One of the most versatile and respected actors of his generation, Kevin Kline has made a name for himself on the stage and screen. Equally comfortable in comedic and dramatic roles, he is one of those rare actors whose onscreen characterizations are not overshadowed by his offscreen personality; remarkably free of ego, he has impressed both critics and audiences as a performer in the purest sense of the word.
A product of the American Midwest, Kline was born in Saint Louis, MO, on October 24, 1947. He became active in theater while growing up in the Saint Louis suburbs, performing in a number of school productions. He continued to act while a student at Indiana University at Bloomington, and following graduation, moved to New York, where he was accepted at the Juilliard School. In 1972, Kline added professional experience to his formal training when he joined New York's Acting Company, led at the time by John Houseman. He toured the country with the company, performing Shakespeare and winning particular acclaim for his portrayals of Romeo and Hamlet. This praise translated to the New York stage a few years later, when Kline won Tony and Drama Desk Awards for his role in the 1978 Broadway production of On the Twentieth Century. Three years later, he earned these same honors for his work in the Broadway production of The Pirates of Penzance (he later reprised his role for the musical's 1983 film adaptation).
After a stint on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow, Kline made his film debut in Alan Pakula's 1982 Sophie's Choice. It was an inarguably auspicious beginning: aside from the wide acclaim lavished on the film, Kline earned a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Nathan Landau. The following year, he again struck gold, starring in The Big Chill, Lawrence Kasdan's seminal exploration of baby-boomer anxiety. Two years later, Kline and Kasdan enjoyed another successful collaboration with Silverado, an homage to the Westerns of the 1950s and '60s.
After turning in a strong performance as a South African newspaper editor in Cry Freedom, Richard Attenborough's powerful 1987 apartheid drama, Kline won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his relentlessly hilarious portrayal of dimwitted petty thief Otto West in A Fish Called Wanda (1988). The award gave him international recognition and established him as an actor as adept at comedy as he was at drama, something Kline again proved in Soapdish; the 1991 comedy was a major disappointment, but Kline nonetheless managed to turn in another excellent performance, earning a Golden Globe nomination.
The '90s saw Kline -- now a married man, having wed actress Phoebe Cates in 1989 -- continue to tackle a range of diverse roles. In 1992, he could be seen playing Douglas Fairbanks in Chaplin, while the next year he gave a winning portrayal of two men -- one, the U.S. President, the other, his reluctant stand-in -- in Dave, earning another Golden Globe nomination. Kline then appeared in one of his most high-profile roles to date, starring as a sexually conflicted schoolteacher in Frank Oz's 1997 comedy In & Out. His portrayal earned him another Golden Globe nomination, as well as a number of other accolades (including an MTV Award nomination for Best Kiss with Tom Selleck).
Further praise followed for Kline the next year, when he turned in a stellar dramatic performance as an adulterous family man in 1973 Connecticut in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm. He then turned back to Shakespeare, portraying Bottom in the star-studded 1999 adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. His work in that film was so well received that it helped to overshadow his involvement in Wild Wild West, one of the most critically lambasted and financially disappointing films of the year.
2001 found Kline returning to straight drama in the introspective Life as a House. The actor continued in this niche the following year, starring as an unorthodox prep school teacher in The Emperor's Club. After playing songwriter Cole Porter in the 2004 biopic De-Lovely, Kline began work on his return to comedy, a remake of the classic The Pink Panther, with him cast opposite Steve Martin.
Kline played Guy Noir in Robert Altman's film adaptation of the radio program Prairie Home Companion, and fulfilled the hopes of Shakespeare enthusiasts around the world when he appeared in the Kenneth Branagh directed adaptation of As You Like It, marking the first time the two respected Shakespearean performers collaborated on a work by the Bard. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi