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Oscar and Tony-nominated actor John C. Reilly earned his stellar reputation with supporting roles in respected dramas like "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993) and "Georgia" (1995), before a string of work with Paul Thomas Anderson - "Hard Eight" (1996), "Boogie Nights" (1997) and "Magnolia" (1998) - brought his unique talent for playing the Everyman to the forefront. Finely nuanced characterizations in Anderson's artful fare led to an Oscar-nominated performance in the musical "Chicago" (2002) and roles in Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" (2002) and "The Aviator" (2004). In Adam McKay's "Talladega Nights" (2006), Reilly showcased his comedic talent and began to establish himself as a leading man, taking center stage the following year in Judd Apatow's biopic parody, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (2007), which showcased both the actor's music and comedy chops as well as his mainstream appeal. An unconventional Hollywood star, Reilly earned the respect of critics and the adulation of fans.Born on May 24, 1965, and raised in a working-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, Reilly became interested in theater early on and debuted in his first stage production at the age of eight. As a teen,...
Oscar and Tony-nominated actor John C. Reilly earned his stellar reputation with supporting roles in respected dramas like "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993) and "Georgia" (1995), before a string of work with Paul Thomas Anderson - "Hard Eight" (1996), "Boogie Nights" (1997) and "Magnolia" (1998) - brought his unique talent for playing the Everyman to the forefront. Finely nuanced characterizations in Anderson's artful fare led to an Oscar-nominated performance in the musical "Chicago" (2002) and roles in Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" (2002) and "The Aviator" (2004). In Adam McKay's "Talladega Nights" (2006), Reilly showcased his comedic talent and began to establish himself as a leading man, taking center stage the following year in Judd Apatow's biopic parody, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (2007), which showcased both the actor's music and comedy chops as well as his mainstream appeal. An unconventional Hollywood star, Reilly earned the respect of critics and the adulation of fans.
Born on May 24, 1965, and raised in a working-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, Reilly became interested in theater early on and debuted in his first stage production at the age of eight. As a teen, he migrated between school cliques, but felt most at home in school plays and regional theatres - with his older brothers "taking care of" anyone who had a problem with their kid brother singing in musicals. After graduating from an all-boys Catholic school, Reilly was accepted into Chicago's DePaul University, home of the famed Goodman School of Drama. The quick-witted and admittedly soft-hearted actor still had not considered the theater as a career option, but after several years in the drama program, he decided there was probably nothing else he was better suited to do, so he would try to make a living in the Windy City's unusually fertile theater scene.
Reilly made his professional debut with Chicago's Organic Theatre, where he also wrote and directed a series of monologues called "Walkin' the Boogie." He graduated from DePaul in 1987 with a BFA in Drama and was asked to join the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where he appeared in "Othello" and was part of the 1988 premiere of "The Grapes of Wrath," alongside fellow future star Gary Sinise. Not long after the well-received run of "Grapes," Reilly's agent suggested he send an audition tape for an upcoming Brian De Palma film. Reilly had never been in front of a camera or considered doing film, but he obliged, finding himself flown to Southeast Asia - also marking the first time he'd ever left Chicago or been on a plane - to shoot a minor walk-on as a Vietnam War soldier in "Casualties of War" (1989).
Once on the set, Reilly was immediately bumped up to a supporting role. During a rehearsal, he stepped in to play stand-in to an absent 80-year-old Vietnamese man, leaving both director De Palma and star Sean Penn taken by Reilly's stage-quality commitment to an offhand request. He was bumped up again to a major supporting role opposite Sean Penn. The same week, he met his future wife, Penn's assistant Alison Dickey. Within seven days, Reilly had unwittingly launched his future, both professional and personal. He immediately reteamed with Penn to play a young monk in "We're No Angels" (1989), before debuting on Broadway with Steppenwolf's production of "Grapes of Wrath," which went on to earn a Tony Award for Best Play.
Reilly began to appear in a steady stream of supporting roles, playing Tom Cruise's pit crew chief in the NASCAR drama, "Days of Thunder" (1990) and more memorably alongside respected thespians Penn and Gary Oldman in the Irish mob tale, "State of Grace" (1990). The newcomer was also given a vote of confidence when he was cast in Woody Allen's German expressionist tribute "Shadow and Fog" (1992). Reilly gave a classic performance as an aspiring small-town fry cook and friend of Johnny Depp's title character in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993), before landing a co-starring role with Kevin Bacon as a pair of deceptively friendly outlaws in "The River Wild" (1994).
