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|Also Known As:||Died:|
|Born:||March 15, 1935||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Bronx, New York, USA||Profession:||Cast ... actor|
Typically cast as the sole voice of reason on shows populated with various nut-jobs, actor Judd Hirsch became a household name with his portrayal of the level-headed Alex Reiger on the sitcom classic, "Taxi" (ABC/NBC, 1978-1983), a role that earned him universal critical praise and two Emmy Awards. Having received his start on the stage, Hirsch segued to the screen in the early 1970s with small parts in films like "Serpico" (1973) and guest starring roles before landing on "Taxi" well into his forties. Oscillating easily between comedy and drama, he earned an Oscar nomination for his supporting turn in "Ordinary People" and acclaim for his portrayal of a political radical from the 1960s living underground with his family in the drama "Running on Empty" (1988). Post-"Taxi," he was the star of the popular sitcom "Dear John" (NBC, 1988-1992), all the while earning acclaim and Tonys for his stage work in productions like "I'm Not Rappaport" (1986) and "Conversations with My Father" (1992). After notable supporting roles in blockbusters like "Independence Day" (1996) and "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), Hirsch veered toward more dramatic fare with the mathematics-themed procedural "NUMB3RS" (CBS, 2005-2010) and the dark legal thriller "Damages" (FX/Audience Network, 2007-2012). Whether on stage or screen, in comedy or drama, Hirsch was always a dependable presence, capable of turning in one quality performance after another for decades.
Born on March 15, 1935 - otherwise known as the Ides of March - in The Bronx, NY, Hirsch was raised by his father, Joseph, a Russian immigrant and electrician, and his mother, Sally. After attending DeWitt Clinton High School, he studied engineering and physics at City College of New York, only to switch to acting partway through. Though he joined the architecture program at Cooper Union, Hirsch eventually became an acting student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and HB Studio. The fledgling actor's first professional stage appearance was as Murray Burns in "A Thousand Clowns" (1964), which was performed upstate at The Woodstock Playhouse. He would reprise the role some 32 years later. Meanwhile, he made his Broadway debut in a production of "Barefoot in the Park" (1964) while starring in several off-Broadway productions. Hirsh had his Broadway breakthrough as the clerk in Lanford Wilson's award-winning "The Hot I Baltimore" (1973). Having made his film debut in the little-known film "Jump" (1971), Hirsch had an uncredited appearance as a cop in Sidney Lumet's classic crime thriller, "Serpico" (1973), but would find much greater success on the small screen.
Hirsch spent the bulk of the 1970s on TV, starting with the miniseries "The Law" (NBC, 1975). Equally adept at comedy and drama, he worked steadily as guest star before a 1977 story arc on the hit sitcom "Rhoda" (CBS, 1974-78) earned him an Emmy nomination. With his profile raised, Hirsch found the perfect vehicle to meld both his stereotypical "neurotic Jew" persona and his leadership skills in the face of chaos with his star-making turn as Alex Reiger on the hit sitcom, "Taxi" (ABC/NBC, 1978-1983), which used a divergent ensemble cast to showcase the comic goings-on at a taxi company in Manhattan. Already in his forties when the show debuted, Hirsch cut a tragicomic figure with Reiger, a sensible and pragmatic former white collar worker who lost his wife and custody of his daughter to a gambling addiction. Reiger comes to accept his lot in life as a taxi driver, standing in stark contrast to his young, energetic colleagues, including Jeff Conaway's shallow aspiring actor, Marilu Henner's divorced mother of two, Tony Danza's dimwitted semi-professional boxer, Christopher Lloyd's burned-out 1960s stoner, Andy Kaufman's bizarre immigrant mechanic and Danny DeVito's malevolent head dispatcher.
