Birthdate: January 26, 1949
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, USA
Known in his early years as a regular presence in John Sayles’ acclaimed independent movies, David Strathairn (birthname: David Russell Strathairn) has built an impressive, sustained body of work across forty years, reflecting his stellar reputation as an actor’s actor.
Famed for his deep, stentorian voice and commanding physical presence, Strathairn has worked not only with Sayles, but with other major filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg (Lincoln in 2012), Mike Nichols (Silkwood in 1983), Joseph Sargent (Day One in 1989), Phil Alden Robinson (Sneakers in 1992), Sydney Pollack (The Firm in 1993), Martha Coolidge (Lost in Yonkers in 1993), Curtis Hanson (The River Wild in 1994, L.A. Confidential in 1997), Keith Gordon (Mother Night in 1996), Karen Moncrieff (Blue Car in 2002), Philip Kaufman (Twisted in 2004, Hemingway & Gellhorn in 2012), Mary Harron (The Notorious Bettie Page in 2005), Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007), Wong Kar-wai (My Blueberry Nights in 2007), Julie Taymor (The Tempest in 2010), Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy in 2012) Joachim Trier (Louder Than Bombs in 2015), Joe Wright (Darkest Hour in 2017), Chloe Zhao (Nomadland in 2020), and Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley in 2021).
Strathairn has had the unusual distinction of having been directed by several fellow actors, often with their directorial debut: Tim Robbins with Bob Roberts (1992), Jodie Foster with Home for the Holidays (1995), Christopher Reeve with In the Gloaming (1997), Dani Levy with Meschugge (1998), George Clooney with Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005), Ewan McGregor with American Pastoral (2016), and Edward James Olmos with The Devil Has a Name (2019).
First meeting Sayles at Williams College, Strathairn later reunited with him as Sayles began to develop an independent filmmaking practice at a time when American indie cinema was beginning to make its mark on the mainstream. Strathairn was a member of the cast of Sayles’ (and Strathairn’s) film debut, The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980), with Bruce MacDonald.
His work with Sayles continued with The Brother from Another Planet (1984) with Joe Morton; the union drama Matewan (1987), with Chris Cooper and James Earl Jones; the baseball scandal saga, Eight Men Out (1988), with John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, and Michael Rooker; City of Hope (1991), with Vincent Spano and Chris Cooper; Passion Fish (1992), with Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard, and Angela Bassett; and culminating with Sayles’ most controversial film, Limbo (1999), with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Kris Kristofferson.
Recently, Strathairn has been on a roll with appearances in important and Best Picture Oscar winners and nominees, including Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, with Frances McDormand; Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, with Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, and Richard Jenkins; and director Olivia Newman’s Where the Crawdads Sing (2022), based on Delia Owens’ blockbuster best-selling novel, with Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, and Harris Dickinson.
San Francisco-born David Strathairn was raised by parents Thomas and Mary Strathairn and has two siblings—brother Tom, and sister Anne. Raised in Marin County, Strathairn graduated from Redwood High School in Larkspur, and then Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. David Strathairn has been married to Logan Goodman since 1980; the couple has two children, Tay and Ebbe. Strathairn’s height is 5’ 11½”.
Oscar Man: Not only is Strathairn an Oscar nominee for Best Actor, but he has starred or co-starred in six films nominated or won Best Picture: L.A. Confidential, Good Night, and Good Luck., Lincoln, Darkest Hour, Nomadland, and Nightmare Alley. He’s also worked with five Oscar-winning directors: Steven Spielberg, Sydney Pollack, Chloe Zhao, Guillermo del Toro, and Mike Nichols.
Man of the Stage: David Strathairn has a distinguished body of theater work, including a specialization in the plays of Harold Pinter; productions of Tom Stoppard’s Hapgood, Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, Berkeley Rep Theater’s production of Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s production of Remember This in 2021.
Narrator: Among Strathairn’s many credits as a narrator, they include his narration of the biographical video introducing Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.