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As an actor, Dylan McDermott's innate inner fire set him apart from many of his less dangerous television contemporaries. McDermott showed the makings of a leading man early on, turning in solid supporting work in such diverse feature films as the grim Vietnam War story "Hamburger Hill" (1987) and the comedic drama "Steel Magnolias" (1989), amidst a cast of leading lady all-stars. He edged up toward movie stardom with the lead in the cult sci-fi thriller "Hardware" (1990) and held his own alongside screen icon Clint Eastwood in "In the Line of Fire" (1993). With the Jodie Foster-directed "Home for the Holidays" (1995), McDermott demonstrated a knack for lighter fare as well, but it was his intense portrayal of driven criminal defense attorney Bobby Donnell on David E. Kelley's acclaimed legal drama "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004) that finally gained the actor critical recognition and sex symbol status. McDermott's track record after "The Practice," however, was spotty at best, with such features as the supernatural thriller "The Messengers" (2007) and the short-lived cop drama "Dark Blue" (TNT, 2009-2010) failing to ignite sparks with audiences. Ironically, his next hit project came when he starred...
As an actor, Dylan McDermott's innate inner fire set him apart from many of his less dangerous television contemporaries. McDermott showed the makings of a leading man early on, turning in solid supporting work in such diverse feature films as the grim Vietnam War story "Hamburger Hill" (1987) and the comedic drama "Steel Magnolias" (1989), amidst a cast of leading lady all-stars. He edged up toward movie stardom with the lead in the cult sci-fi thriller "Hardware" (1990) and held his own alongside screen icon Clint Eastwood in "In the Line of Fire" (1993). With the Jodie Foster-directed "Home for the Holidays" (1995), McDermott demonstrated a knack for lighter fare as well, but it was his intense portrayal of driven criminal defense attorney Bobby Donnell on David E. Kelley's acclaimed legal drama "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004) that finally gained the actor critical recognition and sex symbol status. McDermott's track record after "The Practice," however, was spotty at best, with such features as the supernatural thriller "The Messengers" (2007) and the short-lived cop drama "Dark Blue" (TNT, 2009-2010) failing to ignite sparks with audiences. Ironically, his next hit project came when he starred in the gleefully gratuitous cable shocker "American Horror Story" (FX, 2011- ) - an anthology series that would change not only its setting, but its core cast each season. As a fiercely committed performer willing to take creative risks, McDermott was sure to shake things up on screens for years to come.
Born Mark Anthony McDermott in Waterbury, CT on Oct. 26, 1961, McDermott's childhood was rocky from the start. McDermott's mother Diane was only 15 years old when she had her son, and at age 17, his factory worker father, Richard McDermott, was not anymore more prepared for marriage and children than Diane. Nonetheless the couple stayed married long enough to have a second child, a daughter, Robin McDermott. By early 1967, the young couple separated, leading Richard to move to Manhattan to work as a bartender, while Diane stayed in Connecticut to raise her two children, with the help of her mother, Avis. Things took a turn from difficult to tragic in February 1967 when Diane McDermott was shot and killed at the age of 20 - presumably accidentally by her boyfriend while he was cleaning his gun - though he denied it at that time, saying that she shot herself. It was ruled a suicide, but 40 years later, her death still remained shrouded in mystery with no clear answers. McDermott was just five years old at the time and his sister, Robin a mere six months old.
Not unexpectedly, the overwhelming responsibility of raising two children was too much for McDermott's 22-year-old father. Fortunately maternal grandmother, Avis Marino stepped in and raised her grandchildren. Losing his mother at such a young age made McDermott a lonely and isolated child, who later said he felt virtually invisible. By the time he hit adolescence, he was angry, acting out, drinking heavily and getting into fights whenever possible. Things were looking grim for his future, when luck finally smiled on the 15-year-old delinquent when his father married playwright Eve Ensler, the writer behind the hit play "Vagina Monologues" (1996-2001) Though she was only nine years older than her new stepson, Ensler took young Mark under her wing, eventually adopting the troubled youth when he was 19. Acting as his personal cheerleader and mentor, Ensler saw potential in McDermott's talent, giving him his first acting role in her play "Believe It, See It." With Ensler's help, McDermott began to channel his anger into acting and away from self-destructive behavior. Unfortunately, Ensler's marriage to his father did not survive, but his beloved stepmother and the young actor had formed a lasting bond which would continue post-divorce. In fact, when Ensler miscarried a baby she intended to name Dylan, her stepson changed his name to bring her happiness and honor her unborn child.
