Tim Blake Nelson

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Tim Blake Nelson
Nelson at the 2016 Fantastic Fest
Timothy Blake Nelson

(1964-05-11) May 11, 1964 (age 59)
EducationBrown University (BA)
Juilliard School (GrDip)
  • Actor
  • director
  • writer
Years active1989–present
Lisa Benavides
(m. 1994)

Timothy Blake Nelson (born May 11, 1964) is an American actor and playwright. Described as a "modern character actor",[1] his roles include Delmar O'Donnell in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), Gideon in Minority Report (2002), Dr. Pendanski in Holes (2003), Danny Dalton Jr. in Syriana (2005), Samuel Sterns in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Richard Schell in Lincoln (2012), the title character in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), and Henry McCarty in Old Henry (2021). He portrayed Wade Tillman / Looking Glass in the HBO limited series Watchmen (2019), for which he received a Critics' Choice Television Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2020.

Nelson's directorial credits include Eye of God (1997), which was nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and an Independent Spirit Award; O (2001), a modern-day adaptation of Othello; and the Holocaust drama The Grey Zone (2001). Eye of God and The Grey Zone were both adapted from Nelson's own plays. Nelson has also co-directed music videos for billy woods and Kenny Segal including "Babylon by Bus" and "Soft Landing". He also co-directed the music video for Armand Hammer feat. Pink Siifu's "Trauma Mic".

Nelson recently published his debut novel, City of Blows (2023), an epic group portrait of four men grappling for control of a script in a radically changing Hollywood.

Early life[edit]

Nelson was born to a Jewish family[2][3] in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Ruth Nelson (née Kaiser),[4][5] a noted Tulsa social activist and philanthropist, and Don Nelson, a geologist and wildcatter.[6][7] His maternal uncle is businessman George Kaiser.[8]

His maternal grandparents Herman Geo. Kaiser and Kate Kaiser, daughter of businessman Max Samuel, were from Germany, and escaped the Nazis shortly before World War II. They moved to Britain in 1938,[9]: 96seq.  where Nelson's mother was born,[9]: 87seq. [10] and immigrated to the United States in 1941.[11][12][13] His father's family were Russian-Jewish emigrants.[14]

Nelson attended the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain Resort Arts and Conference Center in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma.[15]

Nelson is a 1982 graduate of Holland Hall School in Tulsa,[4] and a graduate of Brown University, where he was a classics major as well as senior orator for his class of 1986. At Brown, he studied under philosopher Martha Nussbaum.[16] He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He won the Workman/Driskoll award for excellence in classical studies.[17] He graduated from Juilliard in 1990, a member of Group 19.[18]


Nelson with Ahna O'Reilly in 2012

Nelson's debut play, Eye of God, was produced at Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1992. The Grey Zone premiered at MCC Theater in New York in 1996, where his 1998 work Anadarko was produced. He was a co-star of the sketch comedy show The Unnaturals, which ran on HA! (later CTV, and would turn into Comedy Central) between 1989 and 1991, alongside Paul Zaloom, John Mariano and Siobhan Fallon Hogan.[19]

Nelson has appeared as an actor in film, TV and theatre. He had a featured role as Delmar in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? According to directors Joel and Ethan Coen, he was the only one in the cast or crew who had read Homer's Odyssey, a story upon which the film is loosely based.[20] He sang "In the Jailhouse Now" on the film's soundtrack (which received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2002). He has had a number of supporting performances in feature films such as Holes, Minority Report, Syriana and Lincoln. He also appeared in Marvel Comics adaptations The Incredible Hulk and Fantastic Four.

Nelson narrated the 2001 audiobook At the Altar of Speed: The Fast Life and Tragic Death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. He appeared on stage extensively off-Broadway in New York at theatres including Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Class Company, Soho Repertory Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, and Central Park's Open Air Theater in the Shakespeare plays Richard III, Troilus and Cressida, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

He has directed film versions of his plays The Grey Zone and Eye of God (for which he received an Independent Spirit Awards nomination for the Someone to Watch Award), and directed two of his original screenplays: Kansas (1998) and Leaves of Grass (2009). He directed the film O, based on Othello and set in a modern-day high school. For Eye of God, he received the Tokyo Bronze Prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival (1997) and the American Independent Award at the Seattle International Film Festival (1997); for O, the Best Director Award at the Seattle International Film Festival (2001); and for The Grey Zone, the National Board of Review's Freedom of Expression Award (2002). He is on the boards of directors of The Actors Center in New York City and the Soho Rep Theatre.[21]

Nelson guest-starred on the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation season 10 episode "Working Stiffs". In the episode "My Brother's Bomber" (aired September 29, 2015) of the PBS investigative series Frontline, he talked about the loss of his friend David Dornstein in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.[22]

