John Savage

John Savage Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: August 25, 1949

Age: 74 years old

Birth Place: Old Bethpage, New York

Blond and baby-faced, John Savage made a name for himself as a sensitive, vulnerable screen presence during the 1970s. The Long Island-born actor studied at NYC's American Academy of Dramatic Arts, began his stage career in the 60s and by 1971 had appeared on Broadway in the long-running "Fiddler on the Roof."

He would tour the USA as the ultra-shy and stuttering Billy Bibbit in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" but not before enjoying a breakthrough of sorts as a young East Coast youth who runs off to the Wild West thus evading service in the Civil War, in Robert Benton's feature directing debut, "Bad Company" (1972). After joining the anti-establishment misfits (i.e., Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Peter Boyle) of "Steelyard Blues" (1973), he took his first crack at the small screen, acting in the TV-movie "All the Kind Strangers" (ABC, 1974), and later played "Eric" (NBC, 1975), a terminal cancer patient fighting to the very end.

He also made his debut as a series regular, portraying the cub reporter lead of the short-lived "Gibbsville" (NBC, 1976).

Savage exploded into the public's consciousness with his supporting turn in Michael Cimino's Oscar-winning Best Picture, "The Deer Hunter" (1978), playing Steven, who forces the bravado of his hometown friends, and returns from Vietnam with shattered legs. Milos Forman chose him to star as Claude Hooper Bukowski, the young man who falls in with hippies on his last day before going to Vietnam, in the big screen version of "Hair," its impact severely limited as a period piece, and he also headlined the heart-wrenching "The Onion Field" (both 1979), the true story of a cop who cracks up and flees the scene after witnessing his partner's murder.

Savage continued to confirm his status in Hollywood as a rising off-beat lead and young character player with "Inside Moves" (1980), starring as a suicide survivor discovering the necessary self-esteem to live his life. After two films in 1981, "Cattle Annie and Little Britches" and "The Amateur," however, he moved to South Africa and, despite acting in some international films and TV-movies (i.e., "Nairobi Affair" CBS, 1984), remained essentially "out of sight" in Hollywood.

Savage re-emerged by delivering a nifty supporting turn as an ambitious photojournalist who paid the ultimate price for a legend-making shot in Oliver Stone's quasi-docudrama "Salvador" (1986) and also made a fine beast in a Cannon Films version of "Beauty and the Beast" (1987), opposite Rebecca DeMornay. His first association with Spike Lee, "Do the Right Thing" (1989), featured him as a bike-riding Caucasian living in a Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone despite the disdain of the African-American residents, and he later parlayed his African cachet to work as assistant production manager on the South African location shooting for Lee's "Malcolm X" (1992).

Barely featured and barely recognizable as Andrew Hagen, the son of the Corleone consigliari, who is a priest working in the Vatican in "The Godfather, Part III" (1990), the older but still boyish Savage determined to raise his profile in Hollywood and signed with personal manager Michael Wallach. After playing in numerous modestly budgeted films such as Daniel Adams' "Primary Motive" (1992, alongside actress daughter Jennifer Youngs), he landed a part as Jeff Bridges' second-in-command in Ridley Scott's "White Squall" (1996), but the film did not connect at the box office. In 1997, he reteamed with Adams as the titular all-time loser in boxing knockouts in the small-budget, fact-based "The Mouse," which he also produced.

Accessing his rage has brought a resurgence to the Savage career. Roles as abusive, alcoholic husbands in "Little Boy Blue" and ABC's "Oprah Winfrey Presents: Before Women Had Wings" (both 1997) gave way to his ranting sergeant in Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line" (1998) and the angry brother of Kevin Costner's dead wife in Luis Mandoki's "Message in a Bottle" (1999). Over-the-top as an evil-to-the-core henchman in John Badham's "The Jack Bull" (HB0, 1999), he bridged the gap that year between the fifth and sixth seasons of "Star Trek: Voyager," playing a rogue star ship captain who earns sufficient redemption to die a hero's death in the two-part "Equinox" episode.

The busy year also saw him reteam with Lee as a photographer in the director's "Summer of Sam." He stayed busy acting in the TNT remake of "The Virginian" and in USA's horror thriller "They Nest" (both 2000) before returning as a series regular in Fox's "Dark Angel," a futuristic drama (executive produced by James Cameron) set in a 21st Century of economic, political and moral collapse.

Credits

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