Edit
F. Murray Abraham Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trade Mark (3)  | Trivia (24)  | Personal Quotes (63)

Overview (3)

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Birth NameMurray Abraham
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham was born on October 24, 1939 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and raised in El Paso, Texas. His father, Frederick Abraham, was from an Assyrian Christian (Antiochian) family, from Syria. His mother, Josephine (Stello) Abraham, was the daughter of Italian immigrants. Born with the first name "Murray", he added an "F." to distinguish his stage name.

Primarily a stage actor, Abraham made his screen debut as an usher in the George C. Scott comedy They Might Be Giants (1971). By the mid-1970s, Murray had steady employment as an actor, doing commercials and voice-over work. He can be seen as one of the undercover police officers along with Al Pacino in Sidney Lumet's Serpico (1973), and in television roles including the villain in one third-season episode of Kojak (1973). His film work of those years also included the roles of a cabdriver in The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975), a mechanic in The Sunshine Boys (1975), and a police officer in All the President's Men (1976).

Beyond these small roles, Abraham continued to do commercials and voice-over work for income. But in 1978, he decided to give them up. Frustrated with the lack of substantial roles, Abraham said, "No one was taking my acting seriously. I figured if I didn't do it, then I'd have no right to the dreams I've always had". His wife, Kate Hannan, went to work as an assistant and Abraham became a "house husband". He described, "I cooked and cleaned and took care of the kids. It was very rough on my macho idea of life. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me". Abraham appeared as drug dealer Omar Suárez alongside Pacino again in the gangster film Scarface (1983). He also gained visibility voicing a talking bunch of grapes in a series of television commercials for Fruit of the Loom underwear.

In 1985 he was honored with as Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for the acclaimed role of envious composer Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984), an award for which Tom Hulce, playing Mozart in that movie, had also been nominated. He was also honored with a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama, among other awards, and his role in the film, is still considered to be his most iconic as the film's director Milos Forman inspired the work of the role with Abraham's wide range of qualities as a great stage and film actor.

After Amadeus, he next appeared in The Name of the Rose (1986), in which he played Bernardo Gui, nemesis to Sean Connery's William of Baskerville. In the DVD audio commentary, his director on the film, Jean-Jacques Annaud, described Abraham as an "egomaniac" on the set, who considered himself more important than Sean Connery, since Connery did not have an Oscar. That said, the film was a critical success. Abraham had tired of appearing as villains and wanted to return to his background in comedy, as he also explained to People Weekly magazine in an interview he gave at the time of its release.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pedro Borges

Spouse (1)

Kate Hannan (7 April 1962 - present) ( 2 children)

Trade Mark (3)

Rich smooth voice
Often plays untrustworthy schemers
Often plays refined, sinister villains

Trivia (24)

Attended the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Texas at Austin.
He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and brought up in El Paso, Texas. His father, Frederick Abraham, who was born in Pennsylvania, was from an Assyrian Christian (Antiochian) family, from Syria. His mother, Josephine (Stello) Abraham, was also born in Pennsylvania, to Italian parents.
During a ceremony in Rome, he was awarded the "Premio per gli Italiani nel Mondo". This is a prize distributed by the Marzio Tremaglia foundation and the Italian government to Italian emigrants and their descendants who have distinguished themselves abroad. [July 2004]
Early in his career, he was one of the "Fruit of the Loom guys" (men dressed up as fruits) in the underwear commercials.
Attended and graduated from El Paso High School in El Paso, Texas (1958).
Studied drama under the tutelage of Uta Hagen at HB Studio in Greenwich Village, New York City for a year in the early 1960s.
After his Academy Award for Amadeus (1984), he turned down roles in films such as Clue (1985) and Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986).
Has filmed Scarface (1983) in Los Angeles at the same time as Amadeus (1984) in Prague, necessitating four round trip flights between the two.
One of his first plays in Los Angeles was a dramatization of a work by Ray Bradbury: "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit". He and Bradbury remained friends until Bradbury's death.
Has appeared with Christian Slater in three films: The Name of the Rose (1986), Beyond the Stars (1989) and Mobsters (1991).
Has appeared with Sean Connery twice as his nemesis: Bernardo Gui in The Name of the Rose (1986), and Professor Robert Crawford in Finding Forrester (2000).
His first major success as an actor was as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984) at age 45.
Learned to play the piano and to conduct for his role of Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984).
He was the on-the-scene hero of a real-life crime scene at the Classic Stage Company in New York City, when he traded blows with a thief in the dressing room area during a public rehearsal. [January 2010]
As of 2017, has appeared in three films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: All the President's Men (1976), Amadeus (1984) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Of those, Amadeus (1984) is a winner in the category.
Auditioned for the role of Charlie in An Unmarried Woman (1978), but Paul Mazursky found that Cliff Gorman more closely resembled the director's New York artist friends.
He was originally considered for the role of painter Van Brenkelen in Miluji te modre (2017), eventually played by Robert Russell.
He was considered for the role of the Master in the television movie Doctor Who (1996), which went to Eric Roberts.
His contract for The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) stipulated that his name appear above the title in the advertising, or not at all. Since the producers already had Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith, Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman above the title, Abraham chose not to be credited.
He was awarded the John H. Finley Award by the Alumni Association of the City College of New York for exemplary dedicated service to the City of New York (2009).
Received an honorary degree from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey (1990).
Had two brothers: Robert Abraham and Jack Abraham, who were killed in separate automobile accidents.
Has two children with Kate Hannah: Mick Abraham and Jamili Abraham, and one grandchild: Hannah Abraham.
He continues teaching drama classes at Brooklyn College in New York City.

