Birthdate: August 11, 1974
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Chris Messina (birthname: Christopher Messina) is one of the busiest and most sought-after (mainly) supporting actors, particularly in acclaimed American indie movies, working with such directors as John Dahl, Ed Zwick, Nora Ephron, Alan Ball, Woody Allen, John Krasinski, Sam Mendes, Noah Baumbach, Ben Affleck, David Gordon Green, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Bill Pohlad, and two generations of the Coppola family—Eleanor and Gia Coppola. Messina’s big-screen debut was in the John Dahl-directed Rounders (1998), with Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, Famke Janssen, Gretchen Mol, and John Malkovich.
Messina began to build the first decade of his movie career with supporting roles in major films, such as writer-director Ed Zwick’s The Siege (1998), with Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, and Bruce Wills; Nora Ephron’s beloved rom-com, You’ve Got Mail (1998), with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan; writer-director Alan Ball’s big-screen effort, Towelhead (2007), co-starring Aaron Eckhart, Toni Collette, Maria Bello, and Summer Bishil; indie filmmakers Darren Grodsky’s and Danny Jacobs’ dramedy, Humboldt County (2008), with Jeremy Strong, Peter Bogdanovich, Frances Conroy, and Brad Dourif; Sony’s hit rom-com, Made of Honor (2008), starring Patrick Dempsey; Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008), with Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Patricia Clarkson, and Rebecca Hall.
Chris Messina joined John Krasinski for his debut as director-writer-producer (as well as co-star) on the comedy-drama, Brief Interview with Hideous Men (2009), with a large ensemble including Josh Charles, Chris Meloni, Will Arnett, Bobby Cannavale, and Will Forte, followed by another project with fellow actor Krasinski in the Sam Mendes-directed Away We Go (2009), with Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Allison Janney.
Messina reunited with writer-director Ephron for a major supporting role in the Julia Child biopic, Julie & Julia (2009), starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, and then played star Ben Stiller’s brother in Noah Baumbach’s comedy-drama, Greenberg (2010), with Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brie Larson, and Juno Temple.
Chris Messina had a rare starring role in writer-director Dana Adam Shapiro’s drama, Monogamy (2010), co-starring with Rashida Jones, and premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. Messina followed with another starring role in Universal’s commercially successful horror movie, Devil (2010), based on a story by producer M. Night Shyamalan.
Messina had a major supporting role in writer-director Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy (2011), which won the grand prize at the Sundance Film Festival and co-starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, and Jennifer Lawrence. Another indie movie with a cast of future stars in which Messina co-starred was The Trouble with Bliss (2012), with Michael C. Hall, Brie Larsen, Peter Fonda, and Lucy Liu, followed by another Sundance hit, Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012), co-starring Rashida Jones (who co-wrote the screenplay), Andy Samberg, and Elijah Wood.
Messina served for the first time in a producing capacity (as executive producer) as well as co-star (with Marin Ireland) on writer-director Matt Ross’ indie drama, 28 Hotel Rooms (2012), which Ross created in conversations with Messina. Chris Messina received fine reviews for his co-starring performance opposite Jenna Fischer (who also produced) in writer-director Lee Kirk’s indie feature, The Giant Mechanical Man (2012), premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Messina’s first film with a creative filmmaking credit (screen story and executive producing, as well as acting) was co-writer-director Tom O’Brien’s comedy, Fairhaven (2012), co-starring Messina and Sarah Paulson. Messina continued his dedication to indie movies with a supporting role in co-star/co-writer Zoe Kazan’s successful Ruby Sparks (2012), with Paul Dano, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan, and Elliott Gould.
Chris Messina’s biggest movie to date involved his supporting role as a CIA officer in Ben Affleck’s Best Picture-winning triumph, Argo (2012), starring Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and winning a slew of awards from many major film critics groups as well as the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, among other guild group awards. Like Argo, Messina’s next movie, filmmaker Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto (2013), premiered at Telluride Film Festival, featuring Emma Roberts, James Franco, Val Kilmer, and Margaret Qualley.
