Timothy Olyphant

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Timothy Olyphant
Timothy Olyphant March 19, 2014 (cropped).jpg
Olyphant in 2014
Born Timothy David Olyphant
(1968-05-20) May 20, 1968 (age 47)
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Occupation Actor, producer
Years active 1995–present
Spouse(s) Alexis Knief (m. 1991)
Children 3
Parent(s) Katherine Lyon Olyphant
John Vernon Bevan Olyphant

Timothy David Olyphant (born May 20, 1968) is an American actor. He is best known for his two television roles as western lawmen; Sheriff Seth Bullock in Deadwood (2004–2006) and Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in Justified (2010–2015).

Early life[edit]

Olyphant was born in Honolulu, Hawaii but moved to Modesto, California at the age of two.[1] His parents are J.V. Bevan Olyphant, who worked as vice president of production at Gallo Winery, and Katherine (née Gideon).[2][3][4][5][6] He has an older brother, Andrew, and a younger brother, Matthew.[7] His parents divorced when Olyphant was a teenager; both remarried.[8][9][10] His father later moved to Arizona, where he owns an extensive cattle ranch.[11][12]

Olyphant is a descendant of the Vanderbilt family of New York. His paternal fourth great-grandfather was family patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt and his third great-grandfather was William Henry Vanderbilt, who doubled the family's railroad fortune. Olyphant's great-great-grandmother was socialite Emily Thorn Vanderbilt, his great-grandmother was socialite Emily Vanderbilt Sloane and his granduncle was music producer John Hammond.[13][14] The surname Olyphant is of Scottish origin.[1] His paternal fourth great-grandfather, Dr. David Olyphant, was born in Scotland and served as director-general of the Southern hospitals during the American Revolutionary War.[15] His third great-grandfather, David Olyphant, and great-great-grandfather, Robert Morrison Olyphant, were both prominent businessmen.[14][16][17]

Olyphant attended Modesto's Fred C. Beyer High School.[18] Growing up, he was "embarrassed" by the idea of acting but enjoyed art and drawing.[19][20] He swam competetively throughout his childhood and was a finalist at the 1986 Nationals in the 200m Individual Medley.[21][22] He was then recruited to the University of Southern California by USC Trojans swimming coach Peter Daland.[23][24] When Olyphant first visited the campus as part of a recruitment trip, he hoped to study architecture but was told it would be unmanageable with his training schedule.[19][25][26] Instead, he opted to do a degree in fine arts.[1]

After graduating in 1990,[23] Olyphant half-heartedly considered a career in commercial art.[20][27] While in the process of applying for a master's degree in fine arts, and working as a swimming coach at Irvine Novaquatics,[28][29] Olyphant decided to move to New York to explore other options.[25] He initially performed stand-up comedy: "I'd dabbled [before] and then there was a six month period where I did it with a certain committment. Then I'd occasionally go back."[20][27][30][31] Ultimately, he decided to become an actor. In his final year of university, he had taken an acting class as an elective at UC Irvine and found it "really enjoyable".[1][32] He completed a two-year acting program at New York's William Esper Studio and began auditioning for roles.[33][34][35]


1995–2003: Character roles[edit]

In 1995, Olyphant booked his first ever acting role in a Clint Eastwood-produced WB television pilot based on 77 Sunset Strip.[36][37] Later that year, he made his professional Off Broadway debut in the Playwrights Horizons' production of The Monogamist[38][39] and received the Theatre World Award for Outstanding Debut Performance.[40] He starred in the world premiere of The SantaLand Diaries (1996) at the Atlantic Theater Company, a one-man play based on David Sedaris's essay about working as a Macy’s department store Christmas elf.[41] Ben Brantley of The New York Times felt the "charming" Olyphant did "a wonderful job" when imitating other characters but had "a harder time finding a convincing style for the running narrative."[42] Howard Kissell of The New York Daily News remarked that he delivered "all the drollery with a perfect deadpan and a twinkle."[43]

Olyphant made his feature film debut in the comedy The First Wives Club (1996), playing a movie director who attempted to cast Goldie Hawn's character as an elderly mother.[44] Also in 1996, he appeared in the pilot of the CBS spy series Mr. & Mrs. Smith.[45][46] In 1997, Olyphant made a guest appearance as Officer Brett Farraday in three episodes of the ABC police drama High Incident[47] and returned to New York's Playwrights Horizons to play a supporting role in Plunge.[48] He also had minor roles in the romantic comedy A Life Less Ordinary[49] and the CBS television film Ellen Foster.[50] Olyphant's most high-profile role of 1997 was as a film student in the successful horror film Scream 2, bringing "a degree of wild-eyed flair to the role," according to HitFix's Chris Eggertsen.[51][52] He later described the role as "a gift. I had virtually nothing on my resume at that point. I’m sure some of it was made up."[52]

