Jeffrey Warren Daniels (born February 19, 1955) is an American actor, musician and playwright whose career includes roles in films, stage productions and on television, for which he has won an Emmy Award and received Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Tony Award nominations.
Making his film debut in Ragtime (1981), Daniels's film credits include Terms of Endearment (1983), Arachnophobia (1990), Gettysburg (1993), Speed (1994), 101 Dalmatians (1996), Fly Away Home (1996), Pleasantville (1998), The Hours (2002), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), The Lookout (2007), Infamous (2009), Looper (2012), Steve Jobs (2015), and The Martian (2015).
Daniels is also known for playing Harry Dunne in the buddy comedy Dumb and Dumber (1994) and its sequel Dumb and Dumber To (2014). He received Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actor for his performances in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Something Wild (1986) and The Squid and the Whale (2005).
Daniels' work outside the film industry has received similar acclaim and accolades as to his work on screen. He has received a number of award nominations for his work on stage, including Tony Award nominations for Best Actor for his roles in the plays God of Carnage and Blackbird. He is the founder and current executive director of the Chelsea, Michigan-based Purple Rose Theatre Company. From 2012 to 2014, Daniels starred as Will McAvoy in the HBO political drama series The Newsroom, for which he won the 2013 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.
Daniels was born in Clarke County, Georgia, to Marjorie J. (née Ferguson) and Robert Lee "Bob" Daniels. He spent the first six weeks of his life in Georgia, where his father was then teaching, and grew up in Chelsea, Michigan. His father owned the Chelsea Lumber Company and was also a onetime mayor of Chelsea.
Daniels was raised Methodist. He attended Central Michigan University and participated in the school's theater program. In the summer of 1976, Daniels attended the Eastern Michigan University drama school to participate in a special Bicentennial Repertory program, where he performed in The Hot l Baltimore and three other plays performed in repertoire. Marshall W. Mason was the guest director at EMU and he invited Jeff to come to New York to work at the Circle Repertory Theatre, where he performed in Fifth of July by Lanford Wilson in the 1977–78 season. Daniels performed in New York in The Shortchanged Review (1979) at Second Stage Theatre. It was the first show of the inaugural season for Second Stage Theatre.
Daniels has starred in a number of New York productions, on and off Broadway. On Broadway, he has appeared in Lanford Wilson's Redwood Curtain, A. R. Gurney's The Golden Age and Wilson's Fifth of July, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Supporting Actor. Off-Broadway, he received a Drama Desk nomination for Wilson's Lemon Sky, and an Obie Award for his performance in the Circle Repertory Company production of Johnny Got His Gun. He returned to the stage in 2009, appearing in Broadway's God of Carnage opposite Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden.
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Daniels made his screen debut in Miloš Forman's Ragtime in 1981. His next film, the Oscar-winning Terms of Endearment, in which he played Debra Winger's callow and unfaithful husband, was his breakthrough. He garnered a Golden Globe nomination as the star of The Purple Rose Of Cairo, directed by Woody Allen. It was the last film that inspired the name for the theater company he established.
Daniels earned his second Golden Globe nomination for starring in Jonathan Demme's Something Wild as an unassuming businessman swept up into a wild night by a mysterious woman (Melanie Griffith). Daniels then starred in the horror–comedy (or "thrill-omedy", as it was described in the promotion) Arachnophobia in 1990. The next year, Daniels starred in two films (Love Hurts and The Butcher's Wife). His next notable role was as Colonel Joshua Chamberlain in Gettysburg. Daniels reprised the role of Chamberlain ten years later in the prequel film Gods and Generals.
In 1994, Daniels would co-star with Jim Carrey in one of his most commercially successful films, Dumb and Dumber. It was a noted departure for Daniels, owing to his status as a dramatic actor. That same year Daniels appeared with Keanu Reeves in the action blockbuster Speed; the film was an enormous hit, grossing over $350 million at the box office.
