TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)
|Also Known As:||Peter W Berg, Pete Berg||Died:|
|Born:||March 11, 1964||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||New York City, New York, USA||Profession:||actor, director, screenwriter, property assistant, production assistant, playwright, model, stand-in, dock worker, pizza deliveryman|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
As a multi-faceted actor, writer and director, Peter Berg moved with ease from theater to film to television and back again. After making a name for himself primarily as an actor first and foremost, especially with his regular series role as Dr. Billy Kronk on the acclaimed drama, "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000), Berg furthered his aspirations as a writer-director with the ill-received black comedy, "Very Bad Things" (1998). Undeterred by the awful critical reaction and poor box office totals of his first film, Berg continued to develop as an artist, eventually being hailed for his third feature, "Friday Night Lights" (2004). Not artistically satisfied, he developed the feature into a critically acclaimed series in 2006, earning numerous awards and nominations, firmly distancing himself from his disastrous directing debut. Though the series "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 2006-08) failed to attract a large audience - at least in the eyes of the network - both fans and critics alike campaigned to keep the show on air, despite constant rumors whether or not it was on the verge of cancellation. For Berg, both the film and show established him as a gifted talent from which many more exceptional projects...
As a multi-faceted actor, writer and director, Peter Berg moved with ease from theater to film to television and back again. After making a name for himself primarily as an actor first and foremost, especially with his regular series role as Dr. Billy Kronk on the acclaimed drama, "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000), Berg furthered his aspirations as a writer-director with the ill-received black comedy, "Very Bad Things" (1998). Undeterred by the awful critical reaction and poor box office totals of his first film, Berg continued to develop as an artist, eventually being hailed for his third feature, "Friday Night Lights" (2004). Not artistically satisfied, he developed the feature into a critically acclaimed series in 2006, earning numerous awards and nominations, firmly distancing himself from his disastrous directing debut. Though the series "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 2006-08) failed to attract a large audience - at least in the eyes of the network - both fans and critics alike campaigned to keep the show on air, despite constant rumors whether or not it was on the verge of cancellation. For Berg, both the film and show established him as a gifted talent from which many more exceptional projects were expected.
Born March 11, 1962 in New York City, NY, Berg was raised in a well-to-do home with his father, Larry, a former Marine and advertising executive, and mother, Sally, a former psychiatric hospital worker who co-founded the youth group Catalog for Giving and organized self-help groups for women with cancer. With visions of his son becoming a Harvard or Yale educated lawyer, his father sent him to Taft School in Watertown, CT, where Berg excelled instead at drinking and goofing off. He did, however, display a passion for theater - he regularly attended productions at Taft, but was uncertain how to go about getting involved. By the time he reached Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN, Berg began receiving encouragement to take acting classes. He eventually majored in drama and left Macalester with his degree in 1984. After spending some time acting in local productions, Berg moved to Los Angeles to take a job as a production assistant with Trans World International, producers of "Battle of the Network Stars" (ABC, 1976-1985). Though not yet established as an actor, Berg had planted a foothold inside the industry.
Thanks to his distaste for authority and lack of responsibility with large sums of money, Berg was fired from TWI in less than a year, despite being a well-liked employee. He continued working on various productions in numerous capacities - including as a property assistant on Wayne Wang's low-budget thriller "Slam Dance" (1987) - while auditioning for roles. Berg managed to get some theater work - he landed one part after cutting in a large line to get the last audition spot - then had his first big break with a 1986 episode of "The Equalizer" (CBS, 1985-89). Soon regular guest spots on television came his way, including an episode of "21 Jump Street" (Fox, 1986-1990). Also at the time, Berg made his first forays into feature films, landing bit parts in "Miracle Mile" (1988) and "Tale of Two Sisters" (1989). He had one of his first lead roles in "Shocker" (1989), playing a high school athlete whose dream of a mass murderer leads to his execution, only to trigger a more frightening and deadly killer. Berg wrapped up a productive year with three more low-budget indies - "Race For Glory" (1989), "Never On Tuesday" (1989) and "Heart of Dixie" (1989).
Berg was on the rise in 1990s, as evidenced by his increasing demand and higher-profile projects. After starring opposite Terrance Stamp in "Genuine Risk" (1990), he played a college student who returns home to discover his family mired by a host of problems that never go away in "Crooked Hearts" (1991). In "Late for Dinner" (1991), he played the dolt brother-in-law of a man (Brian Wimmer) who thinks he killed an evil land developer, so both have themselves cryogenically frozen, only to be unfrozen almost 30 years later to discover that life has gone on without them. After starring as a young intelligence officer at the end of World War II in "A Midnight Clear" (1992), he played a young man from Detroit who moves to Aspen with his best friend (Paul Gross) where they become ski instructors, only to have their friendship almost fall apart over drugs, women and a big ski race in "Aspen Extreme" (1993). Berg made several more low-budget films, including John Dahl's award-winning neo-noir "The Last Seduction" (1994) in which he played a young man who becomes the unwitting dupe of a con woman (Linda Fiorentino) using him to get rid of her husband (Bill Pullman).
Right in the midst of an increasingly vibrant feature career, Berg ventured back into television with a regular series role on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000), a medical drama about the personal and professional lives of a group of surgeons at the high-tech Chicago Hope Hospital, on which he played Dr. William "Billy" Kronk for four seasons, before appearing in a recurring fashion for the rest of the show's run. While on "Chicago Hope," Berg had the opportunity to stretch his creative legs into writing and directing a few episodes, which eventually whet his desire to direct features. Also on the small screen, he was the lead in "Rise & Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story" (Fox, 1994), playing the former New York Jets defensive lineman who battled complete paralysis after colliding with a teammate on the field. In the meantime, he continued acting outside the confines of the small screen, appearing as a creepy caller in Spike Lee's "Girl 6" (1996), before starring as a washed-up boxer who gets another chance at glory in "The Great White Hype" (1996). Berg then co-starred alongside Hollywood heavyweights Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Sylvester Stallone in "Cop Land" (1997), playing one of several corrupt police officers being investigated by an Internal Affairs officer (De Niro) helped by a put-upon small town sheriff (Stallone).
