Family & Companions
Perhaps one of the most prolific and versatile performers of his generation, actor Kevin Kline oscillated easily between stage and screen, while deftly playing for laughs or tears regardless of the medium. Proving equally at home in musical comedy, contemporary drama or the classics, Kline earned his reputation as an "actor's actor" in the 1970s, with numerous critically acclaimed performances; two of which earned him Tony Awards. Moving into features with a stellar performance in "Sophie's Choice" (1982), he quickly established himself as a feature leading man with roles in "The Big Chill" (1983), "Silverado" (1985) and "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988), which earned him an Academy Award. Though Kline demonstrated his capabilities and invoked comparisons with icons like Errol Flynn and Laurence Olivier, he also acquired a reputation for discretion and selectivity, creating an impressive body of work - including "The Ice Storm" (1997), "Life As a House" (2001), "De-Lovely" (2004) and "Beauty and the Beast" (2017) - that deterred him from propelling to the front ranks of stardom. Which was exactly the way he wanted it.
Born on Oct. 24, 1947 in St. Louis, MO, Kline was raised by his father, Robert, a former opera singer in his youth who owned The Record Bar, a toy and record store, and his mother, Peggy. Kline first developed a taste for acting while a student at Saint Louis Priory School, an all-boys Catholic prep school ran by strict Benedictine monks, where he performed in several productions. But when he attended Indiana University, Kline spent his first two years studying music with the intent on becoming a classical pianist. Eventually, he returned to acting and switched his major to theater, while forming an off-campus drama group called the Vest Pocket Players. After earning his degree in 1970, he moved to New York and became one of the first students in John Houseman's newly minted drama department at the Juilliard School. Also that year, he made his Big Apple acting debut with minor roles in "Henry VI, Parts I and II" and "Richard III" at the New York Shakespeare Festival. In 1972, Kline and other members of his Juilliard class - Patti LuPone and David Ogden Stiers among them - became founding members of The Acting Company. For the next several years, the troupe traveled across the United States, performing in a variety productions, including "The School for Scandal," "Three Sisters" and "Measure for Measure."
As a member of The Acting Company, Kline made his Broadway debut in "Scapin" (1973), and two years later, originated his first musical role, Jamie Lockhart, in "The Robber Bridegroom." While his bread and butter at this time was the stage, he began making strides onscreen, playing Woody Reed for a short time on the daytime soap opera, "Search for Tomorrow" (CBS/NBC, 1951-1986). Also on the small screen, he starred in a broadcast stage production of William Saroyan's comedy, "The Time of Your Life" (PBS, 1976), as a member of The Acting Company. While serving as the understudy for the leading role of MacHeath - played by Raul Julia - in the acclaimed New York Shakespeare Festival revival of "The Threepenny Opera" (1978), Kline was cast in the supporting role of egocentric movie star Bruce Granit in "On the Twentieth Century" (1978) at the St. James Theatre. Kline's physical agility, comic flourishes and strong singing nearly stole the show and earned him a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor. He followed with a dramatic turn in Michael Weller's "Loose Ends" (1979), opposite Christine Lahti.
In 1980, Kline delighted audiences as the swashbuckling Pirate King in an irreverent staging of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," for which he earned a second Tony Award. Finally making his film debut, he had an impressive starring turn opposite eventual Oscar winner, Meryl Streep, in "Sophie's Choice" (1982), a post-World War II drama about the personal tragedy suffered by a beautiful Polish woman (Streep) in a concentration camp. Though most of the accolades went to Streep for what many felt was her greatest performance, Kline did emerge as an actor to watch, as evidenced by his Golden Globe nomination in the later-defunct category, New Star of the Year. Back on the stage, he distinguished himself as the star of a production of "Richard III" (1983). Meanwhile, Kline cemented his film career with a long-remembered performance in the ensemble drama, "The Big Chill" (1983), which firmly established several Hollywood luminaries, including Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt and Glenn Close. Following another Shakespearean lead in "Henry V" (1984), he made for an unusual, but ultimately effective Western outlaw in Lawrence Kasdan's revisionist "Silverado" (1985).
