Strathairn at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con
|Education||Redwood High School|
|Alma mater||Williams College|
Logan Goodman (m. 1980)
Strathairn came to prominence in the 1980s and the 1990s performing in the films of fellow Williams College graduate John Sayles, including Return of the Secaucus 7 (his screen debut), The Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, City of Hope, Eight Men Out, and Limbo. Strathairn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for portraying journalist Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck (2005). He is also recognized for his role as CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen in the 2007 film The Bourne Ultimatum, a role he reprised in 2012's The Bourne Legacy. He played a prominent role as Dr. Lee Rosen on the Syfy series Alphas from 2011 to 2012 and played Secretary of State William H. Seward in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (2012). He won an Emmy and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in the TV film, Temple Grandin (2010).
Strathairn was born in San Francisco, California, the second of three children of Thomas Scott Strathairn, Jr., a physician, and Mary Frances (née Frazier), a nurse. 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. Strathairn attended Redwood High School in Larkspur, California, and graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1970. At Williams, he met fellow actor Gordon Clapp and director John Sayles, with whom he has collaborated on a number of projects.
Strathairn was nominated for an Academy Award for his starring portrayal of CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow in the 2005 biopic Good Night, and Good Luck. The film explored Murrow's clash with Senator Joseph McCarthy over McCarthy's Communist "witch-hunt" 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); 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; 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.
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 second-season episode, "Out Where the Buses Don't Run", in Miami Vice.
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 fictionalised 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.
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.
Strathairn is also a stage actor and has performed over thirty 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 and 1989; 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); 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.
|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|
Nominated – CableACE Award for Guest Actor in a Dramatic Special or Series
|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||Monk||Patrick Kloster||Episode: "Mr. Monk and the Genius"|
|2010||Temple Grandin||Dr. Carlock||Television movie|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
|2011–12||Alphas||Dr. Lee Rosen||24 episodes|
|2012||Hemingway & Gellhorn||John Dos Passos||Television movie|
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
|2015–16||The Blacklist||Peter Kotsiopulos (aka The Director)||12 episodes|
|2015–17||Z: The Beginning of Everything||Judge Anthony Sayre||5 episodes|
Episode: "Night Mission: The Extincter"
|2017–18||Billions||"Black Jack" Foley||6 episodes|
|2018||McMafia||Semiyon Kleiman||Miniseries; 7 episodes|
|2018–19||The Expanse||Klaes Ashford||13 episodes|
|2018||My Dinner with Hervé||Marty Rothstein||Television movie|
|2018||"Oh Baby"||LCD Soundsystem|
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- Welcome to Dispatch Online[permanent dead link]. Dispatch.co.za (2010-11-12). Retrieved on July 10, 2011.
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- Performance revs. by Susan Hollis Merritt, "The Birthday Party" (CSC Repertory Theatre, New York, April 17, 1988, Apr. 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.)
- 1989 CSC production, HaroldPinter.org (official site), accessed August 7, 2007.
- 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.)
- 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.
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- McNary, Dave (June 30, 2016). "Brenton Thwaites, David Strathairn Starring in 'An Interview with God'". Variety. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
- "Further casting announced for epic new BBC One drama McMafia". BBC. November 15, 2016.