Olyphant returned to televison in 1998 for a guest starring role in an episode of the HBO sitcom Sex and the City, playing a love interest for Carrie Bradshaw. Sarah Jessica Parker later said the episode, "Valley of the Twenty Something Guys", was her favourite of the series.[53] Also that year, he had a role in the HBO war movie When Trumpets Fade[54] and in the independent ensemble drama 1999.[55][56] In 1999, he made two little-seen film appearances in the drama Advice from a Caterpillar, as a love interest for Cynthia Nixon's character,[57][58] and in the comedy No Vacancy, as a love interest for Christina Ricci's character.[59] Olyphant received positive notices for portraying a drug dealer in the cult comedy Go (1999).[60][6][34] He only became available for the role after being unexpectedly replaced by Aidan Quinn during the pre-production of Practical Magic.[61][62] Janet Maslin of the New York Times noted that the role was "played with offbeat flair"[63][64] while Todd McCarthy of Variety described it as a "deftly etched" performance.[65]

After Olyphant's performance in Go, the film's producer Mickey Liddell offered him his choice of parts in his next project The Broken Hearts Club (2000), a romantic comedy about a group of gay friends living in West Hollywood.[66][67][68] The Village Voice 's Dennis Lim commented that his leading performance was better than the film deserved: "Olyphant is charismatic enough for his worst lines not to stick."[69] However, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle felt he played the part "like a straight actor gaying it up."[70] Olyphant appeared as a detective in the successful action film Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) and joked in an interview about the challenges of playing "second fiddle to a car";[44][71] his performance reminded the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter of a young Bill Paxton.[72] He also had supporting roles in the musical comedy Rock Star,[73] the crime drama Auggie Rose,[74][75] and the romantic comedy Head Over Heels (all 2001). He starred in the short film Doppelganger (2001)[76] and appeared in an episode of the Sci-Fi Channel horror series Night Visions (2002).[77]

Olyphant's most high-profile role of 2003 was in the action film A Man Apart, starring Vin Diesel. Desson Howe of the Washington Post remarked that Olyphant "gets a kudo or two for [having] the good sense to realize he's playing one of the movie's many one-dimensional characters, so he might as well have insane fun."[78] Similarly, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle noted that "the most lively character in "A Man Apart" turns out [to be] a middling drug dealer played to the hilt by Timothy Olyphant."[79] He appeared in the film adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel Dreamcatcher as one of four friends who encounter an invasion of parasitic aliens.[80][81][82] The film was poorly reviewed, with David Rooney of Variety remarking: "Only Lee and Olyphant come close to hitting the right note of tongue-in-cheek humor that might have made all this palatable. Unfortunately, they’re the first to go."[83] Also in 2003, he appeared in the independent ensemble drama The Safety of Objects.[84][85][86]

In 2004, Olyphant receieved positive critical notices for his performance as a porn film producer in the comedy The Girl Next Door.[87][88][89] He was initially reluctant to audition for the part, feeling it was too similar to some of his previous roles but, "as my manager dutifully reminded me, not many people saw those movies."[90] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle described the character of Kelly as "a leering, magnetic, frightening, glad-handing, easily-amused, hyper-sensitive, utterly deceitful, maddeningly likable wild man. When Olyphant is on screen, there's the feeling that things might go anywhere."[91] A.O. Scott of The New York Times remarked that the part was played with "a throwaway inventiveness worthy of Johnny Depp"[92] while Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times felt it was played "with wonderful comic zest."[93] Joe Leydon of Variety said he "strikes an impressively deft balance of hearty amiability and understated menace in his scene-stealing turn."[94]

2004–2009: Deadwood[edit]

Olyphant came to wider public attention when he was cast in the leading role of Sheriff Seth Bullock in HBO's acclaimed western Deadwood (2004-2006).[90][95][96][97] The show's creator David Milch has said of the casting choice: "Bullock's uprightness is an alternative to going medieval on people. You can see that same fire and that possibility in Tim, even at his most genial ... I’m not sure which poet talked about ‘thoughts too deep for words,’ but he brings that idea alive."[98][99] Matt Feeney of Slate described Bullock as "laconic, feral, hot-tempered, and a little vain" and said the character was "not so much played as embodied by Olyphant."[100] Alan Sepinwall of HitFix found his performance "fierce and commanding".[101] Jeremy Egner of The New York Times said Olyphant showed "a capacity for explosive, nuanced performance barely suggested by earlier roles."[102] He had just bought a house when the show was unexpectedly cancelled.[103][104]