Daniels would then host Saturday Night Live a second time before the release of the 1996 Disney live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians. Daniels starred as the owner of a litter of dalmatians stolen by the evil Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close). The film was successful, grossing $320 million. Also in 1996 was the family hit film Fly Away Home with Daniels as the supportive single father of Anna Paquin's goose-raising preteen. Daniels then had a critical and commercial misfire with Trial and Error (1997). Daniels would rebound, however, with 1998's Pleasantville as diner owner Bill Johnson, who learns to act as an individual and rebel against the norm at the urging of Tobey Maguire's David. Also starring Reese Witherspoon, Joan Allen, and Don Knotts, Pleasantville was nominated for three Academy Awards. Daniels starred alongside Christopher Lloyd in the critically and commercially unsuccessful film, My Favorite Martian.
Daniels starred in the TV films The Crossing, Cheaters, and the direct-to-video release Chasing Sleep. At this point, in the early 2000s, Daniels began to focus more on his theater work at The Purple Rose Theatre as well as writing, starring, and directing the films Escanaba in da Moonlight and Super Sucker.
Daniels's next major film role would be in Clint Eastwood's Blood Work, which received mixed reviews and was a commercial failure. He would rebound later that year with Stephen Daldry's Academy Award–winning The Hours. The film was also a financial success, grossing well over $100 million. Gods and Generals followed in 2003, as did the action film I Witness, which co-starred James Spader. Daniels then starred in Imaginary Heroes and the 2004 television film adaptation of fellow Michigander and friend Mitch Albom's bestseller The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
The year 2005 proved to be a strong year for Daniels as he garnered notice as the star of the lauded Noah Baumbach film The Squid and the Whale. Daniels received his third Golden Globe nomination for the film, about a divorcing couple and the effect the split has on their children. That year Daniels also starred in the family film adaptation of Because of Winn-Dixie. He would round out the year with a supporting role in the Oscar-nominated film Good Night and Good Luck, directed by George Clooney.
Daniels then starred as the redneck comic foil to Robin Williams's uptight business man in the vacation comedy RV, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. He had a supporting role in the Truman Capote biopic Infamous and in two other independent films, Mama's Boy and The Lookout, for which he was nominated for a Satellite Award.
Daniels had a starring voice-over role as the villain Zartog in animated film Space Chimps. He then took back-to-back supporting roles in political thrillers: Traitor with Don Cheadle and State of Play with Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams. Also in 2009, Daniels would appear in the indie hit Away We Go. 2010 would be a slow year for Daniels. He continued his theater work and had a starring role in the little-seen indie Howl, alongside James Franco as Allen Ginsberg.
In 2012, Daniels became the new announcing voice for Apple with the iPhone 5 ads. Daniels starred in the HBO drama series The Newsroom for three seasons, winning a Primetime Emmy Award. In 2014, he reprised his role as Harry Dunne in Dumb and Dumber To. Daniels portrayed CEO John Sculley in the 2015 biographical drama film Steve Jobs, directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle, and starring Michael Fassbender in the title role. He played David in The Divergent Series: Allegiant and was set to reprise the role in the planned The Divergent Series: Ascendant.
In 2017, Daniels portrayed the villain Frank Griffin in the Netflix original series Godless.
Daniels has focused on recording a number of songs that he has written throughout his life, apparently marking key moments. He has kept busy with frequent gigs and six full-length albums, Jeff Daniels Live and Unplugged, Jeff Daniels Live at The Purple Rose Theater, Grandfather's Hat, Keep It Right Here, Together Again, and Days Like These. Proceeds from the album sales benefit The Purple Rose Theater.
Daniels was featured on the cover of the April–May 2011 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine as well as the July–August 2011 issue of Making Music, where he discussed his experiences with music.
Daniels married his college sweetheart, a fellow Michigander from the Upper Peninsula (Marquette) Kathleen Rosemary Treado, in 1979. In 1986, Daniels moved back to his native Chelsea, Michigan. The couple have three children: Benjamin (born 1984), Lucas (born 1987), and Nellie (born 1990).
