Martin Donovan
Birth Date:
August 19, 1957
Birth Place:
Reseda, California, USA
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The Portrait of a Lady


Actor Martin Donovan, who began his career with Los Angeles' American Theater Arts, is known for his long running collaboration with independent filmmaker Hal Hartley. Since their debut in “Trust” (1990), an art house film that established the light haired performer as a star in independent films, Donovan has appeared in Hartley's “Surviving Desire” (1991), “Simple Men” (1992), “Flirt” (1995) and “The Book of Life” (1999). He took home a Chlotrudis nomination for his starring role in the critically acclaimed “Amateur” (1994). Donovan earned his next Chlotrudis nomination for his roles in Angela Pope's “Hollow Reed” and Jane Campion's “The Portrait of a Lady” (both 1996). It was his portrayal of Englishman Ralph Touchette in the latter movie that brought the actor a Best Supporting Actor award from the National Society of Film Critics. His more recent and upcoming movie credits include “The Opposite of Sex” (1998), “Living Out Loud” (1998), “Insomnia” (2002), “Agent Cody Banks” (2003), “Saved” (2004), “The Quiet” (2005), “The Visitation” (2006), “The Sentinel” (2006), “Wind Chill” (2007), “The Alphabet Killer” (2008) and “The Haunting in Connecticut” (2008). On the small screen, Donovan is perhaps most popular for playing Peter Scottson on Showtime's “Weeds” (2005-2006). He also played regular roles in ABC's “Wonderland” (2000) and Fox's “Pasadena” (2001-2002), recurring roles in “Dead Zone” (2005-2007) and “Ghost Whisperer” (2007-2008) and one episode roles in such series as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” He has also collected a number of TV movie credits, including “When Trumpets Fade” (1998), “The Great Gatsby” (2000), “RFK” (2002) and “Dark Shadows” (2004).

Donovan has been married to actress Vivian Lanko since 1984. The couple and their two sons live in Vancouver, Canada.


Childhood and Family:

Born Martin R. Smith on August 19, 1957, in Reseda, California, Martin Donovan is one of four children who grew up in a middle class family of Irish American origin. He spent two years studying at the Los Angeles Pierce College before attending the American Theater Arts in Los Angeles.

In 1984, Martin married actress Vivian Lanko, who appeared with Martin in the 1992 comedy “Simple Men.” The couple lived in New York for a number of years but now reside in Vancouver, Canada. In New York, Martin, who has two children, took on odd jobs to help support his family, which included installing draperies.

Wind Chill


California native Martin Donovan started out as a stage actor while attending the American Theater Arts in Los Angeles. He appeared in the plays “Richard Cork's Leg” and “Private Life of the Master Race” before moving to New York in 1983. He then worked with the Cacaracha Theater on Greenwich Street and picked up odd jobs on the side to help pay expenses. Donovan began his movie career in 1985 when he landed the role of Josh in an independent drama written and directed by Rick King called “Hard Choices,” opposite John Sayles, John Snyder and J.T. Walsh. He followed it up by making his TV miniseries debut in the 1987 based-on-novel drama “At Mother's Request” (CBS), which starred Ray Baker.

Donovan's luck started to change when filmmaker Hal Hartley hired him to star as Matthew Slaughter, an intellectual high school graduate with an extraordinary talent for fixing electronic devices, in the art house favorite “Trust” (1990), alongside Adrienne Shelly. The role launched Donovan as a lead on the independent movie circuit. He was reunited with Hartley for the independent comedy “Surviving Desire” (1991), which was made for PBS' American Playhouse, and the Toronto premiered “Simple Men” (1992), in which he played the supporting role of Martin. He also starred in Hartley's short “Flirt” (1993) and offered a fine portrayal of amnesic Thomas in Hartley's critically praised “Amateur” (1994), from which he was nominated for a 1996 Chlotrudis for Best Actor. He starred in the movie with Isabelle Huppert.

Donovan next teamed up with director Spike Lee for the biopic “Malcolm X” (1992), which starred Denzel Washington, rejoined Rick King for the movie “Quick” (1993), starred as John Abbott in Eran Palatnik's drama “The Rook” (1994) and portrayed the nephew of vampire hunter Van Helsing (played by Peter Fonda) in Michael Almereyda's horror “Nadja” (1994). On the small screen, he costarred with Christopher Walken, Lorraine Bracco and Miguel Ferrer in the Showtime TV film “Scam” (1993) and made appearances in two episodes of Nickelodeon's comedy series “The Adventures of Pete and Pete” (1993).

