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Perhaps one of the most prolific and versatile performers of his generation, actor Kevin Kline oscillated easily between stage and screen, while deftly playing for laughs or tears regardless of the medium. Proving equally at home in musical comedy, contemporary drama or the classics, Kline earned his reputation as an "actor's actor" in the 1970s, with numerous critically acclaimed performances; two of which earned him Tony Awards. Moving into features with a stellar performance in "Sophie's Choice" (1982), he quickly established himself as a feature leading man with roles in "The Big Chill" (1983), "Silverado" (1985) and "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988), which earned him an Academy Award. Though Kline demonstrated his capabilities and invoked comparisons with icons like Errol Flynn and Laurence Olivier, he also acquired a reputation for discretion and selectivity, creating an impressive body of work - including "The Ice Storm" (1997), "Life As a House" (2001) and "De-Lovely" (2004) - that deterred him from propelling to the front ranks of stardom. Which was exactly the way he wanted it.Born on Oct. 24, 1947 in St. Louis, MO, Kline was raised by his father, Robert, a former opera singer in his youth who...
Perhaps one of the most prolific and versatile performers of his generation, actor Kevin Kline oscillated easily between stage and screen, while deftly playing for laughs or tears regardless of the medium. Proving equally at home in musical comedy, contemporary drama or the classics, Kline earned his reputation as an "actor's actor" in the 1970s, with numerous critically acclaimed performances; two of which earned him Tony Awards. Moving into features with a stellar performance in "Sophie's Choice" (1982), he quickly established himself as a feature leading man with roles in "The Big Chill" (1983), "Silverado" (1985) and "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988), which earned him an Academy Award. Though Kline demonstrated his capabilities and invoked comparisons with icons like Errol Flynn and Laurence Olivier, he also acquired a reputation for discretion and selectivity, creating an impressive body of work - including "The Ice Storm" (1997), "Life As a House" (2001) and "De-Lovely" (2004) - that deterred him from propelling to the front ranks of stardom. Which was exactly the way he wanted it.
Born on Oct. 24, 1947 in St. Louis, MO, Kline was raised by his father, Robert, a former opera singer in his youth who owned The Record Bar, a toy and record store, and his mother, Peggy. Kline first developed a taste for acting while a student at Saint Louis Priory School, an all-boys Catholic prep school ran by strict Benedictine monks, where he performed in several productions. But when he attended Indiana University, Kline spent his first two years studying music with the intent on becoming a classical pianist. Eventually, he returned to acting and switched his major to theater, while forming an off-campus drama group called the Vest Pocket Players. After earning his degree in 1970, he moved to New York and became one of the first students in John Houseman's newly minted drama department at the Juilliard School. Also that year, he made his Big Apple acting debut with minor roles in "Henry VI, Parts I and II" and "Richard III" at the New York Shakespeare Festival. In 1972, Kline and other members of his Juilliard class - Patti LuPone and David Ogden Stiers among them - became founding members of The Acting Company. For the next several years, the troupe traveled across the United States, performing in a variety productions, including "The School for Scandal," "Three Sisters" and "Measure for Measure."
As a member of The Acting Company, Kline made his Broadway debut in "Scapin" (1973), and two years later, originated his first musical role, Jamie Lockhart, in "The Robber Bridegroom." While his bread and butter at this time was the stage, he began making strides onscreen, playing Woody Reed for a short time on the daytime soap opera, "Search for Tomorrow" (CBS/NBC, 1951-1986). Also on the small screen, he starred in a broadcast stage production of William Saroyan's comedy, "The Time of Your Life" (PBS, 1976), as a member of The Acting Company. While serving as the understudy for the leading role of MacHeath - played by Raul Julia - in the acclaimed New York Shakespeare Festival revival of "The Threepenny Opera" (1978), Kline was cast in the supporting role of egocentric movie star Bruce Granit in "On the Twentieth Century" (1978) at the St. James Theatre. Kline's physical agility, comic flourishes and strong singing nearly stole the show and earned him a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor. He followed with a dramatic turn in Michael Weller's "Loose Ends" (1979), opposite Christine Lahti.
