Jeff Daniels


Actor
Jeff Daniels

About

Also Known As
Jeffrey Daniels, Jeffrey Warren Daniels
Birth Place
Athens, Georgia, USA
Born
February 19, 1955

Biography

An all-American leading man with a flair for playing perplexed characters overtaken by unusual circumstances, actor Jeff Daniels first registered with the public with his performances as a mostly self-involved semi-intellectual who cheats on his cancer-stricken wife in "Terms of Endearment" (1983). Two years later, he solidified his status as the smug actor in the film-within-the-film wh...

Family & Companions

Kathleen Daniels
Wife
Married c. 1979.

Notes

"[Show business is] a business that gets rid of you and you don't even know you've been discarded. I want to be the one who says 'I'm done.'" --Jeff Daniels in USA Today, September 16, 1996.

"Working with megastars is, well, kind of like working with spiders. I've always been the guy in the scene with Meryl or with Debra. I just know they are going to use the take in which she is great. She's the star. Same with the spider (300 of which he co-starred with in 'Arachnophobia' 1990). When the spider crawled down and finally turned right, I'd better deliver the speech correctly because that's the one we're going to use. We're not going to wait twenty takes for Jeff to get it right." --Daniels quoted in Us, October 1991.

Biography

An all-American leading man with a flair for playing perplexed characters overtaken by unusual circumstances, actor Jeff Daniels first registered with the public with his performances as a mostly self-involved semi-intellectual who cheats on his cancer-stricken wife in "Terms of Endearment" (1983). Two years later, he solidified his status as the smug actor in the film-within-the-film who steps off the screen to woo Mia Farrow in "The Purple Rose of Cairo" (1985), and had his defining role as the feckless hero in the offbeat comedy-thriller, "Something Wild" (1986). From there, he oscillated easily from quirky character pieces to big studio films like "Gettysburg" (1993) and the action thriller "Speed" (1994). Daniels was at his most hilarious as a good-natured doofus opposite Jim Carrey in "Dumb and Dumber" (1994) and starred in the live action version of "101 Dalmatians" (1996), before turning in an endearing performance as a diner owner-turned-painter in "Pleasantville" (1998). He had a series of supporting roles in "Blood Work" (2002), "The Hours" (2002), and "Gods and Generals" (2003), before delivering an acclaimed performance in the indie hit "The Squid and the Whale" (2005). The decidedly anti-Hollywood Daniels next played lead detective Alvin Dewey in "Infamous" (2006), a wise blind man in "The Lookout" (2007) and a Congressman in "State of Play" (2009) before starring in Aaron Sorkin's TV-news drama "The Newsroom" (HBO 2012-14) and appearing in key roles in the hits "The Martian" (2015) and "The Divergent Series: Allegiant" (2016). Whether quirky or serious or somewhere in between, Daniels proved himself to be a chameleon-like actor in a wide ranging number of roles.

Born in Georgia but raised in Michigan, Daniels attended college with the intention of becoming a teacher, although he minored in theater. Cast by guest director Marshall W. Mason in a production of "Summer and Smoke" in his junior year, he dropped out of college and moved to New York City to work with Mason at the Circle Repertory Company. Beginning as an apprentice, Daniels eventually made his stage debut with the company in 1976. Playwright Lanford Wilson expressly wrote the role of Jed, the homosexual lover of a paraplegic, in "Fifth of July" for Daniels, who appeared in both the 1978 off-Broadway version and the 1980 Broadway production. (He also reprised the role for the TV version first aired on Showtime in 1982.) For his stunning performance in the one-man "Johnny Got His Gun" (1982), the actor received an OBIE award. Other Broadway credits included "The Golden Age" (1984), A. R. Gurney's modern-day version of Henry James' "The Aspern Papers," and Lanford Wilson's "Redwood Curtain" (1993), a role he reprised in the 1995 CBS TV adaptation.

