Billy Crudup Biography:
The darkly handsome Billy Crudup (pronounced CREWD-up) quickly established himself as a rising star soon after graduating with an MFA from New York University in 1994. The Long Island native made his Broadway debut as the Byronic tutor in Tom Stoppard's acclaimed "Arcadia" in 1995 and returned to the New York stage the following year to star opposite Mary-Louise Parker in a revival of William Inge's "Bus Stop". For the former, the intense actor earned numerous accolades including the Theatre World and Clarence Derwent awards for most promising newcomer.
While still a student at NYU, Crudup filmed his first feature role in "Grind" (released in 1997). As a recently released convict who begins an affair with his sister-in-law, the young actor delivered what many felt was a star-making performance although few actually saw the picture in movie theaters. After completing a small role in Woody Allen's musical "Everyone Says I Love You" (1996), which also marked his screen singing debut, he was hired to play a drug-dealing killer in Barry Levinson's "Sleepers" (1996). Crudup followed as Joaquin Phoenix's brother, the smoldering Jacey Holt who seduces two sisters, in Pat O'Connor's "Inventing the Abbots" (1997).
Crudup's intensity and his ability to totally disappear within a character marked him as one of the most gifted actors of his generation, but it also played against the conventional wisdom for his becoming a movie star. Even when playing the leading role, as his Steve Prefontaine in "Without Limits" (1998) indicated, he could be a compelling presence. Yet, many of his efforts were not the box-office successes as predicted. "Without Limits" suffered by being the second (if superior) motion picture to profile the deceased track star and by the time of its release, audiences were clearly not interested. When the intriguing, post-modern Western "The Hi-Lo Country" opened later in 1998, hopes ran high, but it was lost amid the end-of-the-year Oscar bait. Crudup once again offered a fine performance and demonstrated a unique capacity to make even the most passive of characters fascinating. Building on that ability, he turned the junkie lead of "Jesus' Son" (1999) into a tour de force, crafting a complete character down to his specific walk and vocal inflections. Such a level of detail is paramount in the theater but sometimes doesn't translate well to the silver screen which may account for the actor's seeming lack of recognition.
As a Kennedyesque politician experiencing a possible breakdown in the flawed but absorbing "Waking the Dead" (2000), Crudup played off a boyish handsomeness dominated by his expressive brown eyes and high cheekbones. His relaxed portrayal of a romantic forced to re-evaluate his belief systems was masterful in its complexity. Reteamed with Jennifer Connelly (of "Inventing the Abbotts"), Crudup particularly excelled in their scenes together; the two complemented each other to the point where their scenes took on an air of reality. They weren't playing at being a couple -- they WERE the couple.
When writer-director Cameron Crowe was developing his then-untitled autobiographical film about a teenage rock journalist, he created the pivotal role of the mysteriously attractive, charismatic guitarist with Brad Pitt in mind. When Pitt passed on the part, Crowe cast about for another actor with the appropriate qualities and found Crudup. "Almost Famous" (2000) allowed the ascendant performer another strong role and he made the most of it. Exhibiting equal parts charm and arrogance and projecting a smoldering but understated sexuality, Crudup took a difficult role and humanized it. He accomplished a similar feat with his next starring role, that of a man who abandons his family and sets off on a cross-country trip in the excellent "World Traveler" (screened at Toronto in 2001 and released theatrically in 2002). Crudup was also well-cast as a French Resistance leader in the WWII-era drama "Charlotte Gray" (2001).
While Billy Crudup has eschewed the hype attached to working in the movie
industry ("I'm not a star and I have no desire to be one."), he
clearly has arrived at a crossroads in his career. Despite a desire to work
more in the theater (he returned to Broadway in 2002 to star as "The
Elephant Man"), the actor was poised for success, whether he wanted
it or not. He got another major dose of exposure in director Tim Burton's
fanciful "Big Fish" (2003), playing Will Bloom, a young man at
odds with his father (Albert Finney), disillusioned by the elder Bloom's
mythic tales of self-aggrandizement and lost in the long shadow he casts.
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