By 1995, ardent moviegoers were beginning to recognize Reilly as "that guy" - that guy who looked and acted like a real person and balanced big stars with his rich, subtle characterizations in minor roles. That year, he appeared in the highly-acclaimed films "Dolores Claiborne" and "Georgia" - in which he was especially convincing in the latter as the drug-addicted drummer of a local bar band. However, it was the friendship he formed with then unknown director Paul Thomas Anderson that caused the actor's film career to blossom. Anderson had apparently seen every film Reilly had done to date, and recognized the actor's underused talent. He cast Reilly alongside Philip Baker Hall as a gambler's protégé in his directorial debut, "Hard Eight" (1996). Reilly and the film received positive reviews, but the indie had a limited release that did not reach a large audience. The same could not be said for Anderson's next outing.
Following their auspicious beginning, Anderson wrote a role for Reilly in his next film, "Boogie Nights," (1997). Anderson scored a commercial and critical hit with this stylized tale about the rise and fall of a John Holmes-like star (Mark Wahlberg) during porn's last days before video. Reilly's performance as fellow porn star and aspiring magician, Reed Rothchild, was a standout among a powerful ensemble cast that also included Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore and Heather Graham. With this role, Reilly's profile enjoyed a considerable raise, leading director Terrence Malick to tap him to join the ensemble of the Oscar-nominated World War II drama, "The Thin Red Line" (1998) - a film that Hollywood's best actors were all scrambling to be a part of. In 1999, Reilly again played a custom-made role given him by Anderson as a lonely police officer in "Magnolia." The highly-analyzed film was revered by some critics and hailed as too overwrought by others, but it was definitely one of the most talked-about and nominated films of the year, with Reilly serving as one of its most grounding forces.
Reilly continued to nab supporting roles opposite Hollywood's top stars, playing a major league catcher in Kevin Costner's "For Love of the Game" (1999) and exploring a different world of male dynamics aboard a doomed boat in the blockbuster, "The Perfect Storm" (2000) co-starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. He returned to Broadway the same year in Sam Shepard's "True West," with Reilly and co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman both receiving Tony nominations for their portrayal of feuding brothers. Then known as two of the best supporting actors of their generation, as well as favorites of Paul Thomas Anderson, the nontraditional-looking leading men displayed their extraordinary range by alternating their roles throughout the show's four-month run. Film directors who had been reluctant to entrust lead roles to the two outstanding actors began to rethink their position.
In the wildly entertaining ensemble indie, "The Anniversary Party" (2001), Reilly earned an Independent Spirit nomination for his role as a partygoer whose foolish accident triggers near-death angst in his fellow guests. He followed up with another lesser-seen gem, "The Good Girl" (2002), playing a loser pothead house painter and spouse of discount store checkout girl, Jennifer Aniston. In 2002, Reilly surfaced in three of year's five Oscar nominees for Best Film. In "The Hours," he was riveting as the clean-cut, controlling spouse of Julianne Moore. He transformed into poor and hapless husband Amos Hart opposite Renee Zellweger in the musical "Chicago," where his gentle charm may not have taken audiences by surprise, but his vocal chops were a revelation that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Finally, Reilly was tapped to play a corrupt copper in Martin Scorsese's bloody epic about Irish gangsters, "The Gangs of New York." Few actors enjoyed that kind of Oscar-caliber trifecta in one year.
Reilly was enjoying the best of both worlds - steady acting work in quality film productions and a level of anonymity that allowed him to continually recreate himself, without battling the distraction of a public persona. He returned to the musical stage, this time in Boston, for a starring role as lonely butcher "Marty," reviving a role made famous onscreen by Ernest Borgnine and earning excellent reviews. Onscreen, he was entrusted in his first truly starring role in "Criminal" (2004), a remake of the Argentinean hit "Nine Queens," which followed con man Reilly and a grifter protégé (Diego Luna) during 24 hours in Los Angeles. In "The Aviator" (2004), Scorsese's critically hailed epic about maverick billionaire Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), Reilly portrayed Noah Dietrich, Hughes' right-hand man and protector of his disintegrating public image. Never failing to surprise with his versatility, he went on to play half of a western music duo in Robert Altman's Lake Wobegon chronicle, "A Prairie Home Companion" (2006).
