Kevin Kline Biography

Actor (1947–)
Kevin Kline is an American actor known for his versatility, from roles in Shakespearean plays to parts in dramatic films, including Sophie's Choice and A Fish Called Wanda.


Kevin Kline was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 24, 1947. He studied at Indiana University and Juilliard before he established his acting career on stage and in film. His theater resume includes Shakespearean roles, musicals and contemporary dramas. Kline won an Oscar for his turn in A Fish Called Wanda and has appeared in many other film comedies (such as Dave and In & Out), but he has also been praised for roles in various dramas, including Sophie's Choice, The Ice Storm and De-Lovely.

Early Life and Education

Kevin Delaney Kline was born on October 24, 1947, in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents, Robert Joseph and Peggy (Kirk) Kline, shared their interest in music and theater with Kline, and he began acting in school performances as a boy. He attended the St. Louis Priory School and went on to major in theater at Indiana University. After graduation, he moved to New York and entered The Juilliard School, where he studied drama from 1970 to 1972.

Stage Career

Kevin Kline followed his postgraduate work at Juilliard with four years in the newly formed repertory group The Acting Company, as welll as a stint on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Over the next decade, he established himself in the theater world, appearing in musicals, contemporary dramas and a number of Shakespearean works.

Kline was featured in well-received revivals of the musical On the Twentieth Century (1978) and comic opera The Pirates of Penzance (1981), winning Tony Awards for both. His performances in Shakespeare's comedies and dramas brought him the nickname "American Olivier"—a reference to legendary Shakespearean actor Laurence Olivier. Kline's lead roles in Shakespearean plays have included those of Hamlet, Richard III, Benedick (in Much Ado About Nothing) and King Lear.

Film Career

Kline has combined his stage work with a successful film career. His first screen role was the part of Meryl Streep's lover in the 1982 drama Sophie's Choice; the following year, he appeared as part of the ensemble cast of The Big Chill. His best-known movie is the black comedy A Fish Called Wanda, in which he played an inept criminal named Otto alongside John Cleese, Michael Palin and Jamie Lee Curtis. This performance earned him an Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1988.

Kline's more light-hearted side has also been showcased in 1990's dark comedy I Love You to Death; his portrayal of a presidential look-alike in Dave in 1993; the romantic comedy French Kiss, in which he co-starred with Meg Ryan in 1995; and In & Out (1997), in which he plays a high school teacher coming to terms with his own homosexuality. He even brought humor to the role of President Ulysses S. Grant in 1999, appearing with Will Smith in the action-comedy Wild Wild West.

At the same time, Kline has filmed a remarkable range of dramatic screen performances. He plays a journalist in apartheid-era South Africa in Cry Freedom (1987), an unfaithful husband in 1970s suburbia in The Ice Storm (1997), a cancer victim in the family drama Life as a House (2001) and songwriter Cole Porter in the 2004 biopic De-Lovely, among many other roles. More recently, he depicted Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in the historical drama The Conspirator (2011).

Personal Life

Kline lives in New York City with his wife, actress Phoebe Cates. The two met during an audition for The Big Chill in 1983, and married in 1989. They have two children: Owen (b. 1991) and Greta (b. 1994).

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