Brian Dennehy

Brian Dennehy

Brian Mannion Dennehy (born July 9, 1938) is an American two-time Tony Award-winning actor who has appeared in movies, on television, and performed in live theater.


Early life

Dennehy was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Hannah and Edward Dennehy, who was a wire service doctor for the Associated Press; he has two brothers, Michael and Edward. The family relocated to Long Island, New York, where Dennehy attended Chaminade High School in the town of Mineola.

Rather than immediately chase his dreams of stage and screen, Dennehy enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1959, actively serving until 1963. He went on to attend Columbia on a football scholarship to major in history, where he also became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, before moving on to Yale to study dramatic arts. He played rugby for Old Blue RFC.


Dennehy is primarily known as a dramatic actor. His breakthrough role was as the overzealous Sheriff Will Teasle in First Blood (1982) opposite Sylvester Stallone as Rambo. His other roles include a corrupt sheriff in the western Silverado, and an alien in Cocoon, both released in 1985. He later played memorable supporting parts in such films as Legal Eagles (1986), F/X - Murder By Illusion (1986), Presumed Innocent (1990) and F/X2 - The Deadly Art Of Illusion (1991).

During the 1980s, Dennehy gradually became a valuable character actor in films and subsequently gained leading man status in the thriller Best Seller (1987) co-starring James Woods. He gained his arthouse spurs when he starred in the Peter Greenaway film The Belly of an Architect, for which he won the Best Actor Award at the 1987 Chicago International Film Festival. Commenting upon this unusual venture, Dennehy said, "I've been in a lot of movies but this is the first film I've made."

Perhaps one of his most well known roles was in the 1995 Chris Farley-David Spade comedy Tommy Boy as Big Tom Callahan.

Two of his earliest roles were in 10 with Bo Derek and Dudley Moore and Foul Play with Chevy Chase. Later, he would again star with Bo Derek in "Tommy Boy."

He also has had a role in the recent movie Ratatouille as Django, Remy's Father.

His film credits, in chronological order:
Semi-Tough (1977) - T. J. Lambert (film debut)
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) - Surgeon
Bumpers (1977) - Ernie Stapp
Foul Play (1978) - Fergie
F.I.S.T. (1978) - Frank Vasco
10 (1979) - '' Don the bartender
Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979) - O. C. Hanks
Little Miss Marker (1980) - Herbie
Split Image (1982) - Kevin Stetson
Rambo: First Blood (1982) - Sheriff Will Teasle
Gorky Park (1983) - William Kirwill
Never Cry Wolf (1983) - Rosie Little
Finders Keepers (1984) - Mayor Frizzoli
The River Rat (1984) - Doc Cole
Silverado (1985) - Sheriff Cobb
Cocoon (1985) - Walter
Twice in a Lifetime (1985) - Nick
The Check Is in the Mail (1985) - Richard Jackson
F/X (1986) - Lt. Leo McCarthy
Legal Eagles (1986) - C. J. Cavanaugh
The Belly of an Architect (1987) - Stourley Kracklite
Best Seller (1987) - Lt. Dennis Meechum
Miles from Home (1988) - Frank Roberts Sr.
The Man from Snowy River II (1988) - Harrison
Cocoon: The Return (1988) - Walter
Seven Minutes (1989) - Wagner
Indio (1990) - Whytaker
The Last of the Finest (1990) - Frank Daly
Presumed Innocent (1990) - Raymond Horgan
F/X2 (1991) - Leo McCarthy
Gladiator (1992) - Jimmy Horn
Tommy Boy (1995) - Big Tom Callahan II
The Stars Fell on Henrietta (1995) - Big Dave McDermot
William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996) - Ted Montague
Dish Dogs (1998) - Frost
The Virtuoso (1999) -
Gilligan's Island: The Movie (1999) - The Skipper
Out of the Cold (1999) - David Bards
Silicon Towers (1999) -
Summer Catch (2001) - John Schiffner
Stolen Summer (2002) - Father Kelly
Code Yellow: Hospital at Ground Zero (2002) - Narrator
Drawing First Blood (2002 documentary short) - Himself
She Hate Me (2004) - Chairman Billy Church
Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) - Jasper O'Shea
Tommy Boy: Behind the Laughter (2005 documentary short) - Himself
10th and Wolf (2005) - Horvath
The Ultimate Gift (2006) - Gus
Yankee Irving (2006) - Voice of Babe Ruth
Ratatouille (2007) - Father
Righteous Kill (2008) - Lieutenant Hingus


Dennehy began his professional acting career in small guest roles in such 1970s and 1980s series as Kojak, Lou Grant, Dallas and Dynasty. He also appeared in an episode of "Miami Vice" during the 1987-88 season.