It was while working on "Cop Land" that Berg began sketching ideas for his feature debut, "Very Bad Things" (1998), a dark comedy about a soon-to-be-married man (Christian Slater) and his four friends who get embroiled in the murders of a prostitute and a security guard while trying to have some bachelor fun in Las Vegas. After Berg wrote the script, he sent it around town to every producer and studio he could get to read it. They all passed. Berg eventually found independent financing and made his film. But when it was released, "Very Bad Things" was savaged by the critics, particularly Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times, who called it "tedious" and "completely pointless exercise." Berg took the criticisms in stride. Meanwhile, he continued acting, appearing in features like "Dill Scallion" (1999) and "Corky Romano" (2001), followed by a two-episode arc on "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06). Back in the director's chair, he helmed "The Rundown" (2003), a mildly entertaining action-adventure yarn about a fixer (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) hired to bring back a motor-mouthed troublemaker (Seann William Scott) from Brazil. Despite a big budget and fairly prominent talent, "The Rundown" came and went without much fanfare.
While working consistently as an actor for well over a decade, Berg was struggling to define himself as a filmmaker. But that changed with his third effort, "Friday Night Lights" (2004), a gritty, but earnest look at a small Texas town's obsession with high school football, despite their struggles to cope with racial and economic divides. Based on H.G. Bissinger's best-selling nonfiction novel, "Friday Night Lights" focused on Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), who works hard week after week to build a winning team with a group of young players struggling to cope with their problems, including the hopelessness of being stuck in a small town. Reviews for the film were overwhelmingly positive, while the $60 million box office take was more than expected. Unsatisfied with exploring the world on the big screen, Berg turned the film into a one-hour drama, "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 2006-08), giving him a broader canvas on which to paint deeper, more vibrant characters.
Despite low-ratings its first season - which led to constant speculation about the show's cancellation - "Friday Night Lights" lured an almost-fanatic audience that helped push the show off the bubble more than once. Critics were also prominent in helping to keep the show on air, many of whom considered "Friday Night Lights" one of the best series on television. In 2006, the American Film Institute deemed the show one of the "10 Best TV Programs." The following year, Berg was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Also in 2007, "Friday Night Lights" earned a Peabody Award for Broadcast Excellence and a Writers Guild Award for Best New Series. Though rumors of the show's imminent demise were rampant - particularly during the Writer's strike in 2007-08 - a third season of "Friday Night Lights" looked like a real possibility for 2008-09. Back on the big screen, Berg directed two more films - the Jaime Foxx-Chris Cooper thriller, "The Kingdom" (2007) and the Will Smith comic book actioner "Hancock" (2008).
Filmographyclose complete filmography
CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
"I worked in almost every capacity in film and television. I had almost every job: driver, prop man, grip, production assistant." --Peter Berg to Manohla Dargis in Us, June 1996
About seeing the first cut of "Very Bad Things": "I was sick to my stomach ... It was three hours, and I couldn't talk for about a day and a half afterwards. I didn't know where to begin. And my editor, who was fantastic, Stan Lebenthal, calmed me down and got me on my feet, and together we started attacking each scene. All these things that you hear--'editing is the greatest part, you really find the movie in the editing room'--are all true. It's by far the most fun part of making the movie. And the biggest challenge in editing this film was finding the right tone, because, for example, when Tripplehorn and Christian Slater fight--there was a shot at the end with Jeanne Tripplehorn dead, a really great shot. But when I left it in it was just too much. Things broke. So it was finding the right tone for a comedy." --Berg, quoted in Filmmaker, Fall 1998
"I have very little desire to be a movie star. Robert Mitchum said it once--it's just not a man's job. There's something tremendously unsatisfying about it. You make a lot of money, you have a lot of opportunities, you get to sleep with a lot of very beautiful women, you get free food at restaurants. But you service other people's visions. Your privacy is stripped from you. People perceive you as something you're not. It's not half as interesting as going off and thinking up stories to tell." --Berg to Movieline, November 1998
On Las Vegas as the inspiration for his directorial debut, "Very Bad Things": "I couldn't help but notice these packs of white, suburban, middle-to upper-middle-class men roaming around the city, with just the look of real trouble in their eyes. I always felt like Vegas was kind of a lock that opened up a cage that allowed various different demon monsters to come charging out of men--things that men generally keep inside as they're going through the course of their normal lives.
"And I started wondering what might happen if you took a group of fairly normal people, going through life in as normal a way as one could theoretically imagine . . . and you put them in this big pot of oil and turn up the flame.
"It was a situation ripe for satire, and I was trying to make a satire, certainly not something that's meant to be taken literally." --Berg to Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer, November 22, 1998
"I write some pretty twisted shit. I like to have some people around me who are a little older, a little more conservative, and let them pull me back. I know that, left to my own devices, the stuff that really entertains me and that I really enjoy is probably not fit for mass human consumption." --Berg, quoted in Time Out New York, November 26-December 3, 1998
About his research at Bellevue for "Wonderland": "Spending time at a psychiatric hospital, one is forced to take a long, hard look into the mirror and wonder why it is that neurotransmitters are functioning in a way that allows me to button my shirt properly and put my napkin in my lap for dinner. There were many times when I started feeling like I was cracking up after eight hours at Bellevue." --Berg to Talk, March 2000
Companions close complete companion listing
Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.Click here to contribute