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Brian Dennehy

  • American actor
  • Born July 9, 1938

Brian Manion Dennehy (born July 9, 1938) is an American actor of film, stage, and television. A winner of one Golden Globe, two Tony Awards and a recipient of six Primetime Emmy Award nominations, he gained initial recognition for his role as Sheriff Will Teasle in First Blood (1982). He has had roles in numerous films including Gorky Park (1983), Silverado (1985), Cocoon (1985), F/X (1986), Presumed Innocent (1990), Romeo + Juliet (1996), and Knight of Cups (2015). Dennehy won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film for his role as Willy Loman in the television film Death of a Salesman (2000).


I've got two artificial knees, I have an artificial shoulder, and I'm reasonably healthy given the damage I've done to myself. Everything hurts.




My grandfather was a really, really tough no-nonsense factory worker who emigrated from Ireland in about 1900 to Bridgeport, Conn. He had a big effect on me. Those guys who took a great leap out into what they knew not were the ones who were the real stars, the real heroes.




My father was a classic intellectual. From him I learned devotion, and I also learned about the life of the mind.




No one would ever cast me as an aristocrat. I think the big thing about being an Irish artist is access to melancholy. Especially the American Irish. The availability of loss, some kind of pain, is an important part of who we are. I think my Irishness gave me that.




I lied about serving in Vietnam, and I'm sorry. I did not mean to take away from the actions and the sacrifices of the ones who did really serve there... I did steal valor. That was very wrong of me. There is no real excuse for that.




I idolize Gene Hackman. He is not a natural star, not an incandescent personality like Jack Nicholson, but he makes luminous the problems of being an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation.




The older I get, the more interesting the part has to be. Bobby Knight is extremely interesting.




If you're sixty-something, pushing 70, the chances of you getting a tremendously fascinating part in the movies are very low, as to be almost negligible, or even in television. But in the theatre, there are still things to do, very interesting, very profound things.




I remember playing John Wayne Gacy, serial killer, very sick, neurotic, screwed-up guy. You know what? There's a part of me there, too, and you explore that.




It'd be very difficult to cast me as a ballet dancer. Everybody is, in some sense, controlled by their size and their gender. I'm not going to be allowed to play the part that Denzel Washington plays.




As the stars make more and more money - one person gets $12 million, $14 million, $15 million, $20 million - everyone else is expected to work for peanuts. And that includes some extraordinary actors who are, today, working for peanuts because the production companies have decided they don't need to pay these people, and they don't.




It took a long time for me to have any impact in the business because I didn't look like an actor, I didn't sound like an actor.




My father had a good sense of humour about a lot of things, including life, which I think I inherited.




Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that morality is not just a matter of opinion.




Theater is a physical activity as much as anything. It's harder for me to learn the lines than it was 30 years ago. At the same time, I'll never quit working in the theater - until I can't memorize two lines back to back.




My problem is, if any place I'm sleeping catches on fire, I've got a problem because it takes me 20 minutes to get everything moving in the morning.




The theater business has allowed me, in a way the movie and TV business has not, to do very, very interesting work. So that's what I do.




I was in high school in 1953 when the Committee of One Million circulated a petition urging that Red China - one third of the world's population - be excluded from the United Nations. And I remember I refused to sign it, at 14 or 15 years old.




What really matters is that you do what you think is right, what you believe in, and you surround yourself with the people you care about in this world. That's what counts in this life.




In this business, you have a hierarchy of stars. Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks - you name 'em, they can play any part they want. Guys like me who are somewhere down in the middle of the pack, that's a different story. I can do things in the theater that I can't do anyplace else.




I'm not one of these people who likes to do as little as possible. I really do feel the hot breath of time on the back of my neck these days. And there are certain things I want to do before my time is up.




If I could transform my stage life to the movies, I'd be Jack Nicholson.




At 13, I was a big, totally uncoordinated, hopeless football player. I responded to somebody else's rules, and I stayed just good enough to get a scholarship to Columbia, which was looking for scholar-athletes.




I come from an Irish Catholic family, and hell-raising is part of the DNA.




I'm not in the movie business anymore, and hardly any 70 year olds are. I always ask the producers: 'Are there no 70-year old vampires?' Apparently there are not - or even zombies for that matter. I guess they all get eaten.




From 1965 to 1974, I served the best possible apprenticeship for an actor. I learned firsthand how a truck driver lives, what a bartender does, how a salesman thinks. I had to make a life inside those jobs, not just pretend.




I like sports. I'm a big football fan. When I was a kid, I was a... I don't even know how to describe it... I was an obsessed Brooklyn Dodgers fan. And I think when they left Brooklyn, which was simultaneous with me starting college, everything changed, and I haven't had the same passion for sports.



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