Don Johnson Biography

Actor, Television Actor, Film Actor (1949–)
Don Johnson is an actor who rose quickly to fame as undercover police office Sonny Crockett on the hit TV series Miami Vice.


After a few memorable film roles in the 1970s, Don Johnson landed the part of a lifetime in 1984 as Sonny Crockett on TV’s Miami Vice. The series lasted until 1989, earning Johnson a Golden Globe Award and celebrity status. He followed the series with performances in TV movies, including The Long Hot Summer. During the 1990s, Johnson enjoyed another career renaissance as the star of Nash Bridges.

Early Life

Actor, director, musician and producer Don Johnson was born Donald Wayne Johnson on December 15, 1949, in Flat Creek, Missouri. Johnson's father was a farmer and his mother was a beautician. A professional actor by his late teens, Johnson's earliest stage and screen assignments frequently found him cast as a fallen innocent.

After graduating from Kansas' South High School in 1967, Johnson briefly attended the University of Kansas, and later enrolled in acting courses at the American Conservatory Theatre. Around this time, in 1970, he gained national attention as the 20-year-old star of the counterculture comedy The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart. He went on to win critical and popular acclaim with the cult favorite A Boy and His Dog in 1975.

'Miami Vice' and 'Nash Bridges'

Following the release of A Boy and His Dog, Johnson fell off the radar for more than a decade, not making his comeback until 1984, with the role of Sonny Crockett in the trend-setting TV cop series Miami Vice. The series lasted until 1989, earning Johnson a Golden Globe Award and celebrity status. He followed the series with memorable performances in TV movies, including as Ben Quick in the 1985 remake of The Long Hot Summer.

Johnson went on to enjoy another career renaissance in 1996, debuting as the star of the detective show Nash Bridges, which was filmed on the West Coast. That same year, he played Kevin Costner's adversary in the Ron Shelton golf comedy Tin Cup (1996). Quickly proving to be a hit with audiences, Nash Bridges' continued to garner popularity for several years thereafter, running until 2001.

Johnson returned to series television in the early 2000s, starring as a gruff, burnt out lawyer named Grant Cooper on 2005's Just Legal. On the show, Cooper takes on a 18-year-old law school graduate as his associate, Skip Ross (played by Jay Baruchel), who helps revive Cooper's interest in the law. Unfortunately, Just Legal was canceled after only a few episodes.

Making Headlines

In recent years, Johnson has made headlines for his financial troubles. In 2003, Johnson was pulled over while driving in Europe with three friends, and when officers searched his vehicle, they found a suitcase containing an estimated $8 billion worth of financial documents. After Johnson told officials that the documents belonged to potential investors for a film project—an explanation spurring wide speculation—he and his companions were free to go.

Three years later, in 2006, Johnson almost lost his Aspen, Colorado ranch due to his unpaid debt to a lending company. He was able to stop the foreclosure by making a payment of $14.5 million.

In 2010, Johnson filed a lawsuit against Rysher Entertainment, the production company behind Nash Bridges, citing a major discrepancy between his Bridges paycheck and the contract he signed with Rysher in 1995. Under his contract, the actor was entitled to half-ownership of the series as long as it aired at least 66 episodes. When the series ended in 2001, it had seen 122. When a jury sided with Johnson in 2010, he was awarded more than $50 million in profits and interest. Rysher subsequently appealed the case, and the legal battle continued for nearly three years thereafter. It finally ended in February 2013, when Rysher proposed a settlement of $15 million plus interest, and Johnson agreed.

Recent Projects

In 2010 Johnson appeared in a supporting role on HBO's Eastbound and Down and two years later in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. He's also made cameo appearances in films and commercials. In 2015 he starred in ABC's Blood and Oil as an oil tycoon.

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