David Strathairn

David Strathairn

Strathairn at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con
Born David Russell Strathairn
(1949-01-26) January 26, 1949
San Francisco, California, United States
Occupation Actor
Years active 1979–present
Spouse(s) Logan Goodman (m. 1980)
Children 2

David Russell Strathairn (pronounced stra-THAIRN; born January 26, 1949) is an American actor.

Strathairn came to prominence in the 1980s and the 1990s performing in the films of his college classmate John Sayles, including Return of the Secaucus 7 (his screen debut), The Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, City of Hope, Eight Men Out, and Limbo. Strathairn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for portraying journalist Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck (2005). He is also recognized for his role as CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen in the 2007 film The Bourne Ultimatum, a role he reprised in 2012's The Bourne Legacy. He played a prominent role as Dr. Lee Rosen on the Syfy series Alphas from 2011 to 2012 and played Secretary of State William Henry Seward in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (2012). He was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe for his role in the TV film Temple Grandin (2010).

Early life

Strathairn was born in San Francisco, California, the second of three children of Mary Frances (née Frazier), a nurse, and Thomas Scott Strathairn, Jr., a physician.[1][2][3] He is of Scottish descent through his paternal grandfather, Thomas Scott Strathairn, a native of Crieff, and of Native Hawaiian ancestry through his paternal grandmother, Josephine Lei Victoria Alana.[4][5][6] Strathairn attended Redwood High School in Larkspur, California, and graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1970.

He studied clowning at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in Venice, Florida,[7] and briefly worked as a clown in a traveling circus.[8]


Strathairn was nominated for an Academy Award for his starring portrayal of CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow in the 2005 biopic Good Night, and Good Luck. The film explored Murrow's clash with Senator Joseph McCarthy over McCarthy's Communist "witch-hunt" in the 1950s. Strathairn also received Best Actor Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nominations for his performance. In 2010, he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his portrayal of Dr. Carlock in the HBO television film Temple Grandin. For that role he also won the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film.

Other notable film roles include his portrayals of the title character in Harrison's Flowers (2000); Col. Craig Harrington "Memphis Belle" 1990, the wisecracking blind techie in Sneakers (1992); general manager Ira Lowenstein in A League of Their Own; Joe St. George in Dolores Claiborne (1995); Pierce Patchett, a millionaire involved in the seedy side of 1950s Los Angeles in L.A. Confidential (1997) ; Theseus, Duke of Athens, in the 1999 version of A Midsummer Night's Dream; and baseball player Eddie Cicotte in Eight Men Out (1988).

Strathairn is a character actor, appearing in supporting roles in many independent and Hollywood films. In this capacity, he has co-starred in Twisted as a psychiatrist; in The River Wild as a husband; as a jailbird brother in The Firm.

He has worked with his Williams College classmate and director John Sayles. He made his film debut in Return of the Secaucus 7, and worked in the films Passion Fish, Matewan, Limbo and City of Hope, for which he won the Independent Spirit Award. Alongside Sayles, he played one of the "men in black" in the 1983 film The Brother from Another Planet. Strathairn created the role of Edwin Booth with Maryann Plunkett in a workshop production of Booth! A House Divided, by W. Stuart McDowell, at The Players in New York.[9]

His television work includes a range of roles: Moss, the bookselling nebbish on the critically acclaimed The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd; Captain Keller, the father of Helen Keller in the 2000 remake of The Miracle Worker; Capt. Frederick Benteen, a U.S. 7th Cavalry officer under General Custer's command in Son of the Morning Star; and a far-out (both figuratively and literally) televangelist in Paradise, the pilot episode for a TV series on Showtime that was not successful.[10] Strathairn had a recurring role on the hit television drama The Sopranos. Strathairn starred in the second-season episode, "Out Where the Buses Don't Run", in Miami Vice.

Strathairn was in We Are Marshall, a 2006 film about the rebirth of Marshall University's football program after the 1970 plane crash that killed most of the team's members; and Cold Souls, starring Paul Giamatti as a fictionalised version of himself, who enlists a company's services to deep freeze his soul, directed by Sophie Barthes.[11] In 2006 he did a campaign ad for then congressional candidate (now, Senator) Kirsten Gillibrand. He reprised his role as Edward R. Murrow in a speech similar to the one from Good Night, and Good Luck, but was altered to reference Gillibrand's opponent John Sweeney.[12]

Strathairn plays the lead role in the 2007 independent film, Steel Toes, a film by David Gow (writer/co-director/producer) and Mark Adam (co-director/DOP/editor). The film is based on Gow's stage play Cherry Docs, in which Strathairn starred for its American premiere at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia.

He played a role in the summer 2007 film The Bourne Ultimatum and appeared in Paramount Pictures' children's film The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) as Arthur Spiderwick. Strathairn appeared in the American Experience PBS anthology series documentary, The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a biography of the physicist. He first played Oppenheimer in the 1989 CBS TV movie Day One. He plays William Flynn, an FBI agent dealing with anarchism in 1920s New York City, in No God, No Master.