One of his most mainstream, high profile appearances was custom made for Reilly's sympathetic everyman charm, co-starring with Will Ferrell as the loyal, left-in-the-dust best friend in "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" (2006). Reilly's winning comic performance led to first billing in Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow's "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (2007). The riotous rock biopic parody featured Reilly and his fantastic vocal versatility as he chronicled the life of a fictional singer through decades of musical trends, tossing off Roy Orbison falsetto, Johnny Cash baritone, and the classic nasal whine of Bob Dylan with equal genius. His performance was so impressive, he earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Continuing with his resounding success in broad comedies, Reilly would reteam with Ferrell and director Adam McKay in "Step Brothers" (2008). The following year, Reilly took on a pair of unusual roles for him: a voiceover part in the computer-animated dystopian fantasy "9" (2009) and as a vampire father figure in "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" (2009). He received many good reviews and an Indie Spirit Award nod for Best Actor as the beleaguered everyman whose attempts to date Marisa Tomei are complicated by her son Jonah Hill as "Cyrus" (2010) in the Duplass Brothers comedy.
Reilly lent his unique brand of goofy charisma to the role of Mr. Fitzgerald, an unconventional assistant principal who takes an interest in helping a depressed, overweight high school student (Jacob Wysocki) in the comedy-drama "Terri" (2011). His turn as a lonely insurance convention attendee - by turns both caustic and endearing - opposite Ed Helms in the raunchy comedy "Cedar Rapids" (2011) earned Reilly an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Male. Continuing to work with film's premier talents, he joined actors Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and director Roman Polanski for "Carnage" (2011), an adaptation of the acclaimed stage play. He then began the new year with a performance alongside Tilda Swinton as a loving father trying to come to terms with a horrendous act committed by his troubled son (Ezra Miller) in the psychological drama "We Need to Talk About Kevin" (2012).
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"Acting at Steppenwolf was an important goal for me, and still is. I check out every show there to see if there's a role for me."---John C Reilly in The Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1997.
"The truth is a million things can go wrong between the beginning and the end of the making of a movie. I used to try to find a script I thought would make a good movie. Now, I try to find a character I connect with. As much as we all complain about auditions, they're an important part of the process and give you your only glimpse at whether you have anything in common with a director or not."---John C Reilly in The Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1997.
"I grew up a Catholic and went regularly to church. When I made the decision to make acting my vocation, I used to joke that the theatre is my church now. But, especially doing live theatre, where you have to do eight performances in six days, you really have to kind of live like a monk. Then you go to this big, dark place and experience emotions, and it's very spiritual."---Reilly to USA Today, May 23, 1997.
"Hey, I'm just trying to become the Michael Caine/Gene Hackman of my generation."---Reilly to Anderson in an interview in Movieline, December/January 2000.
"It was like, would you like an entree of Sean Penn with a side of John C Reillly? Although I got along well with Sean as an actor, I purposely didn't spend a lot of personal time with him and I didn't want people to think that I was getting parts because I was his friend. By the time we did 'The Thin Red Line,' together, we were fucking sick and tired of each other and were like, 'Oh, you old woman, just leave me alone.'"---John C Reilly on his frequent collaboration with actor Sean Penn to Anderson in an interview for Movieline, December/January 2000.
" ... It was almost destiny that he and I met. He knew all of my work. A lot of it was just supporting-character stuff in big movies, but he watches everything. He was the first person who saw that I had something more to give, and he let me do it."---Reilly on his relationship with director Paul Thomas Anderson to Time Out New York, February 17, 2000.
"Theater makes me feel like a priest. Every day at the same time, you eat, you go to the theater, you summon all of these feelings and you go out onstage. All these people sitting in the dark try to connect with what you're doing. It's kind of a communion; it feels holy, monastic. "True West" is one of the best jobs I've ever had. My new rule is, I have to do a play every year."---Reilly to Time Out New York, February 17, 2000.
"There is so much expectation that comes when you win," says Reilly. "Winning an Oscar is like being the prettiest girl in high school: All the guys are convinced they've got no shot with you. My plan is never to get hot or cold. Stay nice and warm."---Reilly on not winning and oscar for his role in "Chicago" to People, September 27, 2004.
Plays harmonica with his L.A. blues band "Stereoblues"
"I think of all the parts I play as the main characters in their own story," he says. "When you see great supporting performances, it's because people are committed to their little corner of the sky."---Reilly to GQ, March 2005.
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