Daniels entered films in the small role of the policeman who breaks up a fight between Coalhouse Walker and the fire chief in "Ragtime" (1981). It was not long before Daniels became a known actor with his breakout role of a caddish professor cheating on his wife (Debra Winger) who later dies of cancer in the Oscar-winning tearjerker, James L. Brooks' "Terms of Endearment" (1983). His ability to convey the less-than-admirable qualities of the weak-willed man, but still illicit sympathy in audiences as he grieved the loss of the woman he had wronged made a memorable impact on audiences. Unfortunately, he was wasted as Meryl Streep's editor and friend in "Heartburn" (1986), but fared better as a radio action hero in Woody Allen's "Radio Days" (1987). Daniels has also played leading roles in the little-seen "The House on Carroll Street" (1988), as the stalwart all-American FBI agent who nevertheless helps the "Red-tainted" Kelly McGillis ferret out why U.S. officials are hiding a group of German immigrants; "Checking Out" (1988), as a raging hypochondriac; and a co-starring role in the disappointing "The Butcher's Wife" (1991), opposite Demi Moore. Daniels managed to hold his own alongside several hundred spiders and the scene-stealing John Goodman in the creepy "Arachnophobia" (1990), and he won much-deserved acclaim for his fine performance as Joshua Chamberlain, the Union colonel who defends Little Round Top, in the otherwise middling "Gettysburg" (1993).

On a serious career roll, Daniels ventured back to lighter fare and blockbuster box office with his scene-stealing supporting role of Keanu Reeves' partner, Det. Harold 'Harry' Temple, in Jan De Bont's "Speed" (1994) and displayed a rarely-seen goofy side in the smash holiday hit "Dumb and Dumber" (1994). The year 1996 was a prolific one for Daniels, who further demonstrated his versatility by appearing in the ensemble of the edgy independent film "2 Days in the Valley," playing Anna Paquin's estranged father in the heartwarming "Fly Away Home," and going up against Glenn Close's Cruella DeVil in the live-action remake "101 Dalmatians." In the late 1980s as his star continued to rise, Daniels had deserted Hollywood and retreated to his hometown of Chelsea, MI, where he founded the Purple Rose Theater Company. From its inception, the company produced several of Daniels' own plays throughout the 1990s and beyond, including "Shoe Man," "The Vast Difference" and "The Kingdom's Coming." Daniels made his feature directorial debut with the locally themed comedy "Escanaba in da Moonlight" (2001), adapted from his stage play about a hunting trip gone slightly awry. The film was self-distributed in Michigan in 2001 to little fanfare, though his second outing as writer-director proved more successful. Daniel's "Super Sucker," a comedy about rival vacuum cleaner salesmen, won a slot at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and walked away with its Audience Award for Best Feature.

Although he no longer lived there, Hollywood continued to beckon. Daniels continued to walk the hit-and-miss path of playing both leading and character roles, alternately appearing in bombs like the film remake of the 1960s sitcom "My Favorite Martian" (1999) and in moving roles in popular films such as "Pleasantville" (1998), in which he played the lonely soda shop owner Mr. Johnson, who lives in the artificial, black-and-white world of a 1950s sitcom and who strikes up an unexpected and Technicolor romance with a married woman (Joan Allen). In between big screen projects, Daniels also turned in exemplary work in several television efforts, including playing George Washington in the A&E telepic "The Crossing" (2000). In 2002, Daniels appeared in Clint Eastwood's detective thriller "Blood Work" and made a renewed impression on audiences in a brief but memorable role as Ed Harris' former lover in Steven Daldry's "The Hours" and in the reprisal of his role as Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in "Gods and Generals," Ron Maxwell's 2003 prequel to "Gettysburg." For his next movie, Daniels stepped behind and in front of the camera by directing and starring in the slapstick "Super Sucker" (2002), about a door-to-door vacuum salesman who discovers his product can double as a sex toy for dissatisfied housewives. Daniels also helped finance the film, but it unfortunately failed to earn wide distribution and went straight to video after a brief appearance in theaters.