In 2009, Strathairn performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans. It was adapted from the historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.[13]

He starred as Dr. Lee Rosen on Syfy's series Alphas.[14]


Strathairn is also a stage actor and has performed over 30 theatrical roles. He performed several roles in stage plays by Harold Pinter. He played Stanley in two consecutive New York Classic Stage Company (CSC) productions of Pinter's 1957 play The Birthday Party, directed by Carey Perloff (since 1992 artistic director of the American Conservatory Theatre), in 1988[15] and 1989;[16] the dual roles of prison Officer and Prisoner in Pinter's 1989 play Mountain Language (in a double bill with the second CSC Rep production of The Birthday Party);[17] Edwin Booth in a workshop production by W. Stuart McDowell at The Players in 1989; Kerner, in Tom Stoppard's Hapgood (1994); and Devlin, opposite Lindsay Duncan's Rebecca, in Pinter's 1996 two-hander Ashes to Ashes in the 1999 New York premiere by the Roundabout Theatre Company.[1][18]

Strathairn narrated a biographical video to introduce Barack Obama before his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[19]

He is married to Logan Goodman, a nurse. They have two sons and live near Poughkeepsie, New York. He serves on the Rosendale Theatre Collective's Board of Advisors.



Year Title Role Notes
1980 Return of the Secaucus 7 Ron Desjardins
1983 Lovesick Marvin Zuckerman
1983 Silkwood Wesley
1984 Iceman Dr. Singe
1984 The Brother from Another Planet Man In Black
1985 When Nature Calls Weejun
1986 At Close Range Tony Pine
1987 Matewan Police Chief Sid Hatfield
1988 Stars and Bars Charlie
1988 Call Me Sam
1988 Eight Men Out Eddie Cicotte
1988 Dominick and Eugene Martin
1989 The Feud The Stranger
1990 Memphis Belle Colonel Craig Harriman
1990 Judgment Father Aubert
1991 City of Hope Asteroid Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
1992 Big Girls Don't Cry... They Get Even Keith
1992 A League of Their Own Ira Lowenstein
1992 Bob Roberts Mack Laflin
1992 Sneakers Erwin 'Whistler' Emory
1992 Passion Fish Rennie Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
1993 Lost in Yonkers Johnny
1993 The Firm Ray McDeere
1993 A Dangerous Woman Getso
1994 The River Wild Tom Hartman
1995 Losing Isaiah Charles Lewin
1995 Dolores Claiborne Joe St. George
1995 Home for the Holidays Russell Terziak
1996 Mother Night Lieutenant Bernard B. O'Hare
1997 Song of Hiawatha Marcel
1997 L.A. Confidential Pierce Morehouse Patchett Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1997 Bad Manners Wes
1998 The Climb Earl Himes
1998 With Friends Like These... Armand Minetti
1998 Simon Birch Reverend Russell
1998 Meschugge Charles Kaminski
1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream Theseus
1999 Limbo "Jumpin Joe" Gastineau Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
1999 A Map of the World Howard Goodwin
2000 A Good Baby Truman Lester
2000 Harrison's Flowers Harrison Lloyd
2001 Relative Evil Dr. Charlie a.k.a. Ball in the House
2002 Speakeasy Bruce Hickman
2002 Blue Car Auster
2004 Twisted Dr. Melvin Frank
2005 The Notorious Bettie Page Estes Kefauver
2005 Missing in America Henry
2005 Good Night, and Good Luck Edward R. Murrow Gransito Movie Award for Best Actor,
Volpi Cup for Best Actor,
Women Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor,
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor,
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role,
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor,
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast,
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor,
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama,
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead,
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama,
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture,
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
2006 The Shovel Paul Mullin Short film
2006 Heavens Fall Judge James Horton
2006 We Are Marshall Donald Dedmon
2007 The Sensation of Sight Finn Also producer
2007 Steel Toes Danny Dunckelman
2007 Fracture District Attorney Joe Lobruto
2007 Racing Daylight Henry Becker/Harry Stokes
2007 The Bourne Ultimatum Noah Vosen
2007 My Blueberry Nights Arnie Copeland
2007 Matters of Life and Death Mr. Jennings
2007 Trumbo Readings
2008 The Spiderwick Chronicles Arthur Spiderwick
2009 The Uninvited Steven
2009 Cold Souls Dr. Flintstein
2009 The People Speak Himself Documentary
2009 Odysseus in America Narration
2010 Howl Ralph McIntosh
2010 The Tempest Alonzo, King of Naples
2010 The Whistleblower Peter Ward
2012 The Bourne Legacy Noah Vosen
2012 No God, No Master William J. Flynn
2012 Lincoln William Seward Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2014 Godzilla Rear Admiral William Stenz
2015 The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Ty Burley
2015 Louder Than Bombs Richard
2015 The Debt Nathan
2016 American Pastoral Nathan Zuckerman
2017 The Gettysburg Address Ralph Waldo Emerson (voice) Documentary; post-production
2017 November Criminals Theo Schacht Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Miami Vice Marty Lang Episode: "Out Where the Buses Don't Run"
1987 Broken Vows Stuart Chase Television movie
1988 The Equalizer Phillip Borchek Episode: "Sea of Fire"
1988–91 The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd Moss Goodman 20 episodes
1989 Wiseguy Matthew Stemkowsky 4 episodes
1989 Day One J. Robert Oppenheimer Television movie
1990 Heat Wave Bill Thomas Television movie
1990 Judgment Father Frank Aubert Television movie
1991 Son of the Morning Star Capt. Frederick W. Benteen Television movie
1991 Without Warning: The James Brady Story Doctor Art Kobrine Television movie
1992 O Pioneers! Carl Linstrum Television movie
1994 April One John McCowan Television movie
1996 Beyond the Call Russell Cates Television movie
1997 In the Gloaming Martin Television movie
Nominated – CableACE Award for Guest Actor in a Dramatic Special or Series
1998 Evidence of Blood Jackson Kinley Television movie
2000 Freedom Song Peter Crowley Television film
2000 The Miracle Worker Captain Keller Television film
2001 Big Apple FBI Agent Will Preecher 8 episodes
2002 Lathe of Heaven Mannie Television movie
2002 Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story Jack Hoschouer Television movie
2004 The Sopranos Robert Wegler 3 episodes
2004 Paradise Reverend Bobby Paradise Television movie
2008 Monk Patrick Kloster Episode: "Mr. Monk and the Genius"
2010 Temple Grandin Dr. Carlock Television movie
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
2010 House Nash Episode: "Lockdown"
2011–12 Alphas Dr. Lee Rosen 24 episodes
2012 Hemingway & Gellhorn John Dos Passos Television movie
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
2015–16 The Blacklist Peter Kotsiopulos (aka The Director) 12 episodes
2015 Axe Cop Extincter (voice) Episode: "Night Mission: The Extincter"


