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Gary Sinise Biography


Home > Actors > S > Sinise, Gary > Biography


Birth Name: Gary Sinise
Born: 03/17/1955
Birth Place: Blue Island, Illinois, USA


Born on March 17, 1955 in Blue Island, IL, Sinise was raised by his father, Robert, a film editor, and his mother, Millie. He first began acting while attending Highland Park High School, where he gained his first experience with a performance in "West Side Story," while receiving the continued encouragement of drama teacher Barbara Patterson. Right out of high school, he banded with Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry and others to form the famed Steppenwolf Theater in 1974, which was initially housed in a church basement in Highland Park. Serving as artistic director until 1987, Sinise honed his skills as both actor and director in productions like "The Indian Wants the Bronx" (1976), before striking out for Los Angeles in 1979. Looking to make good on screen, the young actor found little work beyond extra jobs in disco scenes on "General Hospital" (ABC, 1963- ) and bit roles on primetimes shows like "Knots Landing" (CBS, 1979-1993). Unable to secure regular work, Sinise returned to Chicago, where he embarked on a successful stint with Steppenwolf that he later managed to parlay into Hollywood success.

Back in Chicago with Steppenwolf, Sinise directed "Waiting for the Parade" (1981) before co-starring in a staging of Michael Weller's "Loose Ends" (1982). He next earned widespread praise for his staging of Sam Shepard's drama of sibling rivalry, "True West" (1982). The production was staged off-Broadway in New York City, with Sinise starring opposite John Malkovich to nearly universal acclaim. In fact, the production was preserved on tape and later aired on PBS in 1984. Sinise became a talent in demand in New York's theatrical community, where he alternated as director with John Guare's "Landscape of the Body" (1984) and "Orphans" (1985), with performing on stage in productions like "Balm in Gilead"(1985), under Malkovich's direction. Inevitably the lure of Hollywood prevailed and Sinise once again opted to try his luck in Los Angeles. But unlike his first sojourn, Sinise had accrued a newfound respect that made his talents both as an actor and director very much in-demand. In between directing episodes of the Chicago-set drama "Crime Story" (NBC, 1986-88) and the acclaimed relationship drama "thirtysomething" (ABC, 1987-1991), he made his feature directorial debut with "Miles from Home" (1988), an earnest if ultimately off-putting drama of a family losing its farm, starring Richard Gere and Helen Hunt.

Back on stage, Sinise delivered an acclaimed performance as Tom Joad in a highly-praised adaptation of the John Steinbeck classic "The Grapes of Wrath" (1988). Originating at Steppenwolf, the production moved to Broadway, where it won the Tony Award as Best Play, while Sinise scored a nomination as Best Lead Actor in a Play. The play moved on to tour London, while Sinise eventually reprised his role on PBS in 1991. After directing an episode of the popular drama, "China Beach" (ABC, 1988-1991), Sinise finally made his debut in front of the film cameras with a memorable turn as an emotionally fragile soldier in "A Midnight Clear" (1992), Keith Gordon's underappreciated adaptation of William Wharton's novel. Later that year, he returned to Steinbeck and served triple duty as producer, director and star of a remake of "Of Mice and Men" (1992), which Roger Ebert called "a quiet triumph." Playing George, the caretaker to Malkovich's slow-witted Lennie, Sinise had the more difficult role, but he managed to imbue the character with a simple grace and dignity. Behind the camera, he kept things equally uncomplicated, zeroing in on the human elements of the story while eliciting fine performances from a cast that also included Ray Walston and Sherilyn Fenn.

