An imposingly built actor who racked up numerous feature credits after making his acting debut with a 1994-1997 recurring role on ABC's "Boy Meets World," dark-haired, baby-faced actor Ethan Suplee allied himself with filmmaker Kevin Smith early on, becoming a cult fixture for his work in View Askew films while also proving his versatility in varied other features. The son of New York bohemians (Suplee was born not in a hospital but in their Greenwich Village home), Suplee moved with his parents to Los Angeles when he was a year old, spending his early childhood there and in Vermont. A friend of actor Giovanni Ribisi, Suplee was encouraged by the child star to try his hand at acting and enrolled in a class at fifteen. Two years later, he landed his first role, playing reluctant bully Frankie on "Boy Meets World." For four seasons the actor essayed the gentle giant with a recurring part on the popular sitcom.
A supporting role in the 1995 feature "Mallrats" marked Suplee's feature debut. In this comedy directed by Kevin Smith, Suplee played Willam, a young man determined to crack the mystery behind the mall's Magic Eye poster. Next up for the actor was "Chasing Amy" (1997) another Smith film. In 1998 Suplee turned heads with a role that showed off his impressive acting chops in a way that the amusing cameos in the Smith comedies couldn't. Tony Kaye's "American History X" featured Suplee as brutal white supremacist, an unrepentant blowhard so convinced of his racist beliefs at such a young age as to be considered a hopeless case. His performance was powerful and terrifying, and marked the young actor as one to watch. Roles in that year's small-town-set independents "Tyrone," "Desert Blue" and "Dante's View" reached fewer people and were less of a stretch for the performer.
In 1999, Suplee reunited with Smith for "Dogma," where he voiced the costumed Norman the Golgothan. The following year, roles in "Road Trip," "Takedown" and "Remember the Titans" exposed the actor to a larger audience, with the actor most impressing in the latter, singled out by many critics as a fresh and welcome presence onscreen, making the most of his somewhat stereotypical overweight nice guy role. "Blow" (2001) saw Suplee continue to raise his profile, playing Tuna, the best friend of Johnny Depp's new-to-the-drug-trade dealer. Later that year he was featured in the sci-fi comedy "Evolution," a drab, unfunny take on the "Men in Black" theme and co-starred in the View Askew production "Vulgar," in which he plays an unsettlingly villainous character. Nick Cassavetes' hospital-set drama "John Q" (2002) was also enhanced by Suplee's presence, as was the comedy adaptation "The First 20 Million Is Always the Hardest" (2002).
With Suplee's profile on the rise and his talent and versatility beginning to get notice from both Hollywood productions and independent films, it was a safe bet that the actor would stay in the business for some time with a long and consistent film career. A brief appearance in "Cold Mountain" (2003) led to a minor role as a Goth college student into S&M coeds in "The Butterfly Effect" (also 2003), starring Ashton Kutcher as time-traveling psychology student trying to reclaim his forgotten memories. In "Without a Paddle" (2004), Suplee appeared as a mentally deficient hillbilly who, along with his psychotic brother (Abraham Benrubi), tend a secluded pot farm stumbled upon by three childhood friends (Matthew Lillard, Dax Shepard and Seth Green) on a quest to find the rumored stash of a legendary bank robber. He then landed a regular role on "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 2005-09), a comedy about a dimwitted miscreant (Jason Lee) who has an epiphany after winning the lottery to rectify all the mistakes he's made throughout his life.
Suplee had a meatier role in "Art School Confidential" (2006), playing an obnoxious, wannabe director struggling his way through a fictional art school along with his talent artist roommate (Max Minghella). After a bit part as an anonymous teen in Kevin Smith's woeful sequel, "Clerks II" (2006), Suplee was barely visible in "The Fountain" (2006), Darren Aronofsky's bizarre and confounding time-travel yarn following a 16th-century Spanish conquistador (Hugh Jackman) looking for the fabled Fountain of Youth and a modern-day scientist (Jackman again) desperately seeking a cure for the cancer killing his wife (Rachel Weisz). Maintaining a lower profile outside of "My Name Is Earl" in the following years, Suplee and his cast mates wrapped the series in 2009, and he went on to appear in a much more dramatic production, the war-vet feature film "Brothers," starring Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal.
After a supporting role in the Tony Scott speeding-train thriller "Unstoppable" (2010), Suplee revealed his drastic weight loss, with his signature girth considerably diminished by the time he began a recurring part on the "Earl"-like sitcom "Raising Hope" (Fox, 2010-14) in 2011. Two years later, he hit a prestigious new mark in his career, appearing in the Martin Scorsese financial drama "The Wolf of Wall Street," starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Cast (Feature Film)
Had a recurring role on the sitcom "Boy Meets World" (ABC)
Played Willam, a hapless mall patron hellbent on seeing the hidden image in a Magic Eye poster in Kevin Smith's "Mallrats"
Second collaboration with Smith, "Chasing Amy"
Played a young white supremacist in "American History X"
Voiced Norman the Golgothan in Kevin Smith's "Dogma"
Acted in the comedy "Road Trip"
Played a phone company employee who helps to track a hacker in "Takedown"
Portrayed a football player in "Remember the Titans"
Had a supporting role as Johnny Depp's childhood friend in "Blow"
Featured in the Nick Cassavetes drama "John Q"
Featured in the sci-fi comedy "Evolution"
Co-starred in the View Askew production "Vulgar" (filmed in 1997)
Acted in the comedy adaptation of "The First 20 Million Is Always the Hardest"
Acted in war epic "Cold Mountain," which starred Nicole Kidman and Jude Law
Appeared in the thriller "The Butterfly Effect," with Ashton Kutcher
Cast in the comedy "Without a Paddle" starring Matthew Lillard and Seth Green
Cast in the NBC sitcom "My Name Is Earl," as the dimwitted but supportive brother, Randy Hickey
Cast in Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' comic story "Art School Confidential"
Co-starred in Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain"
Appeared in the Tony Scott action movie "Unstoppable"
Began recurring role on "Raising Hope"
Featured in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street"