Personal Quotes (63)

[from the Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) Special Collector's Edition DVD] If I could do only Star Trek movies for the rest of my career, I would. That's how strongly I feel about this organization. I do not say that lightly.
[on the so-called "Oscar jinx"] The Oscar is the single most important event of my career. I have dined with kings, shared equal billing with my idols, lectured at Harvard and Columbia. If this is a jinx, I'll take two. Even though I won the Oscar, I can still take the subway in New York, and nobody recognizes me. Some actors might find that disconcerting, but I find it refreshing.
[accepting his Best Actor Oscar, 1985] It would be a lie if I told you I didn't know what to say, because I've been working on this speech for about twenty-five years. But you're not going to hear any of those speeches, because none of the speeches were less than forty-five seconds. You know, it's easy to gamble everything when you've got nothing to lose, and Milos Forman had a great deal to lose when he gave these brilliant roles to Tom Hulce and me, and his courage became my inspiration. There's only one thing that's missing for me tonight, and that's to have Tom Hulce standing by my side.
[announcing Geraldine Page as the winner of the Best Actress Oscar, 1986] I consider this woman the greatest actress in the English language.
You keep getting offered the same role you got the Oscar for. Every time you complain, they don't change the script; they just offer you more money. For the first 15 years of my career, I was only doing comedy - all comedy - and as soon as Salieri happened, I was offered all sinister villains.
I'm a highly technical actor; I really do work hard on the work and I do a lot of research and so on. But I'm an instinctive actor; I'm absolutely instinctual and I really allow it to carry me wherever it's going to go, even during a performance - I just let it take me. It's a pretty exciting ride - doesn't always work - but when it does it's thrilling. It's thrilling to see an actor who's willing to take these chances - it inspires other people to do the same. But to commit yourself to it is a little dangerous, and fun - that's why I do it.
British actors have their feel for Shakespeare and we Americans have ours, and I think that we have a lot to learn from each other.
As soon as I stepped on the stage, I knew exactly where I belonged for the rest of my life. I knew immediately - a revelation. I don't know how it happens. I think it was the hand of God. I'm grateful. But you've got to have the courage to follow those revelations.
[on shooting Scarface (1983) and Amadeus (1984) simultaneously] While I was working on Scarface, I was told that I got the role of Salieri. I had to fly back and forth from Prague to Hollywood to shoot the two films at the same time. It's not as hard as you think. They're so different - if they were close, it would have been difficult. One was kind of a vacation from the other. The material was very good in both films, so I could just study on the plane when I was going to Hollywood and then I'd study the other script on the way back to Prague. I think I travelled four times back and forth. It was funny. If you look carefully, you will see a couple of the same gestures from those two films, but you have to look carefully.
[on Amadeus (1984)] Getting the part was just luck, good fortune. I think every actor in the world wanted that part. You name a famous actor from the day, and they wanted that role and they were guaranteed box office. Fortunately for me, Milos (Forman) had something else in mind - thank God! It turns out it was me and Tom Hulce. I don't know if he knew exactly what he had in mind until he came across the actor he thought seemed to have fit. That's takes a lot of courage; because the film was bankrolled by one producer, all his own money. It was written by a Brit for a Brit. It was like they were going through the motions - they had to see some American actors. And I was nobody! It was a very long shot. It was out of the question and I just did my best. I gave obviously a good audition for him on camera and then just dismissed it. I really did.
[on building a character] It's always the same. The truth - it's always got to be the truth. And there's only one truth you can ever rely on, and that's your instinct and your idea of the truth. Not on somebody else's but your own, within the context of the script - you are in their world. There are some actors now, quite famous, who are applauded for their work, and in fact they're acting quite alone. They could be doing that performance in an empty room and it would be exactly the same. I don't believe in that. I believe in working with the actors.
[on Last Action Hero (1993)] It was a wonderful script and Schwarzenegger was a treat to work with. I don't know what I expected because of his politics but he's a real pro. I think it was an underrated film and John McTiernan's a good guy.