Returning to the stage once more, Kline co-starred with Raul Julia and Glenne Headley in a revival of Shaw's "Arms and the Man" (1985), directed by John Malkovich, which turned out to be his last Broadway appearance for over a decade. After starring in the rather forgettable "Violets Are Blue" (1986), he delivered a fine dramatic performance as a white journalist who documents the life of an anti-apartheid activist (Denzel Washington) in Richard Attenborough's underrated "Cry Freedom" (1987). Kline had one of his finest career moments as a painfully dumb "weapons man" in the hilarious heist-gone-wrong comedy, "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988). In it, he played Otto, an ex-CIA thug brought onto a jewel heist with his con artist lover (Jamie Lee Curtis), as both plan to double-cross the ringleader (Tom Georgeson) and his stuttering, fish-loving henchman, Ken (Michael Palin), who also plan their own double-cross. Though there were many memorable scenes from the movie, including John Cleese's dance wearing nothing more than a picture frame, Kline stole the show, particularly in the outrageous scene where Otto tortures Ken for information by eating all his fish. Kline won a well-deserved Academy Award that year for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
By this point in his career, Kline was developing a reputation as a discerning actor who actively stayed away from big Hollywood paydays in favor of challenging dramatic material, earning the nickname "Kevin Decline." After playing a sly Benedick in a staging of The Bard's "Much Ado About Nothing" (1988), he had his first stint as host of the interminable "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Back on the big screen, he starred as a brilliant, but unorthodox detective brought back from exile in order to track down a serial killer in John Patrick Shanley's darkly comic crime thriller, "The January Man" (1989). Also that year, Kline married actress Phoebe Cates - 16 years his junior - which resulted in the rare happy Hollywood marriage that was long-lasting and free of tabloid drama. Returning to Shakespeare, he directed and starred in the title role for a televised stage production of "Hamlet" (PBS, 1990), which was followed by a starring turn in the adequate crime comedy, "I Love You to Death" (1990), directed by long-time collaborator, Lawrence Kasdan.
In a career that was already blessed with several high points, Kline reached another milestone with "Grand Canyon" (1991), Kasdan's slice-of-life drama ensemble about a group of divergent Los Angeles residents all searching for some kind of meaning to their lives. Kline played an immigration attorney whose car breaks down in a rundown part of town, leading to help and an unlikely friendship with an African-American tow truck driver (Danny Glover), while his best friend, a pompous movie producer (Steve Martin), has the opposite result in a similar situation. Also that year, he joined Sally Field, Whoopi Goldberg and Robert Downey, Jr. in the show business farce, "Soapdish" (1991), in which he was a so-called serious actor who is brought back to the daytime soap that fired him decades earlier after degrading himself by performing dinner theater. Following an effective cameo as Douglas Fairbanks in the Richard Attenborough-directed biopic, "Chaplin" (1992), starring Downey, Jr., he starred in the often ridiculous psychological thriller, "Consenting Adults" (1992).
In another career moment, Kline delivered a fine comic performance in "Dave" (1993) playing an Everyman whose resemblance to the President of the United States is so exact that White House advisors (Frank Langella and Kevin Dunn) bring him in to impersonate the chief executive after he suffers a massive stroke while having an affair. For his comic turn, Kline was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy at the 1994 Golden Globe Awards. Following another hosting stint on "S.N.L." in 1993, he had a supporting role opposite wife Phoebe Cates in the family-friendly "Princess Caraboo" (1994). He then starred as a petty thief who uses a fastidious American woman (Meg Ryan), distraught over losing her future husband (Timothy Hutton) to his French mistress, to help him reclaim a stolen diamond necklace in the below-average romantic comedy, "French Kiss" (1995). As most actors of his stature eventually do, Kline turned to animation, voicing the oddly-named Captain Phoebus for "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1996).
