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Few moviegoers who enjoyed one of Bruce McGill's earliest film performances - that of the wild-eyed, law-breaking D-Day in "Animal House" (1978) - could have foreseen that the Texas-born actor would later come to embody the face of law enforcement and the legal profession in films and on television series. But McGill's imposing presence and voice placed him among the top echelon of casting agents' choices for police detectives, lawyers, military men, politicians and other authority figures in a vast array of projects, including "My Cousin Vinny" (1992), "Cliffhanger" (1993), three films for Michael Mann, including "The Insider" (1999), "Ali" (2001) and "Collateral" (2004), and Oliver Stone's "W" (2008), in which he played CIA director George Tenet. His versatility also allowed him to tackle numerous sympathetic and comedic parts in such films as "Shallow Hal," (2001) and Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown" (2004), as well as a recurring role as Richard Dean Anderson's roguish pal on "McGyver" (ABC, 1985-1992) during the series mid-1980s run. To say that McGill could play just about any role did not overstate things, as the chameleon-like character actor had proven repeatedly throughout the decades that he was so much more than the man who famously wreaked havoc alongside fellow Delta House hellraiser, John "Bluto Blutarsky" Belushi.
Born Bruce Travis McGill in San Antonio, TX on July 11, 1950, he was the son of real estate and insurance agent Woodrow Wilson McGill and his wife Adriel. Drama was his major at the University of Texas at Austin, and he made his professional debut with the National Shakespeare Company in Washington D.C. Stage work later took him to the prestigious Trinity Square Repertory Company in Providence, RI before he settled in New York City, where in 1975, he began a long association with the New York Shakespeare Festival. Two years later, McGill made his feature film debut with a minor role in Jonathan Demme's offbeat comedy "Handle with Care" (1977). The movie was not a success, but his subsequent effort, John Landis' "Animal House" (1978), was box office dynamite. Though just a supporting player and not the original choice for the role - it had been offered to John Belushi's "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) cohort, Dan Aykroyd - McGill stole virtually every scene he appeared in as the unpredictable Daniel Simpson Day, a.k.a. D-Day, who made his entrance in the film by riding a motorcycle up a flight of stairs and later wowed the terrified crowd by beating out "The William Tell Overture" with his fingers on his windpipe. As the one actor in the film who gave John Belushi a run for his money in terms of stealing scenes, McGill later reprised the role on the short-lived TV version, "Delta House" (ABC, 1979).
Like anyone associated with the comedy classic, McGill found no shortage of work in its aftermath, jumping to another TV series based on a popular feature film, the comedy-drama "Semi-Tough" (ABC, 1980), in which he was top-billed opposite David Hasselhoff as a battle-weary pro footballer. It too met with an early demise, but McGill was soon back to work lending support to such stars as Michael Caine in Oliver Stone's "The Hand" (1980), Edward James Olmos in "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez" (1982), and Meryl Streep and Cher in Mike Nichols' acclaimed "Silkwood" (1983). He also maintained his connections to New York theater as a member of the original Broadway cast of "My One and Only" from 1983 to 1984. Upon the show's completion, he resumed his busy TV and film schedule, which included roles in features ranging from the Goldie Hawn comedy "Wildcats" (1987) to "Waiting for the Moon" (1987), an arthouse feature about the relationship between author Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, with McGill cast as Ernest Hemingway, not the last in a line of real-life personalities McGill would go on to essay in both film and on television.
In 1986, McGill began his long relationship with the series "MacGyver," playing Jack Dalton, an inveterate con man and swindler who enjoyed roping MacGyver into his get-rich-quick schemes. The role gave McGill the chance to display both his comic skills as well as a few dramatic touches; most notably in a pair of episodes that saw him meeting his birth mother for the first time, and later taking an infant under his wing. For the latter episode, the actor reprised his unique throat-drumming technique to the tune of "Rock-a-Bye Baby." McGill appeared 19 times on "MacGyver" between 1986 and the series' finale in 1992. In another curious bit of casting, he appeared on both the premiere episode of "Quantum Leap" (NBC, 1989-1993) and in its series finale.
By the early 1990s, McGill had settled into regular rotation as comic anti-heroes cut from the same cloth as Dalton, or more serious and occasionally threatening types in dramas and thrillers. Eventually, his persistence and visibility allowed him to jump from supporting roles in modestly budgeted features and TV movies to small but significant parts in major motion pictures like Clint Eastwood's "A Perfect World" (1993) and high-profile TV projects like "The Good Old Boys," a 1995 TV movie which marked the directorial debut of actor (and fellow Texan), Tommy Lee Jones. In 1995, McGill again tried his hand at regular series work with "Live Shot," a UPN drama set in a Los Angeles TV news station. Though praised by critics, it followed the same path as his previous network efforts. If the show's failure phased McGill, it did not seem to affect his work load, which quickly included guest shots as military men on both "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN, 1995-2001) and "Babylon 5" (TNT, 1993-98), as well as substantial supporting roles in high-profile features like "Courage Under Fire" (1996) and "Rosewood" (1997). A telling story about the level of familiarity and respect McGill commanded came from his casting on "Babylon 5;" reportedly, the producers wanted fellow character actor Everett McGill to play the part, but Bruce was instead called in by pure accident. Despite the mix-up, the producers were impressed enough with McGill's credits that they cast him in the role.
