Attorney Alan Shore
“Acting is a great way to make a living, especially when I consider what my alternatives were and probably still are. I mean, you are only making movies. It is a lot less pressure than being a surgeon; although it seemed like the only other thing that I was qualified for was manual labour.” James Spader
A handsome, innocent-looking blond lead who frequently cast as a creepy yuppie scum, James Spader first came to attention with his portrayals of blameworthy well-off psychopaths on the films Pretty in Pink (1986) and Less Than Zero (1987) and gained even more recognition with his award-winning turn as sexually incapable Graham in Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989). On why he accepted the lead in the latter movie, the American performer said, “I took the film because I was interested in doing that part. Looking at work as stepping stones is something I don’t have any time or energy for. It seems a shame to look at your work as some sort of means to an end, because the end is death, you know? The means is the flesh and blood, so you’d better enjoy it. F---the end.”
Two-time Emmy Award winner Spader went on to built highly regarded status in the cinematic industry with memorable performances in movies like White Palace (1990), The Music of Chance (1993), Wolf (1994, earned a Saturn nomination), the surprising blockbuster hit Stargate (1994) and the critically and commercially successful Secretary (2002) before hitting it big on the small screen playing lawyer Alan Shore in the David E. Kelley-created series “The Practice” (2003-2004) and the development series “Boston Legal” (2004-?). The role brought Spader his two Emmy Awards, a Satellite Award, a Golden Globe nomination and SAG nominations, among other honors.
On a personal front, Spader greatly respects the work of the Oscar-winning actor Charles Laughton, and has named himself the musician Bob Dylan avid fan. He enjoys cooking and is a proficient chef. As for his married life, Spader has divorced from his wife of seventeen years, Victoria Kheel, since 2004. They share two sons, Sebastian (born 1989) and Elijah (born 1992).
Childhood and Family:
“I grew up a Red Sox fan. I grew up going to Fenway Park and the Museum of Fine Arts and the Science Museum and Symphony Hall and going to the Common, walking around. My whole family at different times lived and worked in Boston.” James Spader
James Todd Spader was born on February 7, 1960, in Boston, Massachusetts, to teachers Todd and Jean Spader. He was educated at The Pike School, in which his mother taught art, and Brooks School, where his father worked. Later, he enrolled in the celebrated Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, but left in the eleventh grade to launch acting career in New York City. While studying acting at the Michael Chekhov School in New York, James, known to prefer being called “Jimmy,” took a variety of jobs, including as a janitor and yoga instructor, to support himself until he found success as a thespian.
Jimmy married Victoria Kheel in 1987. He met his decorator set-wife while working in a yoga studio soon after he relocated to NYC in the early 1980s. The couple had their first son, Sebastian Spader, in July 1989 and their second son, Elijah Spader, three years later in 1992. Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce in 2004, after 17 years.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape
Son of educators, James Spader forsook his formal studies in favor of pursuing acting career in New York City. He made his feature acting debut with a bit part in a little-seen film, Team-Mates (1978), while honing his craft at the Michael Chekhov Studio, and landed a more substantial part as the brother of Brook Shields in his next venture, Endless Love (1981). After this project, the actor could be seen working on television for several years before departing the medium when his film career flourished. After playing Fenwick in the unpicked CBS pilot for a series based on the film “Diner” (1983), he portrayed the defiant son of Frank Converse in the soon-cancelled ABC drama “The Family Tree” (1983), about a mixed family, and also had his first TV-movie bow that same year with a costarring role as Robert Mitchum’s son in ABC’s A Killer in the Family. In the 1983 NBC film Cocaine: One Man’s Addiction, he was cast as the son of Dennis Weaver who knows that his father is a drug addict.
The mid-1980s saw Spader resurface on the big screen following a four year absence with the starring role of Morgan Hiller, a young mutinous high school pupil, on the action/drama Tuff Turf (1985) and a supporting role opposite Shannon Presby and Lori Loughlin in the horror/thriller The New Kids (1985). He was noted as the infamous best friend of Andrew McCarthy in the John Hughes-written comedy Pretty in Pink (1986) and for playing an affluent boy-cocaine agent in Less Than Zero (1987), opposite Robert Downey Jr. He also acted in such films as Mannequin (1987), Wall Street (1987) and Jack’s Back (1988), in which he was nominated for a Saturn for Best Actor.