Daniels has appeared as the TV spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, promoting Michigan's effectiveness in bringing in new companies, featured on CNBC. He was inducted into the Michigan Walk of Fame on May 25, 2006, in Lansing, Michigan, and delivered the winter commencement address at the University of Michigan on December 20, 2009, at which he was granted an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts.
|1981||Ragtime||P. C. O'Donnell|
|1983||Terms of Endearment||Flap Horton|
|1985||The Purple Rose of Cairo||Tom Baxter/Gil Shepherd||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy|
|1986||Something Wild||Charles Driggs||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy|
|1987||Radio Days||Biff Baxter|
|1988||The House on Carroll Street||Cochran|
|1988||Sweet Hearts Dance||Sam Manners|
|1989||Checking Out||Ray Macklin|
|1990||Arachnophobia||Ross Jennings||Saturn Award for Best Actor|
|1990||Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael||Denton Webb|
|1991||Love Hurts||Paul Weaver|
|1991||The Butcher's Wife||Dr. Alex Tremor|
|1992||Timescape||Ben Wilson||also known as Grand Tour: Disaster in Time
International Fantasy Film Award for Best Actor
|1992||There Goes the Neighborhood||Willis Embry|
|1993||Rain Without Thunder||Jonathan Garson|
|1993||Gettysburg||Colonel Joshua Chamberlain||Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|1994||Speed||Police man Harry Temple|
|1994||Dumb and Dumber||Harry Dunne|
|1995||Redwood Curtain||Lyman Fellers|
|1996||Fly Away Home||Thomas Alden|
|1996||2 Days in the Valley||Alvin Strayer|
|1996||101 Dalmatians||Roger Dearly|
|1997||Trial and Error||Charlie Tuttle|
|1998||Pleasantville||Bill Johnson||Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy|
|1999||My Favorite Martian||Tim O'Hara|
|1999||It's the Rage||Warren Harding|
|2000||Chasing Sleep||Ed Saxon|
|2000||Cheaters||Dr. Gerard Plecki|
|2001||Escanaba in da Moonlight||Reuben Soady||Also co-writer and director|
|2002||Super Sucker||Fred Barlow||Also co-writer and director|
|2002||Blood Work||Jasper "Buddy" Noone|
|2002||The Hours||Louis Waters||Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|2003||Gods and Generals||Lt. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain|
|2003||I Witness||James Rhodes|
|2004||Imaginary Heroes||Ben Travis|
|2004||The Five People You Meet in Heaven||The Blue Man|
|2005||The Squid and the Whale||Bernard Berkman||Gotham Award for Best Cast
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
Nominated—London Film Critics Circle Award for Actor of the Year
Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor (2nd place)
|2005||Because of Winn-Dixie||The Preacher|
|2005||Good Night, and Good Luck||Sig Mickelson||Nominated—Gotham Award for Best Cast
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
|2007||The Lookout||Lewis||Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture|
|2007||Mama's Boy||Mert Rosenbloom|
|2007||A Plumm Summer||Narrator|
|2009||State of Play||Representative George Fergus|
|2009||The Answer Man||Arlen Faber|
|2009||Away We Go||Jerry Farlander|
|2009||Paper Man||Richard Dunn|
|2010||Howl||Professor David Kirk|
|2014||Dumb and Dumber To||Harry Dunne|
|2015||Steve Jobs||John Sculley|
|2015||The Martian||Teddy Sanders|
|2016||The Divergent Series: Allegiant||David|
|2018||The Catcher Was a Spy||Bill Donovan|
|1980||Breaking Away||College Kid||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1980||Hawaii Five-O||Neal Forrester||Episode: "The Flight of the Jewels"|
|1982||American Playhouse||Jed Jenkins||Episode: "The Fifth of July"|
|1989||No Place Like Home||Mike||Television film|
|1991||Saturday Night Live||Host||Episode: "Jeff Daniels/Color Me Badd"|
|1992||Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story||Tom Noonan||Television film|
|1993||Frasier||Doug||Episode: "Here's Looking at You"|
|1995||Saturday Night Live||Host||Episode: "Jeff Daniels/Luscious Jackson"|
|2000||The Crossing||George Washington||Television film|
|2000||Cheaters||Dr. Gerard Plecki||Television film|
|2004||The Goodbye Girl||Elliot Garfield||Television film|
|2008||Sweet Nothing in My Ear||Dan Miller||Television film|
|2012–2014||The Newsroom||Will McAvoy||25 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2013)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama (2012)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2014–2015)
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama (2012–2013)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series (2012–2013)
|2017||Godless||Frank Griffin||Miniseries; 7 episodes
Nominated—Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
|2018||The Looming Tower||John O’Neill||Upcoming series|
The Purple Rose Theatre Company (or PRTC) was founded by Daniels in 1991. Originally known as the Garage Theatre, 'The Rose' takes its name from Woody Allen's 1985 film The Purple Rose of Cairo, which starred Daniels and Mia Farrow. The theatre provides resources for training actors, playwrights and other theatre artists residing in the Midwest region and develops new plays based on life in the Great Lakes Basin. The main performance space and administrative offices occupy a building in Chelsea, Michigan once owned by Daniels' grandfather. The theatre produces four shows a year on a 3/4 thrust stage in a 168-seat house. The PRTC is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization and operates under a Small Professional Theatre (SPT) Agreement with the Actors' Equity Association (AEA).