With a newfound ambition, McDermott renounced his wild ways and enrolled at New York City's Fordham University to study drama and to immerse himself in the theater world. In 1985, he appeared in Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues." It was during one of his stage performances, that an agent spotted the handsome actor and sent McDermott packing for Hollywood. He was off to a solid start, making his feature film debut in the Vietnam drama "Hamburger Hill" (1987) as Sergeant Frantz, following that up with two consecutively disappointing roles in the box office underachievers "The Blue Iguana" (1988) and "Twister" (1989). Fortunately his next film was a major hit. In the Southern tearjerker "Steel Magnolias" (1989), he portrayed Julia Roberts' supportive husband alongside an all-star cast that included Sally Field, Daryl Hannah and Shirley MacLaine. Off-screen, he began dating co-star Roberts - that is until she met Kiefer Sutherland on the set of her next film, "Flatliners" (1990) and unceremoniously dumped him. Apparently not one to hold a grudge, McDermott later teamed with Sutherland - who at that point had also been dumped by Roberts - in the 1994 feature flop "The Cowboy Way."
After his successful turn in Steel Magnolias," McDermott suffered through several box office disappointments like "Hardware" (1990), and "Jersey Girl" (1992) before starring as a secret service agent opposite Clint Eastwood in the critically praised hit "In the Line of Fire" (1993). His career was not the only thing improving. That same year he met his future wife, Shiva Rose in a Santa Monica coffee house. The couple wed in November 1995 and soon became a red carpet staple. Continuing to rack up impressive credits - as well as being constantly mistaken for fellow up-and-coming actor, Dermot Mulroney - McDermott co-starred as the dashing love interest to Elizabeth Perkins in a misguided remake of the classic film "Miracle on 34th Street" (1994). A year later McDermott redeemed himself in the underrated Jodie Foster-helmed feature dramedy "Home for the Holidays" (1995), where he played to his strengths as the charming Leo Fish, who tries to win over a frazzled Holly Hunter during her holiday visit with her dysfunctional family.
McDermott's association with Clint Eastwood benefited him yet again when while attending a dinner to honor the screen legend, he met Jeffrey Kramer, president of David E. Kelly productions, who asked McDermott to audition for a new series called "The Practice" (ABC, 1997- 2004). A perfect fit for the role of Bobby Donnell, McDermott helped turn "The Practice" into a ratings hit by bringing a smoldering sex appeal combined with a hard-headed intensity - both of which kept viewers glued to their televisions. The critics agreed, paving the way for McDermott's 1998 Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a Drama. That same year, People magazine named him as one of its "50 Most Beautiful People." The following year, he spent his "Practice" hiatus filming the bland romantic comedy "Three to Tango" (1999) also starring Matthew Perry and Neve Campbell. By 2003, "The Practice" was suffering from dwindling ratings. In a surprising move, David E. Kelly fired most of the cast, including his star and main attraction, McDermott, in an attempt to cut production costs. Fans were outraged and the show was finally canceled the following year.
With his steady gig over, McDermott went back to the unpredictable world of feature films, none of which did anything to further his career. In 2003, he was miscast as a tattooed drug dealer in the feature "Wonderland" (2003), based on the real-life 1981 drug murders on Wonderland Avenue in Los Angeles. In 2005, he starred as the romantic hero opposite Indian actress Aishwarya Rai in the mystical drama "The Mistress of Spices" (2005). Even their staggering combination of good looks could not save the film from box office Siberia. Next, he tried his hand at the horror genre, starring in "The Messengers" (2007) as a city slicker who moves his family away from the dangers of urban living to a haunted house in the country. Critics skewered the film for being a silly snoozefest rather than remotely scary. In 2007, McDermott returned to the medium television starring on the dramedy "Big Shots" (ABC, 2007-08), which was touted as a male version of "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012). Regardless of labels and Nielsen expectations, he was clearly in his element, starring as womanizing scoundrel, Duncan Collingsworth, a cosmetics company CEO who has plenty of time to spend kvetching at the country club with his three best male friends, as well as carry on an affair with his beautiful ex-wife. At the same time that McDermott was making his big return to network television, the sad news arrived via his reps that McDermott had separated from Rose after nearly 12 years of marriage.
