“Andy Warhol said everybody gets their 15 minutes of fame. And if this is mine, I couldn’t imagine a better 15 minutes.” James Cromwell in reference to his Academy Award nomination
After years of toiling in numerous television and film projects, Oscar-nominated American television and film actor James Cromwell, son of actor/director John Cromwell and his second wife, actress Kay Johnson, received extensive appreciation for his scene-stealing portrayal of an affectionate marshal, Farmer Hoggett, in Chris Noonan’s Babe (1995), where he picked up his Oscar nomination and a Chlotrudis nomination. Since then, he has continued to build a well-respected career by appearing in a number of high-profile projects, including the movies L.A. Confidential (1997, nabbed a SAG nomination), The General’s Daughter (1999), Snow Falling on Cedars (1999), The Green Mile (1999, earned a SAG nomination), Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002, won a Bronze Wrangler Award), I, Robot (2004) and The Longest Yard (2005, netted a Teen Choice nomination). He was also seen in the HBO film RKO 281 (2000, earned an Emmy nomination), the series “ER” (2001, received an Emmy nomination) and the miniseries “Angels in America” (2003). More recently, he was popular to television audiences as Ruth’s second husband, George Sibley, on the HBO much-admired sitcom “Six Feet Under” (2003-2005), in which he shared two SAG nominations.
Recently appearing in Fox’s series “24” (2007) and the films Dante’s Inferno (2007) and Becoming Jane (2007), Cromwell will soon play Captain George Stacy in the anticipated Spider-Man 3.
Off camera, Cromwell has well-established himself as an advocate of progressive and liberal issues. In the late 1960s, he became a member of “The Committee to Defend The Panthers,” a group set up to protect 13 members of the Black Panther Party who had been incarcerated in New York and were finally released. A vegan since 1974, he also has supported such organizations as PETA, with which he experienced five-hours in prison for trespassing in a fast food restaurant during an animal rights demonstration in Virginia.
As for his married life, Cromwell has been married twice. From 1976 to 1981, he was married to first wife Anne Ulvestad, with whom he has three children, Kate (born 1977), John (born 1979) and Colin (born 1981), and, soon thereafter, married his current wife, Julie Cobb. Together, they co-founded Koshari Films in 1997. With Julia, Cromwell has a step-daughter named Rosemary.
Childhood and Family:
James Oliver Cromwell was born on January 27, 1940, in Los Angeles, California, to actress Kay Johnson (born in 1904; died in 1975) and director/actor John Cromwell (born in 1877; died in 1979), who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and New York. After graduating from the prestigious Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, James attended both Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, and Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in order to pursue his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. However, after spending a summer on a movie set with his father, he changed his direction toward acting.
On November 27, 1976, James tied the knot with Anne Ulvestad. Their first child, daughter Kate Cromwell, was born on June 5, 1977, and their second child, son John Astrup Cromwell, was born on August 29, 1979. The two welcomed their third child, son Colin James Cromwell, on April 16, 1981. They later divorced in 1986. He married Julie Cobb (born in 1947) on May 29, 1986. As a result of this marriage, James became the stepfather of Rosemary Cobb Morgan (born in 1983), Julie’s daughter with first husband, actor Lee J Cobb.
Six Feet Under
The son of a blacklisted director during the McCarthy period, James Cromwell was first interested in chasing a career as a mechanical engineer, but following a summer spent on a movie location with his father, he decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become an actor. After leaving his studies, he joined regional theaters where he would spend the next ten years acting and directing in a variety of productions. He appeared in such shows as “Beckett” at the Cleveland Playhouse, “Othello” at the American Shakespeare Festival and “The Iceman Cometh” at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Cromwell was also a regular performer at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum.
It was during a run at the Mark Taper Forum that Cromwell was discovered and handed the recurring role of ‘Stretch’ Cunningham, the popular partner of Archie Bunker, on the CBS sitcom “All in the Family” (1974). Afterwards, he spent the rest of the 1970s and much of the 1980s on television. He played regular roles in such soon-cancelled sitcoms as “The Hot l Baltimore” (ABC, 1975), “The Nancy Walker Show” (ABC, 1976), “The Last Precinct” (NBC, 1986), “Easy Street” (NBC, 1986-87) and “Mama’s Boy” (NBC, 1987-88), as well as acted in many unsuccessful pilots and television films, remarkably A Christmas Without Snow (CBS, 1980) and the remake of The Rainmaker (HBO, 1982). He also appeared in miniseries like “Once an Eagle” (1976) and “Dream West” (1986).
Meanwhile, on the wide screen, Cromwell kicked off his career in 1976 with the comedy-mystery Murder By Death, for director Robert Moore and scriptwriter Neil Simon. Two years later, he rejoined Moore and Simon for the comedy/crime movie The Cheap Detective, starring Peter Falk. In 1984, he originated the role of Mr. Skolnick in Revenge of the Nerds, which he reprised later in the film sequel Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise (1987) and for two television movies aired on Fox: Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation (1992) and Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds In Love (1994). He also appeared in such projects as The Man with Two Brains (1983), The House of God (1984), Blake Edwards’ A Fine Mess (1986), The Rescue (1988) and Pink Cadillac (1989).
