Edward Allen “Ed” Harris (born November 28, 1950) is an American actor, writer, and director, known for his performances in Pollock, Appaloosa, The Rock, The Abyss, A Beautiful Mind, A History of Violence, Enemy at the Gates, The Right Stuff, State of Grace, Glengarry Glen Ross, Alamo Bay, Gone Baby Gone, The Hours, and also genre classics such as Coma, Creepshow, and The Stand. He is a three-time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in Apollo 13, The Truman Show and The Hours, along with a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor for the title role in Pollock.
Harris was born in Englewood Hospital, in Englewood, New Jersey, and raised in Tenafly, the son of Margaret, a travel agent, and Robert L. Harris, who worked at the bookstore of the Art Institute of Chicago. He graduated from Tenafly High School in 1969, where he played on the football team, serving as the team’s captain in his senior year. He was a star athlete in high school, and competed in athletics at Columbia University in 1969. He enrolled at the University of Oklahoma to study drama, and after several successful roles in the local theater, he moved to Los Angeles, and enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts where he spent two years, and graduated with a BFA.
Harris’s wife is actress Amy Madigan, the couple married on 21 November 1983, while they were filming Places of the Heart in which they played an adulterous couple. They have a daughter, Lily Dolores Harris, born in 1993.
Harris’s first important film role was in Borderline with Charles Bronson. After roles in TV series Lou Grant and CHiPs, he had a small role in the Stephen King scripted George A. Romero directed Creepshow (1982). Then in 1983, Harris became well known, playing astronaut John Glenn in The Right Stuff. Twelve years later, a film with a similar theme led to Harris being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his portrayal of NASA flight director Gene Kranz in Apollo 13 (1995).
His more notable performances came in the excellent Alamo Bay (1985), Jackknife (1989), The Abyss (1989), State of Grace (1990), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), and a further two Stephen King adaptations in Needful Things (1993) and the TV movie The Stand (1994). He was excellent in The Truman Show (1998) before making his cinema directing debut in 2000, with Pollock (2000) in which he starred as the acclaimed American artist Jackson Pollock.
He has also portrayed such diverse real-life characters as William Walker, a 19th Century American who appointed himself president of Nicaragua, in the film Walker (1987), Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt in the Oliver Stone biopic Nixon (1995), composer Ludwig van Beethoven in the film Copying Beethoven (2006) and more recently as Senator John McCain in HBO’s made-for-television drama Game Change (2012).
Harris also portrayed a German Army sniper, Major Erwin König, in Enemy at the Gates (2001). He appeared as a vengeful mobster in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (2005) and as a police officer alongside Casey Affleck and Morgan Freeman, in Gone, Baby, Gone (2007), directed by Ben Affleck.
Harris has directed a number of theater productions as well as having an active stage acting career. Most notably, he starred in the production of Neil LaBute’s one-man play Wrecks at the Public Theater in New York City and later at the Geffen Theater in Los Angeles. For the LA production, he won the LA Drama Critics Circle Award. Wrecks premiered at the Everyman Theater in Cork, Ireland and then in the US at the Public Theater in New York.
Harris, busy as ever has voiced the game Call of Duty: Black Ops, and currently has 6 projects in post-production including the post-apocalyptic Snowpiercer.
Aside from The Dead Zone (1983) and The Fly, Cronenberg has not generally worked within the world of big-budget, mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, although he has had occasional near misses. At one stage he was considered by George Lucas as a possible director for Return of the Jedi but was passed. Cronenberg also worked for nearly a year on a version of Total Recall but experienced “creative differences” with producers Dino De Laurentis and Ronald Shusett. A different version of the film was eventually made by Paul Verhoeven. A fan of Philip K. Dick, author of “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale,” the short story upon which the film was based, Cronenberg related (in the biography/overview of his work, Cronenberg on Cronenberg) that his dissatisfaction with what he envisioned the film to be and what it ended up being pained him so greatly that for a time, he suffered a migraine just thinking about it, akin to a needle piercing his eye.
In the late 1990s, Cronenberg was announced as director of a sequel to another Verhoeven film, Basic Instinct, but this also fell through. His recent work, the thriller A History of Violence (2005), is one of his highest budgeted and most accessible to date. He has said that the decision to direct it was influenced by his having had to defer some of his salary on the low-budgeted Spider, but it is one of his most critically acclaimed films to date, along with Eastern Promises (2007) a film about the struggle of one man to gain power in the Russian Mafia.
Cronenberg has collaborated with composer Howard Shore on all of his films since The Brood (1979), with the exception of The Dead Zone (1983), which was scored by Michael Kamen. Other regular collaborators include actor Robert Silverman, art director Carol Spier, sound editor Bryan Day, film editor Ronald Sanders, his sister, costume designer Denise Cronenberg, and, from 1979 until 1988, cinematographer Mark Irwin. In 2008, Cronenberg directed Howard Shore’s first opera, The Fly.
Since 1988’s Dead Ringers, Cronenberg has worked with cinematographer Peter Suscitzsky on each of his films. Suschitzky was the director of photography for The Empire Strikes Back, and Cronenberg remarked that Suschitzky’s work in that film “was the only one of those movies that actually looked good”, which was a motivating factor to work with him on Dead Ringers.
Cronenberg remains a staunchly Canadian filmmaker, with nearly all of his films (including major studio vehicles The Dead Zone and The Fly) having been filmed in his home province Ontario. Notable exceptions include M. Butterfly and Spider, most of which were shot in China and England, respectively. Rabid and Shivers were shot in and around Montreal. Most of his films have been at least partially financed by Telefilm Canada, and Cronenberg is a vocal supporter of government-backed film projects, saying “Every country needs [a system of government grants] in order to have a national cinema in the face of Hollywood”.
Cronenberg has also appeared as an actor in other directors’ films. Most of his roles are cameo appearances, as in Into The Night, Jason X, To Die For, and Alias, but on occasion he has played major roles, as in Nightbreed or Last Night. He has not played major roles in any of his own films, but he did put in a brief appearance as a gynecologist in The Fly; he can also be glimpsed among the sex-crazed hordes in Shivers; he can be heard as an unseen car-pound attendant in Crash; his hands can be glimpsed in eXistenZ; and he appeared as a stand-in for James Woods in Videodrome for shots in which Woods’ character wore a helmet that covered his head.
In 2008 Cronenberg realized two extra-cinematographic projects: the exhibition Chromosomes at the Rome Film Fest and the opera The Fly at the LaOpera in Los Angeles and Theatre Châtelet in Paris. In July 2010, Cronenberg completed production on A Dangerous Method, an adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure, starring Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, and frequent collaborator Viggo Mortensen. The film was produced by independent British producer Jeremy Thomas.
In the October 2011 edition of Rue Morgue, Cronenberg stated that he has written a companion piece to his 1986 remake of The Fly, which he would like to direct if given the chance. He has stated that it is not a traditional sequel, but rather a “parallel story”. His next movie, Cosmopolis, is due later this year, followed by a TV series called Knifeman, based on the novel by Wendy Moore, centers on an eccentric surgeon who engages in far-reaching methods in order to learn more about the human body.
Check out the Guardian interview.