Occupation: Actor, Director
Date of Birth: March 21, 1962
Place of Birth: New York, N.Y., USA
Sign: Sun in Aries, Moon in Libra
Relations: Wife: Sarah Jessica Parker;father: James Broderick (deceased; actor); mother: Patricia (playwright, screenwriter, artist, theatrical director);sister: Janet Craft (Episcopal minister); has one other sibling
Education: The Walden School
BORN into an intellectual and artistic New York family, Broderick is the son of the late craggy-faced actor James (perhaps best remembered as the dad on the Kristy McNichol TV vehicle Family) and well-respected playwright Patricia Broderick. The future Ferris Bueller took up acting at New York’s prestigious Walden School after being sidelined from his athletic pursuits (football and soccer) by a knee injury. The bookish lad’s first serious foray into drama came at age 17 when he starred alongside his father in a workshop production of southern playwright Horton Foote’s On Valentine’s Day (1979). Broderick went on to make something of a name for himself in the New York theater scene, working with such A-list playwrights as Harvey Fierstein and Neil Simon: He played Fierstein’s adopted gay son in an off-Broadway production of the writer-actor’s drama Torch Song Trilogy; and his career shifted into high gear when he brought to life the budding neurotic hero of Brighton Beach Memoirs (for which he won his first Tony Award) and Biloxi Blues (he reprised the role for the 1988 Mike Nichols film adaptation), the first two installments of Simon’s semi-autobiographical trilogy.
In the missed-opportunities department, Broderick was the original choice to play Alex Keaton (the Reagan administration-espousing teen-aged capitalist character that made Michael J. Fox famous) in the long-running NBC sitcom Family Ties. Broderick declined the proffered role, however, because his father was dying of cancer in New York City at the time and the job would have necessitated a move to Los Angeles.
While Broderick earned his cinematic debut in a supporting role in the 1983 adaptation of Simon’s Max Dugan Returns, he made his first real splash that same year as the whiz kid computer hacker embroiled in a nuclear weaponry cabal in director John Badham’s War Games. Combining youthful enthusiasm with anxious intelligence, the role provided a perfect showcase for his talents. He went on to essay significant roles in movie versions of the Foote dramas 1918 (1985) and On Valentine’s Day (1986) before he sidled into what would prove his signature role: the hooky-playing title character of the 1986 John Hughes comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. A quirky rapscallion, the Ferris Bueller characterization added elements of slyness and good-natured cunning to Broderick’s stock-in-trade ingenuous boy interpretations. He further surprised audiences by showing up in Fierstein’s 1988 film version of Torch Song Trilogy in the role of Fierstein’s lover. With only a very few movies to his credit, the casting represented a gutsy move for the 26-year-old actor. The seemingly audacious career decision suggested that the baby-faced Broderick was determined to add some edginess to his cinematic persona to avoid being pigeonholed for life in pimply goody-goody parts.
Another tragic note sounded for the actor in 1988, when he crossed into oncoming traffic and crashed head-on into another car while driving near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. Both occupants of the other vehicle, Anna Gallagher, 28, and her mother, Margaret Dougherty, age 60, were killed. In the car with Broderick was his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Grey, of Dirty Dancing fame; both of them sustained injuries, and Broderick’s were serious enough that he was hospitalized for two months. The case went to court in Ireland, but the charge against Broderick was reduced to careless driving, which carried only a $175 fine. Family members of the dead women were outraged by the reduction, though Broderick professed sincere remorse for the horrible incident.
His film career continued in a slightly darker vein with roles in the highly acclaimed 1989 Civil War drama Glory, which also starred Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, and the 1990 satirical black comedy The Freshman, with Marlon Brando and a Komodo dragon. Broderick’s interpretation of the deeply sensitive and complicated Colonel Robert Shaw, the young commander of the first Black Union regiment, in the former feature won him wide praise. Less successful were his outings in the ill-advised Sidney Lumet drama Family Business (1989) and the romantic-comedy misfire The Night We Never Met (1993).
Broderick went on to undertake a slew of roles in projects as diverse as Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle and The Lion King (in which he voiced the adult Simba) before tackling a more serious and challenging task: directing, co-producing, and starring in his mother’s screenplay for Infinity, a 1996 biopic based on the memoirs of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. Just playing the mercurial, bongo-thumping genius Feynman would have been hard enough, and though the movie was not a huge success, Broderick nevertheless more than earned his directing stripes with the auspicious debut.
Communicating palpably real panic as straight man to Jim Carrey’s obsessive freak in the middling 1996 comedy The Cable Guy, Broderick perfected his interpretation of the befuddled good guy stuck in a very bad situation, a winning employment of his talents that serves him well to this day. Griffin Dunne’s 1997 feature-directorial debut film Addicted to Love witnessed Broderick playing a likable jealous obsessive who relentlessly pursues the woman who dumped him. Maintaining the air and appearance of the youthful intellectual, Broderick is unmatched at communicating undercurrents of sadness, fear, or disdain. He brought all of his informed skills to bear in his rendering of J. Pierrepont Finch in a Broadway run of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, for which he won a Tony Award in 1995. Putting a shrewd and knowing twist on earlier interpretations of the character, he made Finch sharper without compromising any of the affability that made him a star.
Broderick trotted out his wry and reluctant hero in the summer 1998 lizard-fest Godzilla, in which his bewildered biologist Nick Tatopoulos battles a seriously mutated iguana. The following year, he matched wits with a scheming Reese Witherspoon </people/reesewitherspoon/> in the high school satire Election; and banked a career-high $5 million to portray the titular character of Disney’s live-action version of the popular cartoon Inspector Gadget.
In his personal life, Broderick married longtime love and onetime How to Succeed in Business co-star Sarah Jessica Parker in 1997. The couple lives in New York.