In 1980, Kline delighted audiences as the swashbuckling Pirate King in an irreverent staging of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," for which he earned a second Tony Award. Finally making his film debut, he had an impressive starring turn opposite eventual Oscar winner, Meryl Streep, in "Sophie's Choice" (1982), a post-World War II drama about the personal tragedy suffered by a beautiful Polish woman (Streep) in a concentration camp. Though most of the accolades went to Streep for what many felt was her greatest performance, Kline did emerge as an actor to watch, as evidenced by his Golden Globe nomination in the later-defunct category, New Star of the Year. Back on the stage, he distinguished himself as the star of a production of "Richard III" (1983). Meanwhile, Kline cemented his film career with a long-remembered performance in the ensemble drama, "The Big Chill" (1983), which firmly established several Hollywood luminaries, including Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt and Glenn Close. Following another Shakespearean lead in "Henry V" (1984), he made for an unusual, but ultimately effective Western outlaw in Lawrence Kasdan's revisionist "Silverado" (1985).
Returning to the stage once more, Kline co-starred with Raul Julia and Glenne Headley in a revival of Shaw's "Arms and the Man" (1985), directed by John Malkovich, which turned out to be his last Broadway appearance for over a decade. After starring in the rather forgettable "Violets Are Blue" (1986), he delivered a fine dramatic performance as a white journalist who documents the life of an anti-apartheid activist (Denzel Washington) in Richard Attenborough's underrated "Cry Freedom" (1987). Kline had one of his finest career moments as a painfully dumb "weapons man" in the hilarious heist-gone-wrong comedy, "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988). In it, he played Otto, an ex-CIA thug brought onto a jewel heist with his con artist lover (Jamie Lee Curtis), as both plan to double-cross the ringleader (Tom Georgeson) and his stuttering, fish-loving henchman, Ken (Michael Palin), who also plan their own double-cross. Though there were many memorable scenes from the movie, including John Cleese's dance wearing nothing more than a picture frame, Kline stole the show, particularly in the outrageous scene where Otto tortures Ken for information by eating all his fish. Kline won a well-deserved Academy Award that year for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
By this point in his career, Kline was developing a reputation as a discerning actor who actively stayed away from big Hollywood paydays in favor of challenging dramatic material, earning the nickname "Kevin Decline." After playing a sly Benedick in a staging of The Bard's "Much Ado About Nothing" (1988), he had his first stint as host of the interminable "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Back on the big screen, he starred as a brilliant, but unorthodox detective brought back from exile in order to track down a serial killer in John Patrick Shanley's darkly comic crime thriller, "The January Man" (1989). Also that year, Kline married actress Phoebe Cates - 16 years his junior - which resulted in the rare happy Hollywood marriage that was long-lasting and free of tabloid drama. Returning to Shakespeare, he directed and starred in the title role for a televised stage production of "Hamlet" (PBS, 1990), which was followed by a starring turn in the adequate crime comedy, "I Love You to Death" (1990), directed by long-time collaborator, Lawrence Kasdan.
In a career that was already blessed with several high points, Kline reached another milestone with "Grand Canyon" (1991), Kasdan's slice-of-life drama ensemble about a group of divergent Los Angeles residents all searching for some kind of meaning to their lives. Kline played an immigration attorney whose car breaks down in a rundown part of town, leading to help and an unlikely friendship with an African-American tow truck driver (Danny Glover), while his best friend, a pompous movie producer (Steve Martin), has the opposite result in a similar situation. Also that year, he joined Sally Field, Whoopi Goldberg and Robert Downey, Jr. in the show business farce, "Soapdish" (1991), in which he was a so-called serious actor who is brought back to the daytime soap that fired him decades earlier after degrading himself by performing dinner theater. Following an effective cameo as Douglas Fairbanks in the Richard Attenborough-directed biopic, "Chaplin" (1992), starring Downey, Jr., he starred in the often ridiculous psychological thriller, "Consenting Adults" (1992).
In another career moment, Kline delivered a fine comic performance in "Dave" (1993) playing an Everyman whose resemblance to the President of the United States is so exact that White House advisors (Frank Langella and Kevin Dunn) bring him in to impersonate the chief executive after he suffers a massive stroke while having an affair. For his comic turn, Kline was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy at the 1994 Golden Globe Awards. Following another hosting stint on "S.N.L." in 1993, he had a supporting role opposite wife Phoebe Cates in the family-friendly "Princess Caraboo" (1994). He then starred as a petty thief who uses a fastidious American woman (Meg Ryan), distraught over losing her future husband (Timothy Hutton) to his French mistress, to help him reclaim a stolen diamond necklace in the below-average romantic comedy, "French Kiss" (1995). As most actors of his stature eventually do, Kline turned to animation, voicing the oddly-named Captain Phoebus for "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1996).
