Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson Headshot

Singer • Songwriter • Musician • Actor

Birth Date: June 22, 1936

Age: 88 years old

Birth Place: Brownsville, Texas

A former U.S. Army captain who turned to songwriting and helped rejuvenate the country-and-western scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s with songs like "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and "Me and Bobby McGee," Kris Kristofferson made the rare successful segue into films.

Making his acting debut as a singer in Dennis Hopper's "The Last Movie" (1971), Kristofferson quickly gained stature as an actor with "Cisco Pike" (1972), "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974) and "A Star is Born" (1976). Though years of alcoholism and later triple-bypass heart surgery slowed down the momentum throughout his career, Kristofferson routinely bounced back better than before, establishing himself as a grizzled veteran performer and bona fide music legend.

Kristofferson was born on June 22, 1936 in Brownsville, TX. His father, Henry, was a major general in the Air Force, whose frequent relocations eventually brought the family to San Mateo, CA where Kristofferson attended high school and became a Golden Gloves boxer. After studying creative writing at Pomona College, in 1958, Kristofferson won a Rhodes scholarship and attended the University of Oxford, earning a master's degree in English Literature and developing a taste for poetry - particularly William Blake - which informed his lifelong desire to write songs.

But instead of pursuing that passion right away, Kristofferson joined the Army and flew helicopters. He was planning on starting a teaching job at West Point, but after a few weeks spent in Nashville with musicians and songwriters, his life's goal changed forever. "It was like my salvation," he later said to NPR's Terry Gross. After developing a thriving music career - which included Janis Joplin's heart-wrenching take on "Me and Bobby McGee" - Kristofferson made the transition into acting.

Kristofferson made his first big acting splash with a strong performance in Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973), playing the famed outlaw who ignores the advice of his old comrade-turned-lawman (James Coburn) to flee to Mexico, choosing instead to meet his fate on his own terms. It grew apparent with each role, that the actor's weathered good looks inflamed the hidden longings of women with his romantic roles opposite Ellen Burstyn ("Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"), Sarah Miles ("The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with The Sea") and Barbra Streisand ("A Star Is Born"), but his rugged vulnerability appealed to men as well.

Meanwhile, he seemed headed for a big film career, but instead, had the misfortune of starring in Michael Cimino's disastrous "Heaven's Gate" (1980), which seemed to put an end to his onscreen career. Kristofferson did rebound with two pictures for director Alan Rudolph ("Song Writer" 1984; "Trouble in Mind" 1985), but he found more substantive roles on television during the 1980s.

Despite the fallout from Cimino's bomb, he continued to act in films that were smaller in scope. In addition to starring as Willie Nelson's friend in Rudolph's "Songwriter," he also received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song Score, losing out to Prince's Purple Rain. In a recycled plot that had already made the rounds on large and small screens, he flopped with "Welcome Home" (1989), playing a presumed dead Air Force officer back after 17 years in Cambodia. He costarred in the little-seen Civil War drama "Pharaoh's Army" (1995), before demonstrating his range in playing bad guys as a racist sheriff in John Sayles' "Lone Star" (1996), rejuvenating an A-list career nearly two decades in abeyance.

Having appeared on television since the early 1970s in music specials, Kristofferson made his TV acting debut alongside Muhammad Ali in the 1979 NBC miniseries "Freedom Road;" also appearing in two more acclaimed miniseries, "Blood and Orchids" (CBS, 1986) and "Amerika" (ABC, 1987) - the latter proposing a world in which the Nazis won World War II. He acted with friends Nelson and Johnny Cash in ABC's "The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James," and joined them and Waylon Jennings for the CBS remake of "Stagecoach" (both 1986), executive-produced by Nelson who would executive produce (and act in) two more CBS vehicles, "Pair of Aces" (1990) and its sequel "Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind" (1991).

He worked steadily throughout the early 1990s in fare like Arnold Schwarzenegger's TV-directing debut, "Christmas in Connecticut" (TNT, 1992), Showtime's "Sodbusters" (1994), and the Family Channel's "Tad" (1995), playing Abraham Lincoln in a tale of his presidency told from the point-of-view of his youngest son.

