Michael Murphy (actor)

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Michael Murphy
Born Michael George Murphy
(1938-05-05) May 5, 1938 (age 76)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1963–present
Spouse(s) Wendy Crewson (1988–2009; divorced)
Children 2

Michael George Murphy (born May 5, 1938) is an American film, television and stage actor. He often plays unethical or morally ambiguous characters in positions of authority, including politicians, executives and lawyers. He is also known for his frequent collaborations with director Robert Altman, having appeared in twelve films, TV series and miniseries directed by Altman from 1963 to 2004, including the title role in the miniseries Tanner '88.

Early life[edit]

Murphy was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Georgia Arlyn (née Money), a teacher, and Bearl Branton Murphy, a salesman.[1] He served in the United States Marine Corps and attended the University of California at Los Angeles.[2] After working as a high school teacher for two years, he pursued an acting career.


Murphy is best known for his performances as Jill Clayburgh's adulterous husband Martin in Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman (1978), as Woody Allen's morally-ambiguous best friend Yale in Manhattan (1979), as the wedded Julianne Moore's and Jason Robards's ethically enigmatic lawyer Alan Kligman in Magnolia (1999), and as the star of Garry Trudeau and Robert Altman's HBO miniseries Tanner '88, in which Murphy portrayed presidential candidate Jack Tanner.

Other well-known roles include his turn as Gotham City's Mayor in Tim Burton's Batman Returns (1992), as Warren Worthington II, a wealthy executive in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), as Aubrey, a lonely elderly mute in Away From Her (2006), and as Vice President Alvin Hammond in White House Down (2013).

Most notably, Murphy worked frequently with director Robert Altman, including as Captain Ezekiel Bradbury “Me Lay” Marston, IV (a friend of Hawkeye Pierce's) in the film MASH (1970), as "super-cop" Dt. Lt. Frank Shaft in Brewster McCloud (1970), as the sleazy political operative and handler John Triplette in Nashville (1975), and as the title character in Tanner '88 (a role he reprised in the 2004 miniseries Tanner on Tanner). Other Altman films and television series in which Murphy appeared include the World War II TV series Combat! (in which Murphy appeared in 1963, on the show's second of its five seasons), Nightmare in Chicago/Once Upon a Savage Night (1964), Countdown (1968), That Cold Day in the Park (1969), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (1988) and Kansas City (1996).

Murphy has, on occasion, played the lead, including in Wes Craven's Shocker, Phase IV (1974), Strange Behavior (1981), Hot Money (1983), and Norma Jean, Jack and Me AKA The Island (1983), as well as leading and top-billing parts in various made-for-television films (such as 1979's 3 by Cheever: O Youth and Beauty!, 1989's Tailspin: Behind the Korean Airliner Tragedy, 2003's In the Dark), as well as TV series (like the 1987 one-season melodrama Hard Copy for CBS and the 1983-1984 family drama Two Marriages which aired on ABC).

Other notable film roles include Woody Allen's friend, a blacklisted writer, Alfred Miller in Martin Ritt's The Front (1976), sleazy journalist Pete Curtis in Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously (1983), the well-meaning, straight-laced, yet, besieged Ambassador Tom Kelly in Oliver Stone's Salvador (1986), the duplicitous U.S. Senator Judson Pilager in John Sayles's Silver City (2004), and Hilary Duff's grandfather and Ellen Burstyn's husband in the independent family dramedy According to Greta (2007).

Murphy's American TV series credits include guest appearances on Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, L.A. Law and Judging Amy. He has also narrated a large number of episodes of the PBS historical documentary series The American Experience.

As an actor of dual citizenship,[citation needed] Murphy has also had success in Canadian film and television, including a role as Judge Maxwell Fraser in the legal TV series This Is Wonderland, for which he won two Gemini Awards, in 2004 and 2005, and was nominated for a third, in 2006. He also appeared in the 2004 Canadian film Childstar.

Personal life[edit]

Murphy was married to Canadian actress Wendy Crewson from 1988 until their divorce in January 2009. They have two children, Maggie (born 1989) and John (born 1992).

Selected Filmography[edit]


External links[edit]