisting drugs and alcohol, instead concentrating on school. He wanted to play football in high school, but his mother wouldn't let him, afraid that he would get hurt. He then turned to acting, dreaming of becoming a famous actor...
John Stephen Goodman is a U.S. film, television, and stage actor. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Virginia Roos (Loosmore), a waitress and saleswoman, and Leslie Francis Goodman, a postal worker who died when John was a small child. He is of English, Welsh, and German ancestry. John is best known for his role as Dan Conner on the television series Roseanne
Robert Archibald Shaw was born on August 9, 1927 in Westhoughton, Lancashire, England, the eldest son of Doreen Nora (Avery), a nurse, and Thomas Archibald Shaw, a doctor. His paternal grandfather was Scottish, from Argyll. Shaw's mother, who was born in Piggs Peak, Swaziland, met his father while she was a nurse at a hospital in Truro...
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...
One of the most prolific character actors working today, Stephen Root has worked alongside many of the biggest names in Hollywood. Born in Sarasota, Root majored in acting and broadcasting at the University of Florida and remains a die-hard Gator fan. After three years of touring the U.S. and Canada with the National Shakespeare Company...
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...
Balding, quietly-spoken, of slight build and possessed of piercing blue eyes -- often peering out from behind round, steel-rimmed glasses -- Donald Pleasence had the necessary physical attributes which make a great screen villain. In the course of his lengthy career, he relished playing the obsessed...
In 1979 with his Detroit friends, Sam Raimi
and Rob Tapert
, Bruce Campbell raised $350,000 for a low-budget film, The Evil Dead
, in which he starred and co-executive produced. Completed piecemeal over four years, the film first gained notoriety in England where it became the best-selling video of 1983...
An old-fashioned comedian, who, by recommendation by his son Keenan Wynn
, became one of the world's most beloved clowns, and one of the best actors of his time. He was born on November 9, 1886. He performed in the Ziegfeld Follies, and later had a son Keenan in 1916. He later wrote his own shows...
Malcolm John Taylor was born on June 13, 1943 in Leeds, England, to working-class parents Edna (McDowell), a hotelier, and Charles Taylor, a publican. His father was an alcoholic. Malcolm hated his parents' ways. His father was keen to send his son to private school to give him a good start in life...
Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was born into an unconventional a family at the turn of the 20th century. Her parents, James "Shamus" Sullivan and Edith "Biddy" Lanchester, were socialists - very active members of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in a rather broad sense and did not believe in the institution of marriage and being tied to any conventions of legality for that matter...
He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1939 and attended Temple University briefly before moving to New York where he studied drama with Stella Adler and at Actors Studio.
Gruff, burly American character actor. Born in 1903 in Benkelman, Nebraska (confirmed by Social Security records; sources stating 1905 or Denver, Colorado are in error.) Bond grew up in Denver, the son of a lumberyard worker. He attended the University of Southern California, where he got work as an...
Tall, thin, wiry Sam Elliott is the classic picture of the American cowboy. Elliott began his acting career on the stage and his film debut was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
. Although his future wife, Katharine Ross
co-starred in the film, the two did not meet until they filmed The Legacy
Together. Over the years there would be few opportunities to act in feature westerns...
Lanky, charismatic and versatile actor with an amazing grin that put everyone at ease, James Coburn studied acting at UCLA, and then moved to New York to study under noted acting coach Stella Adler
. After being noticed in several stage productions, Coburn appeared in a handful of minor westerns before being cast as the knife-throwing...
Peter Wilton Cushing was born on May 26, 1913 in Kenley, Surrey, England, to Nellie Maria (King) and George Edward Cushing, a quantity surveyor. He and his older brother David were raised first in Dulwich Village, a south London suburb, and then later back in Surrey. At an early age, Cushing was attracted to acting...
Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was perhaps the only actor of his generation to have starred in so many films and cult saga. Although most notable for personifying bloodsucking vampire, Dracula, on screen, he portrayed other varied characters on screen, most of which were villains, whether it be Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film...
Blustery, stocky, loud although often genial character actor who has created a niche for himself playing often frustrated and fast talking Southern characters... most noticeably as Sheriff J.W. Pepper alongside Roger Moore
in the James Bond adventure Live and Let Die
, plus his character returned to assist 007 again in The Man with the Golden Gun
Ben Foster was born October 29, 1980 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Gillian Kirwan and Steven Foster, restaurant owners. His younger brother is actor Jon Foster
. His paternal grandparents were from Russian Jewish families that immigrated to Massachusetts (his grandfather became a prominent judge in Boston), while his mother's family is from Maryland...
Timothy James Curry was born on April 19, 1946 in Grappenhall, Cheshire, England. His mother, Maura Patricia (Langmead), was a school secretary, and his father, James Curry, was a Methodist Royal Navy chaplain. Curry studied Drama and English at Birmingham University, from which he graduated with Combined Honors...
Compact Italian-American actor Joe Pesci was born February 9, 1943, in Newark, NJ, to Mary (Mesce), a part-time barber, and Angelo Pesci, a bartender and forklift driver. Pesci first broke into entertainment as a child actor and by the mid-50s was starring on the series "Star Time Kids". In the mid-'60s he released a record under the stage name of "Joe Ritchie" titled "Little Joe Sure Can Sing"...
