Family & Companions
Critically acclaimed stage actor and prolific film player Bill Pullman enjoyed a hard-earned reputation as a versatile actor equally at home in heavy drama and light comedy. While in theater circles he was best known for award-winning performances in dysfunctional family dramas by the likes of Edward Albee, Pullman's comic timing and his timeless, all-American look was most sought after by filmmakers. He lent an honest, guy-next-door appeal to hit romantic comedies like "While You Were Sleeping" (1995) while showcasing a more offbeat sense of humor in the cult classic "Spaceballs" (1987) and John Dahl's indie "You Kill Me" (2007). Dahl also showcased Pullman in the neo-noir "The Last Seduction" (1994), while the actor fielded mainstream offers to play supporting roles as upstanding doctors, professors, and even the U.S. president in hits like "Independence Day" (1996). While Pullman stayed active onstage in New York and Los Angeles, independent filmmakers like David Lynch, Jennifer Lynch, and Jake Kasdan generally provided Pullman a greater range of interesting characters. Films like "Lost Highway" (1998), John Dahl's "You Kill Me" (2007), and "Surveillance" (2009) upended his wholesome Hollywood persona and allowed Pullman to put the full breadth of his talents on display.
The son of a doctor and a nurse, Bill Pullman was born Dec. 17, 1953, and raised in the Western New York town of Hornell. As a high school student, Pullman was on the football and wrestling teams and played trombone in the school orchestra, spending his summers working on nearby dairy farms. Inspired by those farms, his first professional aspiration was to go into building construction, but while attending the State University of New York in Delhi, NY, he happened into theater classes and was encouraged by his teachers to pursue his natural talent. He graduated from SUNY's Oneonta campus with a Bachelor's degree in Theater Arts, and went on to earn a Masters in Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Massachusetts. He was immediately offered a job teaching in the theater department at Montana State University, where he had already spent time as a performer in their annual Shakespeare in the Park festival. After a year in Bozeman, however, Pullman moved to New York to pursue doing more theater work, both onstage and off.
In New York, Pullman took on the standard day jobs while appearing in regional theater drama productions including Eugene O'Neill's "Ah Wilderness" and Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors." His first major stage role was in a 1985 revival of Sam Shepard's "Curse of the Starving Class," a rural-set dysfunctional family drama. The same year, a three-month theater run in William Mastrosimone's war drama "Nanawatai" brought Pullman to Los Angeles, where he decided to go to a few film auditions on a lark. His first audition landed the actor his screen debut in a sizable role as a handsome lunkhead tangled up in a kidnapping plot in the dark comedy "Ruthless People" (1986). Pullman stayed on in Los Angeles and became active with the Los Angeles Theater Company, landing his first leading role as the hero of Mel Brooks' sci-fi spoof and cult comedy classic, "Spaceballs" (1987). He starred as a professor who has a run-in with Haitian zombies in Wes Craven's "The Serpent and the Rainbow" (1988) and recovered his acting cred opposite William Hurt and Amy Wright in Lawrence Kasdan's "The Accidental Tourist," which earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination. As Julian Hedge, the lovelorn book editor, Pullman set the pattern for many of his future roles as the character who provides dependable emotional support.
Pullman made inroads into a long career in independent film with supporting roles in the family comedy "Rocket Gibraltar" (1988) and the heist comedy "Cold Feet" (1989) before Reiner tapped him again to play a kind-hearted salesman in the madcap comedy, "Sibling Rivalry" (1990). He appeared in a number of other under-the-radar films and resumed a teaching post in Montana before playing a newspaper reporter in the unfortunate flop musical, "Newsies" (1992). Pullman fared better in a role as pro baseball player Geena Davis' husband in Penny Marshall's hit comedy "A League of Their Own" (1992). Maintaining a steady screen presence in indie films, including a memorable few moments as a "vaguely rockin'" plastic surgeon in Cameron Crowe's "Singles" (1992), Pullman upped his profile in Nora Ephron's "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993), where he was cast in the traditional Ralph Bellamy role of the nice guy who loses the woman. In the critically acclaimed box office success "Malice" (1993), Pullman co-starred as a college dean who runs afoul of a sinister surgeon (Alec Baldwin) and followed up with a supporting role alongside Jodie Foster and Richard Gere in the middling Civil War drama, "Sommersby" (1993).
After a supporting role as Ed Masterson in the Western epic "Wyatt Earp" (1994), Pullman offered a great performance as a hapless husband duped by a con artist wife in John Dahl's excellent neo noir "The Last Seduction" (1994). Mainstream movie stardom finally hit with Pullman's role opposite Sandra Bullock in the romantic comedy "While You Were Sleeping" (1995). Not only did he get the girl (finally), but Pullman turned in a sexy, casual and quietly witty performance that charmed movieg rs. With Pullman's status now bumped up to lead player in mainstream comedies, he next played Christina Ricci's "ghost therapist" dad in the family fantasy "Casper" (1995) before tanking opposite Ellen DeGeneres as a stalking "Mr. Wrong" (1996). The actor wisely departed from his hapless suitor reputation with roles as the President of the United States in the sci-fi blockbuster "Independence Day" (1996) and as a convicted killer in David Lynch's "Lost Highway" (1996). A pair of very different but well-received independent films followed, with Pullman starring as an eccentric but brilliant private investigator in Jake Kasdan's stylish comedy "Zero Effect" (1998), and a supporting role as the lawyer who champions two young women imprisoned for drug trafficking in "Brokedown Palace" (1999). Pullman made his film directorial debut that same year with a TNT remake of "The Virginian," in which he also starred.
