Who Is William H. Macy?
William H. Macy made his film debut in Somewhere in Time (1980). In 1991, he had a leading role on Homicide, which earned him good reviews and raised his profile in Hollywood. His career got an even bigger boost when he joined the cast of ER in 1994. In 1996, Macy landed a memorable role in Fargo, and a slew of other high-profile films followed. Beginning in 2011, the actor regularly earned Emmy and Golden Globe consideration for his leading role on Shameless.
Training Under David Mamet
Actor, writer, producer and director William Hall Macy was born on March 13, 1950, in Miami, Florida. Macy first discovered acting in high school, performing in a production of Camelot.
At first, Macy attended Bethany College where he studied veterinary medicine. He later transferred to Goddard College in Vermont to pursue his interest in theater. There, Macy studied with David Mamet, an up-and-coming playwright at the time. "He was tough as nails, and boy, am I lucky. He gave us a work ethic that is not common in this business," he later explained.
After graduating in 1972, Macy spent some time in California before joining Mamet in Chicago. They formed the St. Nicholas Theater Company there, and Macy appeared in several productions of Mamet's works. He became an expert at delivering Mamet's distinct dialogue style -- quick, punchy and curse-laden.
On the Big Screen
Macy made his first film appearance in the romantic drama Somewhere in Time (1980) in a bit part. Living in New York, he had better luck in the theater. Macy landed roles in a number of off-Broadway shows. He also did voice-over and commercial work, and worked as an instructor with Mamet at New York University for a time. The two started the Atlantic Theater Company together in 1985, and Macy directed a number of the company's productions including Mamet's Radio: An Evening of Sketches and Anton Chekov's Three Sisters.
In 1991, Macy had a leading role in the David Mamet film Homicide, which earned him good reviews and raised his profile in Hollywood. His career got an even bigger boost when he joined the cast of the medical drama ER in 1994. He played Dr. David Morgenstern, the head doctor of County General Hospital's emergency room. Leaving the hit show after the second season, Macy netted an Emmy Award nomination for a guest appearance he did on the series in 1997.
Working again with Mamet, Macy appeared in the 1994 film Oleanna. He played a college professor in a contentious relationship with a female student. But Macy's big film breakthrough came from working with filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen. They cast Macy as a down-on-his-luck car salesman who stages his wife's kidnapping in the dark comedy Fargo (1996). Frances McDormand played a pregnant detective working the case. Both actors gave stellar performances, and both were nominated for Academy Awards.
More film roles soon followed. In the action hit Air Force One (1997), Macy played a military officer. He then played a CIA agent in the political spoof Wag the Dog (1997) and a porn film director in Boogie Nights (1997). For Pleasantville (1998), Macy played a father from a 1950s television show who becomes unnerved by changes in his family brought on by the arrival of teenagers from the late 1990s (played by Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire).
Back on television, Macy appeared on several episodes of the Aaron Sorkin comedy Sports Night, which starred his wife, actress Felicity Huffman. The two also worked together on the 1999 television movie A Slight Case of Murder, which Macy wrote. His roles on both programs earned him Emmy Award nominations.
In 2002, Macy wrote and starred in the inspirational television movie, Door to Door, with co-star Helen Mirren. The film, which is based on a true-life story, focused on the story of a man afflicted with cerebral palsy who finds unlikely success as a door-to-door salesman. Carla Meyer, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, praised Macy. He "never panders to his character. He adopts a stooped walk and big prosthetic ears to play Porter, but the props soon fade away. The actor captures his character's natural salesmanship with determined eyes, delighted grin and quick show of temper at any hint of condescension." For his work on the movie, Macy won two Emmy Awards in 2003, one as a writer and the other as an actor.
That same year, Macy starred in The Cooler with Maria Bello and Alec Baldwin. He played a downtrodden man who breaks other people's lucky streaks at a casino just by his very presence. His character's luck starts to change, however, when he starts a relationship with a waitress (played by Bello). Often called upon to play such characters, Macy explained to Newsweek why he thinks he gets cast in these types of roles. "I think I have a knack for letting people see what's going on in those losers that I play. And I look funny, and it doesn't hurt to get a laugh when you walk on."
Making the most out of smaller roles, Macy did a memorable turn as a horse-racing announcer in the 2003 hit Seabiscuit. He also appeared as a senator in the dark comedy Thank You for Smoking (2005). Macy took the lead, however, in the television movie The Wool Cap, which he adapted from the 1962 comedic film Gigot starring Jackie Gleason. He played Gigot, a troubled mute who reluctantly ends up taking care of a child abandoned by her mother.
Tackling lighter fare, Macy starred with John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and Tim Allen in the middle-aged motorcyclist comedy Wild Hogs (2007). The film proved to be so popular that a sequel is reportedly in the works. One of his latest projects did not fare so well, however. Maiden Heist starred Macy, Morgan Freeman and Christopher Walken as museum security guards who steal back works of art moved from their workplace. Despite the stellar cast, the film ended up going straight to DVD in the United States in 2009.
That same year, Macy agreed to help complete the run of Speed-the-Plow, helping to fill in for actor Jeremy Piven after Piven left the show due to health issues.
Macy has worked on a number of projects for children. He lent his voice to the 2006 animated feature film Doogal and The Tale of Despereaux (2008) and narrated the first season of the Curious George television series. Macy also appeared in the live-action film Marmaduke (2010), based on the popular comic strip.
In 2011, Macy returned to television starring as Frank Gallagher, the father of a dysfunctional Chicago family, for the Showtime series Shameless. He won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his work on the show in 2014, and also garnered multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations in the lead actor categories.
Macy married actress Felicity Huffman in 1997. The couple has two children together, daughters Sophia and Georgia. They currently reside in Los Angeles.
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