Today, younger audiences may know actor Ed Harris best as The Man in Black on HBO's "Westworld," but the highly prolific performer has appeared in over 100 TV shows and films so far.
Born in 1950 to a middle-class New Jersey family, Harris would have to wait until 1983 for his breakout role as astronaut John Glenn in "The Right Stuff." Harris has since starred in several very big and widely acclaimed films, including "Apollo 13," "The Truman Show," and "The Hours." He's also been nominated for an Academy Award four times, including receiving a Best Actor nod for the critically lauded 2001 film "Pollock," which was also his first foray into directing a feature. Known for being a method actor, few can rival the longevity and critical acclaim that Harris has achieved in the entertainment industry.
Harris received a scholarship to play football at Columbia University, where he played defense for one year. But, he realized right away that professional football would not be in the cards. "When I realized I couldn't play football, I was pretty lost," Harris said. "I needed something I could be good at. I wasn't even thinking about making a living. It was about survival.” At this juncture, Harris was already discovering his growing interest in acting. However, at the time Columbia didn't even have a theatre department, much less an acting major he could pursue. So, during his sophomore year, Harris decided to drop out and focus on becoming an actor. Later, Harris would study drama at the University of Oklahoma before moving to Los Angeles, enrolling at the California Institute of the Arts, and receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1975.
Despite never receiving a degree from Columbia, the actor certainly hasn't fallen off the radar for members of the university. In particular, Harris is occasionally the subject of discussion and praise in the university's newspaper, such as a 2001 review of "Pollock" published in the Columbia Spectator.
"Ed Harris' Pollock is an engrossing look at the life of Jackson Pollock, one of America's first art celebrities,” begins the review, before gold stamping the former student's performance with, "But as a film about an artist, Pollock finds great success, particularly in those scenes where the film is less about reconstructing historical events and more about an actor trying to capture the essence of another human being."