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Matthew Modine Biography


Home > Actors > M > Modine, Matthew > Biography


Birth Name: Matthew Modine
Born: 03/22/1959
Birth Place: Loma Linda, California, USA


Born March 22, 1959 in Loma Linda, CA, Modine was raised as one of seven children to a bookkeeper mother and a father who managed a series of theaters. The latter's work forced the family to relocate to several towns in Southern California before they moved to Salt Lake City, UT, where the 10-year-old boy became interested in entertainment. He studied dance and singing and when the family moved back to Southern California for Modine's high school years, he became active in school productions. At age 18, he moved to New York City to pursue acting by studying drama with Stella Adler and making his screen debut in a small supporting role in John Sayles' period romantic drama, "Baby, It's You" (1983). His clean-cut screen appeal found him further work in the teen sex comedy "Private School" (1983), while the same year he shared the Venice Film Festival Best Actor Award with the entire cast of Robert Altman's "Streamers" (1983), in which he portrayed one of a group of soldiers awaiting their export to fight in Vietnam.

Modine won widespread acclaim for his superb work as another Vietnam soldier, the institutionalized, schizophrenic title character of Alan Parker's gripping indie "Birdy" (1984). That film was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and showcased the actor's formidable talent for creating sympathetic, emotionally unsettled characters. Modine's career continued to rise quickly with his solid supporting role as one of a pair of Victorian-era outlaw brothers who break out of jail and go on the lam with the kindly warden's wife (Diane Keaton) in "Mrs. Soffel" (1984), directed by Gillian Armstrong and based on a true story. The 25-year-old pulled off one final teenage role when he starred as a guileless high school wrestler who falls for an older woman in the romantic drama "Vision Quest" (1985), a minor success best known for spawning the huge Madonna hit single "Crazy for You." In 1987, Modine scored first billing in Stanley Kubrick's blistering, universally acclaimed Vietnam saga "Full Metal Jacket" (1987), where he was at his best as a highly disciplined but emotionally conflicted young Marine in basic training.

With his obvious flair for embodying bright, brooding men, Modine was well cast as playwright Eugene O'Neill in a public television production of the stage play "Journey Into Genius" (PBS, 1988). Modine's second strength for earnest, buttoned-up types proved a great fit in Jonathan Demme's brightly-colored farce "Married to the Mob" (1988) in which Modine charmed as a slightly bumbling FBI agent who falls for a disenchanted Mafia wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). A derivative role as a lippy medical student in the romantic comedy "Gross Anatomy" (1989) was curiously uninspired, while the World War II ensemble "Memphis Belle" (1990) curiously failed to succeed in spite of being a fact-based adventure with a cast of handsome young Hollywood actors in dashing period gear. A leading role as a yuppie couple opposite Melanie Griffith in John Schlesinger's thriller "The Heights" (1990) earned little attention, while the enormous physical and emotional efforts Modine expended to portray an aspiring yachtsman in "Wind" (1992) also made few waves. However the actor was finally recognized for his dramatic depths with an Independent Spirit Award nomination for his dual lead in Alan Rudolph's "Equinox" (1993), in which he played both a lonely mechanic and a confident mobster in a tricky twin brother story.

Director Altman called upon Modine a second time for "Short Cuts" (1993), where he gave a tightly wound performance as a neurosurgeon who suspects his artist wife (Julianne Moore) of infidelity; he ultimately shared the Special Golden Globe Award given to the film's fantastic ensemble cast. With his film career generally declining from its 1980s peak, Modine began to explore new creative territory, co-producing and co-directing the short film "Smoking" (1993), scripted by David Sedaris and screened on the independent film circuit. He went on to make his theatre directorial debut with a production of "12 Angry Men" starring F. Murray Abraham, Seymour Cassel, and Wallace Shawn at the New Mercury Theater, which Modine also founded that year. He began to raise his television profile with an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated lead role as a caring medical researcher in HBO's AIDS drama "And the Band Played On" (HBO, 1993). Following a praise-winning turn in the title role of the Peter Hall-directed Biblical miniseries "Jacob" (TNT, 1994), Modine experienced a pair of big screen misses with "Bye Bye, Love" (1995) and "Cutthroat Island" (1995), director Renny Harlin's unseaworthy pirate flop.

A starring role in the body-swapping comedy "Fluke" (1994) failed to serve Modine's unique talent, but he rebounded with the Hallmark production "What the Deaf Man Heard" (CBS, 1997), which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for playing a man who mysteriously chooses to pretend he is deaf-mute. He starred in indie mainstay Tom DiCillo's "The Real Blonde" (1997) and had a supporting role as a conscious-riddled doctor in the mainstream sports drama "Any Given Sunday" (1999), before giving an affecting performance as a mentally handicapped man whose experimental surgery turns him into a genius, in the TV adaptation of Daniel Keyes' novel "Flowers for Algernon" (CBS, 2000). Modine kicked off a string of successful TV projects playing a re-imagined version of fairy tale character Jack in the offbeat miniseries "Jim Henson's Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story" (2001), and starred as a writing teacher who works with prison inmates in the USA Network's original movie "Redeemer" (2002). A succession of minor films followed until Modine snared a small but highly entertaining role in the Merchant-Ivory production of "Le Divorce" (2003), as a spurned and possibly unhinged husband who becomes obsessed with the family of his ex's new man, a character for whom Modine improvised much of his best dialogue and action.

In "Hitler: The Rise of Evil" (2003), a miniseries chronicling the early years of the Nazi dictator, Modine offered a strong supporting performance and was subsequently cast in a guest spot on "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006) as a former classmate of C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney). The following year, he was invited to Chicago's Goodman Theater to portray playwright Arthur Miller in "Finishing the Picture," a Miller play based loosely on the events surrounding the filming of his screenplay "The Misfits" (1961) and the high drama of Miller's former wife, Marilyn Monroe. Modine returned to mainstream cinema after a long absence with a supporting role in the popular actioner "Transporter 2" (2005), and made his debut as a TV series regular on "The Bedford Diaries" (The WB, 2006) as a provocative sex education teacher at a tony Manhattan prep school. He had the opportunity to work with Robert Altman one last time when the filmmaker directed Arthur Miller's final work, "Resurrection Blues," on London's West End.

Independent filmmakers were still recruiting Modine for little-seen outings like "Mary" (2006) and "Kettle of Fish" (2006), however his TV track record was more consistent, with a recurring role as a underhanded land developer on the Emmy fave "Weeds" and a starring role in "Sex & Lies in Sin City" (Lifetime, 2008), a fact-based movie about a Las Vegas casino heir who dies under mysterious circumstances. Modine returned to the stage to tackle the iconic role of Atticus Finch in a Hartford Stage production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" in early 2009. Later that summer at Los Angeles' Geffen Playhouse he played a fictionalized version of himself in the satirical "Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas," about a 1980s film star whose visibility has faced so he stages an elaborate act of environmental heroism to garner attention. Amidst turns in a series of low-budget indies like "The Trial" (2010), "Hemingway's Garden of Eden" (2010) and "Go Go Tales" (2011), Modine played former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain - the last CEO before the brokerage firm was forced to merge with Bank of America - in "Too Big to Fail" (HBO, 2011), a made-for-cable film that chronicle the people and events involved in the 2008 financial meltdown that wiped out $14 trillion in capital and nearly destroyed the global economy.