[on working with Woody Allen on Mighty Aphrodite (1995)] He's a man of enormous concentration and he really exerts his influence with his amazing brain. He stands stock-still, very quiet, and people stand around him in circles and groups, waiting for whatever he says to do - these great big men, these tough men - they're all just waiting, and it's a very quiet set. And he says this, and it gets done. He doesn't like to start work too early and he doesn't like to work too late. And he makes two films a year. Don't tell me it can't be done - I was there! And it's a treat.
[on Finding Forrester (2000)] When we wrapped that film, I broke down - I started to weep. I didn't want to leave. I thought, "This is the way movies should be made all the time." I absolutely trust Gus Van Sant, his instinct for the truth. It was a pleasure.
[on Thir13en Ghosts (2001)] I had a good time on that one. We almost froze to death doing it but it pays a lot of bills. No apologies. I had a good time.
I believe acting is self-discovery. I really try to find within myself what that character is about. When you're acting, you're not taking on the persona of someone else - you're endowing it with qualities in yourself that reflect what you think that character is. It's quite a difference. You can't invent something that does not exist within your imagination. It's got to be something that's conceivable. Not that you know everything about yourself, but to discover those things about yourself, ugly as they may be - now that's the danger. If you're going to play someone who is envious, if you're going to play someone who is looking for revenge, you really must examine that in yourself. And sometimes you'll find areas of yourself that are just not very pretty. If you're going to do Medea, you have got to investigate within yourself the possibility of killing your children - I mean the absolute, actual reality of that. How many actresses are willing to do that? Because it's a dangerous, dark place. A couple of years ago, a woman killed her two children for love of a man. That's Medea. I mean, she did it: she locked them in the car and put them in the lake. So we know it's possible, and this woman is not a huge character. She's a housewife, a person like so many Americans, and if she's capable of doing that, then anyone who calls herself an actress is capable of it, and that's got to be examined. The problem is the danger you feel about not ever coming back from that dark place, but that's what separates the great ones from the good ones.
[his advice for young actors] Don't be afraid. That's my motto. I have to tell it to myself all the time. Go with your instincts. Do what your heart tells you - but do it with a strong support of technique. Don't just be flying around in your mind, letting anything happen. You've got to have a solid technique for those nights when you just don't feel up to it. And there are many nights like that. Also, you really have to read. You have to be aware of what's going on and you have to be aware of the classics. You have to, because there's a reason they're classics.
[on Scarface (1983)] The idea that Tony Montana is worshipped is extraordinary, and there's one reason for it - Al Pacino's extraordinary charisma. Because how else do you explain it? There's nothing redeeming about this guy. He's a bum, a killer, a soulless devil. He's an unheroic Macbeth. A humourless Iago. He's the darkest of us all.
[on The Name of the Rose (1986)] It was an opportunity to play someone who was really evil without any charm. It's very difficult not to be charming, especially for an actor. That charm indicates being liked by people and I wanted this man, Bernardo Gui, to be absolutely charmless. Many actors will wink at the audience as if to say, "I'm not really like that." I decided not to go for any sympathy from the audience.
[on the Oscars] It's terrific fun. It's thrilling, in fact. For one thing, you get to meet all these amazing people in one place. You go to the bathroom and you're peeing next to Gregory Peck. How often does that happen?
[2014] There's a resilience that you begin to miss as an older person. You don't bounce back as easy. It's that same thing you hear from so many people. You begin to lose friends - people in your life are disappearing - and, of course, that affects you. You begin to realise, "Is it possible? Am I really going to die?". In a way, it makes you more aggressive, at least that's how I feel. I feel more aggressive about accomplishing things.
[on post-Oscar typecasting] Right away, I got an offer to do someone who murders children and I thought, "This is what Salieri means to them?". I couldn't believe the money I was being offered, but I put the script away after 10 pages.
I have advice for people who win Academy Awards. If your agent doesn't come up with a really good offer within six months of having a nomination, you have to change your agent. No matter how loyal you feel. Because if you can't get a really good job, a big job, out of that, there's something wrong. Don't let that sense of loyalty get in the way of your career, unless it means a lot to you to simply stay loyal.
[on Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)] I was very disappointed that it was overlooked (at the Oscars). I mean, you've got to at least give a nod to the music. It's a terrific movie, but whatever quibbles you have with it, what about the music? How can you not acknowledge that?
