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Bill Maher


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Susan Sarandon

Emile Hirsch Biography


Home > Actors > H > Hirsch, Emile > Biography


Birth Name: Emile Hirsch
Born: 03/13/1985
Birth Place: Topanga, California, USA


Born on March 13, 1985, Hirsch was raised in Topanga, CA, a historically bohemian enclave near Malibu where he lived with his father, David, an entrepreneur and producer, and his mother, Margaret Davenport, a visual artist and teacher who designed pop-up books. When his parents split, Hirsch moved with his mother to Santa Fe, NM, where as a middle school student, he landed his first show biz break in a local commercial. By his preteens, he was serious about acting. After returning to Los Angeles, he began landing appearances on "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (ABC, 1996-2003), "Third Rock from the Sun" (NBC, 1995-2001) and "Two of a Kind" (ABC, 1998-99). Hirsch took a turn toward the dramatic with episodes of "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) and "ER" (NBC, 1994-2010), before his career kicked into full gear when he landed a role as young Houdini in the movie-of-the-week, "Houdini" (TNT, 1998). He went on to star in "Gargantua" (Fox, 1998), a Jurassic Park-like tale that brought the 13-year-old actor to the Australian rainforest opposite Adam Baldwin and a large mechanical monster.

Hirsch made a major jump to the big screen in Jodie Foster's indie drama, "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" (2002), receiving positive reviews for playing one of two rebellious teens - the other played by Kieran Culkin - who fight boredom, hormones and the discipline of their parish school. In another period piece, Hirsch appeared opposite Kevin Kline's dedicated private boys school teacher in "The Emperor's Club" (2002), playing the cocky son of a West Virginia senator (Harris Yulin) who challenges the cloistered world of tradition and goes off the deep end of rebellion in flouting the school's rules. Hirsch followed up with the lighthearted "The Girl Next Door" (2004), a rather tepid comedy where he played a straight-laced high school kid who falls for the titular girl next door (Elisha Cuthbert), only to learn that she is a successful porn actress. The film opened to mixed reviews and sub-par box office, barely raking in $6 million despite its "Risky Business"-style approach.

In the offbeat "Mudge Boy" (2004), Hirsch earned positive notices for playing a young man who becomes unhinged in the wake of his mother's unexpected death. The drama "Imaginary Heroes" (2005) also dealt with family death, but revolved around the surviving son's relationship with his unconventional mother (Sigourney Weaver) and earned positive critical reviews, though the film only received limited release. In "Lords of Dogtown" (2005), Hirsch starred as Jay Adams, the enigmatic real-life skateboarder who revolutionized the sport in the mid-1970s, but lost out on potential fame and fortune when drugs and partying landed him behind bars. A former teenage skate rat himself, Hirsch received fine notices for his charismatic portrayal, but the film was an overall financial flop and co-star Heath Ledger received the majority of the press. Hirsch fared considerably better at the box office with "Alpha Dog" (2007), a fact-based chronicle of a cocky, upper-class 15-year-old whose drug dealing thug life made headlines after the kidnap and murder of another teen in 2000.

With the film adaptation of Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild" (2007), Hirsch finally earned overwhelming accolades from critics and audiences alike. He starred in the true-to-life chronicle of Christopher McCandless, a philosophical 23-year-old post-grad who gave away his worldly possessions and set off on a mission to live off the land in remote Alaska, only to die from starvation. The Sean Penn-directed film topped critics' lists that year and earned Hirsch a number of accolades, including several critics' award nominations and a nod for Best Actor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. He followed with a supporting role as a rising young member of a corrupt crime family in the little-seen pastiche "The Air I Breathe" (2008) and the critically maligned "Speed Racer" (2008), the highly-anticipated adaptation of the popular cult cartoon series directed by the Wachowski Brothers that was ultimately a commercial flop.

But Hirsch returned to prominence with a strong supporting turn as Cleve Jones, friend of openly gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) in Gus Van Sant's highly praised biopic, "Milk" (2008). Though Penn received the lion's share of critical acclaim - not to mention the Academy Award for Best Actor - Hirsch was duly noted for his strong performance. After narrating the Disney sports documentary "X Games 3D: The Movie" (2009), he had a supporting role as a Vietnam War veteran in Ang Lee's period drama "Taking Woodstock" (2009) before being featured as one of several celebrities and activists who climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise social awareness for global causes in the made-for-MTV documentary "Summit on the Summit" (2010). Back in the feature world, he starred as a none-too-bright pot dealer who plots to kill his mother to pay back a debt, only to run afoul of a cop moonlighting as a contract killer in William Friedkin's little-seen black comedy, "Killer Joe" (2011). Hirsch next joined a top-notch cast that included John Travolta, Blake Lively, Selma Hayek and Benicio del Toro for Oliver Stone's crime thriller "Savages" (2012), which was based on a popular novel by Don Winslow.

By Shawn Dwyer




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