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James Spader

James Spader

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Also Known As: James Todd Spader Died:
Born: February 7, 1960 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Boston, Massachusetts, USA Profession: actor, truck driver, yoga instructor, amusement park worker, railroad car loader, soda jerk, stable boy

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Actor James Spader was known for playing intriguing deviants in a number of acclaimed independent films in the 1980s and 1990s before his magic touch with morally ambiguous outsiders found its way to television on "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08). Spader began his career playing a series of unsympathetic yuppie types in the era of the shamelessly wealthy, then put films like "Wall Street" (1987) and "Less Than Zero" (1987) behind him in favor of exploring man's attraction to danger â¿¿ often sexual â¿¿ in acclaimed indie films like "sex, lies, and videotape" (1989), "Crash" (1996) and "Secretary" (2002). In 2003, he was handpicked to shake things up on David E. Kelley's stale law drama, "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004), before being given a starring role as lawyer of questionable ethics in the spin-off, "Boston Legal," for which he earned several Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. By the time he joined the cast of "The Office" (NBC, 2005-2013) in 2011, Spader was firmly established as a credible lead in television and on film, capably performing in just about any role that came his way. His starring role on the thriller series "The Blacklist" (NBC 2013- ), playing master...

Actor James Spader was known for playing intriguing deviants in a number of acclaimed independent films in the 1980s and 1990s before his magic touch with morally ambiguous outsiders found its way to television on "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08). Spader began his career playing a series of unsympathetic yuppie types in the era of the shamelessly wealthy, then put films like "Wall Street" (1987) and "Less Than Zero" (1987) behind him in favor of exploring man's attraction to danger â¿¿ often sexual â¿¿ in acclaimed indie films like "sex, lies, and videotape" (1989), "Crash" (1996) and "Secretary" (2002). In 2003, he was handpicked to shake things up on David E. Kelley's stale law drama, "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004), before being given a starring role as lawyer of questionable ethics in the spin-off, "Boston Legal," for which he earned several Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. By the time he joined the cast of "The Office" (NBC, 2005-2013) in 2011, Spader was firmly established as a credible lead in television and on film, capably performing in just about any role that came his way. His starring role on the thriller series "The Blacklist" (NBC 2013- ), playing master manipulator "Red" Reddington, perfectly encapsulated his ability to make unpleasant characters fascinating.

Born on Feb. 7, 1960 in Boston, MA, Spader was raised the son of two teachers, Todd and Jean, who enrolled him in top private schools, including Phillips Academy in Andover. But he was not particularly interested in school and spent more time lost in his active imagination. To compensate, Spader started performing theater while in school, where he could completely absorb in his fantasies, and eventually dropped out at 17 to move to New York City. While there, he took on a series of odd jobs and trained at the Michael Chekov Acting Studio. But he still considered acting a hobby and form of escape when he started landing paying gigs. Unexpectedly, he found himself becoming a professional actor. His earlier roles including a small part as Brooke Shields' brother in "Endless Love" (1981) and playing the Kevin Bacon character in an unsold pilot for a 1983 adaptation of the coming-of-age dramedy "Diner" (1982). He played Frank Converse's slightly rebellious son in the short-lived "The Family Tree" (NBC, 1982-83), then costarred in a few television movies before he hit his stride in feature films.

Spader gained feature film attention as Andrew McCarthy's linen-clad, elitist best friend in the wrong-side-of-the-tracks teen romance "Pretty in Pink" (1986). He followed by digging even deeper into the dark side of the privileged, playing a rich kid cocaine dealer who forces Robert Downey Jr. to prostitute himself for drugs in "Less Than Zero" (1987). He paired with McCarthy again as a less-loathsome buddy in the absurd romantic comedy "Mannequin" (1987), but was again tapped to deliver his best smarmy yuppie in the classic portrait of 1980s excess, "Wall Street" (1987). In 1989, Spader saw a turning point in his career when the actor â¿¿ who had often been seen as the guy you loved to hate â¿¿ gave an intriguing and subtle performance in Stephen Soderbergh's "sex, lies, and videotape." He was recognized with a Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his finely nuanced portrayal of an eccentric, quietly neurotic drifter forced to face his emotional demons when a return to his college town upsets the staid suburban life of an old friend.

