Peter Gallagher
Birth Date:
August 19, 1955
Birth Place:
Armonk, New York, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
Famous for:
His role in 'Sex, Lies and Videotape' (1989)
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The O.C.


"If I have a choice between a nice, bland hero or a really interesting detestable character, I'd rather do the detestable one. Good guys can be pretty boring. I love playing characters who celebrate the power and joy and beauty of greed. As the bad guy, you have less moral and behavioral restrictions. There's no burden of being liked. It's real freedom for the actor." Peter Gallagher

Golden Globe and SAG winning actor Peter Gallagher earned a Tony nomination for his performance opposite Jack Lemmon in "Long Days Journey Into Night" (1986). Making his Broadway debut in the musical "Grease" (1978), Gallagher has starred in such Broadway productions as "A Doll's Life" (1982), "The Real Thing" (1984), "Guys and Dolls" (1992), "Noises Off" (2001) and "The Country Girl" (2008).

The versatile actor began appearing on the big screen in the early '80s and starred in the films "The Idolmaker" (1980), "Summer Lovers" (1982), "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" (1989), "The Player" (1992), "Short Cuts" (1993), "While You Were Sleeping" (1995), "Underneath" (1995), "Last Dance" (1996), "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday" (1996), "American Beauty" (1999), "House on Haunted Hill" (1999), "Center Stage" (2000), "Perfume" (2001) and "Mr. Deeds" (2002). He will next be seen in the upcoming films "The War Boys," "Adam" and "Center Stage 2."

On the small screen, he starred in a handful of TV movies and miniseries, including "The Murder of Mary Phagan" (1988), "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" (1988), "Titanic" (1996), and "The Gathering" (2007). He is probably most recognized by TV viewers as Sandy Cohen, an idealistic public defender and the adoptive father of Benjamin McKenzie's Ryan Atwood, on the Fox teen drama "The O.C." (2003-2007).

This 5' 9" actor has been married to music video producer Paula Harwood since 1983 and has two children.

Avid Golfer

Childhood and Family:

“When I was a child, nobody I knew of ever became an actor or entertainer, it was just not something that seemed possible for regular people.” Peter Gallagher

Son of Mary, a bacteriologist, and Tom Gallagher, an advertising executive, Peter Killian Gallagher was born on August 19, 1955, in Armonk, New York. He attended Byram Hills High School and studied at Tufts University from 1973 to 1977, where he appeared in Stephen Sondheim's “Company” and sang with a group called “The Beelzebubs.” He also went to the University of California at Berkeley, in Berkeley, California, the New England Conservatory of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Actors Studio, in New York, New York.

“I was about to get a degree in economics when I accepted that I'd be a lousy businessman and if I didn't give acting a try I'd regret it for the rest of my life.” Peter Gallagher

In 1983, Gallagher married music video producer Paula Harwood. They have two children, a son named James Gallagher (born in 1990) and a daughter named Catherine Gallagher (born in July 1993). They live in a Connecticut home in the rural Litchfield County town of New Milford. Famous neighbors in the Merryall neighborhood include Diane von Furstenburg and her entertainment industry mogul husband, Barry Diller.

Gallagher is an avid golfer. He is not related to Liam Gallagher or Noel Gallagher from the British rock-group “Oasis.”

Long Days Journey Into Night


“It never occurred to me that you might sing or act for a living. I was thinking about becoming a fireman or businessman like my dad.” Peter Gallagher

While attending college, Peter Gallagher began working with local theater troupes. After graduating from Tufts University in 1977, he co-starred in a Broadway revival of the rock musical "Hair," but was released from his contract when he was cast as Danny Zuko in a Broadway production of the musical "Grease" (1978).

In the early '80s, Gallagher made his feature film debut in director Taylor Hackford's musical drama film based on the life of rock promoter/producer Bob Marucci, "The Idolmaker" (1980), alongside Ray Sharkey, Peter Gallagher, Paul Land, Tovah Feldshuh, and Joe Pantoliano. He also appeared in his first TV-movie on NBC's "Skag" (1980; starring Karl Malden) and became a regular as Malden's son John Skagska in the short-lived series.

After co-starring in the short-lived Broadway musical "A Doll's Life" (1982), Gallagher landed his first lead role, as an American who has an affair with a French woman, in writer/director Randal Kleiser's romantic "Summer Lovers" (1982; with Daryl Hannah and Valerie Quennessen).

