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A precocious child actor who charmingly anchored the hit "Malcolm in the Middle," (FOX, 2000-06), Frankie Muniz always seemed wise beyond his years on screen and off. Launched into stardom with his oddball television series and with movie roles in films like "My Dog Skip" (2000), "Big Fat Liar" (2002), and "Agent Cody Banks" (2003), Muniz was one of the most successful young actors of his era, popular with critics and fans alike. The always difficult transition from child star to adult actor gave Muniz the opportunity to step away from the spotlight and into professional race car driving, seemingly in no hurry to storm Hollywood again. Based on his history, it seemed logical to assume that if he chose to return to acting full-time as an adult, he would approach the challenge with as much intelligence and charm as he had as a child.Born Dec. 5, 1985 in Ridgewood, NJ, Francisco Muniz IV was the son of Denise, a former nurse, and Francisco Muniz III, a restaurant manager. At the age of eight, Muniz and his family moved to Knightdale, NC, and it was there that he was fatefully cast as Tiny Tim in a local production of "A Christmas Carol," leading to performances in productions of "The Sound of Music,"...
A precocious child actor who charmingly anchored the hit "Malcolm in the Middle," (FOX, 2000-06), Frankie Muniz always seemed wise beyond his years on screen and off. Launched into stardom with his oddball television series and with movie roles in films like "My Dog Skip" (2000), "Big Fat Liar" (2002), and "Agent Cody Banks" (2003), Muniz was one of the most successful young actors of his era, popular with critics and fans alike. The always difficult transition from child star to adult actor gave Muniz the opportunity to step away from the spotlight and into professional race car driving, seemingly in no hurry to storm Hollywood again. Based on his history, it seemed logical to assume that if he chose to return to acting full-time as an adult, he would approach the challenge with as much intelligence and charm as he had as a child.
Born Dec. 5, 1985 in Ridgewood, NJ, Francisco Muniz IV was the son of Denise, a former nurse, and Francisco Muniz III, a restaurant manager. At the age of eight, Muniz and his family moved to Knightdale, NC, and it was there that he was fatefully cast as Tiny Tim in a local production of "A Christmas Carol," leading to performances in productions of "The Sound of Music," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Our Town." When his parents divorced, he moved with his mother to Burbank, CA and began trying in earnest to break into professional acting. With his unique appearance - his mother being of Irish and Italian descent while his father was Puerto Rican - and unusual precocious smarts, Muniz was a casting director's dream: he looked much younger than his real age and possessed formidable talent and charisma. Muniz made his TV movie debut in the CBS drama "To Dance With Olivia" in 1997, and later that year impressed audiences with his skillful, confident turn as a young abandoned boy who lives without speaking for nearly 30 years in the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production, "What the Deaf Man Heard" (CBS). Guest stints on the sitcoms "Spin City" (ABC, 1996-2002) and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" (ABC, 1996-2000; The WB, 2000-03) followed, as well as a starring role in the Horton Foote play "The Death of Papa" and a small but memorable part in the David Spade comedy feature, "Lost & Found" (1999).
The year 2000 proved to be Muniz's breakthrough year. On television, he landed the role of Malcolm, a harried nine-year-old with a 165 IQ whose loud-but-loving family makes his life even more stressful in the hit "Malcolm in the Middle" (FOX, 2000-06). Surrounded by incredibly talented actors including Jane Kaczmarek and Bryan Cranston as his parents, Muniz charmed as the heart of the quick-moving, witty and irreverent sitcom, which was a huge success right out of the gate. For his role, Muniz earned an Emmy nomination, two Golden Globe nominations, two Kids' Choice Awards, a Golden Satellite Award, a TV Guide Award nomination, two Young Artist Awards and a handful of other honors. The show itself, with its tongue-in-cheek and touching-but-tasteless tone, won devoted fans and became a true cultural phenomenon, powered in great part by Muniz.