Following a supporting role as a possessive boyfriend in the well-received Martin Amis adaptation, "The Rachel Papers" (1989), Spader played a buttoned-up square befriended by a dangerously charming con artist (Rob Lowe) in the uneven thriller "Bad Influence" (1990). He fared better in independent film territory, delivering a quality performance as a young widower who falls for an older woman (Susan Sarandon) in the erotic "White Palace" (1990). He was paired alongside John Cusack for the political drama "True Colors" (1991), but the film about friendship and blackmail was not a commercial success. With "Storyville" (1992), Spader reinforced his new association with sexy, intelligent fare playing a New Orleans lawyer turned congressional candidate tempted by fleshly pleasures. He was again at the mercy of a destructive femme fatale (Madchen Amick) in the erotic thriller "Dream Lover" (1994), though the "Basic Instinct" (1992) wannabe failed to attract much attention.

In "Wolf" (1994), an imaginative urban take on the werewolf legend, Spader played his trademark yuppie villain, then went on to score his biggest commercial hit with "Stargate" (1994). An unexpected sight in the mainstream sci-fi adventure, Spader successfully showcased another side of his eccentricity playing a nerdy Egyptologist who becomes involved in a parallel dimension. When he returned from journeying across the universe, Spader was back to exploring the dark underbelly of humanity as a scheming hit man characterized as evil incarnate in John Herzfeld's "2 Days in the Valley" (1996). Stepping boldly into the film adaptation of J.G. Ballard's "Crash" (1996), the David Cronenberg-directed world of fetishism and erotic obsession, Spader found perhaps his most provocative role since his 1989 breakthrough, delivering an inspired portrayal of a man whose involvement in a fatal accident revitalizes his sex life. Spader cut a terrific presence with his Elvis-style hair-do in the murder mystery "Keys to Tulsa" (1997), before giving a more conventional performance as an unethical doctor in Sidney Lumet's "Critical Care" (1997).

Following a pair of duds â¿¿ "Supernova" (2000) and "The Watcher" (2000) â¿¿ Spader revived his acclaimed status with the erotic art house hit "Secretary" (2002). The Special Jury Prize winner at Sundance explored issues of love, sex and power through the story of an unusual relationship between a lawyer (Spader) and his young secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who was released from a mental institute. Though the lion's share of the awards went to Gyllenhaal, the film raised Spader's profile and helped him land on David E. Kelley's short list when the television producer was looking to revive his ratings-deprived courtroom drama, "The Practice." Kelley wanted someone provocative, compelling and a tad strange to insert into the mix of decent lawyers and approached Spader, thanks to his success playing devious, offbeat characters. As the charismatic and morally slippery Alan Shore, Spader breathed new life into the show's final season and earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

In 2005, his character was spun off into "Boston Legal," where Spader was able to further explore the questionable morals of his law partner at Crane, Poole and Schmidt, while sharing undeniable sparring chemistry with co-star William Shatner. The show delivered steady ratings for ABC, while Spader's performance earned him Emmys in 2005 and 2007. After "Boston Legal" went off the air, Spader made his Broadway debut in David Mametâ¿¿s "Race" (2009), before returning to television with a guest starring role on "The Office" (NBC, 2005-2013) for the season seven finale, playing ultra-manipulative salesman Robert California. In a high-profile announcement, Spader returned to the show as a regular player for season eight after outgoing star Steve Carell moved on. With his "Office" stint clearly reviving his career, he kept up the momentum, appearing in Steven Spielberg's historical drama "Lincoln" (2012). Spader soon landed his own series, starring as master criminal Red Reddington in "The Blacklist" (NBC, 2013- ). Shortly before the show aired, his next major role was announcedâ¿¿the veteran actor played the supervillain Ultron in the highly anticipated superhero sequel "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," which opened in theaters in May 2015.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