After a turn in the acclaimed telepic adaptation of Mitch Albom's bestseller "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" (ABC, 2004), Daniels next appeared as a grieving father in "Imaginary Heroes" (2005). Co-starring Sigourney Weaver and Emile Hirsch, the film depicted a family mourning the death of their eldest son (Kip Pardue) who killed himself when the pressure of being a high school swimming champion became too much to handle. In "Because of Winn-Dixie" (2005), Daniels played the preacher father of a young girl (AnnaSophia Robb) who comes to live with him for the summer despite their troubled relationship caused by her mother's desertion. He next had a nicely etched supporting turn in George Clooney's second directorial effort "Good Night and Good Luck" (2005) playing straight-talking network CBS news executive Sid Mickelson, followed by strong notices in writer-director Noah Baumbach's autobiographical "The Squid and the Whale" (2005), the story of two young boys dealing with their parents divorce. Daniels returned to high-concept studio fare with a supporting role in the one-note comedy, "RV" (2006), playing the father in a family of fulltime RV travelers whose friendliness and constant singing drive another family headed by an overworked executive (Robin Williams) more crazy than they make themselves. Daniels didn't have to look far for inspiration for the role; in real life, he had been an RV enthusiast and drove his own recreational vehicle to and from set. Despite poor reviews, "RV" took its opening weekend with a $16 million haul at the box office.

Meanwhile, Daniels was set to be seen in "Infamous" (2006), the second biopic in as many years about Truman Capote (Toby Jones) and his six year stint in Kansas investigating a grisly quadruple homicide that led to his writing In Cold Blood. Daniels played Alvin Dewey, the agent who befriends Capote and helps grant the writer unprecedented access to information and the prisoners. After "Infamous" came and went without so much as a whimper, Daniels delivered a typically competent performance in Scott Frank's directorial debut "The Lookout" (2007), playing the blind roommate of a former high school hockey star (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) brain damaged from a car accident who is recruited by a group of thieves to help rob a bank. In 2009, Daniels returned to the stage for the Broadway production of Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage," earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play. Back on the screen, he was a struggling novelist who befriends a high school girl (Emma Stone) who gives him back his confidence in the indie drama "Paper Man" (2010). After playing a university professor in "Howl" (2010), Daniels starred as the caustic news anchor Will McAvoy on Aaron Sorkin's cable drama "The Newsroom" (HBO, 2012-14), for which he received SAG and Golden Globe nods for Best Actor in a Drama Series. In September of 2013, Daniels received a Best Actor Emmy for his role on "The Newsroom," the first in his career. Daniels reteamed with Gordon-Levitt on Rian Johnson's science fiction thriller "Looper" (2012) and co-starred with Aaron Paul in the drama "Quad" (2013). In 2013, it was announced that Daniels was reteaming with Jim Carrey for a sequel to one of his most famous movies, "Dumb and Dumber To" (2014). Following that critically lambasted sequel, Daniels co-starred in Danny Boyle's "Steve Jobs" (2015), Ridley Scott's "The Martian" (2015), and YA dystopia "The Divergent Series: Allegiant" (2016).

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Super Sucker (2003)
Director
Escanaba in da Moonlight (2001)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)
The Divergent Series: Ascendant (2017)
Allegiant (2016)
Steve Jobs (2015)
The Martian (2015)
Dumb and Dumber To (2014)
Paper Man (2009)
The Answer Man (2009)
Away We Go (2009)
State of Play (2009)
Traitor (2008)
A Plumm Summer (2008)
Narrator
Space Chimps (2008)
Sweet Nothing in My Ear (2008)
The Lookout (2007)
Mama's Boy (2007)
Infamous (2006)
RV (2006)
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
Sig Mickelson
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Bernard Berkman
Because of Winn-Dixie (2005)
Imaginary Heroes (2004)
Ben Travis
Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl (2004)
Elliot Garfield
The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2004)
Gods and Generals (2003)
Super Sucker (2003)
The Hours (2002)
Louis Waters
Blood Work (2002)
Chasing Sleep (2001)
Editor Saxon
Escanaba in da Moonlight (2001)
Reuben Soady
My Favorite Martian (1999)
Pleasantville (1998)
Trial and Error (1997)
2 Days in the Valley (1996)
Fly Away Home (1996)
101 Dalmatians (1996)
Redwood Curtain (1995)
Speed (1994)
Dumb & Dumber (1994)
Gettysburg (1993)
Gettysburg Journal (1993)
Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story (1992)
Rain Without Thunder (1992)
Disaster in Time (1992)
The Butcher's Wife (1991)
Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990)
Arachnophobia (1990)
Love Hurts (1990)
No Place Like Home (1989)
Mike Cooper
Checking Out (1989)
Ray Macklin
Sweet Hearts Dance (1988)
Sam Manners
The House On Carroll Street (1988)
The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (1988)
Lieutenant Stephen Maryk
Radio Days (1987)
Heartburn (1986)
Something Wild (1986)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Marie: A True Story (1985)
An Invasion of Privacy (1983)
Terms Of Endearment (1983)
Ragtime (1981)

