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David Strathairn

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David Strathairn
Strathairn at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con
David Russell Strathairn

(1949-01-26) January 26, 1949 (age 75)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Alma materWilliams College
Years active1979–present
Logan Goodman
(m. 1980)

David Russell Strathairn (/strəˈθɛərn/;[1] born January 26, 1949)[2] is an American actor. Known for his leading roles on stage and screen, he has often portrayed historical figures such as Edward R. Murrow, J. Robert Oppenheimer, William H. Seward, and John Dos Passos. He has received various accolades including an Independent Spirit Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Volpi Cup, and has been nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and four Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Strathairn made his acting debut in his fellow Williams College graduate John Sayles' film Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980), and continued acting in multiple films by Sayles, such as Matewan (1987), Eight Men Out (1988), City of Hope (1991), Passion Fish (1992) and Limbo (1999). In the 1990s, he appeared in multiple box-office successes such as A League of Their Own (1992), Sneakers (1992), The Firm (1993), The River Wild (1995) and L.A. Confidential (1997) before gaining prominence for his portrayal of journalist Edward R. Murrow in George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He is also recognized for his role as CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and The Bourne Legacy (2012). He appeared in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (2012), Chloe Zhao's Nomadland (2020), and Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley (2021).

Also known for his lengthy work on television, he made his debut in the soap opera Search for Tomorrow in 1984. He portrayed Robert Wegler in the acclaimed HBO drama series The Sopranos (2004). He received a Primetime Emmy Award win and a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance in the HBO television film Temple Grandin (2010). He portrayed John Dos Passos in the HBO film Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012). He's had recurring roles in the Syfy series Alphas (2011–2012), the NBC series The Blacklist (2015–2016), the Showtime series Billions (2017–2019), and the SyFy, then Amazon Prime Video, series The Expanse (2018–2019).

Early life and education[edit]

Strathairn was born in San Francisco, California.[3] He is of Scottish descent through his paternal grandfather, Thomas Scott Strathairn, a native of Crieff, and of Native Hawaiian ancestry through his paternal grandmother, Josephine Lei Victoria Alana.[4][5][6] Strathairn attended Redwood High School in Larkspur, California.[7] He graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1970.[8] At Williams, he met fellow actor Gordon Clapp; and (after graduation) another Williams alumnus, director John Sayles,[9] with whom he has collaborated on a number of projects.

He studied clowning at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in Venice, Florida,[10] and briefly worked as a clown in a traveling circus.[11]


Strathairn was nominated for an Academy Award for his stirring portrayal of CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow in the 2005 biographical film Good Night, and Good Luck. The film explored Murrow's clash with Senator Joseph McCarthy over McCarthy's Communist witch-hunts in the 1950s. Strathairn also received Best Actor Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nominations for his performance. In 2010, he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his portrayal of Dr. Carlock in the HBO television film Temple Grandin. For that role, he also won the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film.

Other notable film roles include his portrayals of the title character in Harrison's Flowers (2000); Col. Craig Harrington in Memphis Belle (1990); Whistler, the wisecracking blind techie, in Sneakers (1992); convict Ray McDeere in the legal thriller The Firm (1993); abusive husband Joe St. George in Dolores Claiborne (1995); Pierce Patchett, a millionaire involved in the seedy side of 1950s Los Angeles in L.A. Confidential (1997); Theseus, Duke of Athens, in the 1999 version of A Midsummer Night's Dream; and baseball player Eddie Cicotte in Eight Men Out (1988).

Strathairn is a character actor, appearing in supporting roles in many independent and Hollywood films. In this capacity, he has co-starred in Twisted as a psychiatrist; in The River Wild as a husband; and in Blue Car as a teacher.