Gallagher, who was considered for the role of Ethan in “Supergirl” (1984), had a small supporting role in the Mike Nichols-directed Broadway production of Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing" (1984; with Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, and Christine Baranski) and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor (Play) for his portrayal of Edmund Tyrone in the Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's 1956 Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatic four-act play, "Long Days Journey Into Night" (1986). He would later reprise the role in a Showtime production in 1987. He also co-starred as prosecutor John Challee in the Robert Altman-directed CBS remake of Herman Wouk's two-act play "The Caine Mutiny," "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" (1988), and portrayed Leo Frank, a factory manager unjustly convicted of murdering a little girl in Georgia in 1913, in the NBC true story-based, Emmy-winning miniseries "The Murder of Mary Phagan" (1988).

The following year, Gallagher scored the breakthrough film role of John Mullany, the husband of a sexually repressed woman (played by Andie MacDowell) who is having an affair with her sister, in writer/director Steven Soderbergh's independent film "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" (1989).

Entering the new decade, Gallagher portrayed the chief suspect of a murder in the ABC thriller "True Betrayal" (1990; opposite Mare Winningham). Afterward, he played Sky Masterson in a successful Broadway revival of the musical "Guys and Dolls" (1992) and starred as the ambitious studio executive Larry Levy in Robert Altman's film adaptation of Michael Tolkin's novel, "The Player" (1992, with Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, and Whoopi Goldberg). He also co-starred in Altman's Academy Award-nominated dramatic film inspired by nine short stories and a poem by Raymond Carver, "Short Cuts" (1993; with Fred Ward, Andie MacDowell, Bruce Davison, Tim Robbins, and Julianne Moore), which won Best Ensemble Cast Awards at the Golden Globes and the Venice Film Festival.

In the mid '90s, Gallagher teamed up again with Soderbergh to star in "Underneath" (1995), which was based on the novel "Criss Cross" by Don Tracy. He subsequently had a featured role as the former lover of Catherine Zeta-Jones' character in the Robert Lieberman-directed CBS miniseries "Titanic" (1996; also starring George C. Scott, Marilu Henner, and Tim Curry), and starred as a widower mourning his wife (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) in Michael Pressman's film adaptation of Michael Brady's play, "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday" (1996; Claire Danes played his daughter).

Gallagher spent the rest of the decade starring as psychologist Bernard Marx in the NBC miniseries based on Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel, "Brave New World" (1998), and with Bradley Whitford and Mitch Rouse in the ABC sitcom "The Secret Lives of Men" (1998). He could also be seen in the Showtime original "Brotherhood of Murder" (1999) and won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture and an Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble Cast Performance for his work in Sam Mendes' Academy Award-winning drama film set in modern American suburbia, "American Beauty" (1999; starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening).

Hitting the new millennium, Gallagher had a leading role opposite James Garner in Showtime’s original movie "The Last Debate," a political film based on the book by and co-written by journalist and writer Jim Lehrer, and played an aging choreographer and director in Nicholas Hytner's musical drama film "Center Stage," alongside Zoë Saldaña. He also lent his voice to a TV commercial for Infiniti Q45.

In 2001, Gallagher returned to Broadway to headline the revival of Michael Frayn's 1982 play "Noises Off." He also played Mandy Moore's father in "How To Deal" (2003). From 2003 to 2007, Gallagher played Sandy Cohen in the Fox teen drama "The O.C." He was a regular on the show for four seasons and earned two Teen Choice Award nominations in 2005 and 2006, both for Choice TV Parental Units (shared with on-screen wife Kelly Rowan), as well as a Prism Award nomination for Best Performance in a Drama Series Episode. His character would later be ranked #25 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" [June 20, 2004 issue].

Gallagher recently starred as a husband looking for his missing wife in the Lifetime miniseries "The Gathering" (2007) and starred in a Broadway revival of Clifford Odets's 1950 play "The Country Girl" (2008). He has completed filming "The War Boys," a dramatic film by Ron Daniels, and will soon wrap up writer/director Max Mayer's romantic movie "Adam," alongside Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne. He is currently working on a "Center Stage" sequel, "Center Stage 2," directed by Steven Jacobson.


  • Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture, "American Beauty," 2000

  • Online Film Critics Society: Best Ensemble Cast Performance, "American Beauty," 2000

  • Golden Globe: Special Award, Best Ensemble Cast, "Short Cuts," 1994

  • Venice Film Festival: Volpi Cup, Best Ensemble Cast, "Short Cuts," 1993

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