Family & Companions
Supporting actor Kurtwood Smith initially gained recognition as cold-blooded killer Clarence Boddicker in the sci-fi action movie "RoboCop" (1988), although it was for his portrayals of gruff, no-nonsense fathers - most notably "Red" Foreman on "That '70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006) - that Smith would be best known for. After earning acclaim on the theater stages of California for a number of years, Smith gradually began to break into film and television with minor roles in features such as "Zoot Suit" (1981) and "Staying Alive" (1983), as well as the miniseries "North & South: Book II" (ABC, 1986). Audiences sat up and took notice, however, with his deliciously evil turn as the sociopathic Boddicker in "RoboCop" - a role that provided Smith with some of the best lines of dialogue in the movie. He convincingly played stern patriarchs in the films "Dead Poets Society" (1989) and "To Die For" (1995), effectively laying the groundwork for the other major role of his career. Smith struck just the right balance as the hard-as-nails dad with the heart-of-gold on the period sitcom "That '70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006), opposite young rising stars Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. Post "'70s Show" Smith worked steadily in efforts like the comedy feature "Cedar Rapids" (2011), remaining one of the more sought after, dexterous character actors in the industry.
Born Kurtwood Larson Smith on July 3, 1942 in New Lisbon, WI, Kurtwood's mother, Mabel Lund, married George Smith after Kurtwood's biological father died while serving in World War II. He was raised in the San Fernando area of Southern California and attended Canoga Park High School, prior to studying theater at San Jose State University. From there, he went on to complete Stanford University's Master of Fine Arts program. In the late-1970's, Smith moved to the Bay Area where he honed his craft on stage as a member of the California Actors Theatre in productions that included "Farces by Chekhov" and "Plymouth Rock." In 1981, he received three DRAMA-LOGUE awards for his performances in "Billy Budd," "The Idiot's Delight" and "Green Grow the Lilacs." It was the year prior that Smith made his film debut with a small turn as a security guard in the rock-n-roll comedy "Roadie" (1980), followed by another brief appearance as an LAPD officer in the musical "Zoot Suit" (1981), starring Edward James Olmos. That same year he grabbed a role in his first made-for-TV movie, the fact-based mystery "Murder in Texas" (NBC, 1981), which starred Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross.
Before long, Smith was gaining a reputation as a versatile, dependable supporting player, and both the profile of his projects and the size of his roles began to increase. Illustrating this flexibility, he was cast against type as a choreographer putting John Travolta through his paces in the ill-conceived sequel "Staying Alive" (1983). At the same time, Smith co-starred in what would be the first of several unsuccessful television series when he was cast as Capt. Joe Scanlon in the "Mod Squad" reinvention, "Renegades" (ABC, 1983). Smith earned his miniseries stripes with his portrayal of Col. Hiram Berdan in "North & South: Book II" (ABC, 1986), the sequel to the highly-rated adaptation of the John Jakes Civil War novel. In another less-than-memorable series, he played the villainous Dr. Sue in "The New Adventures of Beans Baxter" (Fox, 1987-88). Smith's breakout role came in the form of the gleefully sadistic killer Clarence Boddicker in the cult-favorite sci-fi actioner, "RoboCop" (1987). As he took out his victims and the competition with equal relish, Smith stole every bullet-ridden scene he appeared in, alongside a cast that included Peter Weller, Nancy Allen and Ronny Cox. He next appeared as a U.S. Embassy field officer assisting one-man killing machine John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) on a covert mission to Soviet-era Afghanistan in "Rambo III" (1988).
By the end of the decade, Smith had become a nearly ubiquitous onscreen presence with notable supporting roles that included a district attorney sparring with James Woods in "True Believer" (1989), and a domineering, inflexible father in the Robin Williams melodrama "Dead Poets Society" (1989). Back on television he gave an appropriately chilling performance as Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in "The Nightmare Years" (TNT, 1989), and took on dual roles in the Bill Murray-directed crime comedy "Quick Change" (1990). Smith continued to find success in genre material with an appearance as the President of the United Federation of Planets in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" (1991). Although it was his first association with the "Star Trek" universe, it would be far from his last, as he appeared as different characters in various television series incarnations of the beloved franchise over the years. Smith played a less noble authority figure with his turn as the tyrannical director of a high-tech prison in the draconian future of the sci-fi adventure "Fortress" (1992), starring Christopher Lambert. He took on the role of a beach bum, ironically named Jack Lord, in the Hawaiian island resort sitcom "Big Wave Dave's" (CBS, 1993), before it wiped out in the ratings after a half dozen episodes.
Far more respectable was Smith's portrayal of Nicole Kidman's button-downed father in "To Die For" (1995), a Gus Van Sant-directed black comedy examining America's celebrity obsession. The following year, he and Mary Kay Place played a Christian Right-wing couple who open their home to a drug-addicted unwed pregnant woman (Laura Dern) in Alexander Payne's scathing satire "Citizen Ruth" (1996). After so many false starts, the veteran actor at last won the TV series lottery when he landed the role of "Red" Forman on the popular, long-running nostalgia sitcom "That '70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006). For eight seasons, Smith endeared himself to audiences as the hard-nosed, WWII veteran dad of Eric (Topher Grace), a somewhat geeky teenager who spent much of his time smoking pot with his friends in the basement of Red's Wisconsin home. During and after his run on "That '70s Show," he also had a recurring role as an F.B.I. agent in the Patricia Arquette supernatural series "Medium" (NBC/CBS, 2004-2011). Smith landed a rare starring role in the independent feature "Hard Scrambled" (2006), in which he played an ex-convict trying to start a new life at a rundown diner. More steady work as a recurring character came his way when he played a senator in the 2008-09 season of Kiefer Sutherland's acclaimed action series "24" (Fox, 2001-2010). In a return to feature films, Smith appeared as a corrupt insurance association president in the business conference comedy "Cedar Rapids" (2011), opposite Ed Helms and John C. Reilly.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Taught acting at Canada College in Redwood, CA
Made screen debut as a security guard in "Roadie"
TV-movie debut, "Murder in Texas" (NBC)
Appeared as skeptical police captain on ABC series "The Renegades"
Made miniseries debut in "North and South: Book II" (ABC)
Played the diabolical Mr. Sue on "The New Adventures of Bean Baxter" (Fox)
Had key villainous role in "Robocop"
Played the anal retentive father to Robert Sean Leonard in "Dead Poets Society"
Cast as regular on "Big Wave Dave's" (CBS)
Portrayed Nicole Kidman's father in "To Die For"
Cast as Red Forman on the popular Fox sitcom "That '70s Show"
Played a psychiatrist in "Girl, Interrupted"
Landed recurring guest role on "Medium" (NBC, CBS)
Cast as Senator Blaine Mayer on Fox action drama "24"
Cast in biographical drama "Hitchcock," starring Anthony Hopkins