About James Spader
Born on Feb. 7, 1960 in Boston, MA, Spader was raised the son of two teachers, Todd and Jean, who enrolled him in top private schools, including Phillips Academy in Andover. But he was not particularly interested in school and spent more time lost in his active imagination. To compensate, Spader started performing theater while in school, where he could completely absorb in his fantasies, and eventually dropped out at 17 to move to New York City. While there, he took on a series of odd jobs and trained at the Michael Chekov Acting Studio. But he still considered acting a hobby and form of escape when he started landing paying gigs. Unexpectedly, he found himself becoming a professional actor. His earlier roles including a small part as Brooke Shields' brother in "Endless Love" (1981) and playing the Kevin Bacon character in an unsold pilot for a 1983 adaptation of the coming-of-age dramedy "Diner" (1982). He played Frank Converse's slightly rebellious son in the short-lived "The Family Tree" (NBC, 1982-83), then costarred in a few television movies before he hit his stride in feature films.
Spader gained feature film attention as Andrew McCarthy's linen-clad, elitist best friend in the wrong-side-of-the-tracks teen romance "Pretty in Pink" (1986). He followed by digging even deeper into the dark side of the privileged, playing a rich kid cocaine dealer who forces Robert Downey Jr. to prostitute himself for drugs in "Less Than Zero" (1987). He paired with McCarthy again as a less-loathsome buddy in the absurd romantic comedy "Mannequin" (1987), but was again tapped to deliver his best smarmy yuppie in the classic portrait of 1980s excess, "Wall Street" (1987). In 1989, Spader saw a turning point in his career when the actor - who had often been seen as the guy you loved to hate - gave an intriguing and subtle performance in Stephen Soderbergh's "sex, lies, and videotape." He was recognized with a Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his finely nuanced portrayal of an eccentric, quietly neurotic drifter forced to face his emotional demons when a return to his college town upsets the staid suburban life of an old friend.
Following a supporting role as a possessive boyfriend in the well-received Martin Amis adaptation, "The Rachel Papers" (1989), Spader played a buttoned-up square befriended by a dangerously charming con artist (Rob Lowe) in the uneven thriller "Bad Influence" (1990). He fared better in independent film territory, delivering a quality performance as a young widower who falls for an older woman (Susan Sarandon) in the erotic "White Palace" (1990). He was paired alongside John Cusack for the political drama "True Colors" (1991), but the film about friendship and blackmail was not a commercial success. With "Storyville" (1992), Spader reinforced his new association with sexy, intelligent fare playing a New Orleans lawyer turned congressional candidate tempted by fleshly pleasures. He was again at the mercy of a destructive femme fatale (Madchen Amick) in the erotic thriller "Dream Lover" (1994), though the "Basic Instinct" (1992) wannabe failed to attract much attention.
In "Wolf" (1994), an imaginative urban take on the werewolf legend, Spader played his trademark yuppie villain, then went on to score his biggest commercial hit with "Stargate" (1994). An unexpected sight in the mainstream sci-fi adventure, Spader successfully showcased another side of his eccentricity playing a nerdy Egyptologist who becomes involved in a parallel dimension. When he returned from journeying across the universe, Spader was back to exploring the dark underbelly of humanity as a scheming hit man characterized as evil incarnate in John Herzfeld's "2 Days in the Valley" (1996). Stepping boldly into the film adaptation of J.G. Ballard's "Crash" (1996), the David Cronenberg-directed world of fetishism and erotic obsession, Spader found perhaps his most provocative role since his 1989 breakthrough, delivering an inspired portrayal of a man whose involvement in a fatal accident revitalizes his sex life. Spader cut a terrific presence with his Elvis-style hair-do in the murder mystery "Keys to Tulsa" (1997), before giving a more conventional performance as an unethical doctor in Sidney Lumet's "Critical Care" (1997).
