Harris was born in Englewood and raised in Tenafly, the son of Margaret, a travel agent, and Robert L. Harris, who sang with the Fred Waring chorus and worked at the bookstore of the Art Institute of Chicago. Harris was raised in a middle-class Presbyterian family. He graduated from Tenafly High School in 1969, where he played on the football team, serving as the team’s captain in his senior year.
He was a star athlete in high school and competed in athletics at Columbia University in 1969. Two years later his family moved to New Mexico and he followed after having discovered his interest in acting in various theater plays. He enrolled at the University of Oklahoma to study drama. After several successful roles in the local theater, he moved to Los Angeles, and enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts.
Harris’s wife is actress Amy Madigan. The couple married on Monday, November 21, 1983 while they were filming Places in the Heart in which they played an adulterous couple. They have a daughter, Lilly Dolores Harris, born in 1993.
Harris’s first important film role was in Borderline with Charles Bronson. In Knightriders he played the king of a motorcycle-riding renaissance-fair troupe in a role modeled after King Arthur.
In 1983, the actor became a star, playing astronaut John Glenn in The Right Stuff. Twelve years later, a film with a similar theme led to Harris being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of NASA flight director Gene Kranz in Apollo 13.
Further Oscar nominations arrived in 1999, 2001 and 2003, for The Truman Show, Pollock and The Hours, respectively.
And the rest is Hollywood history.
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