Name:
Chris Cooper
Birth Date:
July 9, 1951
Birth Place:
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Height:
5' 10''
Nationality:
American
Famous for:
His role as July Johnson in CBS miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989)
Profession:
Actor
Education:
Southwest High School (graduated in 1969)
BIOGRAPHY
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Adaptation

Background:

“I wanted to be an actor, not a star.” Chris Cooper

Academy Award winner Chris Cooper gathered wide acclaim and appreciation for his fabulous, scene-stealing, eccentric and toothless Miami orchid specialist John Laroche in the big-screen version Adaptation (2002), for which he was garnered numerous awards, including an Oscar, a Golden Globe Award, a Dallas-Forth Worth Film Critics Association Award, a Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award, a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, a Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, a National Board of Review Award, a San Francisco Film Critics Award, a Toronto Film Critics Award, a Seattle Film Critics Award, a San Diego Film Critics Award, a Florida Film Critics Award, a Southeastern Film Critics Award, a Washington, D.C. Film Critics Award, and a LA Critics Association Award, as well as earned nominations at BAFTA and SAG. In 1999, the American actor attracted attention after playing tyrant military man Col. Frank Fitts in the Academy Award-winning film American Beauty. Cooper’s menacing, yet poignant, presence handed him a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Online Film Critics Society Award.

One of Hollywood’s top character actors, Cooper is also well-associated with his impressive supporting turns in such films as John Sayles’ Matewan (1987), Thousand Pieces of Gold (1991, won a Wrangler Award), Boys (1996), Sayles movie Lone Star (1996, earned an Independent Spirit nomination), the drama/comedy Breast Men (1997, opposite David Schwimmer), Great Expectations (1998), The Horse Whisperer (1998), Joe Johnston’s inspiring film October Sky (1999), the highly well-liked remake of The Bourne Identity (2002, starring Matt Damon) and Gary Ross’ inspiring feature Seabiscuit (2003, received SAG nomination).

Still powerful in his 50s, Cooper’s recent and upcoming film credits include Sayles’ political satire/mystery Silver City (2004), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), the biopic Capote (2005), Jarhead (2005), Syriana (2005), Conquistadora (2006), Breach (2006) and The Road Back (2006).

On the small screen, Cooper became famous while portraying earnest, but conflicted, Sheriff July Johnson in the TV miniseries adaptation of Larry McMurty’s “Lonesome Dove” (1989) and “Return to Lonesome Dove” (1993). In the more recent show, his fine performance of fruitless Uncle Thomas ‘Tom’ Riversmith in the made-for-TV movie My House in Umbria (2003) cemented his position as a TV star when he received an Emmy nomination.

Out of the limelight, 5’ 10” Cooper has spent much of his time with his wife of 22 years, Marianne Leone and the couple currently resides in Kingston, Massachusetts. Cooper and his wife had one son named Jesse Cooper (born in 1987), but he died in January 2005.


Bashful Youth

Childhood and Family:

On July 9, 1951, Christopher W. Cooper was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to parents Charles Cooper, an internist who served as a doctor in the US Air Force and a cattleman, and Mary Ann Cooper, a homemaker. His older brother, Chuck Cooper (born in 1948), is a contractor. While growing up in countryside Missouri, young Chris spent a lot of his time working on his father’s farm.

As a teenager, Chris was introduced to the world of theater and enjoyed working on set constructions. Confessedly a shy youth, Chris attempted to overcome his problems by enrolling with the Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where he took ballet lessons. Next, he attended the University of Missouri in Columbia where he dual majored in the school of drama and the school of agriculture. There also, Chris had his acting debut as the understudy for an ill Tom Berenger. Upon graduation in 1976, Chris decided to pursue acting and headed for New York to study with the famous Stella Adler and Wynn Handman.

Chris Cooper married actress/writer Marianne Leone in July 1983. The couple first met in 1979 while attending an acting class. Four years after the marriage, in1987, they welcomed their baby, a son named Jesse Cooper. After suffering from cerebral palsy, their 17-year-old son passed away in January 2005.


American Beauty

Career:

Discovering a knack for acting while in high school, 17-year-old Chris Cooper got his start in theater as a set designer and builder. A drama graduate from the University of Missouri, Cooper eventually realized his true theatrical calling in 1976. Shortly after, he made his way to New York and began his stage career. Four years later, Cooper debuted on Broadway with “Of the Fields, Lately” (1980) and went on to appear in several plays like the off-Broadway productions “The Balled of Soapy Smith” and ”A Different Moon” (both in 1983), “Cobb,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Sweet Bird of Youth” (1985). The same year he made his Broadway debut, Cooper also landed his first film role in the British melodrama Bad Timing (1980).

Cooper’s American movie debut came in 1987 when the independent director John Sayles cast him as anti violent, union organizer Joe Kenehan in the period drama Matewan. Making a good impression on critics, Cooper’s fine performance in the film opened the door to a triumphant film career. The following year, Cooper was seen on the small screen making his TV movie debut with Journey Into Genius (1988) before fascinating many TV audiences with his portrayal of solemn, but conflicted, Sheriff July Johnson in the landmark TV miniseries adaptation of Larry McMurty’s “Lonesome Dove” (1989), a popular role that he reprised in 1993 in “Return to Lonesome Dove.” In 1991, he embarked on three big-screen movies, Irwin Winkler’s drama Guilty by Suspicion (1991), Sayles’ City of Hope (1991) and the Western Thousand Pieces of Gold (1991). His performance in the latter film garnered the actor a Wrangler for Best Actor in a Motion Picture.

