Brian Dennehy’s career has spanned over 60 films and 100 TV movies and stage plays. Surprising, then, that it took the esteemed actor a while to throw himself full force into the world of acting. Dennehy was born in Bridgeport, CT and raised in Long Island by his Irish-American parents. He attended Columbia University on a football scholarship, went on to Yale to study dramatic arts, and then spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, from 1959 to 1963.
His breakthrough film role came in 1982, when Dennehy played Sheriff Will Teasle opposite Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo in First Blood. From there, he made a name for himself as a strong character actor, portraying working class Americans on stage and in film with rare empathy and insight. Dennehy has demonstrated a particular affinity with Eugene O’Neill’s plays.
Nowadays, after four decades of theatrical experience, Dennehy has been recognized as an inimitable force in O’Neill’s works. In 2003, he won a Best Actor Tony for his performance in Long Day’s Journey into Night. Last year, he was the recipient of the aptly named Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed upon an actor, musician, writer, painter or other type of artist who has achieved the highest level of artistic integrity. The award is given annually by Irish American Writers & Artists, a non-profit organization dedicated to highlighting “the rich tradition of Irish Americans in all manner of artistic endeavor in the United States, from the 19th century to the present day.”
He recently wrapped up a touring production of John B. Keane’s The Field in Ireland, and is in production for a film about the Scopes Monkey Trial, the famous court battle on evolution.