Writer (Feature Film)

Super Sucker (2003)
Screenplay
Escanaba in da Moonlight (2001)
Play As Source Material
Escanaba in da Moonlight (2001)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

Super Sucker (2003)
Producer
Escanaba in da Moonlight (2001)
Producer

Music (Feature Film)

Mama's Boy (2007)
Song Performer
Dumb & Dumber (1994)
Song Performer

Cast (Special)

Walt Disney World's 25th Anniversary Party (1997)
Canned Ham: Trial and Error (1997)
Interviewee
The Visit (1987)
Catalina C-Lab (1982)
Fifth of July (1982)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

It's The Rage (2000)
The Crossing (2000)
A Rumor of War (1980)
Chaplain

Life Events

1976

First NYC stage appearance, "The Farm"

1978

Originated the role of Jed in "Fifth of July"; role written expressly for Daniels by playwright Lanford Wilson

1980

Made Broadway debut reprising the role of Jed for "Fifth of July"

1980

Made TV acting debut in the CBS miniseries "A Rumor of War"

1981

Feature acting debut, a bit part in Milo┬┐ Forman's "Ragtime"

1982

Played first leading role on TV in the NBC adventure pilot "Catalina C-Lab"

1982

Starred in one-person off-Broadway show "Johnny Got His Gun"

1983

Landed first prominent film role as Flap, Debra Winger's cheating husband in James L Brooks' "Terms of Endearment"

1985

Played first full-fledged romantic lead in Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo"

1986

Received critical praise for his turn in Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild"

1989

Played guitar on Don Johnson's album <i>Let It Roll</i>

1990

Founded the regional theater Purple Rose Theater Company in Chelsea, MI

1993

Starred as Lt. Col. Joshua Chamberlain in the Civil War ensemble "Gettysburg"

1993

Returned to the Broadway stage in "Redwood Curtain"; penned by Lanford Wilson

1994

Played pivotal role as Keanu Reeves' partner in the hit action film "Speed"

1994

Co-starred with Jim Carrey in the commercial hit "Dumb and Dumber"

1995

Reprised stage role in the CBS TV adaptation of "Redwood Curtain"

1996

Co-starred with Glenn Close in the live action feature "101 Dalmatians"

1998

Co-starred in Gary Ross' Academy Award-nominated film "Pleasantville"

1999

NYC debut as playwright, "Thy Kingdom's Come"

2000

Portrayed George Washington in the A&E original film "The Crossing"

2000

Played a teacher who assisted his students in cheating in the HBO film "Cheaters"

2001

Feature directorial debut, "Escanaba in da Moonlight"; also scripted from his play and starred

2002

Co-starred with Clint Eastwood in the detective thriller "Blood Work"

2002

Played small but pivotal role as Ed Harris' ex-lover in "The Hours"

2003

Starred as Lt. Col. Joshua Chamberlain - the same role he played ten years earlier in "Gettysburg" - in the Civil War drama "Gods and Generals"

2004

Appeared with Sigourney Weaver in the family drama "Imaginary Heroes"

2005

Co-starred in the George Clooney-directed "Goodnight, and Good Luck," a 1950s-era drama that chronicles broadcaster Edward R. Murrow's campaign to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy

