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Bruce Greenwood Biography


Home > Actors > G > Greenwood, Bruce > Biography


Birth Name: Bruce Greenwood
Born: 08/12/1956
Birth Place: Quebec, Ontario, CA


Bruce Greenwood was born on Aug. 12, 1956, in Noranda, Quebec, Canada. Growing up, the family regularly relocated to pursue geophysics professor Hugh Greenwood's academic appointments and research trips, spending years in Princeton, NJ, and Bethesda, MD, before returning to their native Canada when young Bruce was 11 years old. Greenwood was outgoing and active in sports, aspiring to be a professional skier. He was thrilled when his father landed a sabbatical in Switzerland, but unfortunately, a bad knee injury ruled out a professional career on the slopes. The adventuresome teen graduated from a Zurich high school and spent a year exploring Europe on his own before returning to Vancouver and the University of British Columbia, where his father was chair of the geology department and his mother was a nurse. Greenwood filled his schedule with a heady load of economics and philosophy classes and, on a whim, augmented one semester schedule with an acting course. He was pleasantly surprised at how well-suited he was for the stage, and began to appear in school and regional productions. He left college a year shy of receiving a degree and the adventurer went back to Europe, where he worked on a sailboat off the coast of Greece for a year, checking out the theater scene in London.

Back in Vancouver, he was offered a job in the touring company of the musical "Cruel Tears," parlaying that into more Canadian stage roles and his film debut in "Bear Island" (1980). Greenwood furthered his dramatic training with a year at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and his professional career got a boost with "Rambo: First Blood" (1982), though the actor's lines were edited out. Greenwood landed a guest spot on the ABC thriller series "The Hitchhiker" (1983) and while working in Los Angeles, scored a recurring TV role on the short-lived "Legmen" (NBC, 1984), co-starring as a college student earning extra money by working for a seedy private detective (Claude Akins). Having had such a promising start, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his career in earnest.

Although a key role in the NBC TV-movie "Peyton Place: The Next Generation" (1985) and several schlocky teen films followed, Greenwood first went wide playing Dr. Seth Griffin, a brash doctor who finds religion when he contracts AIDS, on the medical drama "St. Elsewhere" (NBC, 1982-88). More movies-of-the-week followed, including "Summer Dreams: The Story of the Beach Boys" (ABC, 1990), in which he played Dennis Wilson. Greenwood enjoyed a one-year stint on "Knots Landing" (CBS, 1979-93) as Pierce Lawton, a man seeking revenge for losing all his money in a business scheme, before returning to the big screen in a co-starring part as a security officer coping with a hijacked plane in "Passenger 57" (1992). A career highlight followed with the lead in Canadian director Atom Egoyan's "Exotica" (1994), where Greenwood played a tax inspector obsessed with a stripper. The film marked Greenwood's first tour of the festival circuit, with the film nominated for the Palm D'Or at Cannes and named Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Greenwood had earned some art house cred, but quickly resumed the exhaustive schedule of a working actor's bread and butter. Rugged and athletic, he was cast to headline the baseball sitcom "Hardball" (Fox, 1994) as a wisecracking veteran pitcher. In 1995, he starred in two miniseries: "Naomi & Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge" (NBC), as Naomi Judd's husband, and "Judith Krantz's 'Dazzle'" (CBS). He was also featured as a first-time father-to-be in the NBC TV movie "Danielle Steel's 'Mixed Blessings'" (1995). The same year, Greenwood landed the title role on "Nowhere Man" (1995-96), the first drama for the fledgling UPN network. The show earned a cult following and he became a TV star thanks to his role as Thomas Veil, a documentary photographer who appears to have his entire identity erased, forcing him to begin a desperate and dangerous quest to discover who was behind it.

