William H. Macy

William Hall Macy, Jr. (born March 13, 1950) is an Academy Award-nominated, double Emmy- and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning American actor. He is also a teacher and director in theater, film and television. His film career has been built mostly on his appearances in small, independent films, though he has appeared in summer action films as well. Macy has described his screen persona as "sort of a Middle American, WASPy, Lutheran kind of guy... Everyman".


Early life

Macy was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Georgia and Maryland. His father, William Hall Macy, Sr., was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal for flying a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in World War II; he later ran a construction company in Atlanta and worked for Dun & Bradstreet before taking over a Cumberland, Maryland-based insurance agency when Macy was nine years old. His mother, Lois, was a war widow who met Macy's father after her first husband died in 1943; Macy has described her as a "Southern belle". Macy has a half-brother, Fred Merrill, from his mother's first marriage.

Macy describes himself as a "jokester", though he was relatively shy until high school. After his brother taught him to play guitar, he sang a song in a talent show, much to the crowd's approval. He later ran for class president, though he had a poor academic record. After graduating in 1968 from Allegany High School in Cumberland, Maryland, he participated in the anti-war hippie movement, and took copious amounts of drugs, including marijuana and LSD. Macy studied veterinary medicine at Bethany College of West Virginia. By his own admission, a "wretched student," he transferred to Goddard College and became involved in theatre. He moved to Chicago, Illinois, after graduating in 1971 and got a job as a bartender to pay the rent. Within a year he and David Mamet, among others, founded the successful St. Nicholas Theater Company, where Macy originated roles in a number of Mamet's plays, such as American Buffalo and The Water Engine.


After spending some time in Los Angeles, California, he moved to New York in 1980. While living there he had roles in over fifty off-Broadway and Broadway plays. One of his on-screen roles was as a turtle named Socrates in the direct to video film, The Boy Who Loved Trolls (1984), under the name W. H. Macy. He has appeared in films that Mamet wrote and/or directed, such as House of Games, Things Change, Homicide, Oleanna (playing a role he reprised after originating the role in the play of the same name), and more recently, Wag the Dog, State and Main, and Spartan.

Macy may be best known for his lead role in Fargo, in a role for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and helped boost his career and recognizability. His film work also includes Benny & Joon, Above Suspicion, Mr. Holland's Opus, Ghosts of Mississippi, Air Force One, Boogie Nights, Pleasantville, Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho, Happy, Texas, Mystery Men, Magnolia, Jurassic Park III, Focus, Panic, Welcome to Collinwood, Seabiscuit, The Cooler, and Sahara.

Macy has also had a number of roles on television, the most recent being a guest appearance on The Unit as the President of the United States. In 2003, he won two Emmy Awards, one for starring in the lead role and one as co-writer of the made-for-TNT film Door to Door. Door to Door is a drama based on the true story of Bill Porter, a door-to-door salesman in Portland, Oregon, born with cerebral palsy. The film is composed of several stories, each taking up a whole period between commercials.

His work on ER and Sports Night has also been recognized with Emmy nominations. His character in ER, David Morgenstern, is responsible for a sage piece of advice that has been handed down throughout the series. In the pilot episode, when Juliana Margulies' character, nurse Carol Hathaway, is brought to the hospital with a drug overdose, Morgenstern tells Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) that he needs to "set the tone" to get the unit through the difficulty of treating one of its own. "You set the tone" is repeated several times in the series, once jokingly by Doug Ross (George Clooney) to Greene and at two other key moments. When Greene, dying from a brain tumor, leaves the ER for the last time, he tells Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle), "You set the tone, Carter." It was a moment that represented the passing of the torch. And a few seasons later, in Carter's farewell episode, he passes a drunk and nauseous Dr. Morris (Scott Grimes), a notoriously bumbling character on the show, and tells him, "You set the tone, Morris." to which an ailing Morris replies, "What?" Carter, realizing that Morris is, to say the least, not cut out of the mold of Morgenstern and Greene, smiles and tells him, "Never mind."

In a November 2003 interview with USA Today, Macy stated that he wants to star in a big-budget action movie "for the money, for the security of a franchise like that". He serves as director-in-residence at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York, where he teaches a technique called Practical Aesthetics. A book describing the technique, A Practical Handbook for the Actor (ISBN 0-394-74412-8), is dedicated to Macy and Mamet.

In 2007 Macy starred in Wild Hogs, a film about middle-aged men reliving their youthful days by taking to the open road on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles from Cincinnati to the Pacific Coast. Macy will appear as David "Boom Boom" Curran, a character loosely based on Donald Trump, in the film Yes Man set to release in 2009. He recently completed filming on The Lonely Maiden, a comedy that co-stars Morgan Freeman and Christopher Walken.

On June 23, 2008, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced Macy and his wife, Felicity Huffman, will each receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the upcoming year.

Personal life

Since 1997, Macy has been married to Academy Award nominated actress Felicity Huffman. The couple have two daughters, Sofia Grace (born August 1, 2000) and Georgia Grace (born March 14, 2002). They live in Los Angeles, California, and have had a cabin in Vermont since the 1980s. Macy is a Lutheran. He is known for his liberal leanings; he and Huffman appeared at a rally for John Kerry in 2004. Macy also plays the ukulele and is an avid woodturner, even appearing on the cover of the specialist magazine Fine Woodworking. He is a national ambassador for the United Cerebral Palsy Association.

Macy in popular culture

American post-punk/pop dance band, Head Automatica, perform a song entitled 'I Shot William H. Macy', appearing on their 2004 album, Decadence. During their recent 2006 'Lashings of Lucifer' tour, amongst many big name bands, including Taking Back Sunday and Angels & Airwaves, upon playing this song, crowds replied with cheers and shouts of "hang H. Macy" à la The Smiths' 1986 single, 'Panic'. There is also a popular joke from The Colbert Report in which Stephen Colbert combines Macy and his wife's name into "Filliam H. Muffman", as a jab at celebrity couples getting nicknamed by the media.

The writers and producers of The Simpsons have noted that, if a live-action version of the franchise were ever made, he would be the perfect choice to portray Ned Flanders. He made a guest appearance as himself on the Season 17 episode "Homer's Paternity Coot."



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