Dylan McDermott was encouraged in his acting career by his stepmother, playwright Eve Ensler. Once he started getting film roles, McDermott swung from successes like Steel Magnolias to flops like Where Sleeping Dogs Lie. Highlights include In the Line of Fire with Clint Eastwood and Hamburger Hill. On television, McDermott had more success, spending several seasons on David E. Kelley's The Practice.
Born Mark Anthony McDermott on October 26, 1961, in Waterbury, Connecticut, Dylan McDermott's mother passed away when he was 5 years old, leaving him in the care of his grandmother. At the age of 17, he moved to New York City to live with his father, who owned several Irish pubs in Greenwich Village.
McDermott's world opened up to the intrigue of theatre and acting when his father married successful playwright Eve Ensler. Sensing the potential of her stepson (whom she eventually adopted), Ensler wrote a part for the young McDermott into her play Believe It, See It, Survival. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled as a drama major at Fordham University, then continued studying with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse.
Upon completion of his studies, Dylan McDermott dove headfirst into the New York theatre scene, making his Broadway debut in a 1985 production of Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues. His impressive portrayal of Wykowski Selridge got him noticed, then cast in director John Irvin's raw Vietnam drama Hamburger Hill, for which he had to undergo several months of rigorous military training to prepare. Unfortunately, McDermott followed up his effective performance with several lukewarm roles: the 1988 comedies The Blue Iguana and Twister, and television's The Neon Empire and Into the Badlands were all duds. This would set the pattern of McDermott's roller-coaster ride of a career for the next few years-alternating successes with disappointments.
Career Ups and Downs
McDermott's next film role, in 1989's Steel Magnolias, pushed him into the spotlight as both the on-and-off-screen love interest of the comely Hollywood newcomer Julia Roberts. Their engagement following completion of the film ended abruptly when Roberts fell for co-star Keifer Sutherland on the set of her next film, Flatliners. Despite the incident, the movie's success made McDermott a recognizable Hollywood name. The actor subsequently weathered more flops with Hardware and Where Sleeping Dogs Lie to finally capture a small but exciting role alongside Clint Eastwood in the critically acclaimed action/drama, In the Line of Fire.
Unfortunately, the pendulum swung once again, and McDermott made yet more unfavorable career moves, appearing in a 1994 John Hughes remake of Miracle on 34th Street and alongside romantic foe Keifer Sutherland in the foolish comedy, The Cowboy Way. A well-received turn as Holly Hunter's romantic interest in Jodie Foster's Home for the Holidays was notable among such box-office disasters as Destiny Turns on the Radio, 'Til There was You, and Three to Tango with Neve Campbell and Matthew Perry.
However in 1997, fortune finally smiled on Dylan McDermott in the form of a role on the hit TV drama The Practice. Playing defense lawyer Bobby Donnell, the head of a small Boston law firm, McDermott immediately attracted favorable attention and garnered a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination. The show, produced by David E. Kelley, has become increasingly popular and survived several seasons despite fierce competition, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe in 1999 for best drama series. However, in 2003, McDermott and five other cast members of The Practice left the series after Kelley decided not to pick up their options in an effort to reduce the show's budget.
In 1995, McDermott married theatre actress Shiva Afshar, whom he met in a Santa Monica coffee shop. He claims that he immediately knew she was "the one." Two children later, McDermott and Ashfar were separated in 2007.
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