In 2018, Nelson played the title character in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a western anthology film by Joel and Ethan Coen,[23] after receiving the original script 16 years prior, in 2002. The film was released on Netflix on November 16, after a limited theatrical run,[24] and received positive reviews,[25][26] with many highlighting Nelson's performance and his overall segment. He portrayed Ralph Myers in the drama/legal drama Just Mercy (2019). In January 2023, he joined the cast of Dune: Part Two,[27] though his role was ultimately cut out of the film.[28]


Nelson's play Socrates opened at The Public Theater in 2019, starring Michael Stuhlbarg.[29] It was favorably received by numerous publications, including the New York Times.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Nelson resides in New York City with his wife, Lisa Benavides, and their three sons.[4] On May 8, 2009, he was inducted as an honorary member of the University of Tulsa's Beta of Oklahoma chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa national collegiate honor society.[31]



Year Title Role Notes
1992 This Is My Life Dennis
1993 Motel Blue 19 Adult Luther (voice) Uncredited
1994 Amateur Young Detective
1995 Heavyweights Roger Johnson
1996 Joe's Apartment Cockroach (voice)
1997 Eye of God Director and writer
Donnie Brasco FBI Technician
Prix Fixe Busboy Short film
1998 The Thin Red Line Pvt. Lysander Tills
Kansas Short film; director and writer
2000 Hamlet Flight captain
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Delmar O'Donnell
2001 O Director
The Grey Zone Director, writer, producer and editor
2002 The Good Girl Bubba
Cherish Daly
Minority Report Gideon
2003 A Foreign Affair Jake Adams Also executive producer
Holes Dr. Kiowa "Mom" Pendanski
Wonderland Billy Deverell
2004 Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Dr. Jonathan Jacobo
The Last Shot Marshal Paris
Bereft Dennis
Meet the Fockers Officer Vern LeFlore
2005 The Amateurs Barney Macklehatton
My Suicidal Sweetheart Various
The Big White Gary
Syriana Danny Dalton
2006 Come Early Morning Uncle Tim
The Darwin Awards Perp
Hoot Curly
Fido Mr. Theopolis
2007 The Astronaut Farmer Kevin Munchak
2008 The Incredible Hulk Samuel Sterns
American Violet David Cohen
2009 Saint John of Las Vegas Militant Ned
Leaves of Grass Bolger Also director, writer and producer
2011 Flypaper Peanut Butter
Yelling to the Sky Coleman
Detachment Mr. Wiatt
The Big Year Fuchs
2012 Big Miracle Pat Lafayette
Lincoln Richard Schell
2013 Blue Caprice Ray
As I Lay Dying Anse
Child of God Sheriff Fate
Snake and Mongoose Mike McAllister
2014 The Homesman Freighter
The Sound and the Fury Father
Kill the Messenger Alan Fenster
Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power[32] Admiral Hyman Rickover Documentary
2015 Anesthesia Adam Zarrow Also director, writer and producer
Fantastic Four Dr. Harvey Allen
2016 The Confirmation Vaughn
Colossal Garth
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Wayne Pfister
2017 Deidra & Laney Rob a Train Truman
The Vanishing of Sidney Hall Johan Tidemand
The Institute Dr. Lemelle
2018 Monster Leroy Sawicki
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Buster Scruggs Segment: "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs"
2019 The Report Raymond Nathan
Arara Thomas
The Hustle Portnoy Uncredited
Angel Has Fallen Vice President Martin Kirby
Just Mercy Ralph Myers
Zeroville Professor Kohn
The True Don Quixote Don Quixote
The Jesus Rolls Doctor
2021 Naked Singularity Angus
Old Henry Henry Also executive producer
Ghosts of the Ozarks Torb
National Champions Rodger Cummings
Nightmare Alley Carny Boss
2022 Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio The Black Rabbits (voice)
2023 Ghosted Borislov
Ninety-Five Senses Coy (voice) Short film
Asleep in My Palm Tom
2024 The Bricklayer O'Malley
Dune: Part Two Deleted scene
2025 Captain America: Brave New World Samuel Sterns / Leader Post-production
TBA Greedy People TBA Post-production
The Long Home Hovington Completed


Year Title Role Notes
1989–1991 The Unnaturals Recurring characters
1995 House of Buggin' Kidnapper Episode: "The Paco Vasquez Story"
1996 Dead Man's Walk Johnny Carthage 3 episodes
2005 Stella Mountain Man Episode: "Camping"
Warm Springs Tom Loyless Television film
2006 Haskett's Chance Pilot; director
2009 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Paulie Krill Episode: "Working Stiffs"
2011 CHAOS Casey Malick 13 episodes
Modern Family Hank Episode: "Dude Ranch"
2012–2015 Black Dynamite Chief Humphrey Magillahorn / Donald Sterling /
PBS Executive / XXX Film Director (voice)
4 episodes
2014 Klondike Meeker 6 episodes
2015, 2019 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Randy 4 episodes
2015 Z: The Beginning of Everything Episode: "Pilot"; director
For Justice Ochs Rainey Pilot
2017 Wormwood Sidney Gottlieb 4 episodes
2018 Dallas & Robo The Woodsman (voice) 8 episodes
2019 Watchmen Wade Tillman / Looking Glass 6 episodes
2020 Big City Greens Grampa Ernest Green (voice) Episode: "Garage Tales"
2022 Lost Ollie Zozo (voice) 4 episodes
Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities Nick Appleton Episode: "Lot 36"
George & Tammy Roy Acuff Episode: "The Race Is On"
2023 Poker Face Keith Owens Episode: "The Future of the Sport"