Kristofferson, who had flourished since "Lone Star," was just warming up with the features "Fire Down Below" and "Girls Night" (both 1997), as well as a TNT movie "Two for Texas" (1998). He appeared in two pictures that opened on the same day in 1998 - "Blade," as an obdurate vampire hunter, and "Dance With Me," as the lone and remote owner of a dance studio.

But even these were just mere preludes for perhaps his finest work ever, playing a character based on novelist James Jones in the Merchant-Ivory vehicle, "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries," adapted from the novel by Jones' daughter Kaylie. In the deft hands of the Merchant-Ivory team (including screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), Kristofferson soared above his "sensitive man" typecasting to deliver a multidimensional portrait of an assured but vulnerable patriarch; a role that fit the father of eight like a glove. In 1998, he wrapped an additional four projects; two for television - the ABC miniseries "Tom Clancy's Netforce" and the CBS movie "Outlaw Justice" - and two for the big screen - DreamWorks' "The Joyriders" and "Limbo," reuniting him with the agent of his rebirth, director John Sayles.

As narrator for "Journey Inside Tibet" (1999), Kristofferson described the journey of flutist Paul Horn to Tibet to become the first Western musician to record inside the sacred temple of Potala Palace. In "The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack" (2000), he appeared as himself in this intimate portrait of folk music hero Ramblin' Jack Elliott.

Kristofferson then made a rare foray into mainstream Hollywood fare with "Planet of the Apes" (2001), playing the captive human, Karubi, a forgettable role in a remake that turned off fans of the original. He later revived the character of Whistler, mentor to half-human, half-vampire Blade (Wesley Snipes), in "Blade II" (2002).

In "Chelsea Walls" (2002), an art house film by first-time director Ethan Hawke, he displayed his acting chops as a middle-aged novelist struggling with his latest novel and an alcohol problem. Meanwhile, his collaboration with Sayles continued in "Silver City" (2004), a satire about politics and murder in the "new west" of Colorado. Kristofferson once again played Whistler in "Blade: Trilogy" (2004) - the third installment of the horror trilogy that played more like a videogame than a movie - before appearing as a mental institution doctor in the thriller, "The Jacket" (2005) opposite Adrien Brody. Meanwhile, Kristofferson was rewarded for his outstanding music career, earning an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and receiving the Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.

He continued racking up acting credits, taking supporting roles in "Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story" (2005), "Fast Food Nation" (2006) and "The Wendell Baker Story" (2007).

Credits

Skyville Live: Jerry Lee Lewis

Music Performer
Show
2021

Skyville Live: Kris Kristofferson and Friends

Music Performer
Show
2021

The Music Center Presents Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration

Music Performer
Show
2019

Blaze

Actor
Edwin Fuller
Movie
2018

Best Friend From Heaven

Voice
Gabriel
Movie
2018

Texas Medal of Arts Awards

Guest
Show
2017

Glastonbury 2017

Music Performer
Show
2017

Outlaw: Celebrating the Music of Waylon Jennings

Actor
Show
2017

Wheeler

Self
Movie
2017

The StarStream

Voice
Old Donkey
Movie
2017
43%

HickokStream

Actor
George Knox
Movie
2017
50%

Austin City Limits Hall of Fame New Year's Eve

Guest
Show
2016

I Am Johnny Cash

Actor
Show
2016

Road to Austin

Music Performer
Show
2016

Traded

Actor
Billy
Movie
2016

The Red Maple Leaf

Actor
John Francis Marshall
Movie
2016

The Highwaymen: Live - American Outlaws

Actor
Movie
2016

Imagine: John Lennon 75th Birthday Concert

Actor
Show
2015

Johnny Cash: American Rebel Exclusive First Look

Actor
Show
2015

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years

Music Performer
Show
2014

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards

Music Performer
Show
2014

Dolphin Tale 2

Actor
Reed Haskett
Movie
2014

7 Minutes

Actor
Mr. B
Movie
2014

An Evening With Kris Kristofferson

Music Performer
Show
2013

For the Love of Music: The Story of Nashville

Guest
Show
2013

Angels SingStream

Actor
The Colonel
Movie
2013
29%

Midnight Rider

Actor
Jack Shepard
Movie
2013

Celebrating the Music of Johnny Cash: We Walk the Line!