Years later, Olyphant remarked that Deadwood "almost has done more for me since we wrapped than while it was on. I continue to draw from it, to steal from it. I'm much better at my job now because of the things I learned while doing it. David Milch is one of the greatest writers, storytellers, directors, creative forces I've ever been around."[105] He has been somewhat critical of his own performance: "Frankly, the show is much better than my performance ... Ian was like a little kid, playing with the props and playing with the language and he never lost the sense of fun of it all. I wasn't operating at that same level."[106][107]

2006 saw the limited theatrical release of the independent drama Coastlines, in which Olyphant starred opposite Josh Brolin as an ex-con who returns to his Florida hometown. Kevin Crust of the Los Angeles Times wrote that he "possesses the kind of thousand-yard stare that suggests something deeper going on"[108] while Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly remarked that "Olyphant, in the sort of role that Paul Newman used to swagger through, has a star’s easy command."[109] However, Todd McCarthy of Variety felt his performance "sort of floats along."[110] Also that year, he made a guest appearance in an episode of the NBC comedy My Name Is Earl.[111] In 2007, Olyphant starred in the romantic comedy Catch and Release, playing the love interest of Jennifer Garner's character. Olyphant knew Garner from their days as struggling actors in New York, and was excited for the opportunity to play a romantic lead.[5][112][113] Lael Loewenstein of Variety felt "Olyphant clearly has a bright future"[114] while Desson Thomson of the Washington Post described him as "the strongest performer here": "He's entirely misplaced, an estimable actor caught in a thankless, frilly role."[115] Scott Tobias of AV Club remarked: "Olyphant's trademark volatility makes him a livelier romantic lead than the usual stuffed shirt."[116] Similarly, Stephanie Zacharek of Salon found him "effective here precisely because he seems a little sharp and dangerous. He’s not your typical cuddly romantic lead."[117]

2007's action movies Live Free or Die Hard and Hitman were the first two projects Olyphant signed on to appear in following the cancellation of Deadwood. (Coastlines was first screened during the Sundance Film Festival in 2002[118] while Catch and Release was filmed in 2005.[119]) In Live Free or Die Hard, he played a villainous cybersecurity expert.[120][121] Both he and Bruce Willis have said his role was underwritten in the script, and he enjoyed working with Willis to develop the character.[122][123][124] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone declared him "a master at smiling menace"[125] while Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle found him "perfectly ice cold."[126] However, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times remarked: "Mr. Olyphant has many charms, but annihilating menace is not one of them."[127] He next starred in Hitman, a video game adaptation, as the assasain Agent 47.[5][128][129] He was hired to replace Vin Diesel six weeks before filming began[130][131][132][133] and reluctantly agreed to shave his head.[123][134] The film was commercially successful, grossing over $100 million,[135] but received negative reviews. Todd McCarthy of Variety described Olyphant as "an actor capable of portraying subtle ambiguities and thought, which suggests he ought to branch out to play something other than baddies."[136] Nick Schager of Slant Magazine was disappointed to see the actor "reduced to glowering and posing with pistols"[137] while Manohla Dargis of The New York Times felt he was "strangely, at times ridiculously, miscast."[138] In 2008, he had a supporting role as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iraq War drama Stop-Loss,[139][140] played a pompous newscaster in the little-seen comedy Meet Bill,[141] voiced the character Cowboy in the video game Turok[142] and made a guest appearance in an episode of the ABC sitcom Samantha Who?[143][144]

Olyphant had a new outlook when choosing his 2009 film and television projects, influenced by his experience with Hitman: "It motivated me to take a little more responsibility with what I was doing ... I was very fond of the director and a lot of the people that worked on the film but there was definitely a part of me that was like, “What am I doing here?'"[145][146][147] He starred as a morphine addict in the little-seen independent heist comedy High Life,[148][149][150] with Derek Elley of Variety praising his "terrific" performance.[151][152] He had a starring role in the thriller A Perfect Getaway as an Iraq war veteran and possible serial killer of honeymooners in Hawaii. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times enjoyed the "the regrettably underemployed" actor's performance,[153] Ty Burr of the Boston Globe found him "delightfully confident"[154] while Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly noted he "has a heckuva good time telegraphing macho mania."[155] Also in 2009, he appeared in 15 episodes of the FX legal thriller Damages, as a love interest for Rose Byrne's character.[156][157] Byrne later said he was her favourite Damages co-star[158][159] while FX president John Landgraf sent him the pilot script for another FX project, Lawman (later to become Justified).[160][161] In 2010, he played the lead role of the town sheriff in the horror film The Crazies.[162][163] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian was impressed by the "saturnine screen presence of Timothy Olyphant – that formidable actor who deserves a lead role to match his potential."[164] The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffen found him "convincing"[165] while Claudia Puig of USA Today enjoyed the "smart, stoic and sympathetic" performance.[166] He also appeared in the independent comedy Elektra Luxx (2010).[167][168]