3.
 Homesman, The (2014)
4.
 Lincoln (2012)
5.
 Shorts (2009)
6.
 Alien Hunter (2003) Julian Rome
7.
 Secretary (2002) Mr. Grey
8.
 Slow Burn (2000)
9.
 Supernova (2000) Nick Vanzant
10.
 Watcher, The (2000) Campbell
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1983:
TV acting debut, playing Fenwick (role originated by Kevin Bacon in the feature) on the unsold CBS pilot "Diner"
1983:
Appeared in the TV-movie, "Cocaine: One Man's Seduction" (NBC)
1985:
Acted in the feature "Tuff Turf"
1986:
Played Blane's (Andrew McCarthy) rakish friend Steff in "Pretty in Pink"; scripted by John Hughes
1987:
Played a loathsome drug dealer named Rip in "Less Than Zero," based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis
1990:
Played a young, affluent widower opposite Susan Sarandon in "White Palace"
1991:
Played John Cusack's moral best friend in "True Colors"
1992:
Played the lead role in Mark Frost's "Storyville"
1993:
Had a memorable role as a hot-headed young gambler in Phillip Haas' "The Music of Chance"
1994:
Featured as Jack Nicholson's friend turned enemy in Mike Nichols' "Wolf"
1994:
Cast as Egyptologist Daniel Jackson in the blockbuster hit "Stargate"
1996:
Played car fetishist James Ballard in David Cronenberg's controversial "Crash"
1996:
Cast as assassin Lee Woods in the ensemble feature "2 Days in the Valley"
1997:
Portrayed an unethical resident physician in Sidney Lumet's "Critical Care"
2000:
Featured in "Supernova"; director Walter Hill took his name off the troubled project (was credited as Thomas Lee)
2000:
Appeared with Minnie Driver and Josh Brolin in "Slow Burn" (filmed 1998)
2000:
Appeared with Keanu Reeves in "The Watcher," playing a former FBI agent who returns to search for a serial killer
2002:
Starred as Maggie Gyllenhaal's sadomasochistic boss in the critically acclaimed "Secretary"
2003:
Joined the cast of "The Practice" (ABC) as attorney Alan Shore
2006:
Narrated "China Revealed," the first episode of Discovery Channel's documentary series "Discovery Atlas"
2011:
Guest-starred as Robert California on the final episode of season 7 of "The Office" (NBC)
2011:
After much speculation as to who would replace Steve Carell, joined cast of "The Office" (NBC) as series regular, reprising his role of Robert California; announced he was leaving the show in 2012
2012:
Played political operative W.N. Bilbo opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln"
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Education

Phillips Andover Academy: Andover , Massachusetts -
Michael Chekhov School: New York , New York -

Notes

With regard to the impact of "sex, lies and videotape" on his career: "Well, to put this in perspective, I should say that at the time it started to acquire a great deal of attention, I was entering rehearsals on 'Bad Influence', and my wife was entering the last term of her pregnancy. My life was extremely chaotic anyway. Basically, the way it's affected my life is that different people have started to take notice of my work who took no notice of it before--at least in my perception." --James Spader to Lawrence Van Gelder in THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 18, 1989

"But I don't know what IS taking a chance, because I don't have any sense of career choices. I don't know what the hell's good for a career. I don't have a clue. I don't know what dictates success in film, or failure in terms of people going to see it. And I don't know how any of that translates into one's own facility for reaping the roles one wants to reap. I don't know how all that works. Every project I ever do is always picked quite specifically to that time in my life and that project." --Spader quoted in NEW YORK NEWSDAY, June 26, 1994

Career inattention "may come from the fact that my career is not the dominating thing in our [his and wife Vickey's] life." More important is family in Massachusettes, where he owns the house next door to his parents.

"It is absolutely paramount to me that my kids grow up around their family, so I protect that pretty dearly." --Spader to Kathryn Baker in USA Today, October 28, 1994

On working in Brat Pack era movies [i.e., "Pretty in Pink" and "Less Than Zero"]: "There was a sort of club. There were a whole bunch of young actors who were all sort of leads in these films, but I was pretty removed from that. I didn't live in L.A. I was living in New York. I was a hired gun during the period; I was never a member of the club." --Spader quoted in PREMIERE, January 1997

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Victoria Spader. Set decorator. Served as set decorator for "sex, lies, and videotape" (1989); met in the late 1970s; married c. 1979.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Todd Spader. Teacher.
mother:
Jean Spader. Teacher.
mother-in-law:
Lee Kheel. Actor. Primarily a NYC stage actor but has also appeared several times on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC).
son:
Sebastian Spader. Born in July 1989.
son:
Elijah Spader. Born c. 1992.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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