Music Performer
Show
2012

When the Mountain Calls: Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan

Host
Show
2012

Johnny Cash Music Festival

Music Performer
Show
2012

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

Actor
Movie
2012

The Motel Life

Actor
Earl Hurley
Movie
2012

Joyful NoiseStream

Actor
Bernard Sparrow
Movie
2012
32%

Deadfall

Actor
Chet Mills
Movie
2012

Country at the BBC

Self
Show
2011

Troubadour, TX

Host
Show
2011

Troubadour, TX

Music Performer
Show
2011

Dolphin Tale

Actor
Reed Haskett
Movie
2011

The Greening of Whitney Brown

Actor
Dusty Brown
Movie
2011

Crook and Chase Presents: A Tribute to Hank Williams Sr.

Music Performer
Show
2010

Yohan: Barnevandreren

Actor
Old Yohan
Movie
2010

Provinces of Night

Actor
E.F. Bloodworth
Movie
2010

Live at Isle of Wight 1970

Actor
Show
2009

He's Just Not That Into You

Actor
Ken
Movie
2009

Powder Blue

Actor
Randall
Movie
2009

The Last Rites of Ransom Pride

Actor
Shepherd Graves
Movie
2009

Snow Buddies

Voice
Talon
Movie
2008

Jump Out Boys

Actor
Raymond
Movie
2008

Kris Kristofferson: Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again) (Live)