Highly talented, lightly built American actor who always looks unsettled and jumpy has become a favourite of cult/arthouse film aficionados with his compelling performances in a broad range of cinematic vehicles. Turturro was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Italian-American parents, Katherine, a jazz singer...
Actor of Puerto Rican descent who made many memorable films in the 1980s due to his villainous persona. Presently resides with his wife and many kids in Vermont.
was born in Bunic (Korenica) in 1946. Graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb. Still a student, he started to play the leading roles in films and theater productions. He is remembered as an outstanding Peer Gynt, Don Juan, Georgij, Melkior, Oedipus, Hamlet, Leon and Richard III...
Bryan Cranston is an American actor, voice actor, screenwriter, director and producer. He is known for portraying Walter White on the AMC crime drama series Breaking Bad
, Hal on the Fox comedy series Malcolm in the Middle
, Doug Heffernan's neighbor Tim Sacksky on the CBS comedy series King of Queens, Dr...
Peter Stormare was born in Arbrå, Gävleborgs län, Sweden, to Gunhild (Holm) and Karl Ingvar Storm. He began his acting career at the Royal National Theatre of Sweden, performing for eleven years. In 1990 he became the Associate Artistic Director at the Tokyo Globe Theatre and directed productions of many Shakespeare plays...
Strikingly featured and muscular American actor Ving Rames was born Irving Rameses Rhames in Harlem, New York, to Reather, a homemaker, and Ernest Rhames, an auto mechanic. A good student, Ving entered the New York High School of Performing Arts, where he discovered his love of acting. He studied at the Juilliard School of Drama...
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...
Bruce McGill grew up in San Antonio, Texas where he began his acting career in in the MacArthur High School department of theatre. His most popular role was in Animal House
Striking Irish actor Cillian Murphy was born in Douglas, the oldest child of Brendan Murphy, who works for the Irish Department of Education, and a mother who is a teacher of French. He has three younger siblings. Murphy was educated at Presentation Brothers College, Cork. He went on to study law at University College Cork...
Edward Arnold was born as Gunther Edward Arnold Schneider in 1890, on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of German immigrants, Elizabeth (Ohse) and Carl Schneider. Arnold began his acting career on the New York stage and became a film actor in 1916. A burly man with a commanding style and superb baritone voice...
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
An extremely versatile character actor and originator of several memorable characterizations in the horror film genre, Dwight Frye had a notable theatrical career in the 1920s, moving from juvenile parts to leads before entering film. A favorite actor of Broadway theatrical producer-director Brock Pemberton
Thelma Ritter appeared in high school plays and was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In the 1940s she worked in radio. Her movie career was started with a bit part in the 1946 Miracle on 34th Street
. In the movie she played a weary Xmas shopper. Her performance in the short scene was noticed by Darryl F. Zanuck
who insisted her role be expanded...
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...
Andrew Clement G. Serkis was born April 20, 1964, in Ruislip Manor, West London, England. He has three sisters and a brother. His father, Clement Serkis, an ethnic Armenian whose original family surname was "Serkissian", was a Medical Doctor working abroad, in Iraq; the Serkis family spent a lot of time traveling around the Middle East...
Henry Gibson was born on 21 September 1935 in Germantown, Pennsylvnia. Before appearing in films and television series, he was a child star on the stage during the 1940s and during the late 1950s he was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force. His screen debut came in 1963 when he was cast in the Jerry Lewis
film The Nutty Professor
John Carroll Lynch
John Carroll Lynch was born August 1, 1963 in Boulder, Colorado, and was raised in Denver. It was there John found a passion for acting and became a Denver Broncos fan. He graduated in the mid-80s with a B.F.A. in theatre from the The Catholic University of America / Hartke Theatre Acting program. From then...
A tall, wavy-haired US actor with a deep, resonant voice, Clancy Brown has proved himself a versatile performer with first-class contributions to theater, feature films, television series and even animation. Clarence J. Brown III was born in 1959 in Urbana, Ohio, to Joyce Helen (Eldridge), a concert pianist...
Margaret Wycherly was born in London, England on October 26, 1881. She was predominately a stage actress, continuing stage work even after performing in films. Her first film role came when she appeared in The Fight
at 34 years old. It was not until 1929 that audiences got another glimpse of her in The Thirteenth Chair
Elisha Cook Jr.
One of the most familiar character actors of the mid-twentieth century, small-statured Elisha Cook Jr. would be a Hollywood immortal if only for his roles in The Maltese Falcon
. He attended St. Albans College and the Chicago Academy of Dramatic Art, and made his stage debut at age fourteen...
Stephen Graham was born August 3, 1973, in the small town of Kirkby, Lancashire, to a pediatric nurse mother and a social worker father. His paternal grandfather was Jamaican, and one of his grandmothers was Swedish. After years of small parts, he finally got his big break in an unexpected way, playing the dim-witted Tommy in Guy Ritchie
Character fame on film came quite late for long-time stage actor Harry Davenport at age 70, but he made up for lost time in very quick fashion with well over a hundred film roles registered from the advent of sound to the time of his death in 1949. Beloved for his twinkle-eyed avuncular and/or grandfatherly types in both comedy and drama...
