Birthdate: July 3, 1943
Birthplace: New Lisbon, Wisconsin, USA
A durable and versatile character actor, Kurtwood Smith (birthname: Kurtwood Larson Smith) has long specialized in villainous characters wielding too much power. His classic Middle American appearance—one can imagine Smith as your local school principal--has helped the actor bring shaded characterizations to his (usually bad guy) roles, almost fooling audiences into thinking that his character means well.
Kurtwood Smith has appeared in dozens of major Hollywood releases since 1980, starting with Alan Rudolph’s Roadie (1980), the film version of Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit (1981), and, in his first eye-catching turn, as Boddiker in Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop (1987)—only to reappear in RoboCop 3 (1993).
In between these two, Smith appeared in Rambo III (1988), Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society (1989), as a CIA agent in Nicholas Meyer’s Company Business (1991), and as Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), and in Woody Allen’s Shadows and Fog (1991), and Jennifer Lynch’s Boxing Helena (1993).
Kurtwood Smith has worked with several major filmmakers, including Gus Van Sant (To Die For in 1995), Alexander Payne (Citizen Ruth in 1996), Steve James (Prefontaine in 1997), Mimi Leder (Deep Impact in 1998), James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted in 1999), and Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids in 2011).
Smith is also a veteran voice actor in television and features including DreamWorks’ Turbo (2013). He took on one of his favorite archetypal roles—the doctor whom you may or may not trust—in Universal/Blumhouse’s Firestarter (2022), a remake of Stephen King’s 1980 novel, with Zac Efron.
Kurtwood Smith is a native of New Lisbon, Wisconsin, and the child of Mabel and George Smith. His father was killed fighting in Europe during World War II. He was raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Canoga Park and graduated from Canoga Park High School in 1961 as class president. He earned a BA in Theater from San Jose State College and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Stanford University. Smith’s first marriage was to Cecilia Souza. The couple had two children, a daughter Laurel, and a son Shannon. He has been married to actor Joan Pirkle since 1988. His height is 6’ 1”.
What’s in a Name?: Kurtwood Smith’s name was given to him by his mother, who felt that “Kurt” was too short combined with “Smith” and added the “wood” to make it longer. As far as Smith knows, his first name is uniquely his.
Trekkie: Smith has played four different characters in the Star Trek franchise, including the Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).
Opposing Warriors: Kurtwood Smith has played both U.S. Commanding General in Vietnam, William Westmoreland, and Adolph Hitler.