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Stephen Tobolowsky

Stephen Tobolowsky

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Also Known As: Stephen Tobolowski, Stephen Harold Tobolowsky Died:
Born: May 30, 1951 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Dallas, Texas, USA Profession: actor, screenwriter, director, keyboardist, songwriter, painter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An astonishingly prolific actor in film and on television, Stephen Tobolowsky played outlandish types and bookish roles with equal vigor, which helped to make him one of the most recognizable faces in entertainment for nearly four decades. Born Stephen Harold Tobolowsky on May 30, 1951 in Dallas, Texas, he began acting at a very young age in local drama programs, but his primary interests were baseball and later, geology, the latter of which he honed through summer work at the Museum of Natural History in his hometown. Geology would eventually become his initial major at Southern Methodist University (SMU), but Tobolowsky found the lure of drama too strong, and after a brief break in his studies - due to his being thrown out of the acting program at SMU in his junior year - he earned his masters' degree in acting from the University of Illinois. He soon divided his time between acting, writing and directing assignments on West and East Coast stages, while also making his feature film debut in "Keep My Grave Open" (1977), a low-budget horror movie from Texas-based filmmaker S.F. Brownrigg. Tobolowsky's television debut came nearly a decade later with a minor role in the TV-movie "Cocaine and Blue...

