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Soon to be seen on-screen in the title role of John Hindman’s The Answer Man, Jeff Daniels (Jim Farlander) is currently starring on Broadway in God of Carnage, which Matthew Warchus has staged from Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s play; the production’s ensemble of actors also includes Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, and Marcia Gay Harden.
Mr. Daniels was raised in Michigan, where he attended Central Michigan University, majoring in English and minoring in Theatre. While there, he starred in school productions of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke and Lanford Wilson’s The Hot L Baltimore for guest director Marshall W. Mason, who invited him to join the Circle Repertory Company in New York.
His extensive subsequent NYC stage work included starring in the Second Stage production of Lanford Wilson’s Lemon Sky, for which he received a Drama Desk Award nomination. The role of Jed Jenkins in the New York production of the latter playwright’s Fifth of July brought the actor his first widespread recognition. He played Jed in three different productions; off-Broadway at Circle Rep (1978), in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum (1979), and finally on Broadway (1980), which again brought him a Drama Desk Award. He returned to Circle Rep to star in a one-man show adaptation of Dalton’s Trumbo’s World War I novel Johnny Got His Gun, for which he won a 1983 Obie Award; and reunited with Marshall Mason for Lanford Wilson’s Redwood Curtain, at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre and on Broadway in 1993.
He reprised his role in the latter for the telefilm version directed by John Korty, as he had earlier reprised his Fifth of July role for the Kirk Browning-helmed television taping of Marshall Mason’s original staging. Among his other telefilm credits are Lee Grant’s No Place Like Home; The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, directed by Robert Altman; and Robert Harmon’s The Crossing, in which Mr. Daniels starred as George Washington.
His dozens of feature film credits include James L. Brooks’ Academy Award-winning Terms of Endearment; Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo, in a dual role, and Radio Days; Mike Nichols’ Heartburn; Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild;Bill Phillips’ There Goes the Neighborhood, which was his first onscreen pairing with Catherine O’Hara of Away We Go; Ronald F. Maxwell’s Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, as Civil War Lt. Col. Joshua Chamberlain in both; Jan de Bont’s Speed; Carroll Ballard’s Fly Away Home; Gary Ross’ Pleasantville; Clint Eastwood’s Blood Work; Stephen Daldry’s The Hours; George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck; and Scott Frank’s The Lookout.More recently, his performance in Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale brought him Independent Spirit and Golden Globe Award nominations.
In 1991, Mr. Daniels established the Purple Rose Theatre Company, a not-for-profit professional theatre spotlighting Midwestern actors, directors, playwrights and designers, located in the small town of Chelsea, Michigan. The Purple Rose shared the American Critics Association’s 1998 Best New American Play Award with Lanford Wilson for his play, Book of Days. Mr. Daniels has written twelve plays for the Purple Rose. His first play, Shoe Man (1991), won The Detroit News’ Best New Play Award. His 2006 work Guest Artist, won The Detroit Free Press Best New Play Award, and was nominated for Best New Play by the American Theatre Critics Association.
In 1998, he formed Purple Rose Films, a Michigan-based production company. A filmed version of his play Escanaba in da Moonlight, which he adapted, directed, and starred in, was self-distributed and became one of the top-grossing independent films of 2001. His second writing/directing and acting venture, Super Sucker, won the 2001 Audience Award for Best Feature at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado.
Mr. Daniels has received an Honorary Doctorate from his alma mater, Central Michigan University; The Detroit News’ Michiganian Of The Year Award; the Governor’s Michigan Artist Award; and was honored by the State Of Michigan with a House and Senate Resolution that proclaimed October 4th, 2000 as Jeff Daniels Day.