Comedies "Lake Placid" (2000) and "Lucky Numbers" (2000) proved to be duds, but Pullman delivered a solid performance as an institutionalized schizophrenic and father of a rebellious teen son in the indie critical darling "Igby Goes Down" (2002). The actor returned to the New York stage for nearly a year-long Broadway run opposite Mercedes Ruehl in Edward Albee's "The Goat, or, Who Is Sylvia?" Pullman was nominated for the Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor for his performance. The play went on to earn that year's Tony Award for Best Play. In 2004, Pullman unveiled his own original theatrical production "Expedition 6," which he went on to direct in New York, Washington D.C., Baltimore and San Francisco. In 2004, he also had screen appearances as a naval captain whose ship is pressed into service following the September 11th attacks in the Disney telepic, "Tiger Cruise" (2004), and as one of the victims of a cursed Japanese home in the horror blockbuster "The Grudge" (2004). Pullman revisited independent film territory with a role as a small town sheriff forced to contend with a group of teenagers who have formed a gang of pacifist gun enthusiasts in the Lars Von Trier-scripted "Dear Wendy" (2005), before starring in "Revelations" (NBC, 2005), a miniseries centered on End Days prophecies.
On the Washington D.C. stage, Pullman starred in "The Subject Was Roses," for which he earned a Helen Hayes Theater Award, and went on to deliver the comedy in the little-seen but well-received indie, "You Kill Me" (2007). He earned a second Drama Desk Award for his insightful performance in Edward Albee's "Peter and Jerry" and boosted his film reputation with a run of critically lauded performances in "Nobel Son," (2008), Jennifer Lynch's thriller "Surveillance" (2008) and the Sundance-screened "Bottle Shock" (2008), in which he co-starred as a struggling California vineyard owner. In 2009, Pullman had a supporting role as the father of a gifted but emotionally troubled girl (Elle Fanning) in "Phoebe in Wonderland" (2009), as well as appeared in the character-based thriller "Peacock" (2009). In the summer of 2009, he returned to the stage by starring in a production of David Mamet's "Oleanna" at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Although he had spent many years out of the spotlight, Pullman got a tiny taste of national attention again with his cameo as an aggressive lawyer in the dark drama "The Killer Inside Me" (2010), a film so controversial for its depiction of violence against women that multiple walkouts were reported when it was screened during the Sundance Film Festival. He returned to more mainstream fare with a role in the critically acclaimed "Too Big to Fail" (HBO, 2011), which chronicled the people and events surrounding the financial meltdown in 2008. Pullman played JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, whose firm received a massive bailout from the government following the near-collapse of the global economy.
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Moved to New York to pursue acting
Made stage debut (billed as William Pullman) in "The Rover" at Folger Theatre in Washington, DC
Starred off-Broadway in Sam Shepard's "Curse of the Starving Class"
Feature acting debut, "Ruthless People"
First lead in a feature, "Spaceballs"
TV-movie debut, "Home Fires Burning"
Featured as Geena Davis' husband in "A League of Their Own" directed by Penny Marshall
Cast opposite Jodie Foster and Richard Gere in "Sommersby"
Played Walter, Meg Ryan's fiancé in the romantic comedy "Sleepless in Seattle"; directed by Nora Ephron
Starred opposite Linda Fiorentino in John Dahl's "The Last Seduction"
Landed breakthrough role as the romantic lead opposite Sandra Bullock in "While You Were Sleeping"
Formed production company Big Town with a development deal at Castle Rock
Portrayed the President in Roland Emmerich's "Independence Day," starring Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum
Made directorial debut with the TNT remake of "The Virginian"; also co-starred with Diane Lane
Directed and starred on an episode of the anthology series "Visions" (Fox)
Played a schizophrenic father in the indie "Igby Goes Down," starring Kieran Culkin, Susan Sarandon, and Jeff Goldblum
Starred opposite Mercedes Ruehl in the Broadway production of Edward Albee's "The Goat, or, Who Is Sylvia?"
Cast alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar in the U.S. remake of the popular Japanese horror "The Grudge"
Co-starred in the John Dahl mafia comedy thriller "You Kill Me"
Played a struggling California vintner in "Bottle Shock"
Cast in David Mamet's Los Angeles revival of "Oleanna"
Portrayed U.S. businessman Jamie Dimon in HBO's "Too Big to Fail"
Cast as a murderer on the Starz sci-fi series "Torchwood"
Co-starred with Greta Gerwig in the comedy "Lola Versus"