Equipped with classical training as a stage actor, American thespian Dallas Roberts cut his chops on and off Broadway during the 1990s and early 2000s before transitioning to film -- a shift that represented a broad stylistic and technical leap for the dramatist. Born and raised in the Houston area, Roberts first attended a Lone Star community college with an unclear idea of how he wanted to spend his professional life. Had he never discovered Juilliard, his life might very well have forked off in another direction; instead, Roberts -- directed toward acting at the behest of a collegiate drama professor -- applied to the hallowed New York conservatory and gained acceptance. Involvement in numerous theatrical productions on the Great White Way ensued, such as the 2002 Burn This (with Edward Norton and Catherine Keener) and Adam Rapp's Nocturne, for which Roberts received a Drama Desk Award nomination.
Though a couple of unremarkable independent films preceded it, the Michael Mayer-directed, Michael Cunningham-scripted 2004 picture A Home at the End of the World (an adaptation of Cunningham's beloved novel) marked Roberts' first noteworthy cinematic achievement. The picture also shot Roberts instantly to third billing -- not an unpromising start for a cinematic newcomer. It concerns the relationship triangle that develops between Jonathan (Roberts), a thirtysomething gay man desperate to act as a father to his roommate's baby; the eccentric roommate Clare (Robin Wright Penn); and Jonathan's lifelong, heterosexual best friend, Bobby (Colin Farrell), who move to a house together in rural, upstate New York. Roberts, who reportedly felt a bit thrown by the lack of advance character preparation and dramatic adjustment in film (compared to theater) nonetheless delivered a bravura performance; the film itself received mixed reviews.