While "Fierce Creatures" (1997) reunited Kline with his "Fish Called Wanda" co-stars (Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese and Michael Palin) and offered him the chance to shine in several funny scenes, the film was ultimately uneven and lacked the comic spark which made "Wanda" a huge success. But Kline rebounded nicely with a pair of very different roles that year, starting with a turn as a Midwestern high school teacher who is outed as gay by a former student in the box-office hit "In & Out" (1997), which earned him another Golden Globe nomination for best actor. In "The Ice Storm" (1997), Ang Lee's superlative drama about marital and domestic ennui in the early 1970s, Kline played a husband and father who cheats on his wife with the mother (Sigourney Weaver) of his daughter's (Christina Ricci) neighborhood friend (Elijah Wood). The actor earned numerous positive critical notices for his performance, though he was largely shut out of awards contention. Meanwhile, in 1998, Kline was named Man of the Year by Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals, an on-campus theater group known for its burlesque musicals.
Continuing to maintain a string of interesting projects, Kline managed to have high profile roles in several major releases, including Michael Hoffman's restaging of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999), where he nearly stole the show as the comical Bottom. In Barry Sonnenfeld's version of the 1960s television series "Wild Wild West" (1999), he stepped into the late Ross Martin's shoes as the master of disguise, Artemus Gordon, opposite Will Smith's Jim West. Despite the blockbuster potential, the multi-genre comedy-fantasy-western was overshadowed by a poor script, overblown production values and a drubbing from disappointed critics. Kline rebounded with a strong performance as the obsessive-compulsive writer, Trigorin, in Chekhov's "The Seagull" (2000), directed by Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep, Jonathan Goodman and Natalie Portman. In the low-budget drama, "The Anniversary Party" (2001), he played a slightly hammy, aging actor married to a former actress (Phoebe Cates). In "Life as a House" (2001), Kline offered an excellent performance as a dying man struggling to reach his disaffected teenage son (Hayden Christiansen) by building his dream house alongside his son. In 2002, Kline had a small but meaningful role in the surprise comedy hit "Orange County," and followed by starring as a professor in "The Emperor's Club."
Kline returned to the stage for an understated, but revered performance as the boisterous Sir John Falstaff in Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part I" (2003). He next gave an extremely winning performance as the elegant, complicated songwriter Cole Porter in the biopic "De-Lovely" (2004), which focused on the bisexual composer's relationship with his devoted wife and muse (Ashley Judd). The role earned him another nod at the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Movie - Musical or Comedy. After making a cameo appearance in Martin Short's mediocre Hollywood satire, "Jiminy Glick in LaLaWood" (2005), Kline took on the role of the ever-frustrated Chief Dreyfus in "The Pink Panther" (2006), starring Steve Martin as the bumbling inspector once brilliantly essayed by Peter Sellers. In early 2006, he was honored with the dubious distinction of having an award named after him - the Kevin Kline Award, which recognized outstanding achievement in theater throughout the Greater St. Louis area. The 1st Annual Kevin Kline Awards were held on March 20, 2006 at the newly revamped Robert's Orpheum Theatre, with a typically jovial Kline was on hand to open the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Kline joined the ensemble cast for Robert Altman's fictional take on Garrison Keillor's radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion" (2006), playing an inept private detective trying to save the soon-to-be-canceled show from disaster. Returning to Shakespeare once again, he played the hopelessly melancholy Jacques in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of "As You Like It" (HBO, 2007). After voicing Andre in the animated film "The Tale of Despereaux" (2008), he made a triumphant return to Broadway, portraying the large-billed but poetic "Cyrano de Bergerac" (2008). A live production of the play was aired on PBS in 2009, which earned Kline an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie - surprisingly the first Emmy recognition of his illustrious career. He also earned a Screen Actors Guild award nomination for "Cyrano." In 2010, he starred with rising young actor Paul Dano in the quirky indie film "The Extra Man" and had a key role in Robert Redford's ensemble historical drama "The Conspirator."
Kline next opted for a supporting part in the mainstream comedy "No Strings Attached" (2011), starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, and joined the voice cast of "Bob's Burgers" (Fox, 2011- ) as sinisterly flamboyant rich guy Mr. Fischoeder. He paired up with Diane Keaton for Lawrence Kasdan's dog-centric dramedy in 2012, but the movie failed to find a large audience. In 2013, Kline had one of his most high-profile productions in years, co-starring with Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas in the aging-buddy comedy "Last Vegas," which proved to be a modest hit.