Brian Cox is an Emmy Award-winning Scottish actor. He was born on June 1, 1946 in Dundee, Scotland, to Mary Ann Guillerline Cox, maiden surname 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...
Michael Corbett Shannon was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of Geraldine Hine, a lawyer, and Donald Sutherlin Shannon, an accounting professor at DePaul University. His grandfather was entomologist Raymond Corbett Shannon. Shannon began his professional stage career in Chicago. His first acting role was in "Winterset" at the Illinois Theatre Center...
Character actor Brad Dourif was born Bradford Claude Dourif on March 18, 1950 in Huntington, West Virginia. He is the son of Joan Mavis Felton (Bradford) and Jean Henri Dourif, a French-born art collector who owned and operated a dye factory. His father died when Dourif was three years old, after which his mother married Bill Campbell...
American character actor who achieved considerable fame in the last decade of his life. A native of Kokomo, Indiana, Strother Martin Jr. was the youngest of three children of Strother Douglas Martin, a machinist, and Ethel Dunlap Martin. His family moved soon after his birth to San Antonio, Texas, but quickly returned to Indiana...
Jean Reno was born Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez in Casablanca, Morocco, to Spanish parents (from Andalucía) who moved to North Africa to seek work. His father was a linotypist. Reno settled in France at 17. He began studying drama and has credits in French television and theater as well as films. His first two marriages both ended in divorce...
Hugo Wallace Weaving was born on April 4, 1960 in Nigeria, to English parents Anne (Lennard), a tour guide and teacher, and Wallace Weaving, a seismologist. Hugo has an older brother, Simon, and a younger sister, Anna, who both also live and work in Australia. During his early childhood, the Weaving family spent most of their time traveling between Nigeria...
Veteran character actress Linda Hunt was Born April 2, 1945 in Morristown, New Jersey to Raymond Davy Hunter and Elsie Doying Hunter. She attended the Interlochen Arts Academy, and the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago (now part of DePaul University). Her film debut was in Robert Altman
Michael Parks is known as an actor's actor by his peers with a breadth of astonishing range that has allowed him to portray stunning contrasts - sometimes in the same film, like in 2014's "TUSK", starring in dual roles as an erudite serial killer opposite Justin Long, and as a feeble rube opposite Johnny Depp...
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...
Offbeat character actor Tom Noonan started off his career in various theater troupes that utilized his skills as a guitarist and composer. A graduate from Yale's acting school, he founded the Paradise Theatre in 1983, which was instrumental later in his growth as an artist. Gravitating toward film and TV in the 80s...
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...
Classically-trained actor Pete Postlethwaite was born Peter William Postlethwaite in 1946 and was a distinguished character actor on stage, TV and film. Growing up in Warrington, Lancashire amid middle-class surroundings, he went to college and while completing his studies developed an interest in theatre...
Timothy Leonard Spall was born in Battersea, London, to Sylvia R. (Leonard), a hairdresser, and Joseph L. Spall, a postal worker. He was raised in London. Spall auditioned and earned a spot with the National Youth Theatre and later showed great promise at RADA where he portrayed the title roles in "Macbeth"...
Character actress Beulah Bondi was a favorite of directors and audiences and is one of the reasons so many films from the 1930s and 1940s remain so enjoyable, as she was an integral part of many of the ensemble casts (a hallmark of the studio system) of major and/or great films, including The Trail of the Lonesome Pine
One of Hollywood's most talented and versatile performers and the recipient of a truckload of NAACP Image awards, Laurence John Fishburne III was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961, to Hattie Bell (Crawford), a teacher, and Laurence John Fishburne, Jr., a juvenile corrections officer. His mother transplanted her family to Brooklyn after his parents divorced...
One of Hollywood's finest character / "Method" actors, Eli Wallach was in demand for over 60 years (first film/TV role was 1949) on stage and screen, and has worked alongside the world's biggest stars, including Clark Gable
, Clint Eastwood
, Steve McQueen
, Marilyn Monroe
, Yul Brynner
, Peter O'Toole
, and Al Pacino
, to name but a few...
Sir Michael Gambon was born in Cabra, Dublin, Ireland, to Mary (Hoare), a seamstress, and Edward Gambon, an engineer. After joining the National Theatre, under the Artistic Directorship of Sir Laurence Olivier
, Gambon went on to appear in a number of leading roles in plays written by Alan Ayckbourn
While he's never been a typical leading man, Crispin Glover has distinguished himself as one of the most intriguing personalities in the movie business. His unusual characters and personal projects have inspired a cult-like following that has dubbed him both madman and genius. The son of actor Bruce Glover
Tall, bald and nearly always bearded, Sid Haig has provided hulking menace to many a low-budget exploitation film and high-priced action film. Sid Haig was born Sidney Eddie Mosesian on July 14, 1939 in Fresno, California, a screaming ball of hair. His parents, Roxy (Mooradian) and Haig Mosesian, an electrician...