Video games[edit]

Year Game Role
2008 The Incredible Hulk Samuel Sterns (voice)


  1. ^ Coggan, Devan (October 5, 2021). "Tim Blake Nelson reflects on his most memorable roles, from 'Buster Scruggs' to 'Watchmen'". EW.com. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  2. ^ "Feature Article and Interviews - THE GREY ZONE (2001)". Aboutfilm.com. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  3. ^ Bloom, Nate (February 2, 2012). "Jewish stars: Whales, ghosts and 'Smash'". Cleveland Jewish News. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Michael Smith, "Bloomer Sooner: Tulsa native Tim Blake Nelson's roots are showing", Tulsa World, May 6, 2009.
  5. ^ "Star's Talents Return to Tulsa" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2011. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  6. ^ Tulsa Historical Society, 1999 Hall of Fame Inductee: Ruth K. Nelson Archived 2009-01-26 at the Wayback Machine, tulsahistory.org; accessed June 14, 2017.
  7. ^ Sherrow, Rita. "Native Tulsan Featured in Miniseries: Tim Nelson Makes Leap From Shakespeare to 'Dead Man's Walk'".
  8. ^ Bloom, Nate (August 6, 2015). "Celebrity jews". jweekly.com. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Ulf Heinsohn, Max Samuel: a real mentsh, inventor, self-made-man / Menschenfreund, Erfinder, Selfmademan, Scott Galliart (trlr.), Stiftung Begegnungsstätte für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur in Rostock / Max-Samuel-Haus (ed.), (= Schriften aus dem Max-Samuel-Haus; vol. 15), Rostock: Hinstorff, 2022, page as indicated behind the footnote sign. ISBN 978-3-356-02380-0.
  10. ^ Stated on WTF with Marc Maron, December 3, 2018
  11. ^ "The Grey Zone". NPR. 2002-10-26. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  12. ^ "Blunt Review: Film Reviews, Celebrity Interviews, Music Reviews with Web Celeb Emily Blunt". Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  13. ^ "Jonathan Valania: O Brother Who Art Thou? A Q&A With Actor/Writer/Director Tim Blake Nelson". HuffPost. 2013-04-03. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  14. ^ "People adapt to 'Grey Zone' Jewish workers in Nazi camp". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  15. ^ Oklahoma Arts Institute, Alumni Listing Archived 2007-08-25 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Singer, Mark (2019-04-08). "Tim Blake Nelson, Classics Nerd, Brings "Socrates" to the Stage". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-04-10.
  17. ^ Kari Molvar, "Q&A: Tim Blake Nelson", Brown Alumni Magazine (March/April 2001).
  18. ^ [1] Archived December 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "The Unnaturals - TV Series - 1989". hollywood.com. February 5, 2015.
  20. ^ Romney, Jonathan. "The Coen brothers: Double vision", The Guardian, May 19, 2000.
  21. ^ "Roger Ebert's Film Festival - Filmmaker Guests". archive.ebertfest.media.illinois.edu. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  22. ^ "My Brother's Bomber". pbs.org. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  23. ^ Giroux, Jack (July 9, 2017). "'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs' Cast Includes James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson, Zoe Kazan, and More". /Film. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  24. ^ Chu, Henry (August 31, 2018). "Coen Brothers Confirm Theatrical Release for 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs'". Variety. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  25. ^ "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. 8 November 2018. Archived from the original on November 18, 2018. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  26. ^ "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on November 7, 2018. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  27. ^ Kit, Borys (January 6, 2023). "Tim Blake Nelson Joins Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune: Part 2' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
  28. ^ Sharf, Zack (2024-03-04). "Denis Villeneuve Cut Two Actors From 'Dune 2' and One of Them Is 'Heartbroken'; No Deleted Scenes Will Be Released: 'When It's Not in the Movie, It's Dead'". Variety. Retrieved 2024-03-26.
  29. ^ Schilling, Mary Kay (April 17, 1989). "Tim Blake Nelson's New Play Reveals How Socrates Predicted Donald Trump—And the Tyranny of Democracy". Newsweek. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  30. ^ Collins-Hughes, Laura (2019-06-02). "Review: In 'Socrates,' a Brainy Tribute to a Prickly Provocateur". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  31. ^ Murphy, Jennifer (2017-04-11). "McFarlin Fellows Dinner: An Evening with Tim Blake Nelson". From McFarlin Tower. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  32. ^ "Tim Blake Nelson". IMDb.

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