The year 1999 marked McGill's first collaboration with Michael Mann in "The Insider," in which he portrayed U.S. attorney Ron Motley, who won landmark cases against the tobacco industry based on information provided by former industry safety consultant Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe). The feature was a substantial hit with both audiences and critics, many of whom singled out McGill's long history of dependable performances like this one. His appearance in the film simply added steam to McGill's already busy career. That same year, he had roles in two motion pictures, two TV series, and lent his voice to a video game, "Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine." His pace did not lessen in subsequent years, though the parts continued to increase in size and diversity; he was the champion golfer Walter Hagen in "The Legend of Bagger Vance" (2001) and played Osmond family patriarch George Osmond in the TV movie "Inside the Osmonds" that same year. Other significant roles came in Billy Crystal's stellar baseball biopic "*61" (2001), which cast him as Yankees manager Ralph Houk; George Ball, Undersecretary of State to President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Golden Globe winner "Path to War" (2002), and news reporter Peter Arnett in the Emmy-winning "Live from Baghdad" (2002). Mann tapped him for two projects, his epic biography "Ali" (2001) and the thriller "Collateral" (2004), which cast him as an FBI agent on the trail of drug lord Javier Bardem, who employed Tom Cruise's killer. McGill even found time to lend his talents to slightly less prestigious projects like "Shallow Hal" (2001) and "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde" (2002) as well as to co-star in "Wolf Lake" (CBS, 2007), a supernatural series with another abbreviated lifespan.
McGill's c.v. continued to increase in size and stature after the launch of the new millennium, with significant parts in Ron Howard's "Cinderella Man" (2005) and Cameron Crowe's gentle comedy-drama "Elizabethtown" (2005). There were brief returns to television work in the series "Laws of Chance" (Fox, 2005) and a remake of the iconic 1970s series, "The Bionic Woman" (NBC, 2007), but neither came to any sort of fruition. McGill never even had the chance to appear in "Bionic Woman," as the 2007-08 Writers Guild Strike brought an end to the show shortly after he was announced as a new cast member. Again, these setbacks appeared only momentary for McGill, who was back in a slew of feature and television appearances before the ink could even dry on the news of the shows' cancellation. He returned to his schedule of playing important real-life men, such as the action-hungry presidential advisor in the thriller "Vantage Point" (2008), Florida lobbyist Mac Stipanovich in the Emmy-winning HBO drama "Recount" (2008), and embattled CIA director George Tenet in "W" (2008), Oliver Stone's much-discussed film about President George W. Bush. He also made a well-received return to stage work as another imposing individual, Orson Welles, in a 2008 production of Austin Pendleton's play "Orson's Shadow" in Los Angeles. In 2009, McGill appeared in a pair of unfortunate big screen misfires, donning suit and tie to essay executives in the Beyoncé Knowles-headlined thriller "Obsessed" and the family finance comedy "Imagine That," starring Eddie Murphy.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Began acting on the stage with the National Shakespeare Company in Washington, DC
Spent two seasons with Trinity Square Repertory Company in Providence, RI
Made NYC stage debut playing two roles in "Hamlet"
Feature acting debut, "Citizen's Band/Handle With Care"
Appeared as Daniel Simpson 'D-Day' Day in "National Lampoon's Animal House"
Reprised his role as Daniel 'D-Day' Simpson Day for the TV spinoff "Delta House" (ABC)
Co-starred as Billy Clyde Puckett (the role created by Burt Reynolds) in the short-lived ABC sitcom "Semi-Tough"
Appeared in the Broadway musical "My One and Only" co-starring Tommy Tune and Twiggy
Cast in a supporting role in the Mike Nichols directed "Silkwood"
Played the recurring role of Jack Dalton on the popular ABC series "MacGyver"
Co-starred in the comedy "Wildcats" with Goldie Hawn
Had rare lead as Ernest Hemingway in "Waiting For the Moon"
Acted in the pallid remake "Three Fugitives"
Appeared in "The Last Boy Scout"
Portrayed the sheriff in "My Cousin Vinny"
Played recurring role on "Black Tie Affair" (NBC)
Featured in the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle "Timecop"
Returned to series TV as a veteran news producer on short-lived UPN series "Live Shot"
Appeared in "Courage Under Fire"
Cast as a racist in John Singleton's unjustly overlooked "Rosewood"
Had brief but memorable role as a district attorney in "The Insider"
Portrayed golf legend Walter Hagen in "The Legend of Bagger Vance"
Co-starred with Tom Selleck in the TNT original "Running Mates"
Essayed the role of New York Yankees manager Ralph Houk in the HBO original "61*"
Had regular role on the CBS mystery series "Wolf Lake"
Cast in the role of the family patriarch in the ABC biopic "The Osmonds"
Featured in the Michael Mann-directed biopic "Ali"
Portrayed Peter Arnett in the HBO movie "Live From Baghdad"
Cast opposite Reese Witherspoon in the comedy "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde"
Played a judge in the John Grisham adaptation "Runaway Jury"
Reunited with director Michael Mann to star in "Collateral"
Cast opposite Russell Crowe in the Depression era drama "Cinderella Man," directed by Ron Howard
Cast in the crime thriller "The Lookout"
Played Mac Stipanovich in the HBO TV film "Recount"
Portrayed the Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet in Oliver Stone's controversial film "W."
Appeared opposite Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler in "Law Abiding Citizen"
Appeared on TNT series "Rizzoli & Isles"
Cast in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," starring Daniel Day-Lewis