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Ann Dowd

Scott Wilson Biography


Home > Actors > W > Wilson, Scott > Biography


Birth Name: Scott Wilson
Born: 1942
Birth Place: Atlanta, Georgia, USA


Born March 29, 1942, Scott Wilson was the son of Thomas and Jewel Wilson. He spent the majority of his early life in his birthplace of Atlanta, GA before moving to Thomasville in his senior year of high school, following the death of his father. He received a basketball scholarship to Southern Tech University, where he studied architecture, but left school after suffering an injury. Finding himself at a crossroads, he hitchhiked to Los Angeles in 1961, where an actor friend brought him to an audition. The challenge of performing for others inspired Wilson to take up acting as his profession, which he supported through various menial jobs.



After gaining valuable experience on the Los Angeles theater scene, Wilson gained his big break as a small-town murder suspect in Norman Jewison's Oscar-winning "In the Heat of the Night" (1967). Wilson's turn as hapless petty crook Harvey Oberst attracted the attention of director Richard Brooks after Jewison screened dailies of "Heat" for him. Based on his performance, Brooks cast Wilson as the morally bankrupt, physically disfigured Dick Hickock in his adaptation of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" (1967). Wilson's casual cruelty as Hickock left an indelible impression on viewers and critics, and made him a go-to for criminal roles in subsequent years.



In the years that followed his most revered work in "Cold Blood," Wilson settled comfortably into a wide variety of character parts. Though his screen appearances were more infrequent than many of his fellow supporting players - Wilson made just six films between 1971 and 1980 - his turns were frequently memorable. He took the lead in Robert Aldrich's "The Grissom Gang" (1971) as a psychotic gangster who kidnapped and fell in love with Kim Darby's Depression Era socialite, then shifted gears to play a vengeful husband who killed Robert Redford's Jay Gatsby in Jack Clayton's "The Great Gatsby" (1974). In 1980, Wilson received a Golden Globe nomination as an unhinged astronaut who came under the care of an equally unusual military therapist (Stacy Keach) in William Peter Blatty's cult drama "The Ninth Configuration."



Wilson enjoyed a strong start to the Eighties as legendary test pilot Scott Crossfield in "The Right Stuff" (1983) and a romantic lead as an American GI in the U.S.-Polish production of "Year of the Quiet Sun" (1984), which earned the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. But he soon found himself in a string of forgettable features, including "Blue City" (1986), "Malone" (1987) and Walter Hill's "Johnny Handsome" (1989). He slowly built his way back to prominence in the 1990s with more nuanced roles like Elvis Presley's father Vernon in "Elvis and the Colonel: The Untold Story" (NBC, 1993) and the prison chaplain in the feature "Dead Man Walking" (1995). The following year, he became a familiar face to young moviegoers as the cantankerous Judd Travers in the "Shiloh" trilogy of family films. In "Shiloh" (1996), Travers is the abusive owner of the title puppy, which finds a new home with a young boy. The character developed into a more sympathetic role in "Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season" (1999) and "Saving Shiloh" (2006), with a backstory of neglect that explained his antisocial behavior.



By the late 1990s and early new millennium, Wilson was working steadily in films and on television, frequently playing seasoned authority figures like General George C. Marshall in "Pearl Harbor" (2001) and an American ambassador in "The Last Samurai" (2003). There were also more nuanced roles, like his "Good Samaritan" john, who meets his end at the hands of serial killer Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron) in "Monster" (2003), and the thoughtful head of an emotionally complex Southern family in the Oscar-nominated "Junebug" (2003). His most visible character during this period was undoubtedly Sam Braun, mobster -turned-casino owner and biological father to investigator Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." Braun debuted in 2001 and enjoyed a love-hate relationship with Willows until 2006, when the reconciled father and daughter were torn apart after Braun was shot by an assailant. A longtime advocate of actors' rights through the Screen Actors Guild, Wilson received the organization's Ralph Morgan Award in 2007, which honored distinguished service to the Guild.



Following several years of small character roles in independent films, Wilson returned to series television in the key supporting role of aging farmer and veterinarian Hershel Greene on the critically-acclaimed horror series "The Walking Dead" (AMC 2010- ).