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CAST: (feature film)
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Kline was named Man of the Year (1998) by the Harvard Hasty Pudding Club.
In "A Fish Called Wanda", Kline, in trying to identify a telephone caller, asks "Was it Kevin Delany?" That is his first and middle name.
"'In a way Kevin is exactly like Hamlet,' says acting coach Harold Guskin, [Kline's] first drama teacher at Indiana University in the late 1960s and still a close friend. 'Both as an actor and a person, He always makes the illogical choice. He loves doing exactly what you least expect him to do and making it work. Right from the very beginning, when he quit a good job on [TV soap opera] 'Search for Tomorrow' and didn't have a job for months, he has trusted his instincts. And for good reason."---From "Closet Hamlet" by David Blum, Time, September 22, 1997.
"He's the only guy I know who can go from Jerry Lewis to Shakespeare."---"In & Out" director Frank Oz quoted in Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1997.
"I've been called absurdly selective or lazy. What was it John Cleese said? I'm the one person who makes Hamlet look decisive. But in fact I don't agonize over things... I don't have more meetings than anyone else or agonize over it more than anyone else."---Kline on his reputation for declining offers of work, Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1997.
"Musicals were something I never set out to do. It wasn't painful, it wasn't like I really wanted to only do Hamlet, but I wanted to do movies.
"Only after 10 years, I thought 'Hmmm. I guess this isn't going to happen. Maybe that's passed me by. Now, maybe I'm just going to do stage.' Then 'Sophie's Choice' happened."---Kline quoted in USA Today, September 12, 1997.
"... Kline is a demonically insiduous verbal and physical comic, his looks and carriage and dignity frequently preventing the onlooker from knowing until too late that the rug has been effortlessly yanked away. His talent is vast and though he hates to talk about it, the essence of it is this: Kline is a great comedian in dramatic disguise; he is a superb dramatic actor who never loses sight of comedy."---From "Mr. Decline" by James Kaplan, New York, September 8, 1997.
"Kline's not just great... No one else can play tragedy and comedy like he can. He's the only successor to Olivier."---Ian Judge, a director with Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company to The New York Times, January 26, 1997.
"While my father had opera in his background, my mother was, and continues to be, the really dramatic theatrical character in our family. She's way larger than life ... I think I learned comedy watching my father react to her because you had to have a sense of humor because, well, she's formidable!"---Kline to Dotson Rader in Parade, October 16, 1994.
"I think every American actor wants to be a movie star ..., but I never wanted to do stupid movies, I wanted to do films. I vowed I would never do a commercial, nor would I do a soap opera, both which I did as soon as I left the company [The Acting Company] and was starving."---Kevin Kline in Caught in the Act: New York Actors Face to Face by Don Shewey, 1986
"Kline in many ways epitomizes the generation of young actors who rejected the Actors Studio's Method that dominated American acting in the 1950s and sought an all-inclusive training that would make them adaptable to the full spectrum of experience as an actor. Musicals, dramas, theater and film, Shakespeare and Lanford Wilson."---Kevin Kline in Caught in the Act: New York Actors Face to Face by Don Shewey, 1986
"You hear about the difficulty stage-trained actors have when they get in front of a camera, where your energy is restricted from the neck up. It's taken me a while to realize that scale is a personal thing, and that you can play big. Olivier, O'Toole and Brando are just a few of the actors who have taken big chances. One of the differences I think is that if you take a big chance on screen and fail, the medium is more unforgiving."---Kevin Kline in the Los Angeles Times Calendar May 26, 1991.
He received the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theater from the Shakespeare Theater at the Folger in Washington, DC, for his numerous Shakespearean performances in 1989.
"His agent told us he turns down everything," says Ang Lee, [laughingly recalling an indecisive early meeting with the actor.] "At his agency they call him Kevin Decline." --From New York, September 8, 1997.
"Well, we don't live in this town, which may help. We live in another town. Phoebe's just retired to raise the children. She finds complete fulfillment in that. It's certainly a 24-hour a day commitment. She's never looked back. The thing about Phoebe is that when the kids are grown up and in college, she'll still look 22 so she can go off and start her career then. She refuses to age."---Kline on how he maintains a healthy marriage to Phoebe Cates in Hollywood www.christiananswers.net 2002
"I like the way it scrambles the whole movie-musical convention. There's something sui generis about it."---Kline on his film "De-Lovely" EWonline April 21, 2004
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