2010–present: Justified[edit]

In 2010, Olyphant began starring in the FX crime drama Justified (2010-2015) as Raylan Givens, a modern-day U.S. Marshal who is sent back to his home state of Kentucky following a "justified", but questionable, shooting of a criminal in Miami.[169] The show is based on a character created by novelist Elmore Leonard. Leonard and Olyphant became friendly over the course of the show:[170][171] "Timothy is one of the few actors who delivers the lines the way I heard them when I wrote them."[172] Matt Zoller Seitz of Vulture described it as "the kind of performance that almost nobody recognizes as “acting.” It’s an old-fashioned movie hero performance in which much of the emotional action is internal and articulated with great subtlety."[173] Robert Bianco of USA Today commented that his "masterfully complete immersion in the role seems to have masked the talent expended playing it."[174]

Olyphant at the 70th Annual Peabody Awards in May 2011

Olyphant made occasional guest appearances on comedy television shows in between seasons of Justified. He played a paper salesman in two episodes of the NBC comedy The Office (2010), after Mindy Kaling, a writer, producer and actress on the show, pushed for him to make a guest appearance.[175][176][177] In 2012, he played a character billed as White Sushi Chef in an episode of the FX sitcom The League (2012)[178] and voiced a character in an episode of the FX animated series Archer.[179][180] In 2013, he appeared as a love interest on the Fox comedy The Mindy Project. The guest appearance came about after he told Kaling that he wanted to appear on the show[181][182] and he later said he would have been happy to play his middle-aged skateboarder character "for six years."[30][183][184]

Olyphant also worked on numerous films during Justified's six-season run. He voiced the Spirit of the West in the animated western Rango (2011).[185][186] The character was a parody of Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name[187] and Olyphant was cast after director Gore Verbinski overheard him speaking on television: "I just sort of doubled back and looked through the door and was like, “That’s our guy" ... Timothy has such a great quality to his voice."[188][189][190] In the science-fiction thriller I Am Number Four (2011), Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times noted that Olyphant's "hotness is a sweet distraction from the general twaddle"[191] while Justin Chang of Variety said he "brings some of his usual edge."[192] Olly Richards of Empire noted that "the always likeable Timothy Olyphant [is] in a role so poorly written it seems like something personal."[193] Sean O'Connell of the Washington Post felt he was merely "paycheck-collecting."[194] Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times said he was "an untapped resource" in the film[195] while Nick Schager of The Village Voice said he was "wasted."[196] He appeared in the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Dealin' with Idiots (2013).[197][198] Also in 2013, Olyphant took part in a one-off staged reading of the black comedy Raising Arizona (1987) at an LACMA Live Read; he played Nicholas Cage's character while Amy Poehler played Holly Hunter's character.[199][200] In 2014, Olyphant had a supporting role in This Is Where I Leave You opposite Tina Fey. The characters were teenage sweethearts until an accident left Horry with a mild brain injury. According to the New York Times, "their story, like everyone else’s, is shoehorned into a few lumpy, on-the-nose scenes that explain more than they express."[201] David Edelstein of Vulture commented: "Over the course of his career, Olyphant has given life to head-slappingly bad material, and he does it again by simply underplaying."

Olyphant currently has a recurring guest role, as a fictionalised version of himself, in the Fox comedy The Grinder (2015-present). His performance has received positive critical notices,[202][203][204][205] with USA Today's Robert Bianco declaring it an "Emmy-deserving performance."[206] He won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series.[207] In 2016, he will appear in the ensemble romantic comedy Mother's Day as the ex-husband of Jennifer Aniston's character,[208] and in Oliver Stone's Snowden as a CIA agent who befriended Snowden prior to the latter’s escape to Russia after his leak of classified documents.[209] He has also filmed an independent film, Behold My Heart, with Marisa Tomei.[210]

From February 24 to April 3, 2016, Olyphant will star in the world premiere of Kenneth Lonergan's comedy Hold on to Me Darling at the off-Broadway Atlantic Theater Company. His character, Strings McCrane, is a film star and country-western singer who goes through a personal crisis after the death of his mother and moves back to his hometown in Tennessee.[211]

Personal life[edit]

