Childhood & Early Life
David Strathairn was born on 26 January 1949 in San Francisco, California to Thomas Scott Strathairn Jr and Mary Frances.His father was a physician and his mother was a nurse. He has two siblings, a brother named Tom who is a teacher and a sister named Anne.
He went to Redwood High School in Larkspur, California. In 1970, he graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. David Strathairn met actor, Gordon Clapp, and director John Sayles (both of whom he collaborates with frequently), at Williams College.
He also studied clowning at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in Venice, Florida. For a short time, he even worked in a traveling circus as a clown.
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David Strathairn made his film debut in 1980, in the movie ‘Return of the Secaucus 7’ which was directed by his friend and classmate from Williams College, John Sayles. Throughout his career, Strathairn has frequently collaborated with Sayles in films like ‘Passion Fish’, ‘Limbo’, ‘Matewan’ and ‘City of Hope’..
In 1983, he played one of the ‘men in black’ alongside John Sayles in the film ‘The Brother from Another Planet’.
From 1988 to 1991, he played the character of Moss in the highly praised TV series ‘The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd’. He played the role of baseball player, Eddie Cicotte, in the 1988 movie ‘Eight Men Out’.
He played the dual roles of Officer and Prisoner in Harold Pinter’s play ‘Mountain Language’ in 1989. He also portrayed Edwin Booth in W.Stuart McDowell’s ‘Booth! A House Divided’ during the same year. Strathairn along with Maryann Plunkett is responsible for creating the role of ‘Edwin Booth’ in a workshop production of McDowell's play ‘Booth! A House Divided’, at ‘The Players’ in New York City.
In 1991, he portrayed a U.S 7th Cavalry officer Capt. Frederick Benteen in the television miniseries ‘Son of the Morning Star’.
He played the character of Kerner in Tom Stoppard’s play ‘Hapgood’ in 1994. He was seen as Devlin in Harold Pinter’s 1996 play ‘Ashes to Ashes’ in the 1999 New York City premiere by the Roundabout Theater Company.
In 1997, Strathairn played a shady millionaire involved in underworld dealings in the city of Los Angeles in the film ‘L.A. Confidential’.
He played ‘Theseus’ the Duke of Athens in the version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ which was released in 1999. In 2000, he played the title character in the movie ‘Harrison’s Flowers’.
In 2004, he played a psychiatrist in the psychological thriller film ‘Twisted’ alongside Andy Garcia, Samuel L. Jackson, and Ashley Judd.
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In 2000, he played the father of Hellen Keller, Captain Keller, in the remake of ‘The Miracle Worker’.
In 2006, he appeared in ‘We Are Marshall’ which is a movie about the Marshall University football team after the infamous plane crash in 1970 that killed most of the members of the team.
In 2009, he co-starred in the comedy-drama ‘Cold Souls’ alongside Paul Giamatti who played a fictionalized version of himself. Paul Giamatti’s character in the movie arranges for the services of a company to help deep freeze his soul. The critically acclaimed movie was directed by Sophie Barthes.
From 1999 to 2007, Strathairn had a recurring role as Robert Wegler in the hit HBO TV series ‘The Sopranos’.
In 2007, he starred in independent film ‘Steel Toes’ by David Gow and Mark Adam, based on David Gow’s stage play ‘Cherry Docs’. He starred in the play’s premiere at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia.
In 2008, he played the character of Arthur Spiderwick in the Paramount Pictures produced children’s movie ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’.
He was the narrator for a biographical video of Barack Obama. The video was played as an introduction before President Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
He performed in the 2009 documentary feature film ‘The People Speak’. The documentary was adapted from historian Howard Zinn’s 1980 non-fictional book ‘A People’s History of the United States’.
From 2011 to 2013, he played the role of ‘Dr. Lee Rosen’ on the Syfy series ‘Alphas’.
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In 2012, he played FBI agent William Flynn in the 1920s New York City drama-thriller film ‘No God, No Master’.
In 1989, he portrayed physicist, Robert Oppenheimer, in the American Experience PBS anthology series documentary titled ‘The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer’ which was a biography of the late physicist. He then reprised his role for the 2012 CBS TV movie ‘Day One’.
In the 2005 biopic ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’, he played the role of CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow. The film is about the ideological clash between Senator Joseph McCarthy and Murrow himself over Senator McCarthy’s ‘witch-hunt’ against Communism in the 1950s. For his performance, he received ‘Best Actor’ nominations at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Academy Awards.
In 2010, he won an ‘Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie’ Primetime Emmy Award for his performance as ‘Dr.Carlock’ in the HBO produced television film ‘Temple Grandin’. He also won a Satellite Award in the category of ‘Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film’ and got nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
In 2006, Strathairn filmed a campaign advertisement for candidate Kirsten Gillibrand’s congressional campaign in the 20th District of New York,
He spent a six-month stint working as one-half of a conjoined twin in the circus, after attending Ringling Bros. Clown College.
Strathairn who is a non-smoker had to light dozens of hand-rolled cigarettes containing much gentler pipe tobacco in order to portray chain-smoking, Edward R. Murrow, in the 2005 movie ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’.
He serves as a member of the Rosendale Theatre Collective's Board of Advisors.