Abraham was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Maryam Bint Al-Ashud, a housewife, and Fahrid Abraham, an auto mechanic. His father was an Assyrian Christian who immigrated from Syria during the 1920s famine; his paternal grandfather was a cantor in the Syriac Orthodox Church. Abraham's mother, one of fourteen children, was an Arab American, the daughter of an immigrant who worked in the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania. Abraham was raised in El Paso, Texas, near the Mexican border, where he was a gang member during his teenage years. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, then studied acting under Uta Hagen in New York City. He began his acting career on the stage, debuting in a Los Angeles production of Ray Bradbury's The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.
Abraham can be seen as one of the undercover cops along with Al Pacino in Sidney Lumet's Serpico (1973). He also appears very early in All the President's Men as one of the police officers who arrests the Watergate burglars in the offices of the Democratic National Headquarters.
Prior to his acclaimed role in Amadeus, Abraham was perhaps best known to audiences as a talking leaf in a series of television commercials for Fruit of the Loom underwear. He worked with Pacino again in the gangster film Scarface in 1983, playing drug dealer Omar Suarez. Abraham won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984). After Amadeus he has mainly focused on classical theatre, and has starred in many Shakespearean productions such as Othello and Richard III, as well as many other plays by the likes of Samuel Beckett and Gilbert and Sullivan. He is also known for his roles in The Name of the Rose (1986), where he played Bernardo Gui, nemesis to Sean Connery's William of Baskerville, Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite (1995) and Gus Van Sant's Finding Forrester (2000), where he once again played nemesis to Connery.
Abraham has focused on stage work throughout his career, giving notable performances as Pozzo in Mike Nichols' production of Waiting for Godot, Malvolio in Twelfth Night for the New York Shakespeare Festival, and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice for a New York based theatre company called Theatre For A New Audience (TFANA) which has been performed in March 2007 at The Swan Theatre, part of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Abraham's relatively low-profile film career subsequent to his Academy Award career has been held by many as an example of the so-called "Oscar jinx." So linked is Abraham with the phenomenon of winning an Oscar and yet failing to maintain the trajectory toward a high-level film career that, according to film critic Leonard Maltin, it is referred to in "Hollywood circles as the 'F. Murray Abraham syndrome." Abraham himself rejects this notion. He once told an interviewer, "The Oscar is the single most important event of my career. I have dined with kings, shared equal billing with my idols, lectured at Harvard and Columbia. If this is a jinx, I'll take two." In the same interview, Abraham said, "Even though I won the Oscar, I can still take the subway [in New York] and nobody recognizes me. Some actors might find that disconcerting, but I find it refreshing."
Abraham has been married to Kate Hannan since 1962; they have two children. He taught Theater at Brooklyn College.
Abraham was the subject of the extremely short-lived A&E Network television series Hangin' with F. Murray Abraham. The documentary-style program detailed the actor's repeated attempts to torment James Woods, his self-declared "acting rival." The show gained brief media attention following the broadcast of its third episode, in which Abraham masqueraded about Hollywood dressed as Woods' deceased father. Upon seeing Abraham's disguise, a perplexed Woods declared that his father was alive and well in Hoboken, New Jersey and asked that Abraham "get a hobby and leave him the hell alone." The show was promptly pulled from A&E's fall lineup.
|1971||They Might Be Giants||Clyde the usher|
|1975||The Prisoner of Second Avenue||Taxi Driver|
|1976||All the President's Men||Sgt. Paul Leeper, Arresting Officer #1|
|1978||The Big Fix||Eppis|
|1984||Amadeus||Antonio Salieri||Academy Award for Best Actor|
|1986||The Name of the Rose||Bernardo Gui|
|1988||Russicum - I giorni del diavolo||aka The Third Solution|
|1989||The Favorite||Abdul Hamid||aka Intimate Power|
|An Innocent Man||Virgil Cane|
|Slipstream||Cornelius (at Museum)|
|Beyond the Stars||Dr. Harry Bertram, the Whale Man|
|Eye of the Widow||Kharoun|
|1990||The Bonfire of the Vanities||D.A. Abe Weiss||uncredited|
|La Batalla de los Tres Reyes||Osrain||aka Drums of Fire, English title|
|Cadence||Capt. Ramon Garcia||uncredited|
|1991||Mobsters||Arnold Rothstein||aka The Evil Empire|
|By the Sword||Max Suba|
|1993||Last Action Hero||John Practice|
|Through an Open Window|
|National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon||Dr. Harold Leacher|
|Surviving the Game||Wolfe Sr.|
|L’Affaire Lucien Haslans||aka The Case|
|Jamila (film)>Jamila||Older Seit|
|Dillinger and Capone||Al Capone|
|Baby Face Nelson||Al Capone|
|1996||Children of the Revolution||Josef ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin|
|1998||Star Trek: Insurrection||Ad’har Ru’afo|
|1999||Excellent Cadavers||Tommaso Buscetta|
|The All New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy in 'For Love or Mummy'||Prof. Covington|
|Muppets From Space||Noah|
|2000||Finding Forrester||Prof. Robert Crawford|
|2001||Th13een Ghosts||Cyrus Kriticos|
|I Cavalieri che fecero l'impresa||Delfinello da Coverzano||aka The Knights of the Quest USA title|
|Ticker||Airport Guru||aka The Hire: Ticker|
|2003||My Father, Rua Alguem 5555||Paul Minsky||aka Josef Mengele – My Father|
|Piazza delle cinque lune||Entita||aka Five Moons Plaza - English title|
|2004||The Bridge of San Luis Rey||Viceroy of Peru|
|Peperoni ripieni e pesci in faccia||Jeffrey||aka Too Much Romance... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers – USA title|
|Another Way of Seeing Things||Narrator|
|2006||L’Inchiesta||Nathan||aka The Inquiry – English title|
|Quiet Flows the Don||Pantaley|
|Il Mercante di pietre||Shahid||aka The Stone Merchant – English title|
|A House Divided||Grandfather Wahid|
|2007||Carnera: The Walking Mountain||Leon See|
|Come le formiche||Ruggero||aka Wine and Kisses – English title|