Childhood & Early Life
Billy Magnussen was born William Gregory Magnussen in Queens, New York City on April 20, 1985. He was born to Greg and Diana Magnussen, both accomplished athletes. While his mother was an aerobics instructor, his father was a professional body builder and a kick-boxer. Growing up among his parents had a major impact on shaping the interest levels of Billy towards sports and fitness.
He joined the gym and played football and baseball quite a lot. Further interested in doing everything he could as a kid, he joined a band in New York called Reserved for Yondee.
Billy grew up among two younger brothers in family with lineage tracing back to Lithuania. The family lived in Woodhaven Boulevard until Billy was 10 years of age, the family then made a move to Cumming, Georgia. There, Billy attended South Forsyth High School and while he was initially attracted towards athleticism, he eventually got drawn towards arts, specifically the performing arts.
He became a part of many school productions and once he was out of the school, he joined the North Carolina School of Arts. Robin Williams remained one of the greatest inspirations for Billy and he credits Robin to be his idol. Once he graduated from the college, Billy entered the theatre world and became a part of many known and successful productions.
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In 2007, Billy Magnussen arrived on the professional theatre front with his 2007 play, ‘The Ritz,’ which also starred Rosie Perez in the leading starring role. In 2008 came his first television role in a soap opera titled ‘As the World Turns Out.’ Billy portrayed the role of Casey Hughes, one of the key roles in the opera for the next two and half years. Meanwhile, he started appearing in films and TV series.’
In 2008, he appeared in the short film ‘The Elephant Garden’ and the episode ‘Sweetie’ of the long running TV series ‘Law & Order.’ He further starred in the 2009 film ‘Happy Tears’ and marked his arrival in the full length feature world. In 2009, came the film where his performance was finally received with some sort of mainstream acclaim. He starred in the horror film ‘Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet’ and played one of the major roles as Eric.
In 2010, he appeared in the film ‘Twelve,’ which was a French-American co-production film. The teen thriller drama film was directed by esteemed director Joel Schumacher and inspired from a novel by the same name. However Billy’s performance was appreciated in the film, it was a critical and commercial disaster, which was later dubbed as a ‘box office bomb.’
He further received acclaim for the 2011 film ‘The Lost Valentine,’ which was a World War II drama starring Jennifer Love Hewitt in the leading role. Billy played the role of Neil Thomas to a critical appreciation and the film further received some great reviews, with most reviewers pointing out the amazing performances by the stars. It was a straight to TV film and received some big ratings upon its release.
In the same year, he also made an appearance in the comedy film ‘Damsels in Distress’ as Thor. The film was critically acclaimed to a degree but was a box office failure. Billy went on doing some television stints as well, such as ‘The Unusuals,’ ‘The Beautiful Life: TBL’ and ‘In Plain Sight.’
In 2012, he played the main lead role in the film ‘Surviving Family,’ which revolved around the mental illnesses and how they impact the entire families. The film was heavily acclaimed and won about 20 awards across the film festivals in USA and Europe.
For the next few years, he kept appearing on the big screen in variety of different roles in films such as ‘The Brass Teapot,’ ‘2nd Serve’ and ‘The East.’ He appeared in two major TV series’ ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,’ albeit in guest appearances.
2012 turned out to be a great year for Billy as far as his theatre career was concerned. He appeared on stage in ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.’ The play premiered in McCarter theatre in New Jersey and was further played at ‘Lincoln Centre’ and ‘John Golden Theatre.’ The play was a massive critical and commercial success and was nominated for six Tony Awards. For his titular role as Spike, Billy was nominated for an award for the best actor. He brought his mother along with him in the award ceremony.
2014’s Disney film ‘Into the Woods’ was another major breakout role for Billy. The musical fantasy film starred many major American actors such as Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt in major roles and received above average ratings from the reviewers. The film was also a decent commercial success and in a way, it brought Billy into the mainstream limelight.
2014’s film ‘The Great Gilly Hopkins’ was another major film that Billy was signed on for. The film was based on the novel of the same name and was a huge success at the film festival circuit. It was followed by small roles in films such as ‘The Big Short,’ ‘Ingrid Goes West’ and ‘Game Night.’ He also appeared in many TV series,’ such as ‘The Divide,’ ‘Get Shorty,’ ‘Black Mirror,’ ‘The Leftovers’ and ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.’
In 2017, it was announced that Billy will be a key part of the upcoming live action Disney film ‘Aladdin.’ He was given the role of Prince Sanders, a fictional character who appears nowhere in the animation series. It is widely touted to be the career turning role for Billy. The big budget film will be directed by Guy Ritchie and will co-star Will Smith and Mena Massoud.