[on Bloodmonkey (2007)] That was a payday. But it also meant going to a part of the world that I'd never been to. I wanted to see Thailand. So I went. And I had a good time.
[2013, on Homeland (2011)] It's such a good show. When you have good material, it makes it a lot easier. That one, and The Good Wife (2009), I appear on at least once a season. It's a treat because the material is so good. When you have that, then, what is that, 80%? Just learn the lines and do it.
[on Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)] It was just a treat. That's one of the best sets in Hollywood. They're terrific people; just so welcoming. It's a four and a half hour makeup, and they were just always looking after your comfort, helping and good food. The director Jonathan Frakes is from the theater - he's a musical comedy actor - he's a very good baritone singer, and he really likes to have a good time on the set, keeps things bouncing along - he's got amazing energy. And every once in a while he'd just burst into song - we used to do duets from Oklahoma! I had a great time on that. I wish it had been more successful. I really do.
If you accept the kind of amazing fortune that brought me a part like Salieri, then you have to accept everything that goes with it. If afterwards you're not given parts of that stature, of that magnitude, of that importance, you can't grouse about it, you have to accept it.
[on working with director Louis Nero on The Mystery of Dante (2014)] It's probably one of the most important films I've made - a very little film but very important, and Nero is responsible for it. I think this man Nero's one of the most important filmmakers in Italy today. He's a very smart man and we based a lot of what we did on some of the classic mystics in history. There are still important filmmakers, very independent, like Nero - not enough of them - but I think they're coming up.
[on working with Wes Anderson on The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)] It's been a real nice run for me working with people I love. You know the book "The Little Prince"? Wes Anderson is the Little Prince grown up. I swear! Life is full of fortune and mine was very good when I met him. He's probably one of the best I ever worked with. The thing he shares with the Coen brothers, for example, is that the set is comfortable. There's one boss - with the Coen brothers it's two guys with one mind. But everyone on the set is aware that the buck stops there. He knows what he wants and how he's gonna get it, and you completely trust him, and it's a very comfortable situation because you know finally, also, that you trust that it's going to be good. And that's not common. In a case like working for this guy, if it doesn't work out, it's still been a remarkable film experience. He basically has the same crew around him, which is what the Coen brothers do, and he has people that trust him and like him that give him what he wants and they know what his eye is looking for. So you're accepted into the family - it is a family feeling. One of the elements that distinguishes a good director as far as I'm concerned is few words. And what that indicates is they know what they want, otherwise it gets too verbose and you kind of lose your way in the verbiage and the talk. It becomes more about the director than finding the truth in the character or the scene. Wes is just very quiet and very simple, and he knows so clearly what he wants that you tend to just simply trust him.
I just throw it out and see what happens. If it sounds and feels right, then I continue.
I think creativity is spiritual. I absolutely believe that. I love parties. I love a good time.
I am afraid of nothing on stage. I will try anything. As a matter of fact, I embrace the danger. The difficulty is capturing surprise on film.
The idea that you can make love and not war really is pretty neat. That thing in Korea, the thing in Israel - that's all over the world. There must be a new way of thinking.
I'd like President Bush to think maybe there's another way to think, that maybe Kissinger was wrong when he says we had to go in there because he was wrong about Vietnam.
People desire power. I don't know why they want it so. It seems to me it implies a hugely superior intellect which separates them from most of the populace.
I'm not going to just say nice things about everybody unless I mean it.
[on Amadeus (1984)] With Dick Smith there, and the words of Peter Shaffer... they've got to be the most beautiful descriptions in music ever written on film or in literature. And we could hear the music accompanying the words... What more can you ask for?
[on getting the role of Salieri in Amadeus (1984)] Suddenly, I was the man who got the part that every actor in the English language was trying to get. I was really scared! I had talked the talk, and now I had to walk the walk. For three days, I couldn't answer the phone.
As much preparation as I had made for the old man Salieri, gestures and so on, the fact is after sitting for hours, your movements are kind of slow. Once I looked into a mirror at my face, I felt like it was completely convincing. I was Salieri.
[on Arnold Schwarzenegger] I don't know if you would call him a great actor, but he's amazing in terms of his presence, and he is interesting enough that you want to watch him.
