J. T. Walsh

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Not to be confused with J.D. Walsh (actor).
J. T. Walsh
J.T. Walsh.jpg
Born James Thomas Patrick Walsh
(1943-09-28)September 28, 1943
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died February 27, 1998(1998-02-27) (aged 54)
San Diego, California, United States
Cause of death
Heart attack
Resting place
Occupation Actor
Years active 1982-1998

James Thomas Patrick "J.T." Walsh (September 28, 1943 – February 27, 1998) was an American character actor. He appeared in many well-known films, including Nixon, Hoffa, A Few Good Men, Backdraft, Miracle on 34th Street, Outbreak, Breakdown, Pleasantville, The Negotiator, and Good Morning, Vietnam. Walsh was known for his roles as "quietly sinister white-collar sleazeballs" (quote from Leonard Maltin) in numerous feature films, and was described as "everybody's favorite scumbag" by Playboy magazine.

Early life[edit]

Walsh was born in San Francisco, California. He had three siblings, Christopher, Patricia and Mary. From 1948 to 1962, the family lived in West Germany, before moving back to the United States. After studying at Clongowes Wood College in Ireland from 1955-1961, Walsh attended the University of Tübingen in Tübingen, Germany and then the University of Rhode Island, where he starred in many college theater productions. In 1974, he was discovered by a director and began working in off-Broadway shows.


Walsh did not appear in feature films until 1983, when he had a minor role in Eddie Macon's Run. Over the next 15 years, he played in over 50 feature films, increasingly taking the bad guy role for which he is well known, such as the loudly irascible Sergeant Major Dickerson in Good Morning, Vietnam.

On television, Walsh again portrayed a consummately evil character, prison Warden Brodeur on The X Files episode, "The List" (1995). Brodeur beats a hand-cuffed inmate to death because the inmate informs Brodeur that he will be next on the list of people a former inmate has threatened to kill.

Walsh wanted to show his range as an actor and play good guy parts despite being typecast as a villain. Although he did get to play a few decent people such as the White House Chief of Staff in Outbreak and Chester Van Damme in Sniper, even those films had Walsh portray a character with an amoral streak. Walsh played a member of Majestic 12 in the 1996-1997 sci-fi/drama television series Dark Skies.

Death and Legacy[edit]

The 1997 thriller Breakdown featured Walsh as the villainous truck driver, which raised his profile to movie audiences. It was his last starring film released during his lifetime.

In his last year, he starred in the 1998 films Hidden Agenda, Pleasantville, and The Negotiator. All three movies, plus Outside Ozona were dedicated to his memory after he died from a heart attack on Friday, February 27, 1998 at the age of 54. He died while a guest of the Optimum Health Institute in Lemon Grove, California.

In addition, Jack Nicholson dedicated his Academy Award for As Good as It Gets to the memory of Walsh, with whom he had starred in A Few Good Men, and in Hoffa in 1992.


Year Film Role Notes
1985 Right to Kill? Maj. Eckworth
1986 Hannah and Her Sisters Ed Smythe
Power Jerome Cade
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam Sgt. Major Dickerson
Tin Men Wing
House of Games The Businessman/"Cop"
1988 Tequila Sunrise DEA Agent Hal Maguire
1989 The Big Picture Allen Habel
Wired Bob Woodward
1990 Crazy People Mr. Drucker
Defenseless Steven Seldes
Misery State Trooper Sherman Douglas Uncredited
The Grifters Cole
The Russia House Colonel Jackson Quinn
1991 Backdraft Alderman Marty Swayzak
1992 A Few Good Men Lt. Col. Matthew Markinson
Red Rock West Wayne Brown
Hoffa Frank Fitzsimmons
1993 Needful Things Danforth 'Buster' Keeton III Nominated - Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Sniper Chester Van Damme
1994 The Last Seduction Frank Griffith
Miracle on 34th Street Ed Collins
Blue Chips Happy
The Client Jason McThune
Silent Fall Sheriff Mitch Rivers
1995 Nixon John Ehrlichman Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Black Day Blue Night Lt. John Quinn
The Babysitter Harry Tucker
Outbreak White House Chief of Staff Uncredited
1996 Executive Decision Senator Mavros
Persons Unknown Lt. Cake
Sling Blade Charles Bushman Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1997 Breakdown Warren 'Red' Barr Nominated - Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
1998 The Negotiator Inspector Terence Niebaum This film is dedicated to Walsh, who died before the movie's release.
Pleasantville Big Bob This film is dedicated to Walsh, who died before the movie's release.
Hidden Agenda Jonathan Zanuck This film is dedicated to Walsh, who died before the movie's release.

External links[edit]