Far more short-lived than either McDermott's marriage or his previous television series was "Big Shots." Critically-panned and stillborn in the ratings, the show was canceled after less than a dozen episodes. While he looked for his next long-term project, McDermott kept busy with roles in a pair of little-seen indie films. First came a supporting role in actor-writer Scott Caan's relationship drama "Mercy" (2009), followed by a turn in a segment of "Burning Palms" (2010), a dark satire of Los Angeles comprised of five vignettes about several of its more troubled denizens. McDermott then rolled the dice on another series with "Dark Blue" (TNT, 2009-2010), a gritty police drama in which he played the head of a crack undercover team in the LAPD. Despite the backing of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and a solid supporting cast, critics and audiences found the action far from arresting, resulting in yet another cancellation for McDermott after the second season. Throwing every horror movie trope imaginable at the screen from its premiere episode, "American Horror Story" (FX, 2011- ) starred McDermott and Connie Britton as a couple who moved from Boston to Los Angeles with their teenage daughter (Taissa Farmiga) in an effort to rebuild their damaged marriage. Unfortunately, their new dream house was also home to a host of malicious ghosts. Unapologetically over-the-top and boundary-pushing in its sex and violence, "American Horror Story" drew rave reviews for its cast and impressive ratings throughout its first season. Despite finally landing a hit series, McDermott would not return for season two, as "American Horror Story" had been conceived as an anthology series, telling entirely new tales each season.
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CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
When his stepmother Eve Ensler miscarried a baby she planned to name Dylan, McDermott changed his first name from Mark to Dylan.
"People sometimes ask how I've managed to stay afloat after doing all these movies that haven't done well. I came to realize it's been a blessing that I hadn't been in a big hit too early. So many actors in their 20s are burned out by now." --McDermott quoted in the New York Post, September 14, 1995.
Dylan McDermott on "Home for the Holidays": "At the dailies one day, I watched the scene between Holly and me in the doorway to her bedroom, when our characters are breaking up. There I was, 33 and in my 12th film, and I finally said 'You know what, THAT'S what I've been after since I started acting when I was a troubled 19-year-old.' Maybe it's only one moment in the film--and maybe nobody will see it but me--but for the first time I saw a leading man on the screen when looking at myself." --quoted in Movieline, December 1995.
"I've tried like hell to make bad movies good, and I can't. Maybe Marlon Brando has been able to do that at times. But even HE has a hard time making 'The Appaloosa' a good movie." --Dylan McDermott in Us, April 1997.
"[I]n the movies, I felt I couldn't hit my stride. I was frustrated. I was getting scripts that others had passed on, and there was a reason they were passing.
"With 'The Practice', I felt I could go to the next place with my acting and get better movies." --Dylan McDermott to USA Today, October 16, 1997.
McDermott on his motivation for acting: "When my mom died, I felt invisible psychologically; so, from that point on, my goal was to be seen. Acting wasn't about making a career choice. It was almost like I had to become an actor to heal that scar." --quoted in Us, December 1998.
"As an actor, I grew up with Eugene O'Neill as my idol. And I felt that David Kelley [creator of "The Practice" and "Ally McBeal"] was sort of like the modern Eugene O'Neill in terms of someone who could write for me. In the back of my head I always thought I needed a creative partner. I thought of Tennessee Williams writing for Marlon Brando, Scorsese directing De Niro ... creative couples who sort of work off each other. I felt I needed that to help me find my signature piece--every actor needs that signature piece if he wants to go to the next level. And I thought David Kelley would be that person for me. This is a guy who, between our show and "Ally McBeal", writes 100 pages of top-quality script a week. I watch him, but I still don't know how the hell he does it." --McDermott quoted in Daily News, January 24, 1999.
Dennis Gordon, one of the directors of "The Practice": "Dylan smolders better than anyone around. He's always on simmer." --quoted in Us, April 1999.
"Instinctively I thought I'd do well in television because I had grown up in front of it. I was a lonely latchkey kid who watched day and night." --Dylan McDermott quoted in Parade Magazine, August 15, 1999.
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