The Purple Rose offers a year-long apprenticeship program for young artists entering a career in theatre. Apprentices are paid a 'modest stipend' and work as many as 60–80 hours per week gaining experience in lighting, sound, stage management, design, set construction, and administrative/box office work. The seven apprentices also maintain and clean the theatre's facilities. The program was inspired by Jeff Daniels' experience as an apprentice with the Circle Repertory Company in New York City.
|1981||Drama Desk Award||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play||Fifth of July||Nominated|
|1983||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play||Johnny Got His Gun||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical||The Purple Rose of Cairo||Nominated|
|1987||Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical||Something Wild||Nominated|
|1991||Saturn Award||Best Actor||Arachnophobia||Won|
|1992||International Fantasy Film Award||Best Actor||Timescape||Won|
|1994||Chicago Film Critics Association Award||Best Supporting Actor||Gettysburg||Nominated|
|1995||MTV Movie Award||Best On-Screen Duo Shared with Jim Carrey||Dumb & Dumber||Nominated|
|1999||Satellite Awards||Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical||Pleasantville||Nominated|
|2002||Video Software Dealers Association||Independent Career Achievement Award||Won|
|U.S. Comedy Arts Festival||Audience Award||Super Sucker||Won|
|2003||Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by a Cast Shared with Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Stephen Dillane, Ed Harris, Allison Janney, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Miranda Richardson, and Meryl Streep||The Hours||Nominated|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society Award||Best Acting Ensemble Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Stephen Dillane, Ed Harris, Allison Janney, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Miranda Richardson, and Meryl Streep||Nominated|
|2005||Gotham Award||Best Ensemble Cast Shared with David Strathairn, Patricia Clarkson, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., and Frank Langella||Good Night, and Good Luck.||Nominated|
|Best Ensemble Cast Shared with Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, William Baldwin, and Anna Paquin||The Squid and the Whale||Won|
|2006||Golden Globe Award||Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical||Nominated|
|Independent Spirit Award||Best Male Lead||Nominated|
|National Society of Film Critics Award||Best Actor||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by a Cast Shared with Rose Abdoo, Alex Borstein, Robert John Burke, Patricia Clarkson, George Clooney, Reed Diamond, Tate Donovan, Robert Downey Jr., Grant Heslov, Peter Jacobson, Frank Langella, Tom McCarthy, Dianne Reeves, Matt Ross, David Strathairn, and Ray Wise||Good Night, and Good Luck.||Nominated|
|2007||London Critics' Film Circle Award||Actor of the Year||The Squid and the Whale||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Drama||The Lookout||Nominated|
|2008||Las Palmas Film Festival||Honorary Lady Harimaguada||Won|
|2009||Tony Award||Best Actor in a Play||God of Carnage||Nominated|
|2012||Satellite Awards||Best Actor in a Series, Drama||The Newsroom||Nominated|
|2013||Best Actor in a Series, Drama||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|Online Film & Television Association Award||Best Actor in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Performance by an Actor in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series||Won|
|2014||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|2015||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|2016||Tony Award||Best Actor in a Play||Blackbird||Nominated|
|2018||Critics' Choice Television Award||Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries||Godless||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie||Nominated|
For 30 years, I've lived in a little town called Chelsea, Michigan.
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