With a talent as large as his girth, John Goodman proved himself both a distinguished character actor and engaging leading man. A native of St. Louis, MO, Goodman went to Southwest Missouri State University on a football scholarship, but an injury compelled him to seek out a less strenuous major. He chose the university Drama Department, attending classes with such stars-to-be as Tess Harper and Kathleen Turner. Moving to New York in 1975, he supported himself by performing in children's and dinner theater, appearing in television commercials, and working as a bouncer.
Goodman made his off-Broadway debut in a 1978 staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and, a year later, graduated to Broadway in Loose Ends. His best Broadway showing was as the drunken, brutish Pap in Big River, Roger Miller's 1985 musical adaptation of Huckleberry Finn. Goodman has occasionally played out and out villains or louts (The Big Easy, Barton Fink), but his essential likeability endeared him to audiences even when his onscreen behavior was at its least sympathetic. He contributed topnotch supporting appearances to such films as Everybody's All-American (1988), Sea of Love (1989), Stella (1989), and Arachnophobia (1990), and starred in such films as King Ralph (1991), The Babe (1992, as Babe Ruth), Born Yesterday (1993), and The Flintstones (1994, as Fred Flintstone). Goodman did some of his best work in Matinee (1992), in which he starred as William Castle-esque horror flick entrepreneur Lawrence Woolsey, and topped himself in The Big Lebowski (1998), playing a quirky security-store owner. He was seen the following year with Nicolas Cage and Ving Rhames in Martin Scorsese's Bringing out the Dead as an ambulance driver.