An Evening with William H. Macy: Grace and Subtle Brilliance

William H. Macy Evening

An Evening with William H. Macy: Grace and Subtle Brilliance

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"What you see is what you get. The best acting is when you know exactly what your objective is and you know the lines cold, and then you stop judging what is in and out of character. If it happens, it happened for a reason. It's all in, in other words." - William H. Macy

Not your typical Hollywood star, William H. Macy is one of the few American actors whose stage experience equals that of their film work. Indeed, his bashful demeanor and graciousness make him stand out amongst all the glitz and glamour. While usually not the "star of the show," his brilliant performances have made some stars look even better—and others look even worse.

William Hall Macy was born in Miami, Florida on March 13th, 1950, and later, at the age of nine, moved to Maryland with his family. Already popular as two-time high school class president, he received his first taste of acting playing Mordred in a school production of "Camelot". But the acting bug didn't catch on right away; instead, Macy spent time showing off his musical talents with his brother by forming a folk rock group named Minnesingers. Macy enrolled in West Virginia's Bethany College and pursued a career in Veterinary Science. However, the wannabe vet soon found himself in several theater productions and could deny his impulses no longer. Transferring to Vermont's Goddard College, Macy met professor and rising playwright, David Mamet—with whom he would form a lasting friendship—and devoted the rest of his life to drama and theater by partnering with Mamet to form the St. Nicholas Theater acting troupe. After a few years on the stage, Macy began television commercial and voice-over work (of which Secret's "Strong enough for a man but made for a woman." was a highlight). Macy soon racked up supporting credits in such films as Mr. Holland's Opus, House of Games, Things Change, Oleanna, Homicide, and Murder in the First—not to mention a recurring role on NBC's ER.

It was around this time that the script for the Coen Brothers' Fargo fell into Macy's hands, and he immediately knew he would be perfect for the role of Jerry Lundergaard—a role he wanted so badly he threatened to "kill" the Coens' dog if he did not get it. Fargo made Macy a household name. His performance was dead on, and he received an Oscar nomination for his role, firmly cementing him on Hollywood's A-list. From there, roles were much more frequent and included Boogie Nights (a role he researched by becoming a camera operator on a real porn film), Mystery Men, Wag the Dog, Pleasantville, Air Force One, A Civil Action, Magnolia, Happy Texas, Panic, State and Main, Welcome to Collinwood, and A Slight Case of Murder, which he also co-wrote and was cast opposite real-life wife, Felicity Huffman.

Recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in TNT's Door to Door, the story of a door-to-door salesman with cerebral palsy, Macy has also been named the new Ambassador for the United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc., an organization with which he has become very involved because of his role in the film. Macy may refer to himself as "Howdy Doody" when he looks in the mirror, but since Fargo the ubiquitous actor has become in his own words "a big fat star," playing anxious, fumbling men on the edge, struggling to maintain a grip as events overwhelm them.

Both a charmer and versatile actor, his grace is matched with his obvious dogged determination, while maintaining a natural, artistic brilliance that screams out maverick. - Mike Rabehl