He has worked with his Williams College classmate and director John Sayles. He made his film debut in Return of the Secaucus 7, and worked in the films Passion Fish, Matewan, Limbo and City of Hope, for which he won the Independent Spirit Award. Alongside Sayles, he played one of the "men in black" in the 1983 film The Brother from Another Planet. Strathairn created the role of Edwin Booth with Maryann Plunkett in a workshop production of Booth! A House Divided, by W. Stuart McDowell, at The Players in New York City.[12]

Strathairn's television work also includes a wide range of roles: Moss, the bookselling nebbish on the critically acclaimed The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd; Captain Keller, the father of Helen Keller in the 2000 remake of The Miracle Worker; Capt. Frederick Benteen, a U.S. 7th Cavalry officer under General Custer's command in Son of the Morning Star; and a far-out (both figuratively and literally) televangelist in Paradise, the pilot episode for a TV series on Showtime that was not successful. Strathairn had a recurring role on the hit television drama The Sopranos. Strathairn starred in the Miami Vice episode "Out Where the Buses Don't Run."

Strathairn appeared in We Are Marshall, a 2006 film about the rebirth of Marshall University's football program after the 1970 plane crash that killed most of the team's members; and Cold Souls, starring Paul Giamatti as a fictionalized version of himself, who enlists a company's services to deep freeze his soul, directed by Sophie Barthes. In 2006 he did a campaign ad for then congressional candidate (now Senator) Kirsten Gillibrand. He reprised his role as Edward R. Murrow in a speech similar to the one from Good Night, and Good Luck, but was altered to reference Gillibrand's opponent John Sweeney.[13]

Strathairn plays the lead role in the 2007 independent film, Steel Toes, a film by David Gow (writer/co-director/producer) and Mark Adam (co-director/DOP/editor). The film is based on Gow's stage play Cherry Docs, in which Strathairn starred for its American premiere at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia.

He played a role in Paramount Pictures' children's film The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) as Arthur Spiderwick. Strathairn appeared in the American Experience PBS anthology series documentary, The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a biography of the physicist. He first played Oppenheimer in the 1989 CBS TV movie Day One. He plays William Flynn, an FBI agent dealing with anarchism in 1920s New York City, in No God, No Master.

In 2009, Strathairn performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans. It was adapted from the historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.[14]

He starred as Dr. Lee Rosen on Syfy's series Alphas.[15]

In 2018-19, Strathairn appeared on the third and fourth seasons of SyFy's The Expanse[16][17] as Klaes Ashford.

In 2020, Strathairn was one of the few genuine actors in the Oscar-winner Nomadland, directed by Chloé Zhao. David appears alongside his son Tay, the first time they have acted together on screen since 1988's Eight Men Out when Tay was just eight years old.

Strathairn stars in the 2023 film Remember This, based on the stage play about the life of Polish diplomat and war hero Jan Karski who brought evidence of the Holocaust to Western governments during WW2. The film is executive-produced by Eva Anisko and directed by Jeff Hutchens and Derek Goldman.


Strathairn is also a stage actor and has performed over 30 theatrical roles. He performed several roles in stage plays by Harold Pinter. He played Stanley in two consecutive New York Classic Stage Company (CSC) productions of Pinter's 1957 play The Birthday Party, directed by Carey Perloff (since 1992 artistic director of the American Conservatory Theater), in 1988[18] and 1989;[19] the dual roles of prison Officer and Prisoner in Pinter's 1989 play Mountain Language (in a double bill with the second CSC Rep production of The Birthday Party);[20] Edwin Booth in a workshop production by W. Stuart McDowell at The Players in 1989; Kerner, in Tom Stoppard's Hapgood (1994); and Devlin, opposite Lindsay Duncan's Rebecca, in Pinter's 1996 two-hander Ashes to Ashes in the 1999 New York premiere by the Roundabout Theatre Company.[21][22]

In 2015 Strathairn appeared in Anton Chekov's The Cherry Orchard with Mary McDonnell at People's Light theater in Malvern, Pennsylvania.[23][24] He lent his voice talents to an adaptation in the form of a radio play of Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here by the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in October 2020.[25]

Strathairn plays Jan Karski in the one-man play Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski, written by Clark Young and Derek Goldman. The play is an original production by The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University. In 2021, Strathairn garnered critical acclaim for a production of Remember This at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Strathairn narrated a biographical video to introduce Barack Obama before his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[27]

Strathairn's son Tay Strathairn was keyboardist for the band Dawes.[28][29]



