Family & Companions
Strikingly if unconventionally handsome, Sheffer has had a spotty film career but tends to shine in TV-movies and miniseries. While appealing as affable "himbos" ("Babycakes" CBS, 1989) and cut-rate Cassanovas ("Sleep With Me" 1994; "Bloodknot" Showtime, 1995), Sheffer may be best served by playing reckless charmers abetted by an unselfconscious sense of entitlement ("Some Kind of Wonderful" 1987; "A Season in Purgatory" CBS, 1996). With his straightforward naturalistic performance style, he veers toward the competent and amiable rather than the charismatic and compelling. This quality was well showcased in his most high-profile project, Robert Redford's "A River Runs Through It" (1992). Against an exquisitely photographed natural backdrop, the film depicted the relationship between two very different sons of a stern but loving minister father (Tom Skerritt). Sheffer brought well-tempered nuances to the role of the stable and responsible older brother of the golden but doomed Brad Pitt. Sheffer had the less showy role but held his own.
A promising player of college baseball and football until derailed by a knee injury, Sheffer brought authority to his portrayal of a talented college quarterback with a distant alcoholic father in "The Program" (1993). Raised in York, a Pennsylvania steel town, he was the son of a prison guard father (who moonlighted as a screenwriter) and a mother who worked in a nursing home. Sheffer and his brother performed for their family from an early age, first in impromptu sketches and later in more elaborate home movies. He acted in high school plays and majored in drama in college when not on the playing fields.
Sheffer has reported a larger-than-life autobiography, complete with epic cross-country hitchhiking jaunts, a stint of homelessness in NYC, prodigious partying, nervous breakdowns, dire illness and near-miraculous recovery. These events may strain our credulity but provide a colorful yarn. Often eccentric and edgy, Sheffer has declined to pursue traditional careers as either a Hollywood player or an indie/art-house aesthete. Shifting comfortably from a daytime soap (Ian on ABC's "One Life to Live" in the early 1980s) to the NY stage (assuming the role of Harvey Fierstein's lover in "Torch Song Trilogy" in 1983) to A-movies to genre potboilers, he has remained a working actor who befuddles would-be handlers by taking off for months at a time for travel and self discovery.
Sheffer has also written fiction, poetry and unproduced screenplays. He and a partner, Stephen J. Bratter, have formed a production company called Desert Winds Films. They took executive producer credits on their own little indie romantic comedy "Instant Karma" (1990) as well as the much bigger "Demolition Man" (1993). The latter was a satirical sci-fi vehicle for Sylvester Stallone on which the pair received credit after arbitration with Warner Bros.
Sheffer made his primetime TV debut in the short-lived soap "The Hamptons" (ABC, 1983) and landed his first film work opposite Emilio Estevez in "That Was Then...This Is Now" (1985). Subsequent features include "Some Kind of Wonderful," as the rich-kid heavy; Clive Barker's "Nightbreed" (1990), as a man who finds himself unexpectedly allied with monsters; and the unsympathetic but wrongly accused logger in the intriguingly low-key UFO drama "Fire in the Sky" (1993). He also portrayed French aviator Henri Gillaumet in the 40-minute featurette, "Wings of Courage" (1995), the first dramatic film made in the spectacular IMAX 3-D format and a doctor studying the effects of syphilis on black men in the 1930s in the well-received HBO drama "Miss Evers' Boys" (1997). That same year, Sheffer returned to the indie scene to portray a husband learning how to satisfy his wife (Sheryl Lee) in "Bliss."
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
At age 15, began competing in regional and state high school drama competitions
Found an agent; began getting acting jobs in commercials
Moved to NYC at the urging of his girlfriend
TV series debut with "The Hamptons"
Broadway debut, assumed the role of Alan in Harvey Fierstein's "Torch Song Trilogy"
Suffered what he described as "a nervous breakdown" during which he was unable to leave his home for several months (date approximate)
Feature debut, "That Was Then...This Is Now" opposite Emilio Estevez
Has retroactively claimed that he was diagnosed with cancer which subsequently went into remission after filming "A River Runs Through It" (date approximate)
Feature producing debut, "Instant Karma"
Co-starred in Robert Redford's acclaimed "A River Runs Through It"