Having spent much of his youth on his father's Missouri cattle ranch, it is not surprising that supporting and leading actor of stage, screen, and television Chris Cooper has specialized in playing cowboys, ranchers, and other hardworking men. His rugged Everyman demeanor has best been put to use by filmmaker John Sayles, who cast him in a number of his films, beginning with 1987's Matewan.
Cooper's interest in the theater began in his late teens, when he designed and constructed sets for a community group. Following high school, he studied agriculture and acting at the University of Missouri before moving to New York City in hopes of making it on the stage. It took awhile, but by 1980 he was starring in productions like Of the Fields Lately, The Ballad of Soapy Smith, and Cobb, in which he played the title role.