Year Title Role Notes
1980 Return of the Secaucus 7 Ron Desjardins
1983 Lovesick Marvin Zuckerman
Silkwood Wesley
1984 Iceman Dr. Singe
The Brother from Another Planet Man in Black
1985 When Nature Calls Weejun
1986 At Close Range Tony Pine
1987 Matewan Police Chief Sid Hatfield
1988 Stars and Bars Charlie
Call Me Sam
Eight Men Out Eddie Cicotte
Dominick and Eugene Martin Chernak
1989 The Feud The Stranger
1990 Memphis Belle Colonel Craig Harriman
Judgment Father Frank Aubert
1991 City of Hope Asteroid
1992 Big Girls Don't Cry... They Get Even Keith Powers
A League of Their Own Ira Lowenstein
Bob Roberts Mack Laflin
Sneakers Erwin 'Whistler' Emory
Passion Fish Rennie
1993 Lost in Yonkers Johnny
The Firm Ray McDeere
A Dangerous Woman Getso
1994 The River Wild Tom Hartman
1995 Losing Isaiah Charles Lewin
Dolores Claiborne Joe St. George
Home for the Holidays Russell Terziak
1996 Mother Night Lieutenant Bernard B. O'Hare
1997 Song of Hiawatha Marcel
L.A. Confidential Pierce Morehouse Patchett
Bad Manners Wes Westlund
1998 The Climb Earl Himes
With Friends Like These... Armand Minetti
Simon Birch Reverend Russell
Meschugge Charles Kaminski
Evidence of Blood Jackson Kinley
1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream Theseus
Limbo "Jumpin Joe" Gastineau
A Map of the World Howard Goodwin
2000 A Good Baby Truman Lester
Harrison's Flowers Harrison Lloyd
2001 Relative Evil Dr. Charlie a.k.a. Ball in the House
2002 Speakeasy Bruce Hickman
Blue Car Auster
2004 Twisted Melvin Frank
2005 The Notorious Bettie Page Estes Kefauver
Missing in America Henry
Good Night, and Good Luck Edward R. Murrow
2006 The Shovel Paul Mullin Short film
Heavens Fall Judge James Horton
We Are Marshall Donald Dedmon
2007 The Sensation of Sight Finn Also producer
Steel Toes Danny Dunckelman
Fracture District Attorney Joe Lobruto
Racing Daylight Henry Becker/Harry Stokes
The Bourne Ultimatum Noah Vosen
My Blueberry Nights Arnie Copeland
Matters of Life and Death Mr. Jennings
Trumbo Readings
2008 The Spiderwick Chronicles Arthur Spiderwick
2009 The Uninvited Steven Ivers
Cold Souls Dr. Flintstein
The People Speak Himself Documentary
Odysseus in America Narration
2010 Howl Ralph McIntosh
The Tempest Alonzo, King of Naples
The Whistleblower Peter Ward
2012 The Bourne Legacy Noah Vosen
Maladies Delmar
No God, No Master William J. Flynn
Lincoln William Seward
2014 Godzilla Admiral William Stenz
2015 The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Ty Burley
Louder Than Bombs Richard
The Debt Nathan
2016 American Pastoral Nathan Zuckerman
2017 Darkest Hour Franklin D. Roosevelt (voice)
November Criminals Theo Schacht
2018 An Interview with God[30] God