Messina stepped up to the director’s chair for his first time (while also playing in support) for Alex in Venice (2014), starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Don Johnson, and Derek Luke, and premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. Director-producer David Gordon Green cast Messina opposite Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, and Harmony Korine in Manglehorn (2014), which premiered in the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion competition and was then released by IFC Films.
During this period, Messina had supporting roles in features ranging from the Jennifer Aniston-starring Cake (2014), Joe Swanberg’s Sundance-premiering Digging for Fire (2015), and the Universal-released Ordinary World (2016). Chris Messina reunited with writer-director-producer-star Ben Affleck for a major supporting role in the commercially failed Dennis Lehane adaptation, Live by Night (2016), with Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Sienna Miller, and Zoe Saldana. Messina had another starring role in the Orchard-release indie, the Rob Spera-directed The Sweet Life (2016), followed by the acclaimed feature, Blame (2017), by director-producer-writer-star Quinn Shephard, and premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Chris Messina co-starred in another festival-premiering indie features, such as The True Adventures of Wolfboy (2019), launching at the Karlovy Vary film festival, and then joined the large ensemble under Cathy Yan’s direction in the DC Extended Universe movie, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), starring Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, and Ewan McGregor. Indie filmmaker Amy Seimetz cast Messina in her mind-bending psycho-drama, She Dies Tomorrow (2020), with Kate Lyn Shiel, Jane Adams, Michelle Rodriguez, and Josh Lucas, and released by Neon (including a run at drive-in theaters).
With writer-director Eleanor Coppola, Messina co-starred opposite Joanne Whalley, Kathy Baker, Rita Wilson, Cybill Shepherd, and Rosanna Arquette in Love is Love is Love is Love (2020), premiering at the Deauville Film Festival. Chris Messina joined writer-director Yuval Adler for the thriller, The Secrets We Keep (2020), co-starring with Noomi Rapace and Joel Kinnaman, followed by a major supporting role opposite Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, and Kate Mara in the Sundance-premiering drama, Call Jane (2022), released by Roadside Attractions.
Messina joined another distinguished ensemble for writer-director Bill Pohlad’s biographical drama, Dreamin’ Wild (2022), co-starring Casey Affleck, Walton Goggins, Zooey Deschanel, Noah Jupe, and Beau Bridges, and premiering at the Venice Film Festival. For the third time, Messina joined Ben Affleck (as director/producer/co-star) in the engaging Michael Jordan-meets-Nike comedy-drama, Air (2023), with Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis.
In a rare turn in studio-produced genre material, Messina co-starred opposite Sophie Thatcher and Vivien Lyra Blair in the successful Rob Savage-directed horror movie, The Boogeyman (2023). Messina co-starred with Ariana DeBose in the indie-produced sci-fi drama, I.S.S. (2023), directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and written by Nick Shafir (whose script was included on the 2020 “Black List” of best unproduced screenplays), and premiering at the Tribeca film festival. Messina then co-starred opposite Lily Rabe in the David Rabe-written rom-com, We’re Just Married (date to be announced).
Chris Messina was born in New York City and raised in the Long Island suburb of Northport, New York. Messina developed a keen interest in acting, on which he focused in high school. Messina dropped out of Marymount Manhattan College after attending a single freshman semester and decided to study privately with acting teachers in New York City before being cast in Off-Broadway productions. Messina’s first marriage was to actor Rosemarie DeWitt, from 1995 to 2006, when the couple divorced. Messina is married to producer Jennifer Todd; the couple has two children, Milo and Giovanni. Messina’s height is 5’ 7”.
One to Watch: Chris Messina was selected to Variety’s prestigious “Ten Actors to Watch” list in 2007.
Other Side of the Camera: Although he’s known as a hard-working actor, Messina has also directed one feature—Alex in Venice (2014)—and co-wrote another—Fairhaven (2012)—and in both of which Messina co-starred.