Reteaming with Egoyan, Greenwood took on the dramatic role of a father of two children killed in a tragic bus accident in the superlative "The Sweet Hereafter" (1997). The highly-praised film earned the Jury Grand Prize at Cannes and swept that year's Genie Awards - the Canadian equivalent of the Academy Awards - earning a Best Motion Picture trophy among others. Next, Greenwood turned villainous as a doctor who "treats" unruly teenagers in the thriller "Disturbing Behavior" (1998), played Ashley Judd's plotting spouse in "Double Jeopardy" (1999), and starred as a nefarious government official in "Rules of Engagement" (2000).

The year 2001 was a turning point for Greenwood when he essayed a heroic, nuanced portrayal of U.S. President John F. Kennedy negotiating the Cuban Missile Crisis and its fallout in the riveting historical feature, "Thirteen Days" (2000). Because he not only nailed the "Bahston" accent, as well as JFK's mannerisms - all without benefit of really looking like him, with the exception of the helmet hair - the actor was catapulted to a new level of respect. Avoiding caricature, Greenwood depicted Kennedy as a flawed human who managed to rise to the necessary level of heroism to lead the country in a time of crisis. When the film premiered, Oscar buzz went round, both for Greenwood and his onscreen brother, Steven Culp, who played Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, but in the end, both crossed one another out come awards season.

Hot off "Thirteen Days," Greenwood stepped into Joseph Cotten's shoes to undertake inventor Eugene Morgan in "The Magnificent Ambersons" (A&E, 2001), which utilized Orson Welles' original 1942 screenplay. He stayed in a 1940s time warp to helm the sturdy WWII submarine thriller "Below" (2002), which was not nearly as high-profile as the 2004 Madonna vehicle "Swept Away" which only swept the Razzie Awards. He fared much better in "I, Robot" (2004), Alex Proyas' adaptation of Isaac Asimov's classic book of sci-fi short stories. Greenwood appeared as the megalomaniacal CEO of U.S. Robotics who is suspected of murder by a distrustful detective (Will Smith). The film was a bona fide box-office hit and a profile boost for the hard-working actor. He went on to play the dashing paramour of an aging actress (Annette Bening) in "Being Julia" (2004), which was a success with critics but only received a limited theatrical release.

Continuing to enjoy his busiest decade yet, Greenwood put his outdoorsy athleticism to good use playing a Kentucky horse trainer in the live-action/animated family film, "Racing Stripes" (2005), before a challenging about-face as the longtime lover of Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in "Capote" (2005), an intriguing biopic about the eccentric author's research into a quadruple murder case in Kansas that led to the writing of In Cold Blood. He followed up with another high-profile feature "Déjà Vu" (2006), appearing alongside Denzel Washington and Val Kilmer in the sci-fi thriller that earned a great deal of attention for filming on the Gulf Coast after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Further north, Greenwood was well-cast in Disney's "Eight Below" (2006), an arctic dog rescue adventure that was a $100 million-plus hit with family audiences.

Back on the small screen, Greenwood co-starred opposite Kim Basinger in the Lifetime movie about a wife's mid-life awakening, "The Mermaid Chair" (2006) before landing the lead on the HBO series "John from Cincinnati" (HBO, 2007). The actor was delightful as the levitating patriarch of a dysfunctional California family of surf bums, but despite a steadily increasing fan base the show was cancelled, following its season finale. Never absent from screens for long, Greenwood could be seen later that year as a journalist in Todd Haynes' Dylan biopic "I'm Not There" (2007) and played the president in the blockbuster "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" (2007). Following a turn in the throwback actioner "Cyborg Soldier" (2008), he was tapped by director J.J. Abrams as Captain Pike, the first commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise in "Star Trek" (2009) reboot. After co-starring opposite Steve Carell and Paul Rudd in a rare comedy, "Dinner for Schmucks" (2010), Greenwood had a small role in the critically acclaimed Paul Giamatti drama "Barney's Version" (2010) before reuniting with Abrams for the nostalgic sci-fi thriller "Super 8" (2011).

By Susan Clarke