Dennehy portrayed Sergeant Ned T. "Frozen Chosen" Coleman in the television movie A Rumor of War (1980) opposite Brad Davis. He continued to appear in such high-profile television movies as Skokie (1981), Day One (1989), A Killing in a Small Town (1990) opposite Barbara Hershey, In Broad Daylight (1991), Scott Turow's The Burden of Proof, and the miniseries A Season in Purgatory. He also played a convincing Jackie Presser in HBO's Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story.

Dennehy also had a lead role as fire chief/celebrity dad Leslie "Buddy" Krebs in the short-lived 1982 series Star Of The Family. Despite his star power, that show was cancelled after two seasons.

Dennehy was nominated for Emmy Awards six times for his television movies including one for his performance as John Wayne Gacy, for which he was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie. He was also nominated that same year in a different category, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie, for The Burden of Proof (1992). He was also nominated for an Emmy for his work in A Killing in a Small Town, Murder in the Heartland (1993) and, most recently, for the Showtime cable TV movie Our Fathers (2005), which was about the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

In 2000, Dennehy was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie for a television presentation of his performance as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman which he had performed on Broadway. Although he did not win the Emmy (he has yet to win an Emmy), he did receive a Golden Globe award for the presentation.

He has starred in the popular crime drama Jack Reed TV movies. He also appeared as a recurring character in the NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me!

Dennehy was parodied in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999) and an episode of The Simpsons.

In January 2007, he starred as a retired criminal who wants to reconnect with his daughter and admit his crimes thus eventually clearing a wrongfully imprisoned inmate on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In April 2008, Dennehy guest-starred as a Teamster boss named "Mickey" in an episode of "30 Rock".

Dennehy is currently shooting footage for his upcoming mini-series on the History Channel called "Brian Dennehy's America." The show follows Dennehy as he explores the states, from his boyhood home in New England, all the way to the Pacific Northwest, interviewing the locals about why they love their state.

Dennehy will guest-star in an episode of Rules of Engagement in the Fall 2008 season as the father of the main character, Jeff.