The actor scored a one-two punch when, shortly after "Malcolm" broke big, he starred in the big screen success "My Dog Skip" (2000), a poignant and charming WW II-set tale of a boy and his dog, based on the Willie Morris memoir. Again moving easily between childlike innocence and adult intelligence, Muniz carried the gentle tearjerker with aplomb. Later in 2000, he was featured in the Disney Channel original film, "Miracle in Lane 2," playing a wheelchair-bound teen who, through determination and familial support, participates in a soapbox derby. He also received the distinctive honor of being immortalized as a character on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), playing a brainy elementary school student who enjoys a brief - as in just minutes long - romance with Lisa Simpson, and began voicing the unpopular Chester McBadbat on the animated "The Fairly OddParents" (Nickelodeon, 2001-06; 2008- ). He would give up the "Oddparents" gig in 2003.
In 2002, he had his next big screen lead in the slapstick kids' comedy "Big Fat Liar," appearing opposite Amanda Bynes as a student intent on taking down a deceitful movie exec (Paul Giamatti). The following year, he made a funny cameo as the latest in a long line of Cher's young boyfriends in the Farrelly Brothers' conjoined twins comedy "Stuck on You" (2003), but toplined his own teen action hit as the 15-year-old "Agent Cody Banks" (2003). Starring in the successful movie as an underage secret CIA operative, Muniz had to protect a scientist's daughter (Hilary Duff) from an evil mastermind while still trying to pass math. That same year, Muniz received the dubious honor of appearing on the first episode of Ashton Kutcher's pranks-on-celebrities show, "Punk'd" (MTV, 2003-07), during which Kutcher's team fooled Muniz into thinking that his car was stolen, causing the actor to memorably and hilariously lose his cool.
As "Malcolm in the Middle" started to show its age, Muniz filmed a quickie sequel sans original castmates Hilary Duff and Angie Harmon, "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London" (2004), which failed to connect at the box office. The actor also provided the voice of a zebra who wants to be a racehorse in the children's comedy "Racing Stripes" (2005), but his growing pains - a restlessness and trepidation caused by aging out of child/teen roles, as well as his desire to try new things - could not be contained. A lifelong race car fan, he won the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in 2005 as a celebrity participant and made the decision to phase out of acting. He appeared in the horror film "Stay Alive" (2006), which crashed and burned with critics and audiences, and also made headlines by announcing an engagement to a local woman he met during filming. The relationship was short-lived, however, and he returned to Los Angeles to finish up the run of "Malcolm," which ended as a mere echo of its previous self. Determined to forge a new life, Muniz moved to Scottsdale, AZ and decided to make professional race car driving his new career. Muniz signed a two-year deal as a driver for Jensen Motorsport and entered 14 races in that year's Formula BMW USA series, but failed to accumulate any points. In the World Final, he finished 29th out of 36.
Muniz fared slightly better in 2007 when he moved up to the Champ Car Atlantic Series, but still failed to make much of an impact, earning only $17,000 for the season. Muniz continued to race, a solid performer but without spectacular results, although he did win a sportsmanship award at the end of the 2008 season voted on by his fellow drivers. With a new girlfriend and a vague plan to return fulltime to acting, the now adult Muniz made a very grown-up 2007 appearance on "Criminal Minds" (CBS, 2005- ) as a comic book writer who turns into a serial killer after the death of his fiancée. He notched a cameo as Buddy Holly in John C. Reilly's "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (2007), but remained under the radar until February 2010 when an alleged violent altercation took place between the actor and his girlfriend, Elycia Turnbow. She claimed Muniz held a gun to his head at one point, threatening suicide at their Phoenix home. The actor was then taken to the hospital and upon his release, allegedly punched her when he returned home. He denied this claim. Police confiscated the gun and no arrests were made.
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Frankie Muniz on his character in "Malcolm in the Middle": "Malcolm in sort of like me in the way he talks with his friends and the way he acts sometimes. And that's kind of weird, but it's also cool." --quoted in Daily News, January 7, 2000.
"Malcolm in the Middle" creator Linwood Boomer on what he needed in an actor playing Malcolm, and on receiving Muniz's audition video: "[I was searching for an actor who] looked younger than 13, was able to memorize pages and pages of dialogue, be funny and talk to the camera without freaking out. That's a big list of requirements for any actor, not just a kid.
"From the very beginning of this crappy quality videotape, it was instantly obvious that Frankie was the guy. He was charming, funny and seemed so smart, aware and real." --quoted in USA Today, January 14, 2000.
"I would much rather go to the Golden Globes and the Emmys and all the premieres and meet all my favorite celebrities than go to a prom." --Frankie Muniz to USA Today, February 6, 2002.
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