2005

Co-starred with Laura Linney in Noah Baumbach's "The Squid and the Whale"; earned Independent Spirit and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor

2006

Starred in the Truman Capote biopic "Infamous"

2007

Played Joseph Gordon-Levitt's blind roommate in the crime thriller "The Lookout"

2009

Returned to the stage for the Broadway production of Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage"; earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play

2010

Played a struggling novelist who befriends a high school girl who gives him back his motivation in the independent feature "Paper Man"

2010

Cast as Professor David Kirk in "Howl," based on Allen Ginsberg's famous poem

2012

Starred on Aaron Sorkin's drama series "The Newsroom" (HBO) as veteran anchorman Will McAvoy

2012

Cast opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in Rian Johnson's sci-fi actioner "Looper"

2013

Won first Best Actor Emmy for his role as Will McAvoy on "The Newsroom"

2014

Reprised role of Harry in the sequel "Dumb and Dumber To"

2015

Appeared in "Steve Jobs" biopic

2015

Played the supporting role of NASA Chief Teddy Sanders in Ridley Scott's feel-good sci-fi drama "The Martian"

2017

Played Frank Griffin on western mini-series "Godless"

2018

Appeared in wartime biodrama "The Catcher Was a Spy"

2018

Played John O'Neill in the 9/11-focused miniseries "The Looming Tower"

Videos

Movie Clip

Terms Of Endearment (1983) -- (Original Trailer) Original trailer for the celebrated feature from writer-director James L. Brooks, winner of five Academy Awards, from the Larry McMurtry novel, Terms Of Endearment, 1983, with Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson and Jeff Daniels.
Marie: A True Story (1985) -- (Movie Clip) He's A Good Kid Given a tour of the Tennessee state penitentiary (shot on location in Nashville, Bill McIntyre the guard), Sissy Spacek (title character) gets another exciting offer from her boss in the governor’s office (Jeff Daniels as Eddie Sisk), then the first suggestion that he’s corrupt, then meets Morgan Freeman as the head of the parole board, in Marie: A True Story, 1985.
Marie: A True Story (1985) -- (Movie Clip) Open, Bring Us Some More Beer The violent opening by director Roger Donaldson, from John Briley’s screenplay from Peter Maas’ book based on the real life of the title character Marie Ragghianti, played by Sissy Spacek, Vincent Irizarry her husband, in Marie: A True Story, 1985, also starring Jeff Daniels, Morgan Freeman, and then-lawyer Fred Thompson “as himself.”
Marie: A True Story (1985) -- (Movie Clip) Women In Important Positions In Nashville, ca. 1976 Sissy Spacek as the title character, a new Vanderbilt graduate, meets Keith Szarabajka as political staffer Kevin, then co-star Jeff Daniels, as college friend Eddie Sisk, aide to the new governor (Ray Blanton), who offers her a job, then congrats from friend Toni (Lisa Banes) and her kids, in director Roger Donaldson’s Marie: A True Story, 1985.
Radio Days -- (Movie Clip) Scrap Iron Pearl Harbor changes the world for Joey (Seth Green, director Woody Allen narrating) and his pals, listening to radio hero Biff Baxter (Jeff Daniels) and experimenting with binoculars, in Radio Days, 1987.

Trailer

Family

Benjamin Daniels
Son
Born in November 1984.

Companions

Kathleen Daniels
Wife
Married c. 1979.

Bibliography

Notes

"[Show business is] a business that gets rid of you and you don't even know you've been discarded. I want to be the one who says 'I'm done.'" --Jeff Daniels in USA Today, September 16, 1996.

"Working with megastars is, well, kind of like working with spiders. I've always been the guy in the scene with Meryl or with Debra. I just know they are going to use the take in which she is great. She's the star. Same with the spider (300 of which he co-starred with in 'Arachnophobia' 1990). When the spider crawled down and finally turned right, I'd better deliver the speech correctly because that's the one we're going to use. We're not going to wait twenty takes for Jeff to get it right." --Daniels quoted in Us, October 1991.