Fast Color Ellis
UFO Franklin Ahls
2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters Admiral William Stenz
The Devil Has a Name Fred Stern
2020 Walkaway Joe Joe Haley
Nomadland David
2021 Nightmare Alley Pete Krumbein
2022 Where the Crawdads Sing Tom Milton
2023 A Little Prayer Bill
TBA O Horizon Warren Post-production
The Gettysburg Address[citation needed] Ralph Waldo Emerson (voice) Documentary; post-production
Press Your Luck Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1984 Search for Tomorrow Dr. Robert Hand 4 episodes
1985 Miami Vice Marty Lang Episode: "Out Where the Buses Don't Run"
1987 Broken Vows Stuart Chase Television movie
1987 Spenser: For Hire Doggie Thorpe Episode: "One for my Daughter"
1988 The Equalizer Phillip Borchek Episode: "Sea of Fire"
1988–91 The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd Moss Goodman 20 episodes
1989 Wiseguy Matthew Stemkowsky 4 episodes
1989 Day One J. Robert Oppenheimer Television movie
1990 Heat Wave Bill Thomas Television movie
1990 Judgment Father Frank Aubert Television movie
1991 Son of the Morning Star Capt. Frederick W. Benteen Television movie
1991 Without Warning: The James Brady Story Doctor Art Kobrine Television movie
1992 O Pioneers! Carl Linstrum Television movie
1994 April One John McCowan Television movie
1996 Beyond the Call Russell Cates Television movie
1997 In the Gloaming Martin Television movie
1998 Evidence of Blood Jackson Kinley Television movie
2000 Freedom Song Peter Crowley Television film
2000 The Miracle Worker Captain Keller Television film
2001 Big Apple FBI Agent Will Preecher 8 episodes
2002 Lathe of Heaven Mannie Television movie
2002 Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story Jack Hoschouer Television movie
2004 The Sopranos Robert Wegler 3 episodes
2004 Paradise Reverend Bobby Paradise Television movie
2008 The Trials of Oppenheimer J. Robert Oppenheimer BBC drama-documentary
2008 Monk Patrick Kloster Episode: "Mr. Monk and the Genius"
2010 Temple Grandin Dr. Carlock HBO Television movie
2010 House Nash Episode: "Lockdown"
2011–12 Alphas Dr. Lee Rosen 24 episodes
2012 Hemingway & Gellhorn John Dos Passos HBO Television movie
2015–16 The Blacklist Peter Kotsiopulos (aka The Director) 12 episodes
2015–17 Z: The Beginning of Everything Judge Anthony Sayre 5 episodes
2015 Axe Cop Extincter Voice
Episode: "Night Mission: The Extincter"
2017–19 Billions "Black Jack" Foley 8 episodes
2018 McMafia Semiyon Kleiman[31] Miniseries; 7 episodes
2018–19 The Expanse Klaes Ashford 13 episodes
2018 My Dinner with Hervé Marty Rothstein Television movie
2020 Interrogation Henry Fisher 10 episodes


