A prolific and versatile character performer in both film and on television, actor Dan Hedaya earned his first widespread recognition as Carla's slimy and manipulative ex-husband on the famed sitcom "Cheers" (NBC, 1982-1993). Prior to that breakout role, Hedaya had already been in a number of movies like "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" (1979) and "True Confessions" (1981) before landing a leading role in the Coen Brothers' acclaimed feature debut "Blood Simple" (1984). He went on to appear in a number of films, sometimes playing stereotypical cop roles as he did in "Tightrope" (1984) and "Running Scared" (1986), but also branching out to play a demanding boss at a poorly-lit office in "Joe Versus the Volcano" (1990). Following turns in "The Addams Family" (1991) and "Searching for Bobby Fischer" (1993), Hedaya turned up as a wealthy, overprotective father in "Clueless" (1995) and a doubting detective in the acclaimed crime thriller "The Usual Suspects" (1995). He next had pivotal roles in big studio movies like "Alien Resurrection" (1997) and "The Hurricane" (1999) before returning to the small screen for episodes of shows like "Judging Amy" (CBS, 1999-2005), "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) and "Monk" (USA Network, 2002-09). By the time he portrayed Representative Barney Frank in the acclaimed cable movie "Too Big to Fail" (HBO, 2011), Hedaya had cemented his legacy as one of Hollywood's busiest and most sought after character actors.
Born on July 24, 1940 in Brooklyn, NY, Hedaya was raised in a large family headed by his immigrant father, who came to America after emigrating from Aleppo, Syria. He first came into contact with performing on stage while studying literature at Tufts University, from which he earned his bachelor's degree in 1962. Though he made his stage debut in a college production of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," Hedaya turned to teaching English and math at a junior high school in New York City to make ends meet. But the pull of performing proved too great and Hedaya left his teaching position to pursue acting fulltime with a return to the stage in a 1973 production of "Macbeth." He went on to accumulate substantial theater experience with the New York Shakespeare Festival while making his feature debut in "The Passover Plot" (1976), an Israeli-made biblical thriller. After sharing the stage with Al Pacino in "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel" (1977), Hedaya made his U.S. film debut in the political drama "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" (1979), which starred Alan Alda, Barbara Harris and Meryl Streep.
Following supporting roles opposite Robert De Niro in "True Confessions" (1981) and Jill Clayburgh in "I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can" (1982), Hedaya had a rare leading role as the jealous and violent husband of a woman (Frances McDormand) he suspects is having an affair with an employee (John Getz), leading him to hire a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill both in Joel and Ethan Coen's feature debut, "Blood Simple" (1984). Turning to television, Hedaya began a recurring stint on the famed sitcom "Cheers" (NBC, 1982-1993) as Nick Tortelli, the sleazy ex-husband of barmaid Carla (Rhea Perlman), who infrequently popped into the bar to use his unusual charms to manipulate her. The character proved popular enough to spawn a spin-off called "The Tortellis" (NBC, 1987), but the show failed to connect with audiences and was canceled after only 13 episodes. Meanwhile, he continued appearing in features, often playing cops in movies like "Tightrope" (1984) and "Running Scared" (1986), while also turning up as a deposed dictator in the Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick "Commando" (1985). After episodes of the sitcom "One of the Boys" (NBC, 1989) and the hit drama "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994), he was the dour and demanding boss of a perpetually sick man (Tom Hanks) in the cult classic "Joe Versus the Volcano" (1990).
Hedaya continued to work steadily on television and in film with roles as the lawyer to Gomez Addams (Raul Julia) in "The Addams Family" (1991) and the tournament director in "Searching for Bobby Fischer" (1993). Episodes of the anthologized noir series "Fallen Angels" (Showtime, 1993-95) and the long-running "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) were coupled with feature roles like Twitchy the River Boat Player in the Western "Maverick" (1994) and the protective litigator father of the sweet but superficial Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) in the comedy "Clueless" (1995). Hedaya also showed up as a doubtful police detective who lets a Customs agent (Chazz Palminteri) interview a small-time con man (Kevin Spacey), only one of two survivors of a botched drug deal turned massacre in "The Usual Suspects" (1995). Following several high-profile turns in "To Die For" (1995) and "Nixon" (1995), he took smaller parts in "Daylight" (1996) and "Ransom" (1996). Meanwhile, he was the ex-husband of Bette Midler in "The First Wives Club" (1996) and the brother of Robert De Niro in "Marvin's Room" (1996), before playing a general who supervises the cloning of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in "Alien Resurrection" (1997), and the angel Gabriel in the quirky black comedy "A Life Less Ordinary" (1997).
Following a supporting turn as the wealthy father of two Yemenite goofballs (Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan) in the failed comedy "A Night at the Roxbury" (1998), Hedaya earned critical acclaim as a corrupt police detective who frames middleweight boxer Rubin Carter (Denzel Washington) for murder in "The Hurricane" (1999). He next played "Tricky Dick" Nixon himself in the comedy "Dick" (1999), before starring opposite Samuel L. Jackson in director John Singleton's remake of "Shaft" (2000). More episodes of shows like "Judging Amy" (CBS, 1999-2005), "Yes, Dear" (CBS, 2000-06) and "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) followed, while he appeared as one of the Castigliani Brothers in David Lynch's bizarre drama "Mulholland Drive" (2001). He next played a swim coach in the predictable teen thriller "Swimfan" (2002) and voiced the mean-spirited Mr. Grunk in the animated "Robots" (2005). Continuing to rack up credits, Hedaya turned up as the long-lost father of the titular "Monk" (USA Network, 2002-09) before playing the remarried father of a self-described "junkie whore" (Amy Sedaris) in the cult comedy "Strangers With Candy" (2006). Hedaya's typically consistent output slowed down later in the decade, though he was Father Frank in the short-lived "Book of Daniel" (NBC, 2006) while appearing in an episode of "Lipstick Jungle" (NBC, 2007-08). After a minor role in the independent comedy "The Extra Man" (2010), Hedaya portrayed Congressman Barney Frank in "Too Big to Fail" (HBO, 2011), the acclaimed cable movie that depicted the people and events of the 2008 financial meltdown that brought the global economy to its knees.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Returned to stage full-time with an appearance in a Joseph Papp production of "Macbeth"
Feature debut (under the name Daniel Hedaya), "The Passover Plot", an Israeli-produced Biblical suspense movie
Performed on the NY stage with Al Pacino in "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel"
TV-movie debut, "The Prince of Central Park"
American film debut, "The Seduction of Joe Tynan"
Acted with Kevin Kline in "Henry V" at the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park (summer)
Received excellent notices for a rare lead in "Blood Simple", the first film from the Coen Brothers
Starred as Nick Tortelli on the "Cheers"-spinoff, "The Tortellis"
Joined cast of NBC sitcom "Home Court"
Played Nixon in Andrew Fleming's comedy "Dick"
Cast as a corrupt policeman in "Shaft"
Co-starred in "The Crew"