"I'd see people eating, and I'm like, 'I've touched everybody's burger!' " Steve Zahn
First catching filmgoers' attention while portraying Sammy Gray in Ben Stiller's comedy Reality Bites (1994, with Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke), American actor Steve Zahn later received applause for starring as Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. (a.k.a. David) in Mark Illsley's acclaimed drama Happy, Texas (1999). He continued to grace the big screen playing roles in such films as Crimson Tide (1995), That Thing You Do (1996), subUrbia (1996, also the play), You've Got Mail (1998), National Security, and Daddy Day Care (both in 2003).
More up-to-date, the 5' 9" inch tall actor appeared in the films Employee of the Month and Speak, then teamed with Matthew McConaughey and Penélope Cruz, playing funny sidekick Al Giordino in Breck Eisner's 2005 film, Sahara. As for his upcoming film projects, Zahn is now busy filming William Brent Bell's horror Stay Alive, will soon star in the comedy Bandidas, and will be heard in the animated Chicken Little.
Childhood and Family:
"My sister gave me a big bucket of Cool Whip. Isn't that awesome? For two weeks I basically watched Emergency and ate Cool Whip with a spoon." Steve Zahn
Son of a Lutheran pastor, Steve Zahn was born on November 13, 1968, in Marshall, Minnesota. He attended Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota and studied for a year at Gustavus-Adolphus College. From 1989 to 1991 he trained at Harvard University, which sponsors the prestigious American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and briefly joined the Guthrie Theater Drama School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which he later dropped to pursue full-time acting.
While touring on a "Bye, Bye Birdie" production, Zahn met and fell in love with actress Robyn Peterman. The couple decided to get married in 1994 and now have one son, Henry James (born on April 3, 2000 in New York).
"Steve's like stress relief, so I have to hang out with him!" Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do costar).
Among his friends and costars, Zahn is widely popular for his great sense of humor and charisma. He is also an avid fly fisherman and owns a farm in New Jersey.
"I still really love acting. I find it really challenging. And I really love film; it's a lot of fun. Theater is a big commitment. Most of the time, you sign a five-month contract. You do eight shows a week and have one day off. There's no time to go home." Steve Zahn
Having been introduced to improvisational theatre during high school, Steve Zahn left college to study with the Gustavus-Adolphus College in Minnesota. He also starred in a community theater production of "Biloxi Blues." After working on his acting skills at the high-profile American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, he headed to New York and found himself doing several odd jobs in order to survive.
However, he managed to return on stage in 1991 when he landed the lead role of Hugo Peabody in Tommy Tune's "Bye, Bye Birdie" which performed on a nationwide tour for 13 months.
Following a guest spot on ABC's All My Children and CBS' As the World Turns, Zahn stepped on to the wide screen. He worked with David Cross, Jeff Goldblum, Orlando Jones and Salma Hayek in his debut film work, Gary Bennett's drama Rain Without Thunder (1992). Off Broadway, he was featured with star Ethan Hawke in a play written by Jonathan Mark Sherman titled "Sophistry" at the Playwright's Horizon and attracted the attention of Ben Stiller, who cast him in his directional debut, the comedy Reality Bites (1994). In the well-liked film, Zahn was recognized for portraying character Sammy Gray, Winona Ryder's friendly, but slightly confused, gay friend.
Zahn returned to the stage in that same year playing Buff in Eric Bogosian's play "subUrbia" at the Lincoln Center. Back to motion pictures, Zahn flew to Australia to film his next movies, Tony Scott's submarine thriller Crimson Tide (1995, starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman) and Charles T. Kanganis' drama comedy Race The Sun (1996, alongside Halle Berry).
In 1996, Zahn was widely recognized as free-spirited, girl-mad guitarist Lenny Haise in Tom Hanks' directional debut, the Oscar nominated musical comedy That Thing You Do (starring Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, and Ethan Embry). He also reprised his role as energetic goofball Buff in the film version of Eric Bogosian's stage play, the drama comedy subUrbia (1997, with Giovanni Ribisi and Amie Carey), helmed by Richard Linklater.
After appearing on the small screen in the TV movie SUBWAYStories: Tales from the Underground (1997, segment "The 5:24") and HBO's mini series From the Earth to the Moon (1998), Zahn went back to the big screen. He could be seen playing roles in such box office hits as The Object of My Affection, Out of Sight and You've Got Mail (all in 1998). He also joined with Sam Rockwell portraying two untalented singers in John Hamburg's little seen comedy Safe Men (also in 1998).
The next year, Zahn received critical acclaim at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Sundance Film Festival for portraying an escaped-convict-turned-gay, Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. (a.k.a. David), in Mark Illsley's drama comedy Happy Texas (alongside Jeremy Northam).
During that same year, he was also involved in Forces of Nature, Freak Talks About Sex, and provided his voice to the animated Stuart Little. Hamlet, Chain of Fools, Saving Silverman, Dr. Dolittle 2 (voice), Joy Ride, and Chelsea Walls, were Zahn's film works during the early millennium. He also received rave reviews for portraying Drew Barrymore's drug-addicted husband, Raymond Hasek, in Penny Marshall's adaptation of Beverly D'Onofrio's book, Riding in Cars with Boys. In 2003, he teamed with Martin Lawrence as uptight police officer Hank Rafferty in Dennis Dugan's action comedy National Security, and became Eddie Murphy's friend in Steve Carr's comedy Daddy Day Care. He also played supporting role Adam Penenberg in Billy Ray's fact-based film Shattered Glass (starring Hayden Christensen).
More recent, in 2005, Zahn portrayed Matt Dillon's best friend Jack in Mitch Rouse's drama comedy Employee of the Month, then played rebellious art teacher Mr. Freeman in Jessica Sharzer's drama film Speak, which was inspired by Laurie Halse Anderson's novel.
"The definition of Sahara is `'o have no memory,' and it's true. When you go out in the desert, no matter what's going on in your world, you see the dunes and nothing else, and you think of nothing else." Steve Zahn
Sahara, the adventure film based on Clive Cussler's novel, directed by Breck Eisner, was Zahn's action movie work in 2005. In the film, released on April 8th, 2005, Zahn portrayed Matthew McConaughey's wisecracking sidekick Al Giordino, who embarks on a treasure hunt through the wildest area of North Africa (also starring Penélope Cruz). Commenting on his role in the film, Zahn explained, "I have no problem playing the funny sidekick. I'm a grunt; I'm a sergeant, an officer. I'm on point with everyone else."
Currently, Zahn is busy filming his upcoming film works, including Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg's western comedy Bandidas (with Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek) and William Brent Bell's horror Stay Alive (with Samaire Armstrong, Jon Foster and Frankie Muniz). His fans can also listen to his voice in Mark Dindal's animated tale Chicken Little.
"You still really fight for good parts. It never stops. It's never a breeze. The people at the top of their game work as hard as the people at the bottom." Steve Zahn
- Independent Spirit: Best Supporting Male, Happy, Texas (2000)
- Sundance Film Festival: Special Jury Prize - Dramatic, Happy, Texas (1999)