An astonishingly prolific actor in film and on television, Stephen Tobolowsky played outlandish types and bookish roles with equal vigor, which helped to make him one of the most recognizable faces in entertainment for nearly four decades. Born Stephen Harold Tobolowsky on May 30, 1951 in Dallas, Texas, he began acting at a very young age in local drama programs, but his primary interests were baseball and later, geology, the latter of which he honed through summer work at the Museum of Natural History in his hometown. Geology would eventually become his initial major at Southern Methodist University (SMU), but Tobolowsky found the lure of drama too strong, and after a brief break in his studies - due to his being thrown out of the acting program at SMU in his junior year - he earned his masters' degree in acting from the University of Illinois. He soon divided his time between acting, writing and directing assignments on West and East Coast stages, while also making his feature film debut in "Keep My Grave Open" (1977), a low-budget horror movie from Texas-based filmmaker S.F. Brownrigg. Tobolowsky's television debut came nearly a decade later with a minor role in the TV-movie "Cocaine and Blue Eyes" (NBC, 1983); from there, he worked at an almost ceaseless pace, amassing character roles in features like Jonathan Demme's "Swing Shift" (1984) and Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs" (1987), as well as countless episodes of television series like "Alice" (CBS, 1976-1985) and "Knots Landing" (CBS, 1979-1993). He would credit Alan Parker, who cast him as a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in "Mississippi Burning" (1988), as his big break, which was soon followed by more substantive character turns in "Great Balls of Fire!" (1989) as Sun Records executive Jud Phillips, and in such critical and box office hits as Norman Jewison's "In Country" (1989), John Badham's "Bird on a Wire" (1990), Stephen Frears' "The Grifters" (1990) and Ridley Scott's "Thelma and Louise" (1991). During this period, Tobolowsky also found time to co-write, with playwright and then-girlfriend Beth Henley, the original script for David Byrne's "True Stories," though Byrne would later rewrite nearly all of their material; he also wrote and directed the feature film, "Two Idiots in Hollywood" (1988), which he based on his own play. He would continue to cement his position as one of the industry's busiest and most recognized character players in films like "Groundhog Day" (1993), which cast him as the blissfully unaware Ned Ryerson, as well as "Basic Instinct" (1991), "Single White Female" (1992) and Phil Alden Robinson's "Sneakers" (1993) As the decade wore on, television became Tobolowsky's most prominent showcase, most notably as the faux healer Tor Eckman, on a 1991 episode of "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998), as well as appearances on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99) and series regular assignments on such short-lived series as "Mr. Rhodes" (NBC, 1996-97). His feature work also continued unabated, and by the new millennium, Tobolowsky was the go-to player for harried paper-pushers, supercilious authority figures and eccentrics of all stripes, as evidenced by turns as the doomed amnesiac Sammy Jankis in Christopher Nolan's "Memento" (2000); as the spurned English teacher Elton Bates in "Freaky Friday" (2003) and as obnoxious television host Happy Chapman in "Garfield" (2004). Television also offered plum roles like assistant state attorney Don Haffman on "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 2002-2012), haughty Commissioner Hugo Jarry on "Deadwood" (HBO, 2004-06), the malevolent supervillain Bob Bishop on "Heroes" (NBC, 2006-2010) and predatory glee club director Sandy Ryerson on "Glee" (Fox, 2009-2015). Between 2011 and 2014, he was also a recurring cast member on no less than four network shows, playing movie producer Stu Beggs on Showtime's "Californication" (2007-2014), FBI agent Jerry Barkley on "Justified" (FX, 2010-15), Dr. Marc Shulman on "The Mindy Project" (Fox/Hulu, 2012-17) and the exasperated Principal Ball on "The Goldbergs" (ABC, 2013- ). When these series or characters ran their course, Tobolowsky simply segued into the next projects, which included recurring roles on "Silicon Valley" (HBO, 2014- ) and the revived "One Day at a Time" (Netflix, 2017- ) as Justina Machado's boss and boyfriend to her mother, played by Rita Moreno. Somehow, he also found time to host two podcasts - "The Tobolowsky Files," which was picked up for broadcast by Public Radio International in 2012, and "Big Problems - An Advice Podcast," in 2015 - and pen the short story collection The Dangerous Animals Club (2012) and  My Adventures with God (2017).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Two Idiots in Hollywood (1988) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Scooby-Doo! Shaggy's Showdown (2017) Andy Gunderson
2.
3.
 Barber, The (2015)
4.
8.
9.
 Pearblossom Hwy (2012)
10.
 Hard Breakers (2011)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1996:
Cast in the NBC sitcom "Mr Rhodes"
1982:
Co-starred in the Broadway production of Beth Henley's "The Wake of Jamey Foster"
1994:
Co-starred on ABC series "Blue Skies"
1986:
Screenwriting debut (with David Byrne and Beth Henley), "True Stories"
2004:
Appeared in the romantic comedy "Little Black Book"
2000:
Cast in the independent feature "The Prime Gig"
1987:
Directed the original off-Broadway production of Beth Henley's "The Lucky Spot"
1984:
Feature acting debut, "Swing Shift"
1988:
Feature directorial debut (also screenwriter), "Two Idiots in Hollywood"
2004:
Cast opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt and Bill Murray as Garfield in the comedy "Garfield: The Movie"
1984:
Directed the original off-Broadway production of Beth Henley's "The Miss Firecracker Contest"
1995:
Featured on short-lived series "A Whole New Ballgame"
1995:
Played a regular role on short-lived CBS series "Dweebs"
1993:
TV series debut in regular role on the NBC series "Against the Grain"
2016:
Appeared in romantic drama "Guys and Girls Can't Be Friends"
2016:
Cast in the comedy "Welcome to the Men's Group"
2017:
Lent his voice to the animated series "Justice League Action"
2017:
Played Dr. Leslie Berkowitz on "One Day at a Time"
2018:
Played Mister Wonderworm in TV movie "DIY"
1999:
Had featured role in the Oscar-nominated "The Insider"
1986:
Acted and provided staging for the Shakespearean sequences in the Beth Henley-scripted "Nobody's Fool"
2007:
Played Bob Bishop on the hit series "Heroes"
1993:
Memorably appeared as insurance salesman Ned Ryerson in the comedy "Groundhog Day"
2009:
Joined the cast of the hit series "Glee"
2011:
Took on the role of Stu Beggs on the series "Californication"
2015:
Took on a starring role on the comedy series "Big Time in Hollywood, FL"
2016:
Appeared in the comedy film "The Confirmation"
2016:
Played Jack Barker on "Silicon Valley"
2014:
Cast as Principal Ball on "The Goldbergs"
2000:
Played Sammy Jankis in "Memento"
1987:
Gave a memorable turn as the Captain of the Guard in Mel Brooks' "Star Wars" parody "Spaceballs"
1992:
Played Mitchell Myerson in "Single White Female"
2005:
Played Hugo Jarry on David Milch's acclaimed HBO western series "Deadwood"
1977:
Made film debut in the low-budget horror film "Keep My Grave Open"
1983:
Made first television appearance in the crime drama "Cocaine and Blue Eyes"
1988:
Scored breakout role as a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in Alan Parker's "Mississippi Burning"
1988:
Debuted as writer-director on "Two Idiots in Hollywood"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Southern Methodist University: Dallas, Texas -
University of Illinois: -

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Beth Henley. Playwright, screenwriter. Together in the 1980s.
wife:
Ann Hearn. Actor.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Robert Alexander Tobolowsky. Born June 17, 1989; mother's surname was Simons.
son:
William Elijah Tobolowsky. Born on January 1, 1994; mother Ann Hearn.

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