Work in both television and film kept Cromwell busy during the 1990s. He was featured as Brother Mathias, a priest who makes friends with the young Babe Ruth and introduces him to baseball, in the biopic The Babe (1992), directed by Arthur Hiller, appeared as Jaglom Shrek in three episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1990-1993) and Hanok in an episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1995). He also had the villainous role of Charlie ‘the robber’ Mulvihill in the Disney TV remake of The Shaggy Dog (1994). It was during the mid-1990s that his film career gained momentum when he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his work in the Chris Noonan-directed Babe (1995). His portrayal of Farmer Hoggett, a tender marshal who knows the unusual qualities of a piglet, also brought the actor a 1996 Chlotrudis nomination.
Following the impressive performance, Cromwell’s career rocketed. He was cast in many movies, including Milos Foreman’s biopic The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996, as banker Charles Keating), Star Trek: First Contact (1996, as Dr. Zefram Cochrane), Owd Bob (1997), the family drama The Education of Little Tree (1997), Species II (1998) and Deep Impact (1998). He also shared a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast for working in Curtis Hanson’s highly praised film L.A. Confidential (1997), which cast him as a crooked police chief named Dudley Liam Smith, and reprised his Oscar-nominating role of Farmer Hoggett in the failed installment Babe: Pig in the City (1998).
1999 proved to be a banner year for Cromwell with at least four prestigious film and television projects under his belt. He first played the role of a pitiless Army captain in the thriller The General’s Daughter, adapted by director Simon West from a book by Nelson DeMille, then had an important role as the judge presiding over a murder trial in the Ethan Hawke vehicle Snow Falling on Cedars and supported Tom Hanks as the steward in the supernatural prison drama The Green Mile (1999), from which he jointly earned a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture. On the small screen, he excelled as the deft William Randolph Hearst in the critically acclaimed HBO drama RKO 281, for which he was nominated for a 2000 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. Still in 1999, he also teamed up with William H. Macy, Adam Arkin and Felicity Huffman for the TNT crime drama A Slight Case of Murder, playing a private investigator named John Edgerson.
A starring turn as British poet A.E. Housman in the American premiere of Tom Stoppard’s “The Invention of Love” and supporting roles in the live CBS version of the Cold War thriller Fail Safe, opposite George Clooney, Noah Wyle and Richard Dreyfuss, as well as appearing in the astronaut drama film Space Cowboys (all 2000), with Clint Eastwood, James Garner and Tommy Lee Jones, were Cromwell’s opening works in the new millennium. The following year, he once again enjoyed television success with his Emmy-nominating turn as a dying Catholic bishop in several episodes of the NBC popular medical series “ER.” He followed it up with performances in the short-lived CBS fall drama “Citizen Baines” (2001, starred as a former US Senator), the A&E miniseries version of “The Magnificent Ambersons” (2002), the Tom Clancy military thriller The Sum of All Fears (2002, as President Robert ‘Bob’ Fowler) and the cable biopic RFK (2002, as President Lyndon Baines Johnson). For his voice-over turn as The Colonel in the 2002 animated movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, he won a Bronze Wrangler at the 2003 Western Heritage, an honor he shared with costars like Matt Damon and Daniel Studi, as well as the film’s producers and directors.
From 2003 to 2005, Cromwell could be seen working in several high-profile projects on both television and film. He was cast in the applauded HBO miniseries “Angels in America” (2003) for director Mike Nichols, played Father Donald Callahan in the TNT remake of the horror classic ‘Salem’s Lot (2004), based on the novel by Stephen King, supported Will Smith in the sci-fi film I, Robot (2004, as scientist Alfred Lanning) and appeared as a warden in the Adam Sandler vehicle The Longest Yard (2005), where he nabbed a Teen Choice nomination for Choice Movie Bad Guy. However, it was his regular role as Professor George Sibley, the second husband of Ruth (played by Francis Conroy), in HBO’s highly acclaimed sitcom “Six Feet Under,” which he played from 2003 until the show’s final season in 2005, that really put the actor back in the limelight. With other costars, he jointly picked up two SAG nominations for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Recently, Cromwell had a recurring role in the Fox prominent series “24” (2007), playing Phillip Bauer, the alienated father of Jack (Kiefer Sutherland). He also starred in the comedy film Dante’s Inferno (2007) and costarred with Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy and Julie Walters in the biographical film Becoming Jane (2007). This May, the 67-year-old performer will appear as Captain George Stacy in the highly anticipated sequel Spider-Man 3.
- Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Theatrical Motion Picture, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, 2003