Ed Harris Biography:
His hard features and intense blue eyes make Ed Harris an unlikely prospect for leading man roles, yet this award-winning stage and screen actor brings the requisite strength and conviction to the parts he plays. The New Jersey native began his career on stage in California in the mid-1970s, where he quickly earned a reputation for his talent and intensity. Harris moved into features with a small part in "Coma" (1978) and offered an impressive turn in his first leading role in George Romero's "Knightriders" (1980), an underrated modern spin on the Arthurian legends. Three years later, though, he emerged as a star with the one-two punch of the laconic cowboy with a troubled past and uncertain future in Sam Shepard's Off-Broadway hit "Fool for Love" and a stalwart turn as astronaut John Glenn in "The Right Stuff" (1983), Philip Kaufman's film about the US space program. While the expected accolades for his performance as Glenn failed to materialize, Harris nonetheless became an actor in demand.
He lent sexy charisma to the supporting role of Goldie Hawn's soldier husband in "Swing Shift" and made a strong impression as a cheating spouse in "Place in the Heart" (both 1984). The latter marked the actor's first screen pairing with Amy Madigan, whom he married before they headlined Louis Malle's "Alamo Bay" (1985). Also in 1985, Harris turned in a strong, believable performance as hard-drinking, good old Southern boy Charlie Dick who woos and weds ascendant star Patsy Cline in "Sweet Dreams". The actor then returned to his stage roots and made his Broadway debut opposite Judith Ivey as the stern but loving father in George Furth's autobiographical "Precious Sons" (1986), for which he earned the lion's share of critical praise and a Tony Award nomination. Segueing to the small screen, he undertook the role of an attorney who has quit at the height of his career and is seduced back to the law by his mistress in the 1987 HBO original "The Last Innocent Man". Harris rounded out that year in the title role of "Walker", Alex Cox's odd biopic of the 19th-century adventurer William Walker who declared himself president of Nicaragua. The actor offered an intense portrait of a real-life soldier of fortune that bore more than a passing resemblance to Oliver North, who was then dominating the news.
In James Cameron's big-budgeted underwater spectacle "The Abyss" (1989), Harris provided the anchor as the foreman of a civilian crew (which includes his estranged wife) tapped to rescue a US nuclear submarine. The balding performer teamed romantically with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio displayed his sex appeal and the pair transcended the maudlin dialogue to offer a mature and adult look at a troubled but thoroughly credible relationship. Harris returned to the small screen in two cable films that allowed him to capitalize on this same aspect of his screen persona. In "Paris Trout" (Showtime, 1991), he was cast as a lawyer hired to defend a racist who finds himself drawn to his client's wife. "Running Mates" (HBO, 1992) saw Harris play a presidential candidate who romances an eccentric author. Both parts allowed the actor to demonstrate a light, almost playful side that enhanced his standing as an unlikely sex symbol.
The 90s saw Harris deliver more complex and even chilling characterizations. He was the brain behind the heist in the machofest of "Glengarry Glen Ross" (1992), a frustrated FBI agent smoking out corruption in "The Firm" (1993) and stepped to the other side of the law as a creepy serial killer in "Just Cause" (1995). Harris stood out in the ensemble of Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" (also 1995), playing NASA mission control flight director Gene Krantz, a performance that earned him The Actor (the Screen Actors Guild Award) and his first Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. After turns as Watergate co-conspirator E Howard Hunt in Oliver Stone's "Nixon" (1995), a military hero who precipitates a hostage crisis at Alcatraz in "The Rock" (1996) and a homicide detective investigating a crime at the White House in "Absolute Power" (1997), he received nearly unanimous praise and a second Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination as the God-like creator-director of a popular 24-hour-a-day TV series in "The Truman Show" (1998). Harris later played up his softer side as the man caught between his ex-wife and his new girlfriend in the comedy-drama "Stepmom" (also 1998).
In 2000, Harris realized a ten-year dream, directing and starring in "Pollack", about the abstract painter Jackson Pollock. Ever since his own father had sent him two biographies of the artist, the actor harbored a desire to portray Pollock on screen. The resulting motion picture (which premiered at the 2000 Venice Film Festival and was selected as the centerpiece of the 2000 New York Film Festival) earned generally positive critical reviews, with many citing Harris' skills both behind and in front of the cameras. The actor continued to add to his growing galaxy of film performances as the new millennium unfolded, portraying a German assassin sent to take out a Russian sharpshooter in the WWII drama "Enemy of the Gates", a high-ranking intelligence officer dealing with a mathematician who is a paranoid-schizophrenic in "A Brilliant Mind" (both 2001), and co-starred with Meryl Streep in "The Hours" (2002) as an honored author dying of AIDS. In "The Hours" Harris delivered another of his more riveting and fiery performances as his character struggles with his disease, his relationships with the crucial women in his life and his reasons for continuing to stay alive. His captivating turn was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, his third in that category and fourth overall.
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