A character actor possessing a menacing but often sympathetic presence, Maury Chaykin specialized in small but startling performances in American features, including the pivotal role of Major Fambrough in Kevin Costner's Oscar-winning drama, "Dances With Wolves" (1990) and memorable parts in "WarGames" (1983) and "My Cousin Vinny" (1992). His sporadically recurring role on HBO's "Entourage" (2004-11) as volatile movie producer Harvey Weingard never failed to amuse, while he made a true name for himself on television with the starring turn as Detective Nero Wolfe on the A&E series, "A Nero Wolfe Mystery" (2001-02). He went on to find his true niche in Canada, where his physical appearance - being on the heftier side - did not impede his opportunity to land interesting leading roles.
Born July 27, 1949 in Brooklyn, NY, the exceptionally versatile player formed a band of traveling performers, the award-winning Swamp Fox Theatre Group, during his undergraduate years at University at Buffalo (SUNY). He later studied at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater, working with playwright Samuel Beckett on the only Beckett-approved theatrical adaptation of his novel, The Unnamable. His initial foray to New York theater proved unsuccessful, so Chaykin left after several years to accept a role in Toronto, Canada, which remained his home from that moment on, although he later returned to New York City, essaying roles in Off-Broadway plays including "Gimme Shelter" (1978) and the musical "Leave It to Beaver Is Dead" (1979).
After acting in the Canadian films "Highpoint" (1979) and "The Kidnapping of the President" (1980), Chaykin made his U.S. debut in "Death Hunt" (1981), but it was a small comedic turn in the hit thriller "WarGames" (1983) that opened Hollywood's eyes to his talent. His towering, glowering performance as the titular not-so-sweet union leader in "Canada's Sweetheart: The Saga of Hal C. Banks" (1986) garnered Chaykin a Genie Award as Best Actor, as well as a kind of strange stardom in his adopted land. His talent for the outlandish made him right at home in modest-sized but colorful character bits in "The Bedroom Window" (1987) and "Twins" (1988), but it was his especially fine portrayal as the crazed cavalry major who sends Kevin Costner to the frontier before committing suicide in "Dances with Wolves" (1990) that firmly established his reputation as a fine character actor.
The following year Chaykin began a collaboration with Canadian director Atom Egoyan in the "En Passant" segment of "Montreal vu par..." (1991) and "The Adjuster" (1991). In the latter, the actor stood out amidst the superb, eclectic cast as Bubba, an overweight, voyeuristic ex-football hero married to an exhibitionist. Chaykin won a second Genie for his inspired turn in "Whale Music" (1994), playing a child-like musical genius who has retreated from his rock-star life to devote himself to creating a symphonic piece for whales. He proved well-cast as Jessica Tandy's son, a soft core porn movie producer, in 1994's "Camilla" (with Egoyan making an appearance as a film director) and went on to memorable work as a rotund, menacingly depraved politician in "Devil in a Blue Dress" and as one of the crazy uncles in Diane Keaton's "Unstrung Heroes" (1995).
Under Egoyan's strong direction, Chaykin atypically played a choleric cuckold in "The Sweet Hereafter" (1997) before appearing as the owner of the Chez d'Irv diner in "Love and Death on Long Island" (1997) and delivering an outstanding turn as a dissipated underworld figure with a monstrous belly in Jon Amiel's "Entrapment" (1999). His role as Nero Wolfe on A&E's "The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery" (2000) gave him a new pastime: driving constantly by the extraordinary billboard on Sunset Boulevard featuring a "humongous photograph of my face." Chaykin received good notices for his wonderfully petulant portrayal of the detective created by Rex Stout, though some fans of the character thought him too svelte for the part of the 300-pounder.
