David Strathairn Biography

Actor (1949–)
David Strathairn is an American actor best known for his Oscar-nominated role in Good Night, and Good Luck, and performances in We Are Marshall, The Bourne Ultimatum, Temple Grandin and Lincoln.


Born in San Francisco on January 26, 1949, David Strathairn's film debut was in Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980). Other small roles followed, including on television's Miami Vice, and in the films Silkwood and Matewan. Strathairn moved to bigger movie roles in the '90s, acting in City of Hope, The River Wild, Losing Isaiah and Limbo, among various other films. Strathairn was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck (2005). He went on to star in films like We Are Marshall, The Bourne Ultimatum and Temple Grandin, and was cast as U.S. politician William Seward in the Steven Spielberg-directed biopic Lincoln (2012).

Early Career

David Russell Strathairn was born in San Francisco, California, on January 26, 1949, to Thomas and Mary (Frazier) Strathairn. After graduating from high school, Strathairn enrolled at Williams College, a small liberal-arts school in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he met film director John Sayles. Following his graduation from Williams College, he trained at Florida's Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

Strathairn's big-screen debut came in 1980 with Return of the Secaucus Seven, a film directed by Sayles. He went on to land small parts in various films, including Silkwood (1983); Matewan (1987), with Chris Cooper and James Earl Jones; and Dominick and Eugene (1988), with Ray Liotta and Jamie Lee Curtis. Matewan, (1987), and Eight Men Out (1988). He also appeared on television around this time, including on the popular crime series Miami Vice and the show Spenser: For Hire.

Recent Roles

In the 1990s, Straithairn established his reputation as a serious actor. He was cast in a number of widely acclaimed TV miniseries and feature films throughout the decade, including the John Sayles-directed drama City of Hope (1991), which sheds light on a city's racial and political problems; The River Wild (1994), with Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon and John C. Riley; Losing Isaiah (1995), with Halle Berry and Jessica Lange; and Limbo (1999), another Sayles film, with Kris Kristofferson.

In 2006, Strathairn was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of radio personality Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), directed by actor/filmmaker George Clooney. He went on to star in the feature films We Are Marshall, The Bourne Ultimatum and Temple Grandin, among several other roles.

More recently, Strathairn earned a part as American politician William Seward—the U.S. secretary of state who served under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson—in Lincoln (2012), the Steven Spielberg-directed biopic of the famous Civil War president, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. Other cast members of Lincoln include Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and John Hawkes. 

In 2014, Strathairn starred as Admiral William Stenz in latest remake of Godzilla.

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