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)
Born
James Thomas Patrick Walsh

(1943-09-28)September 28, 1943
DiedFebruary 27, 1998(1998-02-27) (aged 54)
Alma materUniversity of Rhode Island
OccupationActor
Years active1975–1998
Spouse(s)
Susan West
(m. 1972; div. 1982)
Children1

James Thomas Patrick Walsh (September 28, 1943 – February 27, 1998) was an American character actor. He appeared in many films, notably Tin Men (1987), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), A Few Good Men (1992), Hoffa (1992), Nixon (1995), Sling Blade (1996), Breakdown (1997) and Pleasantville (1998).

Early life[edit]

Walsh was born in San Francisco, California, to Mary Louise (née O'Connor) and James Patrick Walsh, who were both of Irish descent. His father was a civilian comptroller in the U.S. Army. He had three siblings: Christopher, Patricia, and Mary.[1] From 1948 until 1962, the family lived in West Germany, where Walsh's father was stationed; they lived in Munich for seven years before moving to Stuttgart.

Walsh and his brother studied at Clongowes Wood College (a Jesuit school in Ireland) from 1955 until 1961. He then attended the University of Tübingen (Walsh spoke fluent German) for a year before his father died of a brain tumour, after which he and his family moved back to the United States, settling in his mother's native Rhode Island. He completed his studies at the University of Rhode Island, where he majored in sociology and starred in many college theater productions. During this time, he was also active in SDS demonstrations against the Vietnam War.

After graduating from college in 1967, 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. Prior to becoming an actor, he also worked as a barman, an encyclopedia salesman, a junior high school teacher, a gymnasium equipment salesman, and a reporter. In 1974, he was discovered by a theater director and began working in off-Broadway shows, where he began using the initials "J. T." to avoid confusion with another stage actor named James Walsh.[2]

Career[edit]

On stage, Walsh received critical acclaim for his performance as John Williamson in the 1984 U.S. premiere of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross in Chicago and subsequently on Broadway. He 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. Walsh notably played real people in three films: journalist Bob Woodward in Wired, Teamsters president Frank Fitzsimmons in Hoffa, and Richard Nixon's domestic advisor John Ehrlichman in Nixon. He was fired from Loose Cannons after already doing two days of filming because his co-star Dan Aykroyd had learned of Walsh's involvement in Wired, a biopic of Aykroyd's friend John Belushi to which Aykroyd was hostile. 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.[3]

Personal life and death[edit]

Walsh was known as "Jim" to his friends. He married Susan West in 1972 and they had a son, John Alan West (born 1974), who works in film production under the name John West. They divorced in 1982. Walsh lived in Encino, Los Angeles. He was a lifelong Democrat, and an avid reader with a strong interest in metaphysics.

A heavy smoker, Walsh died of a heart attack in the hospital in La Mesa, California on February 27, 1998 at the age of 54, after feeling ill and collapsing at the Optimum Health Institute in Lemon Grove. Just a few weeks earlier, Walsh had experienced chest pains and had an EKG test done that was misread as normal.

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.[4]

Other[edit]

The "Hey It’s That Guy!" feature in Fametracker was inspired by him, as he appeared in over 60 films but was not well known by name. The creators expanded upon this idea in 2005 by publishing Hey! It's That Guy!: The Fametracker.com Guide to Character Actors.[5]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1983 Eddie Macon's Run Man in Bar Film debut
1984 The Beniker Gang Principal Stoddard
1985 Right to Kill? Major 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 Sergeant Major Phillip 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 Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Andrew Markinson
1992 Hoffa Frank Fitzsimmons
1992 The Prom Grover Dean
1993 Sniper Colonel 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 District Attorney 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 Lieutenant 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 Lieutenant William Eyler
1997 Breakdown Warren 'Red' Barr Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
1998 The Negotiator Inspector Terence Niebaum Posthumous release
1998 Pleasantville Bob 'Big Bob' Posthumous release
1998 Hidden Agenda Jonathan Zanuck Posthumous release; final film role

Television[edit]

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 19 Episodes

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary: J.T. Walsh; Actor Excelled in Malevolent Roles, latimes.com; accessed April 7, 2016.
  2. ^ J. T. Walsh (1943-1998): Reflections Of A Friend; accessed September 10, 2020.
  3. ^ The J.T. Walsh Supersite; accessed February 24, 2015.
  4. ^ Johnston, Andrew (March 19, 1998). "American psycho". Time Out New York.
  5. ^ Amazon.com: Hey! It's That Guy!: Books: Tara Ariano

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

External links[edit]