I have two brothers buried in the military cemetery in Texas. I don't want to see any more of that.
I don't want to talk in terms of miracles. I think this is a very serious situation. But I do want to talk in terms of Bush becoming a man of the hour, and I think this is way to do it.
All the stuff that you visualized that was going to work so beautifully, you discover is trashed, so you jump to something else.
I'd like President Bush to get a gun in his hands. I'll go with him. I can't think of anything better than to die in places just beginning their lives.
Woody Allen sets are very quiet. Extraordinary sense of power from a man who doesn't do anything except just stand there.
I really like to experiment. That's the only way I can work. It's instinctive.
There are certain men and women who, from the minute they step in front of a camera, that's exactly where they belong. Connery's one.
I'm just having a wonderful time. It's an interesting thing that I'm very comfortable with this material and I don't know why. Maybe it's because I did Macbeth.
[on Amadeus (1984)] Whenever there were parties, I wasn't invited because I began to be like that character. In a way, that contributed to the success of the performance.
With Connery, he does act. He is in complete command. He completely trusts the person first, then the instrument. I've worked with his son also, on a picture in Russia (Jamila (1994)).
If these men decided that they have to go in there and fight, I want them to send their own children and grandchildren. I want them to not send a bunch of strangers' kids in there to fight and die.
I trust that the president will try, just give it one more shot, some revolutionary way of not doing this, of bringing all those kids back home safely.
[on The Name of the Rose (1986)] There is one confrontation scene toward the end of the picture. In the middle of the scene, I thought, "That's Sean Connery!" I don't know how else to describe Sean Connery. I still feel that way.
[on Amadeus (1984)] Milos (Forman) said, "You're my first choice." From my point of view, that doesn't pay the rent. I said, "Tell me what I have to do next because I'm busy painting my kitchen.".
[Marlon] Brando was a great influence. He's a genius. He was probably the only authentic genius actor I ever knew, I ever saw. Absolutely. He was an inspiration. He remains an inspiration. I think Sean Penn's performances generally are inspired. I think he's brilliant. But before that there was Garbo. People don't give her credit. She was an intellect. She was a smart, great actress. But there are many. I mean, James Dean had a couple of wonderful performances that affected me. There were some great actors in the silent movies - a wonderful actor in Nosferatu (1922). I worked with Meryl Streep. We did a reading; we played husband and wife. Have you ever seen her on stage? She's extraordinary - a real, genuine force of nature.
I have to do the films to support the theater habit. The theater's still where I live.
[2017 interview] You know, I cannot imagine not working. I don't understand the word 'retirement'. I'm in very good health and have this deep love and rare passion for my work, so in other words, I'm very lucky.
[2017, on Homeland (2011)] It pays the rent and you get to travel the world first class! And it allows me to do theater. But I love the people I work with on the show. I think Claire Danes is an extraordinary professional - the tone is set by her.
I thought Slipstream (1989) was a very underrated film. I have fond memories of it because I worked with the young man who played Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill. That was one day's work for me, you know. There was a period in my life when I was being flown all over the world - for enormous amounts of money, which I've already spent! - to do one or two days on these very exotic films. Slipstream was one of those films.
[on Mimic (1997)] I speak fluent Spanish, so when Guillermo del Toro and I met it was like cousins coming together. I happen to think he's a great director with a great energy and intelligence that he brings to the set. I thought the film got a bum ride.
[on Sophia Loren] Let me tell you something about Sophia. We were working with Lina Wertmüller [on Too Much Romance... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers (2004)] and my mother, at the time, God rest her soul, was very sick, in America, and I asked Sophia if she would mind calling her to say hello, because all Italians love Sophia. She called my mother and spoke to her for about 25 or 30 minutes - from Italy to America - that's the kind of woman she is. It meant everything to me.
When the life is good in this business it's really good, but when it's bad, it's terrible. No matter all of your credits and accomplishments - you can be forgotten in a trice. The idea that you have to go back and start again after considerable success can destroy you if you're not strong. I never lost track of who I am and what I can do, because I continually find things to do, but not everyone has that resource.

See also

Other Works |  Publicity Listings |  Official Sites

View agent, publicist, legal and company contact details on IMDbPro Pro Name Page Link

Contribute to This Page


Recently Viewed