Following a pair of duds - "Supernova" (2000) and "The Watcher" (2000) - Spader revived his acclaimed status with the erotic art house hit "Secretary" (2002). The Special Jury Prize winner at Sundance explored issues of love, sex and power through the story of an unusual relationship between a lawyer (Spader) and his young secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who was released from a mental institute. Though the lion's share of the awards went to Gyllenhaal, the film raised Spader's profile and helped him land on David E. Kelley's short list when the television producer was looking to revive his ratings-deprived courtroom drama, "The Practice." Kelley wanted someone provocative, compelling and a tad strange to insert into the mix of decent lawyers and approached Spader, thanks to his success playing devious, offbeat characters. As the charismatic and morally slippery Alan Shore, Spader breathed new life into the show's final season and earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
In 2005, his character was spun off into "Boston Legal," where Spader was able to further explore the questionable morals of his law partner at Crane, Poole and Schmidt, while sharing undeniable sparring chemistry with co-star William Shatner. The show delivered steady ratings for ABC, while Spader's performance earned him Emmys in 2005 and 2007. After "Boston Legal" went off the air, Spader made his Broadway debut in David Mamet's "Race" (2009), before returning to television with a guest starring role on "The Office" (NBC, 2005- ) for the season seven finale, playing ultra-manipulative salesman Robert California. In a high-profile announcement, Spader returned to the show as a regular player for season eight after outgoing star Steve Carell moved on.
|Leslie Stefanson. Engaged 2008|
|Victoria Spader. Met while working in a NYC yoga studio in the 1980s; married 1987; she was the set decorator for "sex, lies, and videotape" (1989), which starred him; divorced 2004|
|Phillips Andover Academy, Andover , Massachusetts|
|Michael Chekhov School, New York , New York|
|Played political operative W.N. Bilbo opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln"|
|After much speculation as to who would replace Steve Carell, joined cast of "The Office" (NBC) as series regular, reprising his role of Robert California; announced he was leaving the show in 2012|
|Guest-starred as Robert California on the final episode of season 7 of "The Office" (NBC)|
|Made Broadway debut in David Mamet's "Race" at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre|
|Narrated "China Revealed," the first episode of Discovery Channel's documentary series "Discovery Atlas"|
|Reprised role of attorney Alan Shore for "The Practice" spinoff "Boston Legal" (ABC); received Golden Globe (2005) and SAG (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009) and Emmy (2008) nominations for Actor in a Drama Series|
|Joined the cast of "The Practice" (ABC) as attorney Alan Shore|
|Starred as Maggie Gyllenhaal's sadomasochistic boss in the critically acclaimed "Secretary"|
|Appeared with Keanu Reeves in "The Watcher," playing a former FBI agent who returns to search for a serial killer|
|Appeared with Minnie Driver and Josh Brolin in "Slow Burn" (filmed 1998)|
|Featured in "Supernova"; director Walter Hill took his name off the troubled project (was credited as Thomas Lee)|
|Portrayed an unethical resident physician in Sidney Lumet's "Critical Care"|
|Cast as assassin Lee Woods in the ensemble feature "2 Days in the Valley"|
|Played car fetishist James Ballard in David Cronenberg's controversial "Crash"|
|Cast as Egyptologist Daniel Jackson in the blockbuster hit "Stargate"|
|Featured as Jack Nicholson's friend turned enemy in Mike Nichols' "Wolf"|
|Had a memorable role as a hot-headed young gambler in Phillip Haas' "The Music of Chance"|
|Played the lead role in Mark Frost's "Storyville"|
|Played John Cusack's moral best friend in "True Colors"|
|Played a young, affluent widower opposite Susan Sarandon in "White Palace"|
|Breakthrough film role, played a sexual voyeur in Steven Soderbergh's "sex, lies, and videotape"|
|Played a loathsome drug dealer named Rip in "Less Than Zero," based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis|
|Played Blane's (Andrew McCarthy) rakish friend Steff in "Pretty in Pink"; scripted by John Hughes|
|Acted in the feature "Tuff Turf"|
|Appeared in the TV-movie, "Cocaine: One Man's Seduction" (NBC)|
|TV acting debut, playing Fenwick (role originated by Kevin Bacon in the feature) on the unsold CBS pilot "Diner"|
|First major film role, playing Brooke Shields' brother in "Endless Love"|
|Moved to NYC and performed in stage productions with the Actors Studio|