Year Title Role Playwright Venue
1981 Einstein and the Polar Bear Bobby Bullins Tom Griffin Cort Theatre, Broadway debut
1997 The Three Sisters Vershinin Anton Chekov Roundabout Theatre Company, Broadway
2001 Dance of Death Kurt August Strindberg Broadhurst Theatre, Broadway
2003 Salome Jokanaan Oscar Wilde Ethel Barrymore Theatre, Broadway
2012 The Heiress Dr. Austin Sloper Augustus & Ruth Goetz Walter Kerr Theater, Broadway

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Artist Notes
2018 "Oh Baby" LCD Soundsystem

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Title Ref.
1991 Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male City of Hope Won
1992 Passion Fish Nominated
1997 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture L.A. Confidential Nominated
CableACE Award for Guest Actor in a Dramatic Special or Series In the Gloaming Won
1999 Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead Limbo Nominated
2005 Volpi Cup for Best Actor Good Night, and Good Luck Won
Academy Award for Best Actor Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Nominated
Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Temple Grandin Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Won
2012 Hemingway & Gellhorn Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Lincoln Nominated
2020 AACTA International Award for Best Supporting Actor Nomadland Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated


  1. ^ "Say How: S". National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  2. ^ Rose, Mike (January 2, 2023). "Today's famous birthdays list for January 26, 2023 includes celebrities Sasha Banks, Ellen DeGeneres". Cleveland.com. Retrieved January 2, 2023.
  3. ^ Pine, Dan (July 13, 2022). "'Remember This': David Strathairn delivers 'tour de force' performance – J." J. Archived from the original on June 4, 2023. Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  4. ^ "Secret Scottish Roots Of Best Actor Nominee". The Sunday Mail. August 11, 2009. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
  5. ^ "David Strathairn Finds the Spotlight". BBC News. January 27, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
  6. ^ "Hawaii, Marriages, 1826-1922".FamilySearch.org. Retrieved on July 30, 2012.
  7. ^ Examiner |, James Ambroff-Tahan | Special to the (July 18, 2022). "S.F. native David Strathairn plays Jan Karski in "Remember This"". San Francisco Examiner. Archived from the original on July 22, 2022. Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  8. ^ Crean, Ellen (February 16, 2006). "The Nominees: David Strathairn - CBS News". www.cbsnews.com. Archived from the original on February 29, 2024. Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  9. ^ "Charlie Rose interview, 1999".YouTube.com. Retrieved on Dec. 19, 2023.
  10. ^ Full biography of "David Strathairn", Yahoo! Movies, Copyright 2007, accessed August 7, 2007.
  11. ^ "The Nominees: David Strathairn". CBS News. March 1, 2006.
  12. ^ "History of the Bristol Riverside Theatre". Archived from the original on August 7, 2008.
  13. ^ "A 'Good Luck' Charm in Race For Congress". NY Daily News. October 3, 2006. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  14. ^ [1] Archived May 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "David Strathairn to Headline Syfy's Alpha". TVGuide.com.
  16. ^ "David Strathairn Joins The Expanse Season 3". Syfy. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  17. ^ Petski, Denise (July 14, 2017). "'The Expanse': David Strathairn Cast in Key Role in Syfy Space Drama Series". Deadline. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  18. ^ Performance revs. by Susan Hollis Merritt, "The Birthday Party" (CSC Repertory Theatre, New York, April 17, 1988, April 12, 1988 – May 22, 1988) and Bernard Dukore, "The Birthday Party" (CSC Repertory Theatre, New York, April–May 1988), The Pinter Review 2.1 (1988): 66–70; 71–73. (Cover photograph features Strathairn in his role as Stanley.)
  19. ^ 1989 CSC production, HaroldPinter.org (official site), accessed August 7, 2007.
  20. ^ Susan Hollis Merritt, "A Conversation with Carey Perloff, Bill Moor, Peter Riegert, Jean Stapleton, and David Strathairn: After Matinee of Mountain Language and The Birthday Party by CSC Repertory Ltd., Bruno's, New York, Nov. 12, 1989", The Pinter Review: Annual Essays 1989 (TPR) (Tampa: U of Tampa P, 1989) 59–84 (interview); cf. performance rev. by Francis Gillen, "Mountain Language, The Birthday Party" TPR 93–97. (Cover photograph features Strathairn and Stapleton in their roles as a prison Officer and the Elderly Woman in Mountain Language; his other role, the Prisoner, is the Elderly Woman's son.)
  21. ^ "David Strathairn Biography (1949-)". www.filmreference.com. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
  22. ^ Performance revs. by Katherine H. Burkman, "Ashes to Ashes in New York: Roundabout Theatre Company at the Gramercy Theatre, March 30, 1999" and by Susan Hollis Merritt, "Ashes to Ashes in New York: Roundabout Theatre Company, Gramercy Theatre, New York, April 3, 1999", The Pinter Review: Collected Essays 1997 and 1998 (Tampa: U of Tampa P, 1999) 154-59.
  23. ^ "People's Light Presents an Elegant Production of THE CHERRY ORCHARD - Theatre Sensation". www.theatresensation.com. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  24. ^ "Season Archive - People's Light". www.peopleslight.org. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  25. ^ "It Can't Happen Here". Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Archived from the original on October 30, 2020. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  26. ^ "Review: In 'Remember This' at Chicago Shakes, David Strathairn tells a devastating story of the man who warned the Allies of the Holocaust". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  27. ^ Greeley Tribune (2008). Obama uses language of hope, calls for action Archived December 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved August 29, 2008.
  28. ^ Fernandez, Alexia (April 7, 2020). "Meryl Streep's Daughter Grace Gummer Files for Divorce from Musician Tay Strathairn". People. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
  29. ^ Roach, Pemberton. "Dawes Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
  30. ^ McNary, Dave (June 30, 2016). "Brenton Thwaites, David Strathairn Starring in 'An Interview with God'". Variety. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  31. ^ "Further casting announced for epic new BBC One drama McMafia". BBC. November 15, 2016.

External links[edit]