Jump to content

J. T. Walsh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

J.T. Walsh
Walsh in Breakdown (1997)
James Thomas Patrick Walsh

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

James Thomas Patrick Walsh (September 28, 1943 – February 27, 1998) was an American character actor. His many films include Tin Men (1987), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), A Few Good Men (1992), Hoffa (1992), Nixon (1995), Sling Blade (1996), Breakdown (1997), and Pleasantville (1998).[1]

Early life[edit]

Walsh was born in San Francisco, California. He had three siblings: Christopher, Patricia, and Mary.[2] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[3]


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 villain 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 1995 X-Files episode "The List".

Wishing to show his range as an actor and play good guys, despite being typecast as a villain, he played relatively decent characters[citation needed] 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 completing 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.[citation needed]

The 1997 thriller Breakdown, which featured Walsh as villainous truck driver Warren "Red" Barr, 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 of which were dedicated to his memory.[4]

Personal life and death[edit]

He married Susan West in 1972 and they had a son, John Alan West, 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.[citation needed]

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. According to author Marc Seifer, for whom Walsh had narrated a documentary, just a few weeks earlier, Walsh had experienced chest pains and had an EKG test done that resulted in a misdiagnosis.[5]

Jack Nicholson, who acted with Walsh in A Few Good Men and Hoffa, dedicated his Best Actor Oscar for As Good as It Gets to him.[6]

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.[7]



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? Chief Inspector Francis Mahoney
1990 Crazy People Mr. Charles F Drucker
1990 The Grifters Cole
1990 Narrow Margin Michael Tarlow
1990 Misery Chief 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 Kevin McCord / Sheriff 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" Kuykendahl
1994 The Client FBI Agent 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
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
1999 Hidden Agenda Jonathan Zanuck Posthumous release


Year Title Role Notes
1984 The Edge of Night Ken Bloom #2 9 Episodes
1985 All My Children Jay Garland 1 Episode
1987 Spenser: For Hire Andrew Lawford Episode: "Murder and Acquisitions"
1987 The Ellen Burstyn Show Dan Hodges Episode: "Writer, Wronger"
1987 The Equalizer Andrew Banks / Sam Griffith 2 Episodes
1988 Windmills of the Gods Colonel Bill McKinney TV Miniseries
1989 L.A. Law Pete Bostik Episode: "Consumed Innocent"
1992 In the Shadow of a Killer Inspector Leo Kemeny TV movie
1993 The American Clock Judge Bradley TV film based on the play by Arthur Miller
1994 Birdland Potter Episode: "Grand Delusion"
1994 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Colonel Charles Fane Episode: "Operation Blackout"
1994 Starstruck Greer TV movie
1995 The X Files Warden Brodeur Episode: "The List"
1996 Crime of the Century Norman Schwarzkopf Sr. TV movie
1996 Gang in Blue Lieutenant William Eyler TV movie
1996–1997 Dark Skies Frank Bach 19 Episodes
1997 Hope Ray Percy Goldie Hawn's directorial debut
1997 C-16: FBI Jules Rozack Episode: "Radio FBI"


  1. ^ "J. T. Walsh". Salon. 2004.
  2. ^ Frammolino, Ralph (28 February 1998). "tuaries J.T. Walsh; Actor Excelled in Malevolent Roles". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 20 September 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  3. ^ J. T. Walsh (1943-1998): Reflections Of A Friend; accessed September 10, 2020.
  4. ^ The J.T. Walsh Supersite; accessed February 24, 2015.
  5. ^ Seifer, Marc (4 March 1998). "Reflections of a Friend" (PDF). marcseifer.com. Retrieved 30 July 2023.
  6. ^ "J.T. Walsh Was Hollywood's Ultimate Go-To Villain". Screen Rant. 12 August 2019.
  7. ^ Johnston, Andrew (19 March 1998). "American psycho". Time Out New York.

External links[edit]