Olyphant married his college sweetheart Alexis Kneif in 1991, at the age of 22.[1][34] They live in Westwood, Los Angeles and have three children; Grace Katherine (b. 1999), Henry (b. 2001) and Vivian (b. 2003).[5][212][213]

Olyphant served as the daily on-air, unpaid sports commentator for Joe Escalante's morning show on the LA radio station Indie 103.1, until the channel's demise in January 2009.[214][215][216][217][218]



Year Title Role Notes
1996 First Wives Club, TheThe First Wives Club Brett Artounian
1997 Life Less Ordinary, AA Life Less Ordinary Hiker
1997 Scream 2 Mickey Altieri
1998 1999 Hooks Aired on the Sundance Channel
1998 When Trumpets Fade Lt. Terrence Lukas
1999 No Vacancy Luke
1999 Go Todd Gaines
1999 Advice from a Caterpillar Brat
2000 Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy, TheThe Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy Dennis
2000 Gone in 60 Seconds Det. Drycoff
2001 Head Over Heels Michael
2001 Auggie Rose Roy Mason
2001 Rock Star Rob Malcolm
2001 Doppelganger Brian Short film
2003 Safety of Objects, TheThe Safety of Objects Randy
2003 Dreamcatcher Pete Moore
2003 Man Apart, AA Man Apart Hollywood Jack
2004 Girl Next Door, TheThe Girl Next Door Kelly
2006 Coastlines Sonny Mann First screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002
2007 Catch and Release Fritz Messing
2007 Live Free or Die Hard Thomas Gabriel
2007 Hitman Agent 47
2008 Stop-Loss Lt. Col. Boot Miller
2008 Meet Bill Chip
2009 Perfect Getaway, AA Perfect Getaway Nick Nominated – Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
2009 High Life Dick
2010 Crazies, TheThe Crazies Pierce County Sheriff David Dutten
2010 Elektra Luxx Del
2011 I Am Number Four Henri[219]
2011 Rango The Spirit of the West Voice
2013 Dealin' with Idiots Max's Dad
2014 This Is Where I Leave You Horry Callen
2016 Snowden Post-production
2016 Mother's Day Henry Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1996 Mr. & Mrs. Smith Scooby Episode: "Pilot"
1997–1998 High Incident Brett Farraday 3 episodes
1998 Sex and the City Sam Episode: "Valley of the Twenty-Something Guys"
2002 Night Visions Eli Episode: "Harmony"
2004–2006 Deadwood Sheriff Seth Bullock 36 episodes
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (2006)
2006 My Name Is Earl Billy Reed Episode: "Dad's Car"
2008 Samantha Who? Winston Funk Episode: "The Boss"
2009–2010 Damages Wes Krulik[220] 15 episodes
Seasons 2 and 3
2010 Office, TheThe Office Danny Cordray[221] Episodes: "The Sting" and "Costume Contest"
2010–2015 Justified Raylan Givens[222] 78 episodes
Satellite Award for Best Actor - Television Series Drama (2011)
Nominated – Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series (2011–13)
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2011)
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actor - Television Series Drama (2012)
Nominated – TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama (2011)
2012 League, TheThe League Wesley Episode: "The Freeze Out"
2013 Archer Lucas Troy (voice) Episode: "The Wind Cries Mary"
2013 The Mindy Project Graham Logan Episode: "Sk8er Man"
2015 The Grinder Himself/Rake Grinder 2 episodes
Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series


Year Title Role Venue
1995 The Monogamist Tim Hapgood Playwrights Horizons
1996 The SantaLand Diaries Crumpet the Elf/ David Sedaris Atlantic Theater Company
1997 Plunge Jim Playwrights Horizons
2016 Hold on to Me Darling Strings McCrane Atlantic Theater Company

Video games[edit]

Year Title Voice
2008 Turok Cowboy
2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Sergeant First Class "Grinch"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
2000 Young Hollywood Award Best Bad Boy Go Won
2007 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Deadwood Nominated
2010 Toronto Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actor A Perfect Getaway Nominated
Scream Award Best Horror Actor The Crazies Nominated
IGN Summer Movie Award Best TV Hero Justified Nominated
2011 Nominated
Television Critics Association Award Individual Achievement in Drama Nominated
Satellite Award Best Actor in a Series, Drama Won
Online Film & Television Association Award Best Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
Genie Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role High Life Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Justified Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
2012 Nominated
Satellite Award Best Actor in a Series, Drama Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Award Best Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
2013 Nominated
IGN Summer Movie Awards Best TV Hero Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
TV Guide Award Favorite Actor Nominated
2016 6th Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Guest Actor/Actress in a Comedy Series The Grinder Won


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External links[edit]