Following the made-for-TV films Bed of Lies (1992) and Ned Blessing: The True Story of My Life (1992), Cooper played the supporting role of Roy in the movie This Boy's Life (1993, starring Robert DeNiro), starred as Union Army Captain John Hull Abston in Pharaoh’s Army (1995), landed the most notorious film character of 1995 and the psycho Torch in the Money Train (1995), gave a memorable supporting turn in Boys (1996) and had a bit part in A Time to Kill (1996). Also in 1996, Cooper scored a big success when he costarred in John Sayles movie Lone Star (1996), as Sam Deeds, the sheriff whose lawman father becomes a posthumous suspect in a murder investigation. The performance earned him an Independent Spirit nomination for Best Actor and finally launched Cooper to the top of Hollywood’s list of character players.

Cooper was perfectly cast as one of the co-creators of the silicone breast implant, opposite David Schwimmer, in the drama/comedy Breast Men (1997), and was offered such notable supporting parts as Uncle Joe in Great Expectations (1998) and Robert Redford’s brother, Frank Booker, in The Horse Whisperer (1998).

His rocketing status further improved in 1999 with his high-profile performance in the Oscar-winning film American Beauty (1999), playing martinet military man Col. Frank Fitts. Delivering an effectively alarming, but heartbreaking performance, Cooper solidified his reputation as one of the finest character actors. Sharing with the other cast members, Cooper nabbed a Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by a Cast (Theatrical Motion Picture) and an Online Film Critics Society for Best Ensemble. The actor himself received a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role at the Screen Actors Guild in 2000. Still in 1999, Cooper gave a strong supporting performance as John Hickam, the West Virginia coal miner father of a boy with aspirations to work for NASA, in Joe Johnston’s inspiring film October Sky.

The new millennium saw Cooper venture into the comedic genre when he received the offer to support Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger in the Farrelly Brothers’ far-out split personality farce Me, Myself and Irene (2000). He then played a diverse kind of military man, an ex-buddy of Mel Gibson’s, in the revolutionary war drama The Patriot (2000). Returning to filmmaking after a two-year hiatus, Cooper appeared as Bob Cody in Bob Gale’s adventure Interstate 60 (2002) before portraying Alexander Conklin, the looming espionage master, in the highly popular 2002 remake of The Bourne Identity, starring Matt Damon.

Cooper was even launched to superstardom when Spike Jonze cast him in the supporting role of the quirky, toothless Miami orchid expert John Laroche, the real-life subject of Susan Orlean’s bestseller novel “The Orchid Thief” and an essential figure in the reality-bending Adaptation (2002). His spectacular acting achieved wide recognition and critical accolades, as well as picked up countless awards such as an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Dallas-Forth Worth Film Critics Association, a Vancouver Film Critics Circle, a Broadcast Film Critics Association, a Kansas City Film Critics Circle, a National Board of Review, a San Francisco Film Critics, a Toronto Film Critics, a Seattle Film Critics, a San Diego Film Critics, a Florida Film Critics, a Southeastern Film Critics, a Washington, D.C. Film Critics, and a LA Critics Association for Best Supporting Actor. Additionally, Cooper earned BAFTA and SAG nominations.

The following year, Cooper again turned the heads of critics with his portrayal of horse instructor Tom Smith in Gary Ross’ inspiring feature Seabiscuit, costarring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges. After the film, which is based on the real-file story of the Depression Era, Cooper was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at SAG. His engaging performance as Thomas ‘Tom’ Riversmith, the childless uncle of a young girl orphaned by a terrorist attack in Europe, in the HBO film My House in Umbria (2003), was also positively recognized by many critics and Cooper earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie.

From 2004-2005, Cooper made five movies. First, Cooper rejoined his long-term partner John Sayles to star in Sayles’ political satire/mystery Silver City (2004), where he played character Dickie Pilager. He then briefly reprised the role of Conklin for the sequel The Bourne Supremacy (2004). Cooper was chosen to play Alvin Dewey, the escort investigator who befriends the eccentric writer Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), in the intelligent and intriguing biopic Capote (2005), had a small, but mesmeric, turn as the zealous Lt. Col. Kazinski in Jarhead (2005) and appeared in Stephen Gaghan’s drama Syriana (2005), which starred Kayvan Novak and George Clooney. Cooper is scheduled to star with Patricia Clarkson and William H. Macy in the drama Conquistadora (2006, scripted by his wife Leone), portray renowned operative Robert Hanssen, opposite Ryan Phillippe and Laura Linney, in Breach (2006) and play a role in the Matthew McDuffie-written drama The Road Back (2006).


Awards:

  • San Francisco International Film Festival: Peter J. Owens Award, 2004
  • Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, Adaptation, 2003
  • Academy Award: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Adaptation, 2003
  • Dallas-Forth Worth Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, Adaptation, 2003
  • Vancouver Film Critics Circle: Best Supporting Actor, Adaptation, 2003
  • Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, Adaptation, 2003
  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle: Best Supporting Actor, Adaptation, 2003
  • National Board of Review: Best Supporting Actor, 2003
  • San Francisco Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, 2003
  • Toronto Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, 2003
  • Seattle Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, 2003
  • San Diego Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, 2003
  • Florida Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, 2003
  • Southeastern Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, 2003
  • LA Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, 2003
  • Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by a Cast (Theatrical Motion Picture), American Beauty; shared with cast mates, 1999
  • Online Film Critics Society: Best Ensemble, American Beauty; shared with cast mates, 1999
  • Wrangler: Best Actor in a Motion Picture, 1000 Pieces of Gold; presented by National Cowboy Hall of Fame, 1991
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