Television appearances in chronological order:
It Happened at Lakewood Manor (1977 TV movie) - Fire Chief
Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye (1977 TV movie) - Longshoreman
Pearl (1978 mini-series) - Sgt. Otto Chain
A Real American Hero (1978 TV movie) - Buford Pusser
A Death in Canaan (1978 TV movie) - Barney Parsons
Ruby and Oswald (1978 TV movie) - George Paulsen
Dummy (1979 TV movie) - Ragoti
Big Shamus, Little Shamus (1979) - Arnie Sutter
The Jericho Mile (1979 TV movie) - Dr. D
Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story (1979 TV movie) - Mr. O'Neil
A Rumor of War (1980 TV movie) - Sgt. Ned Coleman
The Seduction of Miss Leona (1980 TV movie) - Bliss Dawson
Dynasty (1981) - DA Jake Dunham
Skokie (1981 TV movie) - Chief Arthur Buchanan
Fly Away Home (1981 TV movie) - Tim Arnold
I Take These Men (1983 TV movie) - Phil Zakarian
Blood Feud (1983 mini-series) - Edward Grady Partin
Off Sides (1984 TV movie) - Sgt. Cheever
Evergreen (1985) - Matthew Malone
The Last Place on Earth (1985) - Frederick Cook
Acceptable Risks (1986 TV movie) - Don Sheppard
The Lion of Africa (1987 TV movie) - Samuel Marsh
A Father's Revenge (1988 TV movie) - Paul Hobart
Perfect Witness (1989 TV movie) - James Falcon
A Killing in a Small Town (1990 TV movie) - Ed Reivers
Rising Son (1990 TV movie) - Gus Robinson
Pride and Extreme Prejudice (1990 TV movie) - Bruno Morenz
In Broad Daylight (1991 TV movie) - Len Rowan
The Diamond Fleece (1992 TV movie) - Lt. Merritt Outlaw
Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story (1992 TV movie) - Jackie Presser
To Catch a Killer (1992) - John Wayne Gacy
The Burden of Proof (1992 TV movie) - Dixon Hartnell
Deadly Matrimony (1992 TV movie) - Sgt. Jack Reed
Foreign Affairs (1993 TV movie) - Chuck Mumpson
Prophet of Evil: The Ervin LaBaron Story (1993 TV movie) - Ervil LaBaron
Final Appeal (1993 TV movie) - Perry Sundquist
Jack Reed: Badge of Honor (1993 TV movie) - Jack Reed
Murder in the Heartland (1993) - John McArthur
Birdland (1994) - Dr. Brian McKenzie
Leave of Absence (1994 TV movie) - Sam
Midnight Movie (1994 TV movie) - James Boyce
Jack Reed: A Search for Justice (1994 TV movie) - Jack Reed
Jack Reed: One of Our Own (1995 TV movie) - Jack Reed
Shadow of A Doubt (1995 TV movie) - Charlie Sloan
Jack Reed: A Killer Among Us (1996 TV movie) - Jack Reed
Jack Reed: Death and Vengeance (1996 TV movie) - Jack Reed
A Season in Purgatory (1996) - Gerald Bradley
Dead Man's Walk (1996 mini-series) - Maj. Chavallie
Undue Influence (1996 mini-series) - Paul Madriani
Nostromo (mini-series) (1997) - Joshua C. Holyrod
Indefensible: The Truth about Edward Brannigan (1997 TV movie) - Eddie Brannigan
Voyage of Terror (1998 TV movie) - U.S. President
Thanks of a Grateful Nation (1998 TV movie) - Senator Riegle
Netforce (1999 TV movie) - Lowell Davidson
Sirens (1999 TV movie) - Lt. Denby
Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke (1999 mini-series) - Louis Bromfield
Fail Safe (2000 TV movie) - Gen. Bogan
Arrest & Trial (2000) - Host
Warden of Red Rock (2001 TV movie) - Sheriff Church
Three Blind Mice (2001 TV movie) - Mathew Hope
Death of a Salesman (2001) - Fitzgerald
A Season on the Brink (2002 TV movie) - Bobby Knight
The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron (2003 TV movie) - Mr. Blue
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2003 TV movie) - Tom Stone
Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of "Three's Company" (2003 TV movie) - Fred Silverman
Category 6: Day of Destruction (2004 TV movie) - Andy Goodman
The Exonerated (2005 TV movie) - Gary Gauger
Our Fathers (2005 TV movie) - Father Dominic Spagnolia

Dennehy has also worked in many television specials and pilots. He has appeared in many episodes of other television series. Brian once played an extra in the video for 'The king of rock 'n' roll' by musical legends Prefab Sprout.


Dennehy has won two Tony Awards, both times for Best Lead Actor in a Play. The first win was for Death of a Salesman (for which he also won a Laurence Olivier Award for the production's London run), in 1999, and the second was for Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night in 2003. Both productions were directed by Robert Falls and were originally produced at the Goodman Theatre company in Chicago.

On stage, Dennehy has made frequent performances in the Chicago theatre world, and made his Broadway debut in 1995 in Brian Friel's Translations. In 1999, he was the first male performer to be voted the Sarah Siddons Award for his work in Chicago theatre. He made a return to Broadway in 2007 as Matthew Harrison Brady in Inherit the Wind opposite Christopher Plummer. In 2008, Dennehy will appear at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, appearing in All's Well That Ends Well and a double bill of plays by Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape and Eugene O'Neill's Hughie.

Fabrication of military service in Vietnam

In 1989, Dennehy told the New York Times that he received shrapnel wounds in the Vietnam War. In 1993, he told Playboy that he served five years in Vietnam. It was revealed, however, that he never served in Vietnam at all. In actuality, he served during peacetime in the Marine Corps from 1959-1963; with Okinawa being his only overseas service. In 1999, Dennehy apologized for the fabricated stories.

Personal life

At one point, Dennehy resided at West Gilgo Beach, Long Island NY and is currently a resident of Woodstock, Connecticut. He is the father of actresses Elizabeth Dennehy and Kathleen Dennehy.

Dennehy has undergone the Lap Band weight loss procedure, being an early entry on the growing list of celebrity lap band recipients.


External links

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