J. T. Walsh

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J. T. Walsh
J.T. Walsh.jpg
Still of J.T. Walsh as Warren "Red" Barr in Breakdown (1997)
James Thomas Patrick Walsh

(1943-09-28)September 28, 1943
DiedFebruary 27, 1998(1998-02-27) (aged 54)
Years active1975–1998
Susan West
(m. 1972; div. 1982)

James Thomas Patrick "J. T." Walsh (September 28, 1943 – February 27, 1998) was an American actor. He appeared in many films, notably Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), A Few Good Men (1992), Hoffa (1992), Nixon (1995), Sling Blade (1996), Breakdown (1997) and Pleasantville (1998). According to Leonard Maltin, he was known for portraying "quietly sinister white-collar sleazeballs" in numerous 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.[1]

From 1948 until 1962, the family lived in West Germany, before moving back to the United States. After studying at Clongowes Wood College (a Jesuit school in Ireland) from 1955 until 1961, he attended the University of Tübingen (Walsh spoke fluent German), and then the University of Rhode Island, where he starred in many college theater productions. In 1974, he was discovered by a theatre director and began working in off-Broadway shows. After college, Walsh worked briefly as a VISTA volunteer in Newport, Rhode Island organizing tenants for the United Tenant Organizations of Rhode Island (UTO) before resigning to pursue his acting career.


Walsh did not appear in films until 1983, when he had a minor role in Eddie Macon's Run. Over the next 15 years, he appeared in over 50 feature films, increasingly taking the bad guy role for which he is well known, such as Sergeant Major Dickerson in Good Morning, Vietnam. On television, he again portrayed an evil character, prison warden Brodeur on The X-Files in 1995 in the episode "The List".

Walsh wanted to show his range as an actor and play good guys, despite being typecast as a villain. He played relatively decent characters in Outbreak and Sniper, and also played the rather sympathetic Marine Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Markinson in A Few Good Men. He played a member of Majestic 12 in the 1996 sci-fi drama series Dark Skies. The 1997 thriller Breakdown featured Walsh as the villainous truck driver. It was his last starring film released during his lifetime. In his final year of life, Walsh starred in Hidden Agenda, Pleasantville, and The Negotiator. All three films were dedicated to his memory.[2]


Walsh died of a heart attack on February 27, 1998 at the age of 54, after feeling ill and collapsing at the Optimum Health Institute.[3] Jack Nicholson dedicated his Academy Award for As Good as It Gets to Walsh's memory. The two had acted together in two films, A Few Good Men and Hoffa.[4]

In his tribute to Walsh in Time Out New York, Andrew Johnston wrote: "Walsh is invariably referred to as a character actor who specialized in villains, but that description doesn't quite do justice to what he did. The typical Walsh character was a plot device, really, serving either as a moral counterpoint to the star of the show or as an Iagolike figure egging on the hero in a way likely to lead to the protagonists's downfall. These characters were often self-important authority figures 'defending' the American establishment from the individualism represented by the movies' heroes ... or crooks who thrived by exploiting the hypocrisy of the system. Walsh didn't just make a career of playing bad guys--his performances offered a sort of running commentary on the power structure of American society."[5]



Year Title Role Notes
1983 Eddie Macon's Run Man in Bar Film debut
1984 The Beniker Gang Principal Stoddard
1985 Right to Kill? Maj. Eckworth TV movie
1985 Hard Choices Deputy Anderson
1986 Hannah and Her Sisters Ed Smythe
1986 Power Jerome Cade
1987 Tin Men Wing
1987 House of Games The Businessman / "Cop"
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam Sgt. Major Dickerson
1988 Things Change Hotel Manager
1988 Tequila Sunrise DEA Agent Hal Maguire
1989 The Big Picture Allen Habel
1989 Wired Bob Woodward
1989 Dad Dr. Santana
1990 Why Me? Francis Mahoney
1990 Crazy People Mr. Drucker
1990 The Grifters Cole
1990 Narrow Margin Michael Tarlow
1990 Misery State Trooper Sherman Douglas Uncredited[citation needed]
1990 The Russia House Colonel Jackson Quinn
1991 Iron Maze Jack Ruhle
1991 Backdraft Alderman Marty Swayzak
1991 Defenseless Steven Seldes
1991 True Identity Agent Houston
1992 A Few Good Men Lt. Col. Matthew Andrew Markinson
1992 Hoffa Frank Fitzsimmons
1992 The Prom Grover Dean
1993 Sniper Chester Van Damme
1993 Loaded Weapon 1 Desk Clerk
1993 Red Rock West Wayne Brown
1993 Needful Things Danforth "Buster" Keeton III Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
1993 Morning Glory Sheriff Reese Goodloe
1993 One Little Indian Marshall Robinson Short
1994 The Last Seduction Frank Griffith
1994 Blue Chips Happy Kuykendall
1994 The Client Jason McThune
1994 Silent Fall Sheriff Mitch Rivers
1994 Miracle on 34th Street Ed Collins
1995 Outbreak White House Chief of Staff Uncredited
1995 The Low Life Mike Sr.
1995 The Babysitter Harry Tucker
1995 Black Day Blue Night Lt. John Quinn
1995 Charlie's Ghost Story Darryl
1995 Nixon John Ehrlichman Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1995 Sacred Cargo Father Stanislav
1996 Executive Decision Senator Jason Mavros
1996 The Little Death Ted Hannon
1996 Sling Blade Charles Bushman Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1996 Gang in Blue Lt. William Eyler
1997 Breakdown Warren "Red" Barr Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
1998 The Negotiator Inspector Terence Niebaum Posthumous release
1998 Pleasantville Big Bob Posthumous release
1998 Hidden Agenda Jonathan Zanuck Posthumous release; final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1989 L.A. Law Pete Bostik Episode: "Consumed Innocent"
1995 The X Files Warden Brodeur Episode: "The List"
1996–1997 Dark Skies Frank Bach
1996 Gang in Blue Lt. William Eyler TV movie


  1. ^ Obituary: J.T. Walsh; Actor Excelled in Malevolent Roles, latimes.com; accessed April 7, 2016.
  2. ^ The J.T. Walsh Supersite; accessed February 24, 2015.
  3. ^ "J.T. Walsh dies at 54". Variety.com. Penske Business Media, LLC. 11 March 1998. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Oh, that guy" Archived 2008-05-13 at the Wayback Machine Salon.com; accessed February 24, 2015.
  5. ^ Johnston, Andrew (March 19, 1998). "American psycho". Time Out New York.

Updated link: https://www.salon.com/2004/08/26/j_t_walsh/

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