The Boston native actor delivered a career defining moment when director Steven Soderbergh had him star as Graham, the sexually impotent foreigner who troubles the lives of a young Southern attorney, his wife and her sister, on the drama Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989). For his excellent performance, he won a Best Actor Cannes Film Festival as well as earned an Independent Spirit nomination in the same category.
Next up for Spader was a starring turn as a yuppie widower caught up with an older woman (played by Susan Sarandon) in the moderately successful White Palace (1990). He shared top bill with Rob Lowe in Bad Influence (1990), teamed up with John Cusack for the drama film True Colors (1991), starred as a rich Louisiana congressional candidate, Cray Fowler, in Storyville (1992) and made a cameo appearance as a telecaster in Tim Robbins’ Bob Roberts (1992) before giving a notable portrayal of a slimeball with his own scrupulous ethics in The Music of Chance (1993), based on a novel by Philip Haas. In the erotic thriller Dream Lover (1994), for director-writer Nicholas Kazan, he essayed an affluent architect involved with a gorgeous Madchen Amick, but fared better for portraying his brand despicable yuppie in support of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson in Wolf (1994), for which he received his next Saturn nomination, this time in Best Supporting Actor category. He experienced a surprising box office success with the science fiction film Stargate (also 1994), where he costarred opposite Kurt Russell as a nerdy Egyptologist. The same year, the noteworthy player also could be found making guest appearance in an episode of the hit NBC sitcom “Frasier,” his first small screen performance after nearly a decade.
During the latter part of the 1990s, Spader went on to demonstrate his talents with roles in such films as David Cronenberg’s controversial Crash (1996, starred as a man obsessed with sex and car accidents, John Herzfeld’s 2 Days in the Valley (1996, appeared as a calculating, dishonorable hit man named Lee Woods), the Eric Stoltz vehicle Keys to Tulsa (1997) and Sidney Lumet’s Critical Care (1997, played an unethical physician). In 1997, he offered an entertaining performance in an episode of the television comedy series “Seinfeld.”
Entering the new millennium, Spader starred along side Angela Bassett for Walter Hill’s Supernova (2000), but the movie did not ignite audience and critics alike. Desperately in need of a hit, he then joined Keanu Reeves for the promising The Watcher (2000), playing an ex-FBI detective who returns to track a serial killer. Unfortunately, the mystery film, which was the feature directorial debut of the music director Joe Charbanic, was also a failure. The 2000 Slow Burn (made in 1998), in which Spader acted along with Minnie Driver and Josh Brolin, went straight to video store. It was in 2002 that the actor was eventually put back on the spotlight thanks mainly to Steven Shainberg’s successful drama/comedy Secretary, which cast him as a man who boards on an S&M relationship with his young female secretary (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal). The offbeat and sexy film was a favorite in the Sundance Film Festival and collected a number of awards.
In 2003, Spader took on a costarring role opposite Jeff Daniels in the drama film I Witness and starred as Julian Rome in the sci-fi film Alien Hunter. He also returned to television film as defense worker Daniel Ellsberg on the history/thriller The Pentagon Papers (2003). However, it was not until the accomplished actor joined the cast of the long-running legal drama “The Practice” in its final season in 2003-2004 that he received a huge breakthrough by taking home his first Emmy in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Recruited by David E. Kelley after budget cuts compelled the series creator to axe many of the show’s cast members so that it stayed on the air, Spader’s brilliant presentation of attorney Alan Shore gave the aging show a new life on its final season.
Several months after “The Practice” came to an end, Spader recreated the role of Alan Shore for the spin-off series “Boston Legal” (2004-?), starring with William Shatner, Mark Valley and Rene Auberjonois. Now still working on the popular show, he was handed an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a dramatic series in 2005 and a Satellite for Best Actor in a Series, Comedy or Musical in 2006. In addition, he netted numerous nominations, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama (2005) and two SAG for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series (2006 and 2007).
- Satellite: Best Actor in a Series, Comedy or Musical, “Boston Legal,” 2006
- Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, “Boston Legal,” 2005
- Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, “The Practice,” 2004
- Cannes Film Festival: Best Actor, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, 1989