Brian Dennehy is a prominent American film, television and stage actor. He was born as Brian Mannion Dennehy on July 9, 1938, in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the United States to Edward and Hannah Dennehy. He was brought up a Roman Christian with Irish root. When his family shifted to Long Island in
, he studied at Chaminade High School in Mineola. He was enlisted in active duty at the U.S. Marine Corps from 1959 to 1963. Brian usually tells in his interviews that he is a Vietnam veteran, who has served in Vietnam for 5-years and recounted distressing stories of his combat, but according to B. G. Burkett’s book, Stolen Valor, he never served the country nor he saw an active combat. The Stolen Valor and other printed works suspect that the falsification of the PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and traumatic events were used to earn recognition. The writer of the Stolen Valor penned Brian about the disparity, but the actor did not reply. Later, he admitted in an interview that he lied about it and apologized for not telling the truth. However, Dennehy retells that he served Vietnam during an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Joanne Kaufmann. Post his service to the US Marine Corps, he attended Columbia University and took a Major in History. He became one of the Sigma Chi fraternities and had played football in school before he studied Dramatic Arts in Yale University. In the mid 70’s, Brian worked as a stockbroker in the main office of Merrill Lynch in downtown New York before he pursue his acting career.
Brian became popular as a dramatic actor. His breakthrough came in 1982 through the action adventure film, First Blood, which stars
. Initially, he has done comedy films such as Semi-Tough, Foul Play and 10. In the year 1985, he was seen as a ruthless sheriff in the box-office American Western film, Silverado and played as Walter, an alien, in the sci-fi comedy drama film, Cocoon. His notable supporting roles were from the movies Split Image with Michael O’Keefe in the lead role; Robert Redford’s Legal Eagles; the action-thriller film, F/X and its sequel, F/X2; the legal drama film, Presumed Innocent; and The Deadly Art of Illusion.
Gradually, he became a significant character actor and established the leading-man status in John Flynn’s thriller film, Best Seller in 1987; a film that depicts the story of a career hitman, who wanted his life to be penned in a book. Brian played the role of Dennis Meechum, a police officer. In the same year, Brian was starred in the drama film, The Belly of An Architect, where he bagged the Chicago International Film Festival Award for Best Actor. The following year, he acted in the Australian drama film, The Man from the Snowy River II, which is a sequel of The Man from Snowy River in 1982. One of Brian’s popular roles was from the 1995 American road comedy film, Tommy Boy. His voice was heard in the computer-animated comedy film, Ratatouille in 2007, where he played as Django, Remy’s father. Brian was also seen as
and Robert De Niro’s superior officer in the crime thriller film, Righteous Kill in 2008 and played as George Brennan, the father of John Brennan (played by
) in the vigilante thriller film, The Next Three Days in 2010. In the same year, he acted in Tom Hines’ Alleged; a film that is based on the 1925 American legal case, Scopes Trial.
He started his professional acting career in television during the 70’s and 80’s, after portraying small guest performances in the television series as Kojak, the Emmy Award winner Lou Grant in 1977, Dallas and ABC’s Dynasty. He also donned an episodic in the American crime drama series, Miami Vice during the ’87-’88 seasons. In 1980, he played as Sargeant Net Coleman in the television miniseries, A Rumor of War. Brian continues to perform in prominent television movies such as Herbert Wise’ Skokie, A Killing in a Small Town, The Burden Proof, A Season in Purgatory and many more. He was also starred in Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story on HBO.
Brian earned six nominations at the Emmy Awards for his brilliant acting in the television movies. He bagged a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie for his portrayal as John Wayne Gacy in the two-part TV film, To Catch a Killer and another nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie for his brilliant performance in The Burden of Proof. Other nominations at the Emmy were from his performances in A Killing in a Small Town, ABC’s Murder in the Heartland in 1993 and Our Fathers in 2005. Brian received another nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie at the Emmy, after performing at the Broadway as Willy Loman in the play, Death of a Salesman. He was starred as Reed in the television movie, Jack Reed and had a recurring role in the television sitcom, Just Shoot Me! He was also parodied in the 1999 adult animated musical comedy film, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and an episode in the animated sitcom, The Simpsons.
In the year 2007, Brian was starred as a retired criminal in an episode of the police procedural crime drama series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He later did an episodic in the satirical TV sitcom, 30 Rock. He also did a guest appearance in an episode of the TV sitcom, Rules of Engagement in 2009. He also narrated several TV programs including the two-part Canadian-Irish docudrama, Death or Canada. He recently played as Joe Patton in the police drama series, Public Morals and is currently waiting for the release of Terrence Malick’s romantic fantasy drama film, Knight of Cups.
Brian bagged two Tony Awards for Best Lead Actor in a Play for his performances in Death of a Salesman (where he also earned the Laurence Olivier Award) and in the Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill. Both of these were directed by Robert Falls under the production of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. He did regular performances in the world of theatre in Chicago and had done his debut in the Broadway through Brian Friel’s Translations. For his contribution to the Chicago theater, Brian was the first male performer, who was voted for the Sarah Siddons Award in 1999. In the year 2007, he made a comeback at the Broadway through Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee’s Inherit the Wind and returned again in 2009 through Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms.
Brian was seen at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada in 2008; appearing as the King of France in the play, All’s Well That Ends Well. He also performed as Krapp in Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett and reprised his role as Erie Smith in Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie. Brian was inducted in New York’s American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2010. In the same year, he came back to Ireland to play as Thady ‘The Bull’ McCabe in John B. Keane’s The Field (stage version) at Dublin’s Olympia Theater. He also made a comeback at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and played as Sir Toby Belch in the comedy play, Twelfth Night and played as Max in The Homecoming. In 2012, he was seen as Larry Slade in another Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece, The Iceman Cometh, which was held at Chicago’s Goodman Theater. He reprised his role in this play in the year 2015 at New York’s BAM Harvey Theatre. He got married to Judith Scheff in 1959, but they had a divorce in 1974. He remarries to Jennifer Arnott in 1988. Brian is the father of Elizabeth Hannah Dennehy, who is also a prominent film and television actress.