  1. 1 2 David Strathairn Film Reference bio. Filmreference.com. Retrieved on July 10, 2011.
  2. Welcome to Dispatch Online. Dispatch.co.za (2010-11-12). Retrieved on July 10, 2011.
  3. http://www.hivelys.com/files/FrazierBK/f4430.htm
  4. "Secret Scottish Roots Of Best Actor Nominee". 'The Sunday Mail. (2009-08-11). Retrieved on July 10, 2011.
  5. "David Strathairn Finds the Spotlight". BBC News (2006-01-27). Retrieved on July 10, 2011.
  6. "Hawaii, Marriages, 1826-1922".FamilySearch.org. Retrieved on July 30, 2012.
  7. Full biography of "David Strathairn", Yahoo! Movies, Copyright 2007, accessed August 7, 2007.
  8. "The Nominees: David Strathairn". CBS News. March 1, 2006.
  9. History of the Bristol Riverside Theatre Archived August 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. Paradise (2004) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
  11. David Strathairn at the Internet Movie Database, accessed August 7, 2007.
  12. "A 'Good Luck' Charm In Race For Congress". NY Daily News. 2006-10-03. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
  13. Archived May 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. "David Strathairn to Headline Syfy's Alpha". TVGuide.com.
  15. Performance revs. by Susan Hollis Merritt, "The Birthday Party" (CSC Repertory Theatre, New York, April 17, 1988, Apr. 12, 1988 – May 22, 1988) and Bernard Dukore, "The Birthday Party" (CSC Repertory Theatre, New York, April–May 1988), The Pinter Review 2.1 (1988): 66–70; 71–73. (Cover photograph features Strathairn in his role as Stanley.)
  16. 1989 CSC production, HaroldPinter.org (official site), accessed August 7, 2007.
  17. Susan Hollis Merritt, "A Conversation with Carey Perloff, Bill Moor, Peter Riegert, Jean Stapleton, and David Strathairn: After Matinee of Mountain Language and The Birthday Party by CSC Repertory Ltd., Bruno's, New York, Nov. 12, 1989", The Pinter Review: Annual Essays 1989 (TPR) (Tampa: U of Tampa P, 1989) 59–84 (interview); cf. performance rev. by Francis Gillen, "Mountain Language, The Birthday Party" TPR 93–97. (Cover photograph features Strathairn and Stapleton in their roles as a prison Officer and the Elderly Woman in Mountain Language; his other role, the Prisoner, is the Elderly Woman's son.)
  18. Performance revs. by Katherine H. Burkman, "Ashes to Ashes in New York: Roundabout Theatre Company at the Gramercy Theatre, March 30, 1999" and by Susan Hollis Merritt, "Ashes to Ashes in New York: Roundabout Theatre Company, Gramercy Theatre, New York, April 3, 1999", The Pinter Review: Collected Essays 1997 and 1998 (Tampa: U of Tampa P, 1999) 154-59.
  19. Greeley Tribune (2008). Obama uses language of hope, calls for action. Retrieved August 29, 2008.
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