Following a role as a gay man whose marriage ended in divorce in the Angela Pope directed “Hollow Reed” (1996), for which Donovan netted his second Best Actor Chlotrudis nomination, Donovan got his breakthrough screen role opposite Nicole Kidman in Jane Campion's “The Portrait of a Lady” (also 1996), which was adapted from Henry James' novel of the same name. His performance won the hearts of audiences and critics and he was handed a National Society of Film Critics for Best Supporting Actor and a Chlotrudis nomination in the same category.

1998 found the versatile actor star in “The Book of Life,” which was directed by frequent collaborator Hartley. He then delivered another notable turn in Don Roos' black comedy “The Opposite of Sex,” playing the patient half-brother of Christina Ricci, Bill Truitt. He continued to demonstrate his versatility with performances in Scott Reynolds' “Heaven” (1998), Daphna Kastner's “Spanish Fly” (1998), Richard LaGravenese's “Living Out Loud” (1998), in which he stood out as the philandering husband of Holly Hunter, Martha Fiennes' “Onegin” (1999), starring Ralph Fiennes, and Bill Bennett's “In a Savage Land” (1999), opposite Rufus Sewell. Donovan also added some TV credits to his resume. He supported Valerie Bertinelli, Harry Hamlin and Karen Sillas in the CBS drama “Night Sins” (1997), costarred with Dana Delany in the based-on-book “Rescuers: Stories of Courage: Two Couples” (1998), and played the role of Captain Roy Pritchett in John Irvin's World War II drama “When Trumpets Fade” (HBO, 1998). In 1999, he was seen as Richard DiBenedetto in the thriller “The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer,” which starred Kevin Anderson, Tom Skerritt and Naomi Watts.

Entering the new millennium, Donovan appeared in several television programs. He portrayed Lorraine Bracco's husband in the sport themed “Custody of the Heart,” was cast as Tom Buchanan in the BBC/A&E adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” and made his debut as a series regular in the ABC drama “Wonderland” (all 2000). He then costarred with Elisabeth Shue and Hanna Hall in Lloyd Kramer's TV film adaptation of Elizabeth Strout's “Amy & Isabelle” (2001), which was produced by Oprah Winfrey, and made his return to series TV in the short lived Fox show “Pasadena,” a mystery that reunited him with Dana Delany. The actor played Will McAllister from the series’ debut in September 2001 until its cancellation in July 2002.

Donovan revisited the cinematic industry in the Canadian movie “Desire” (2000) and with roles in the romantic comedy “Pipe Dreams” (2002), for director John Walsh, and Christopher Nolan's thriller “Insomnia” (also 2002), in which he was cast in the costarring role of Hap Eckhart, opposite Al Pacino. After playing John F. Kennedy in the made-for-TV film “RFK” (2002), he assumed the supporting role of Harry Pollard in the basketball movie “The United States of Leland” (2003), appeared in the Frankie Muniz espionage hit “Agent Cody Banks” (2003) and portrayed Pastor Skip in the dark comedy “Saved” (2004). He also appeared in the episodes of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (both 2003), played Roger Collins in P.J. Hogan's television movie “Dark Shadows,” and costarred as Brent Delaney, opposite Cliff Curtis, in the miniseries “Traffic” (both 2004).

Back to series TV, Donovan enjoyed some recognition with his role of Peter Scottson, the love interest of Nancy Botwin (played by Mary-Louise Parker), in the critically acclaimed Showtime series “Weeds.” While on the show from 2005 to 2006, he jointly nabbed a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. Donovan also had a recurring role as Malcolm Janus in Stephen King's “Dead Zone” (2005). At that same time, he was seen in such movies as “At Last: (2005), “The Quiet” (2005), “The Garage” (2006), “The Visitation” (2006, starred opposite Edward Furlong), “The Sentinel” (2006, with Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland) and “Day on Fire” (2006), which was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In 2007, Donovan costarred with Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes in Gregory Jacobs' thriller “Wind Chill,” guest starred as Cliff Addison in the “Masters of Horror” episode of “Right to Die” and began his recurring role of Tom Gordon in “Ghost Whisperer.”

Recently, Donovan supported Eliza Dushku, Cary Elwes and Timothy Hutton in the thriller “The Alphabet Killer” (2008). He completed filming “The Haunting in Connecticut” (2008), a horror movie directed by Peter Cornwell. Among his costars in the movie are Virginia Madsen, Elias Koteas, Sophi Knight and Ty Wood.


  • National Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, “The Portrait of a Lady,” 1997

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© Sony Pictures Classics
© Retna
© Sony Pictures Classics
© Retna
© Sony Pictures Classics
© Retna
© Sony Pictures Classics
© Retna