Had "Of Mice and Men" been more successful at the box office, Sinise might have been tempted to remain behind the camera. Instead, he continued to act, proving a fine albeit surprising romantic lead opposite Molly Ringwald in the ABC miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's "The Stand" (1994). In his most defining role, Sinise offered a riveting portrait of embittered and acerbic paraplegic Vietnam veteran, Lt. Dan, in "Forrest Gump" (1994), a character whose life is saved by a slow-witted infantryman (Tom Hanks) under his command. Though initially contemptuous of Gump's heroics, the legless vet drinks himself silly post-war, before finding solace, forgiveness and eventually gratitude towards Gump, thanks to a successful shrimp-catching business and a new bride. The role was the most recognizable of his career, and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Sinise followed up with another unlikely role, playing Sharon Stone's father - as seen in flashbacks - in the entertaining, but flawed revisionist Western from Sam Raimi, "The Quick and the Dead" (1995).

With his feature career on the rise, Sinise was primed to deliver eye-catching performances in high-profile projects. He was astronaut Ken Mattingly, whose illness grounds him from the ultimately ill-fated "Apollo 13" (1995), directed by Ron Howard and starring Hanks, Ed Harris and Kevin Bacon. He rounded out a strong year with an Emmy-nominated turn as "Truman" (HBO, 1995), the first of two television biopics that solidified his reputation as one of America's most compelling actors. The other was his Emmy-winning portrayal of "George Wallace" (TNT, 1997), the Governor of Alabama whose segregationist views catapulted him into the national spotlight, leading to a run for president in 1972 that ended with an assassination attempt. In both cases, the actor not only physically captured the political giants, but also managed to evince their inner lives, allowing audiences to empathize with each despite some less than admirable qualities. Having demonstrated chameleon-like ability to portray historical figures, Sinise branched out into a wide array of character roles, playing a shady New York cop trying to help a married couple (Mel Gibson and Rene Russo) find their kidnapped son in "Ransom" (1996). He took another turn toward villainy as a Navy commander who helps engineer the assassination of the Defense Secretary (Joel Fabiani) in Brian De Palma's "Snake Eyes" (1998).

Following a small role in "The Green Mile" (1999), Sinise opted once more to play the bad guy in "Reindeer Games" (2000), only to tackle more conventional heroic leads in the forgettable "Mission to Mars" (2000). Meanwhile, he returned to the stage to great acclaim, playing Randle P. McMurphy in a lauded Steppenwolf revival of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (2000), which originated in Chicago before taking up residence in London. The following year, Sinise reprised the role on Broadway and earned himself a Tony Award nomination. He stepped into the producer role, as well as playing the lead in "Imposter" (2002), a critically panned sci-fi action movie based on a Philip K. Dick short story that suffered from a lack of imagination, though Sinise was singled out for his well-acted performance. Following a cameo appearance as George Wallace in "Path to War" (HBO, 2002), he starred opposite heavyweights Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman and Ed Harris in the film adaptation of novelist Phillip Roth's "The Human Stain" (2003), playing frequent recurring character Nathan Zuckerman, who appears in numerous Roth novels as either narrator or protagonist.

In the meandering, Elmore Leonard-derived caper "The Big Bounce" (2004), Sinise took on another villainous role, playing a developer who wants to put up high-rise hotels and spoil the flavor of Hawaiian paradise. But Sinise tabled performing on the big screen for a time in order to tackle his first regular series role as the star of "CSI: New York" (CBS, 2004- ), on which he played Det. Mac Taylor, the leader of a forensic science team for the NYPD who is plagued by the death of his wife at the World Trade Center on 9/11. During his long stint on the show, Sinise had little time for other projects, though he had a supporting turn in the critically maligned paranormal thriller "The Forgotten" (2004). Turning to voice artist work, he was a hunting fanatic tracking down a 900-pound bear (Martin Lawrence) in the animated "Open Season" (2006). He next narrated "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions" (Discovery Channel, 2008), a six-part series that chronicled the 50-year history of NASA. For the History Channel, WWII buff Sinise narrated "WWII in HD" (2009), an acclaimed 10-part series that looked at World War II through the experiences of 12 service members, including an Army nurse, an Austrian Jew and a Japanese American who was imprisoned in Europe.