Tom Berenger Biography

Actor, Television Actor, Film Actor (1949–)
American actor Tom Berenger is best known for playing the hard-drinking TV star in the The Big Chill, the sexy killer in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and violent Hatfield clan member Jim Vance in the TV miniseries Hatfields & McCoys.


Born in Chicago, Illinois, on May 31, 1949, Thomas Michael Moore later became known as actor Tom Berenger. He studied journalism, but a role in a college production of Edward Albee's Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? changed his life. Berenger’s first film role was as a sexy killer in the racy Looking for Mr. Goodbar, leading to other notable appearances. He won the 2012 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for the TV hit Hatfields & McCoys.

Early Life

Emmy Award-winning actor Tom Berenger was born Thomas Michael Moore on May 31, 1949, to an Irish Catholic family in Chicago, Illinois. His father worked as a traveling salesman and as a printer for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. Berenger studied journalism at the University of Missouri, but changed course after a transformative experience performing in a college production of Edward Albee's classic play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Once he decided to pursue acting, he discovered there was already a "Tom Moore" among the membership of Actors’ Equity. He chose "Berenger" as a professional surname after a school friend. Upon moving to New York City in the 1970s after college, he studied acting with the legendary Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof at the Herbert Berghof Studio, while working in off-Broadway productions. Prior to making his acting breakthrough, Berenger worked as a hotel bellman and as a flight attendant for now-defunct Eastern Airlines.

Acting Career

After working in soap operas, including One Life to Live, Berenger scored his first big film role, as a sexy killer in the controversial Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977), opposite star Diane Keaton. He became known for his rough-hewn attractiveness, and for memorable, testosterone-fueled portrayals, such as the Tom Selleck–like television star, Sam, in the generational hit The Big Chill (1983), and the Vietnam War–torn Sergeant Barnes in Platoon (1986), for which Berenger won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He also appeared in such popular films as Major League (1989) and his friend Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July (1989), opposite Tom Cruise.

Though he has established himself as a credible leading man in the movies, Berenger has kept up his profile on television as well. He has had ongoing guest-starring roles on such top TV hits as Third Watch, Law & Order and Ally McBeal. He was also featured as Don, a plumber who wins Kirstie Alley’s heart, in the final episodes of the smash series Cheers. Berenger won a 2012 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for playing Jim Vance in the hit History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, opposite Kevin Costner.

Personal Life

Berenger has six children (Allison, born in 1977; Patrick, b. 1978; Chelsea, b. 1987; Chloe, b. 1988; Shiloh, b. 1995; and Scout, b. 1998), and has been married three times. In addition to English, he is fluent in Spanish and Italian. He is also a major world history buff.

The actor established the Tom Berenger Acting Scholarship Fund in 1988 to recognize acting students for excellence in theater performance.

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