After guest appearances on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15) and "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08), as well as a 2-episode turn as Nerus on "Stargate SG-1" (Showtime/The Sci-Fi Channel, 1997-2007) and a recurring role as the ever-raging movie producer Harvey Weingard on "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-11) Chaykin focused much of his attention on Canadian productions. The veteran thespian starred on the Canadian comedy series, "Less Than Kind" (HBO Canada, 2008-13) as patriarch Sam Blecher. Sadly, on his 61st birthday, Chaykin died on in a Toronto hospital of unknown causes on July 27, 2010. Earlier in the day the Toronto Film Festival had announced it would screen the world premiere of "Casino Jack," helmer George Hickenlooper's biopic about lobbyist Jack Abramoff, in which Chaykin played a supporting role.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Formed and ran the Swamp Fox Group with some high school friends while in college at the State University of New York, Buffalo; the troupe toured widely, performing original material, and won an award at the 1969 Yale Drama Festival (dates approximate)
Unable to find show business work in NYC, journeyed to Canada to act in a stage play, "Hooray for Johnny Canuck"; subsequently acted in a number of productions at Toronto's Factory Theatre Lab
Returned to NYC, joining the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Dodget Theatre Company to act in a production of "Gimme Shelter" by Barry Keefe
Earliest feature film appearances included a role in the Canadian-made comedy-thriller, "Highpoint"
Acted in "Leave It to Beaver Is Dead", an off-Broadway musical play presented by Joseph Papp and the New York Shakespeare Festival
Returned to Canada
Appeared in first U.S. TV movie, "Jimmy B. & Andre" (CBS)
Made U.S. feature film debut in "Death Hunt"
Breakthrough role in Hollywood films, "WarGames"
Appeared in first film with Canadian producer-director-writer Paul Donovan, "Def-Con 4"
Played title role in the Canadian-made docudrama feature, "Canada's Sweetheart: The Saga of Hal C. Banks"
Offered a memorable turn as the suicidal cavalry major who sends Kevin Costner west in "Dances with Wolves"
Began collaboration with writer-director Atom Egoyan with the "En Passant" segment of "Montreal vu par..." and "The Adjuster"
Made TV miniseries debut in "Conspiracy of Silence", which originally premiered on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in December, 1991 and later aired on CBS
Worked on fourth film with Donovan, "Buried on Sunday"
Portrayed friendly truck driver Leon "Crazy-As" Pendleton in Edward Zwick's "Leaving Normal"
Cast in a supporting role in "My Cousin Vinny"
Appeared in first film with director Jon Amiel, "Sommersby"
Played Jessica Tandy's movie-producer son in "Camilla"; Atom Egoyan appeared as a film director
Received second Genie Award for portrayal of a deeply-troubled Brian Wilson-like musician in "Whale Music"
Played a menacing, rotund, depraved politician in "Devil in a Blue Dress"
Teamed with Michael Richards as the seriously goofy uncles in Diane Keaton's "Unstrung Heroes"
Worked in third film with Egoyan, "The Sweet Hereafter"; gave an unexpectedly disturbing performance as a choleric, cuckhold
Portrayed the prison warden in "The Mark of Zorro"
Doubled as a store owner and a wacky, crying lawyer for the dream sequences in "Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang"
Reteamed with Amiel on "Entrapment", playing a dissipated underworld figure with a comically monstrous belly
Played Kyra Sedgwick's aging father confronting his daughter's lesbianism when she brings her girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner in "What's Cooking?"; screened at the Sundance Film Festival
Portrayed Nero Wolfe in A&E TV-movie "The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery"
Reprised title role in the A&E series "Nero Wolfe"
Starred in "Being Julia," based on the novel "Theatre," by W. Somerset Maugham
Cast as mob boss, San Marco in Atom Egoyan's "Where the Truth Lies" starring Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth
Cast in a recurring role as Hollywood producer Harvey Weingard on HBO's "Entourage"
Cast in Fernando Meirelles-directed mystery drama "Blindness"
Appeared in the Canadian TV series "Less Than Kind"
Cast in a supporting role opposite Kevin Spacey and Kelly Preston in "Casino Jack"