William Hall Macy, Jr. is an American actor and writer. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo. He is also a teacher and director in theater, film and television. His film career has been built mostly on his appearances in small, independent films, though he has appeared in summer action films as well. Macy has described himself as "sort of a Middle American, WASPy, Lutheran kind of guy... Everyman". He has won two Emmy Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award, being nominated for nine Emmy Awards and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards in total. He is also a three-time Golden Globe Award nominee.
Macy was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Georgia and Maryland. His father, William Hall Macy, Sr., was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal for flying a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in World War II; he later ran a construction company in Atlanta and worked for Dun & Bradstreet, before taking over a Cumberland, Maryland-based insurance agency, when Macy was nine years old. His mother, Lois, was a war widow who met Macy's father after her first husband died in 1943; Macy has described her as a "Southern belle".
After graduating in 1968 from Allegany High School in Cumberland, Maryland, Macy studied veterinary medicine at Bethany College in West Virginia. By his own admission a "wretched student," he transferred to Goddard College and became involved in theatre, where he performed in ensemble productions of The Three Penny Opera, A Midsummer Night's Dream and a wide variety of contemporary and improvisational pieces. At Goddard, he first met playwright David Mamet. After graduating in 1971, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, and got a job as a bartender to pay the rent. Within a year, he and David Mamet, among others, founded the successful St. Nicholas Theater Company, where Macy originated roles in a number of Mamet's plays, such as American Buffalo and The Water Engine.
After spending time in Los Angeles, California, Macy moved to New York City in 1980. While living there, he had roles in over fifty Off Broadway and Broadway plays. One of his early on-screen roles was as a turtle named Socrates in the direct-to-video film The Boy Who Loved Trolls (1984), under the name W. H. Macy. He has appeared in numerous films that Mamet wrote and/or directed, including House of Games, Things Change, Homicide, Oleanna (reprising the role he originated in the play of the same name), Wag the Dog, State and Main, and Spartan.
Macy may be best known for his lead role in Fargo, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. The role helped boost his career and recognizability, though at the expense of nearly confining him to a narrow typecast of a worried man down on his luck. Other Macy roles of the 1990s and 2000s included Benny & Joon, Above Suspicion, Mr. Holland's Opus, Ghosts of Mississippi, Air Force One, Boogie Nights, Pleasantville, Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho, Happy, Texas, Mystery Men, Magnolia, Jurassic Park III, Focus, Panic, Welcome to Collinwood, Seabiscuit, The Cooler, and Sahara.
Macy has also had a number of roles on television, including a guest appearance on The Unit, as the President of the United States. In 2003, he won two Emmy Awards, one for starring in the lead role, and one as co-writer, of the made-for-TNT film Door to Door. Door to Door is a drama based on the true story of Bill Porter, a door-to-door salesman in Portland, Oregon, born with cerebral palsy. The film is composed of several stories, each taking up a whole period between commercials.
His work on ER and Sports Night has also been recognized with Emmy nominations. His character in ER, David Morgenstern, is responsible for a sage piece of advice that has been handed down throughout the series. In the pilot episode, when Julianna Margulies' character, nurse Carol Hathaway, is brought to the hospital with a drug overdose, Morgenstern tells Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) that he needs to "set the tone" to get the unit through the difficulty of treating one of its own. "You set the tone" is repeated several times in the series.
In a November 2003 interview with USA Today, Macy stated that he wanted to star in a big-budget action movie "for the money, for the security of a franchise like that". He serves as director-in-residence at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York, where he teaches a technique called Practical Aesthetics. A book describing the technique, A Practical Handbook for the Actor (ISBN 0-394-74412-8), is dedicated to Macy and Mamet.
In 2007, Macy starred in Wild Hogs, a film about middle-aged men reliving their youthful days by taking to the open road on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles from Cincinnati to the Pacific Coast. Despite being critically panned with a 14% "rotten" rating from Rotten Tomatoes, it was a financial success, grossing over $168 million. In 2009, Macy completed filming on The Maiden Heist, a comedy that co-stars Morgan Freeman and Christopher Walken.
On June 23, 2008, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced Macy and his wife, Felicity Huffman, would each receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the upcoming year. On January 13, 2009, Macy replaced Jeremy Piven in David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow on Broadway. Piven suddenly and unexpectedly dropped out of the play in December 2008 after he experienced health problems related to high mercury levels in his blood; Norbert Leo Butz covered the role from December 23, 2008, until Macy took over the part.
- He is a 15th cousin three times removed of actor Brad Pitt through Sir John Savage and Katherine Stanley, who were also Pitt's maternal 17th great-grandparents.