Craig Theodore Nelson is a well-known American actor and producer, who is known for his role in the TV series ‘Coach’, and films such as ‘Poltergeist’, ‘My Name is Earl’, and ‘The Incredibles’. His first significant role was in the 1982 American supernatural horror movie ‘Poltergeist’, which was directed by Tobe Hooper and written by Steven Spielberg. The movie not only brought him fame, but also endeared him to the audience. He also earned much praise for his portrayal of Air Force Colonel Raynor Sarnac in the TV series ‘Call to Glory.’ After his initial success, he appeared in several other films such as ‘Man, Woman, and Child,’ ‘All the Right Moves,’ and ‘The Killing Fields.’ Then he appeared in ‘Poltergeist II: The Other Side”, where he reprised his earlier role. His poignant acting skills earned him many other significant roles throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1989, he was offered a role on the popular TV series ‘Coach’, a show which earned him an Emmy Award. His recent appearances include his roles in the American biographical drama ‘Soul Surfer’ and the crime drama ‘Gold.’
Childhood & Early Life
Craig Theodore Nelson was born on 4 April1944 in Spokane, Washington, United States. His mother was Vera Margaret, a dancer, while his father was Armand Gilbert Nelson, a businessman.
From an early age, he was quite interested in sports as well as martial arts. Nelson used to play both football and baseball at high school. He also earned himself a brown belt in karate.
He attended Central Washington University, where he studied criminology, with the intent to join the Central Intelligence Agency of America. However, he dropped out and went to Yakima Valley Community College, where he studied English literature. The he dropped out yet again.
Later, he went to Switzerland where he studied communications at Northfielde Universität Herisau. After spending a semester there, he eventually received a drama scholarship to the University of Arizona. There he supported himself financially by working as a security guard during the day while he took acting classes at night.
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Craig T. Nelson began his career as a comedian and became a member of a comedy troupe known as ‘The Groundlings’. He eventually found standup comedy unfulfilling for himself and thus he left the group.
He made his acting debut with the vampire horror movie ‘The Return of Count Yorga’ in 1971, where he played a supporting role. The film was a mild success.
His next few years were a struggle. Unable to find meaningful work, and impoverished, he moved to a place named Mount Shasta, where there was neither electricity nor running water. He did various odd jobs to support himself, such as a janitor and a carpenter, only to return to acting after some years.
After his return, he first appeared in the 1979 American courtroom drama film ‘…And Justice for All.’ The film, which was directed by Norman Jewison, turned out to be a success, and brought Nelson to limelight.
He appeared in a major role in the 1982 supernatural horror film ‘Poltergeist’ where he played the lead role. The film was a big success, becoming the highest grossing film of the year. It was also loved by both the audience and critics.
Fueled by his rising success, Craig T. Nelson started appearing in several movies as well as television programs. He appeared in the 1983 film ‘All the Right Moves’ where he played the role of Tom Cruise’s football coach. After its success, he played an Air Force Colonel in the 1984 TV series ‘Call to Glory’, a role for which he received much appreciation.
In 1986, he appeared in ‘Poltergeist II: The Other Side’, an American supernatural horror film, and the sequel to the 1982 film ‘Poltergeist’. The film was a success, though it did not earn as much as its prequel.
In 1989, Craig T. Nelson started appearing in a lead role in the well-known American TV show ‘Coach.’ The show started airing from February 1989 on the ABC television network. The show turned out to be a big hit, and can be regarded as the most significant work in Nelson’s career. It also earned him the 1992 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a comedy series.
Having earned much success for himself, he appeared in many TV programs such as ‘The District’, a CBS police drama, ‘CSI- New York’, a police procedural TV series and ‘Monk’, a detective TV series, during the 2000s.
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Meanwhile he appeared in several movies as well such as ‘The Skulls’ (2000), ‘The Incredibles’ (2004), ‘Blades of Glory’ (2007), ‘The Proposal’ (2009), and ‘The Soul Surfer’ (2011). His latest appearance was in the 2016 American crime adventure film ‘Gold’, directed by Stephen Gaghan, where he played a supporting role.
*‘…And Justice for All’ a 1979 courtroom drama film, was the first major work in Craig T. Nelson’s career. The film was directed by Norman Jewison and starred several well-known actors such as Al Pacino, Jack Warden, John Forsyth, and Lee Strasberg. The film turned out to be a moderate hit, grossing over $ 33 million in North America alone, and becoming the 24th highest grossing film of the year. It was also reviewed positively by critics, and it earned two Academy Award nominations as well.
Nelson’s appearance in the 1982 American supernatural horror movie ‘Poltergeist, brought him much fame and success. Directed by Tobe Hooper, the film starred Nelson in the lead role. Other actors in the film included JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Dominique Dunne, and Richard Lawson. The story, which is set in California, is about a family whose daughter is abducted by a group of evil spirits.
The film was a commercial success, and became the eighth highest grossing film of the year. It was not just a commercial success, but also gained a cult following. It was named the 20th scariest film ever made by ‘The Chicago Film Critics Association.’
His role in ‘Coach,’ a popular American TV show aired on ABC television network, can be regarded as the most significant work in his career. He played a character named Hayden Fox, who was the head coach of a college football team. Other actors in the show included Christine Armstrong, Jerry Van Dyke, Luther Van Dam and Kelly fox. It won Nelson several award nominations as well as the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Awards & Achievements
In 1992, for his outstanding and famous role as Hayden Fox in the TV series ‘Coach’, Craig T. Nelson was awarded the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Personal Life & Legacy
Craig T. Nelson’s first wife was Robin McCarthy, with whom he had three children named Tiffany, Chris and Noah. The couple divorced in 1978.
Later, he married Doria Cook who is a martial arts instructor, and a freelance writer.
As stated in an interview, there was a time in this popular actor’s life, when he was on welfare and survived on food stamps.
His film ‘Poltergeist,’ where he played the lead role, is believed to be cursed as several people associated with the film died premature deaths.