Though not as dynamic as his co-stars, Hirsch earned considerable acclaim for his compassionate performance, which earned him five consecutive Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor as well as two wins in 1981 and 1983. During his time on the show, Hirsch returned to features and earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his turn as the psychiatrist to the suicidal son (Timothy Hutton) of an upper middle-class family in "Ordinary People" (1980). Meanwhile, "Taxi" closed shop in 1983, but lived on in reruns as one of the best sitcoms to come out of television's second Golden Age. Hirsch continued to work in features, landing roles in "The Goodbye People" (1984), "Teachers" (1984) and "Running on Empty" (1988), while returning to the stage where he earned a Tony Award for Best Actor in Herb Gardner's "I'm Not Rappaport" (1986). Returning to series television, he was the star of the popular sitcom "Dear John" (NBC, 1988-1992), where he played a divorced man who lost everything to his wife and seeks help in a divorce self-help group populated by a motley crew of misfits, including a sex-obsessed woman (Jane Carr), a sweet-natured divorcée (Isabella Hofmann), a cocky ladies' man (Jere Burns), and a sharp-tongued old woman (Billie Bird).
While "Dear John" became his most successful post-"Taxi" role to that point, Hirsch continued performing elsewhere and earned his second Tony Award for Best Actor for his performance as Eddie Ross in Gardner's "Conversations with My Father" (1992). After "Dear John" was canceled following four seasons on the air, Hirsh landed a role in the television movie "Betrayal of Trust" (NBC, 1994) and played Jeff Goldblum's father in the mega-blockbuster "Independence Day" (1996). Taking another stab at series television, he co-starred opposite small screen icon Bob Newhart on the short-lived "George and Leo" (1997-98), where they played two wildly different men who become in-laws when their children marry. He followed that with a turn as real-life boxing manager Al Weill in the made-for-cable movie, "Rocky Marciano" (Showtime, 1999), which starred Jon Favreau as the titular boxing legend. That same year, he recreated Alex Reiger for the "Taxi" scenes in Milos Forman's feature biopic "Man on the Moon" (1999), which starred Jim Carrey as the enigmatic Andy Kaufman, before guest starring in episodes of "Welcome to New York" (CBS, 2000-01) and "Family Law" (CBS, 1999-2002).
Back on the big screen, Hirsch had a small role as the head of Princeton's mathematics department in Ron Howard's Oscar-winning drama, "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), which starred Russell Crowe as John Nash, a math genius plagued by schizophrenia. Following episodes of "Philly" (ABC, 2001-02), "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC/USA Network, 2001-2011), Hirsch joined the cast of the popular procedural, " NUMB3RS" (CBS, 2005-2010) to play Alan Eppes, the father of two sons, one a mathematics genius (David Krumholtz) and the other an FBI agent (Rob Morrow) who have teamed up to solve difficult crimes by using math. While adding gravitas to that drama, Hirsch was tapped by Aaron Sorkin to appear in the pilot episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (NBC, 2006-07), where he played the creator of a late night skit show not unlike "Saturday Night Live" who delivers a scathing on-air rant after being fired by the network brass. Though his character only appeared in the first five minutes of the series, other characters routinely mentioned him during the show's troubled, short-lived run.
As he continued his supporting turn on "NUMB3RS," Hirsch turned to voice work on "American Dad!" (Fox, 2005- ) and guest turns on "Warehouse 13" (Syfy, 2009- ). He went on to play the building manager in Brett Ratner's high-profile action comedy, "Tower Heist" (2011), starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, though by this point "NUMB3RS" had well run its course. Sticking with more dramatic roles, he played a well-connected, but drunken colleague of ruthless lawyer Patty Hewes on the fourth season of the acclaimed drama, "Damages" (FX/Audience Network, 2007-2012), before returning to features to make a cameo appearance in the box office hit, "The Muppets" (2011) and to support Sean Penn's strange, but widely hailed performance in the offbeat look at an aging rock star who searches for his father's Nazi tormentor in "This Must be the Place" (2012).
By Shawn Dwyer
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