While "Fierce Creatures" (1997) reunited Kline with his "Fish Called Wanda" co-stars (Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese and Michael Palin) and offered him the chance to shine in several funny scenes, the film was ultimately uneven and lacked the comic spark which made "Wanda" a huge success. But Kline rebounded nicely with a pair of very different roles that year, starting with a turn as a Midwestern high school teacher who is outed as gay by a former student in the box-office hit "In & Out" (1997), which earned him another Golden Globe nomination for best actor. In "The Ice Storm" (1997), Ang Lee's superlative drama about marital and domestic ennui in the early 1970s, Kline played a husband and father who cheats on his wife with the mother (Sigourney Weaver) of his daughter's (Christina Ricci) neighborhood friend (Elijah Wood). The actor earned numerous positive critical notices for his performance, though he was largely shut out of awards contention. Meanwhile, in 1998, Kline was named Man of the Year by Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals, an on-campus theater group known for its burlesque musicals.
Continuing to maintain a string of interesting projects, Kline managed to have high profile roles in several major releases, including Michael Hoffman's restaging of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999), where he nearly stole the show as the comical Bottom. In Barry Sonnenfeld's version of the 1960s television series "Wild Wild West" (1999), he stepped into the late Ross Martin's shoes as the master of disguise, Artemus Gordon, opposite Will Smith's Jim West. Despite the blockbuster potential, the multi-genre comedy-fantasy-western was overshadowed by a poor script, overblown production values and a drubbing from disappointed critics. Kline rebounded with a strong performance as the obsessive-compulsive writer, Trigorin, in Chekhov's "The Seagull" (2000), directed by Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep, Jonathan Goodman and Natalie Portman. In the low-budget drama, "The Anniversary Party" (2001), he played a slightly hammy, aging actor married to a former actress (Phoebe Cates). In "Life as a House" (2001), Kline offered an excellent performance as a dying man struggling to reach his disaffected teenage son (Hayden Christiansen) by building his dream house alongside his son. In 2002, Kline had a small but meaningful role in the surprise comedy hit "Orange County," and followed by starring as a professor in "The Emperor's Club."
Kline returned to the stage for an understated, but revered performance as the boisterous Sir John Falstaff in Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part I" (2003). He next gave an extremely winning performance as the elegant, complicated songwriter Cole Porter in the biopic "De-Lovely" (2004), which focused on the bisexual composer's relationship with his devoted wife and muse (Ashley Judd). The role earned him another nod at the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Movie - Musical or Comedy. After making a cameo appearance in Martin Short's mediocre Hollywood satire, "Jiminy Glick in LaLaWood" (2005), Kline took on the role of the ever-frustrated Chief Dreyfus in "The Pink Panther" (2006), starring Steve Martin as the bumbling inspector once brilliantly essayed by Peter Sellers. In early 2006, he was honored with the dubious distinction of having an award named after him - the Kevin Kline Award, which recognized outstanding achievement in theater throughout the Greater St. Louis area. The 1st Annual Kevin Kline Awards were held on March 20, 2006 at the newly revamped Robert's Orpheum Theatre, with a typically jovial Kline was on hand to open the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Kline joined the ensemble cast for Robert Altman's fictional take on Garrison Keillor's radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion" (2006), playing an inept private detective trying to save the soon-to-be-canceled show from disaster. Returning to Shakespeare once again, he played the hopelessly melancholy Jacques in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of "As You Like It" (HBO, 2007). After voicing Andre in the animated film "The Tale of Despereaux" (2008), he made a triumphant return to Broadway, portraying the large-billed but poetic "Cyrano de Bergerac" (2008). A live production of the play was aired on PBS in 2009, which earned Kline an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie - surprisingly the first Emmy recognition of his illustrious career. He also earned a Screen Actors Guild award nomination for "Cyrano." In 2010, he starred with rising young actor Paul Dano in the quirky indie film "The Extra Man" and had a key role in Robert Redford's ensemble historical drama "The Conspirator."
