Birthdate: May 24, 1965
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
A mainstay in American movies for three decades, John C. Reilly (birthname: John Christopher Reilly) is viewed as an actor’s actor, extracting the maximum from his character roles, which often depict humble or gullible working men in over their heads, or trying to make sense of the world.
About as far as one can get from a dashing male lead, Reilly’s Everyman looks have made him a figure of deep identification for regular audiences, cozying up to a guy who looks like he punches a clock instead of living in a penthouse. As a result, he has built a distinguished body of work in cinema and the theater and has worked with some of the world’s leading filmmakers, including Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam McKay.
John C. Reilly’s early acting work was largely centered at Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre, where he performed in a stage version of The Grapes of Wrath and Othello. Cast by director Brian De Palma for the Vietnam drama, Casualties of War (1989), Reilly’s film career took off in a remarkable decade of work in the 1990s. Even though most of his roles were supporting, Reilly made a tremendous impact in Tony Scott’s Days of Thunder (1990) with Tom Cruise; Danny DeVito’s Hoffa (1992), with Jack Nicholson; What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), with Johnny Depp; and Curtis Hanson’s crime-adventure drama, The River Wild (1994), with Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon.
John C. Reilly caught the attention of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, who made him a regular member of his ensembles in his key ‘90s films: in the Vegas comedy-drama, Hard Eight (1996), in the wild epic of the Los Angeles porn business, Boogie Nights (1997), and as a key part of Anderson’s brilliant, sprawling Magnolia (1999).
At the same time, Reilly joined Terrence Malick’s massive World War II epic, The Thin Red Line (1998), and then with George Clooney in The Perfect Storm (2000) before experiencing an extraordinary 2002, starting with Miguel Arteta’s The Good Girl, and including being in three films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Rob Marshall’s Chicago, with Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Renée Zellweger (for which Reilly was Oscar-nominated for the best-supporting actor; Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis; and Stephen Daldry’s The Hours, with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore. Reilly rejoined Scorsese and DiCaprio for the Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator (2004).
Reilly was a key part of Adam McKay’s hit racetrack comedy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), with Will Ferrell, as well as the ensemble of Robert Altman’s final feature, A Prairie Home Companion (2006), with Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, and Cher.
The first starring role for John C. Reilly—seemingly a perennial supporting actor—came in the Golden Globes-nominated comedy, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and closely followed with Reilly co-starring with Ferrell (again, under McKay’s direction) in the hilarious comedy, Step Brothers (2008). Reilly expanded his body of work by working with European filmmakers, such as Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin, with Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller, in 2011) and Roman Polanski (the intense chamber drama, Carnage, with Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, and Christoph Waltz, in 2011), and later, in 2018, with French director Jacques Audiard as both co-star and producer (the laconic Western, The Sisters Brothers, with Joaquin Phoenix).
In recent years, Reilly has voiced and acted in several big-grossing franchise movies, including Wreck-It Ralph (2012) along with the sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018), and Marvel’s mega-hit space comedy, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), in which he voiced the character of Rhomann Dey, and the Universal-released animation musical, Sing (2016), as well as Warners/Legendary’s King Kong reboot, Kong: Skull Island (2017) with Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.
In perhaps his most notable collaboration with a European filmmaker, Reilly co-starred in Claire Denis’ drama set during the Nicaraguan revolution, Stars at Noon (2022), with Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn.
Chicago-born John C. Reilly was raised on the city’s Southwest side in the working-class neighborhood of Chicago Lawn. His father, John Reilly Sr., owned an industrial linen supply company. He graduated from the boys-only Brother Rice High School. John C. Reilly attended and graduated from Chicago-based DePaul University’s Goodman School of Drama in 1987. He married independent film producer Allison Dickey in 1992; the couple has two children, including eldest son and musician, Leo Reilly. Reilly’s height is 6’ 1½”.
Om Man: John C. Reilly practices transcendental meditation.
Razzed: Reilly earned the dubious honor of Worst Supporting Actor in Holmes & Watson (2018) from the Razzie Awards.
Awards Man: John C. Reilly is one of the few actors to have been nominated for performances by the Oscars and the Tonys and also nominated for best song by the Grammys.
Statement: The only movie that Reilly ever quit was Lars von Trier’s Manderlay in 2005. He left the production after objecting to the on-set killing of a donkey.