Kline next opted for a supporting part in the mainstream comedy "No Strings Attached" (2011), starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, and joined the voice cast of "Bob's Burgers" (Fox, 2011- ) as sinisterly flamboyant rich guy Mr. Fischoeder. He paired up with Diane Keaton for Lawrence Kasdan's dog-centric dramedy "Darling Companion" in 2012, but the movie failed to find a large audience. In 2013, Kline had one of his most high-profile productions in years, co-starring with Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas in the aging-buddy comedy "Last Vegas," which proved to be a modest hit. Kline starred as Hollywood superstar Errol Flynn in the period drama "The Last of Robin Hood" (2013), then co-starred opposite Maggie Smith in the feature directorial debut of playwright Israel Horovitz, "My Old Lady." Kline reteamed with Meryl Streep for Jonathan Demme's comedy-drama "Ricki and the Flash" (2015), about a faded rock star seeking to reconnect with the family she abandoned at the start of her career. Kline next appeared as Belle's father Maurice in Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast" (2017), followed by the indie comedy-drama "Dean" (2017).
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Debuted on Broadway with the Acting Company in "Scapin"
Made TV debut as regular on CBS soap "Search for Tomorrow"
Appeared in PBS TV production of "The Time of Your Life" with The Acting Company
Understudied leading role of MacHeath (played by Raul Julia) in Broadway revival of "The Threepenny Opera"
Reprised role of the Pirate King in the film version of "The Pirates of Penzance"
Co-starred in Kasdan's revisionist Western "Silverado"
Co-starred with Raul Julia and Glenne Headley in revival of Shaw's "Arms in the Man"; last Broadway appearance for over a decade
Played "Hamlet" at the New York Shakespeare Festival
Joined the New York Shakespeare Festival as an artistic associate
Performed dual roles as the US President and his doppelganger in Ivan Reitman's "Dave"
Played supporting role of a Greek butler opposite his wife Phoebe Cates in the comedy-drama "Princess Caraboo"
Provided the voice of Phoebus in Disney's animated "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"
Played dual roles in "Fierce Creatures" which reunited him with his "Fish Called Wanda" co-stars; played an Australian media baron and his American son
Co-starred in the '70s-set indie drama "The Ice Storm"
Returned to the Broadway stage after 12 years to star in Chekhov's "Ivanov"
Co-starred as Artemus Gordon opposite Will Smith's James West in the feature version of "Wild Wild West"
Cast as an award-winning movie actor in "The Anniversary Party"; featured alongside real-life wife Phoebe Cates and their two children
Returned to the New York Shakespeare Festival to appear in the Mike Nichols-directed Central Park production of "The Seagull"; reunited with Meryl Streep who played Arkadina (July-August)
Had lead role of a dying man who sets out to achieve his dream of building a home in "Life as a House"
Portrayed Professor William Hundert in "The Emperor's Club" a film adaptation of "The Palace Thief," based on a short story by Ethan Canin; had originally been announced to direct as well as star
Starred as as Sir John Falstaff in "Henry IV"; received Tony nomination
Portrayed Cole Porter, the legendary American composer in "De-lovely," directed by Irwin Winkler; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Lead Actor (Musical Or Comedy)
Portrayed Chief Inspector Dreyfus, opposite Steve Martin in a prequel to the 1964 Peter Sellers original film "The Pink Panther"
Cast in Robert Altman's ensemble feature "A Prairie Home Companion," based on Garrison Keilor's radio program
Cast in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the William Shakespeare play "As You Like It" (aired on HBO)
Played the title role in the Broadway production of Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac"
Nominated for the 2009 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
Starred in "The Extra Man" with Paul Dano
Co-starred with Diane Keaton in "Darling Companion"
Featured with Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas in "Last Vegas"
Starred as Errol Flynn in historical drama "The Last of Robin Hood"
Starred opposite Maggie Smith in Israel Horovitz's "My Old Lady"
Starred opposite Meryl Streep in Jonathan Demme's "Ricki and the Flash"