Music Performer
Show
2007

Handy Manny

Guest Voice
Pops
Show
2006

Fast Food NationStream

Actor
Rudy
Movie
2006
49%

Brats: Our Journey Home

Narrator
Movie
2006

Disappearances

Actor
Quebec Bill
Movie
2006

Requiem for Billy the Kid

Voice
Billy the Kid
Movie
2006

Sacred Tibet: The Path to Mount Kailash

Narrator
Movie
2006

The Colbert Report

Guest
Talk
2005

The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico

Self
Movie
2005

The Wendell Baker Story

Actor
Nasher
Movie
2005

Trudell

Actor
Movie
2005

Lives of the Saints

Actor
Matthew Bok
Movie
2005

The Jacket

Actor
Dr. Becker
Movie
2005

14 Hours

Actor
Chuck Whortle
Movie
2005

Dreamer: Inspired by a True StoryStream

Actor
Pop Crane
Movie
2005
64%

George Jones - 50 Years Of Hits

Music Performer
Show
2004

La terra del ritorno

Actor
Matthew Bok
Show
2004

Tavis Smiley

Guest
Talk
2004

Silver City

Actor
Wes Benteen
Movie
2004

Blade: TrinityStream

Actor
Abraham Whistler
Movie
2004
24%

Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt

Self
Movie
2004

Classic Gospel

Music Performer
Show
2003

John Ford Goes to War

Narrator
Show
2002

Blade IIStream

Actor
Whistler
Movie
2002
57%

Eye See YouStream

Actor
Doc
Movie
2002
17%

Planet of the ApesStream

Actor
Karubi
Movie
2001
44%

Chelsea Walls

Actor
Bud
Movie
2001

Wooly Boys

Actor
Shuck
Movie
2001

Perfect Murder, Perfect Town

Actor
Show
2000

The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack

Self
Movie
2000

Kris Kristofferson: Why Me

Music Performer
Show
1999

Pater Damiaan

Actor
Movie
1999

NetForce

Actor
Steve Day
Movie
1999

PaybackStream

Actor
Bronson
Movie
1999
56%

Limbo

Actor
'Smilin' Jack Johannson
Movie
1999

The Joyriders

Actor
Eddie
Movie
1999

Molokai

Actor
Rudolph Meyer
Movie
1999

Two for TexasStream

Actor
Hugh Allison
Movie
1998

Girls' Night

Actor
Cody
Movie
1998

Dance With Me

Actor
John Burnett
Movie
1998

BladeStream

Actor
Abraham Whistler
Movie
1998
58%

A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries

Actor
Bill Willis
Movie
1998

Outlaw Justice

Actor
Jesse Ray Torrance
Movie
1998

The Land Before Time VI: The Secret of Saurus Rock

Voice
Doc
Movie
1998

Dead Man's Gun

Actor
Narrator
Show
1997

Dead Man's Gun

Guest Star
Show
1997

Dead Man's Gun

Narrator
Show
1997

Fire Down Below

Actor
Orin Hanner Sr.
Movie
1997

Lone Star

Actor
Sheriff Charlie Wade
Movie
1996

The Road Home

Actor
Davis
Movie
1996

Blue Rodeo

Actor
Owen Whister
Movie
1996

Tad

Actor
Abraham Lincoln
Movie
1995

Big Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story

Self
Movie
1995

Pharaoh's Army

Actor
Preacher
Movie
1995

Inflammable

Actor
Capt. Jack Guthrie
Movie
1995

El Ejército del Faraón

Actor
Preacher
Movie
1995

Sodbusters

Actor
Destiny
Movie
1994

Late Show With David Letterman

Music Performer
Talk
1993

Paper Hearts

Actor
Tom
Movie
1993

Trouble Shooters: Trapped Beneath the Earth

Actor
Stan Mather
Movie
1993

No Place to Hide

Actor
Joe Garvey
Movie
1993

Knights

Actor
Gabriel
Movie
1993

Original Intent

Actor
Jack Saunders
Movie
1992

Christmas in Connecticut

Actor
Jefferson Jones
Movie
1992

Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind

Actor
Rip Metcalf
Movie
1991

Miracle in the WildernessStream

Actor
Jericho Adams
Movie
1991

Night of the Cyclone

Actor
Stanley 'Stan'
Movie
1990

Pair of Aces

Actor
Rip Metcalf
Movie
1990

Perfume of the Cyclone

Actor
Stanley `'Stan'`
Movie
1990

Sandino

Actor
Tom Holte
Movie
1990

Welcome Home

Actor
Jake
Movie
1989

Millennium

Actor
Bill Smith
Movie
1989

The Tracker

Actor
Noble Adams
Movie
1988

Big Top Pee-weeStream

Actor
Mace Montana
Movie
1988
38%

El Regreso de Pee-wee

Actor
Movie
1988

Amerika

Actor
Devin Milford
Show
1987

Blood & Orchids

Actor
Show
1986

The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James

Actor
Jesse James
Movie
1986

StagecoachStream

Actor
Ringo/Ringo Kid/Bill Williams
Movie
1986

The 10th Anniversary Johnny Cash Christmas Special

Guest
Show
1985

Trouble in Mind

Actor
Hawk
Movie
1985

The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck

Actor
Ben Cole
Movie
1984

FlashpointStream

Actor
Bobby Logan
Movie
1984
57%

SongwriterStream

Actor
Blackie Buck
Movie
1984
89%

Hawk

Actor
Movie
1982

RolloverStream

Actor
Hubbell Smith
Movie
1981
70%

Heaven's GateStream

Actor
James Averill
Movie
1980
57%

Freedom Road

Actor
Abner Lait
Movie
1979

Johnny Cash Christmas Special 1978

Actor
Show
1978

ConvoyStream

Actor
Martin "Rubber Duck" Penwald
Movie
1978
53%

Semi-ToughStream

Actor
Marvin `Shake' Tiller
Movie
1977

Les Faux-durs

Actor
Movie
1977

Austin City LimitsStream

Music Performer
Series
1976

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the SeaStream

Actor
Jim Cameron
Movie
1976
75%

A Star is BornStream

Actor
John Norman Howard
Movie
1976
38%

Vigilante Force

Actor
Aaron Arnold
Movie
1976

Saturday Night LiveStream

Host
Series
1975

Alice Doesn't Live Here AnymoreStream

Actor
David
Movie
1974
91%

Free to Be... You & Me

Actor
Movie
1974

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Actor
Biker
Movie
1974

Pat Garrett and Billy the KidStream

Actor
Billy the Kid
Movie
1973
57%

Blume in LoveStream

Actor
Elmo Cole
Movie
1973
71%

Great PerformancesStream

Music Performer
Franchise
1972

Cisco Pike

Actor
Cisco Pike
Movie
1971

The Johnny Cash Show

Music Performer
Show
1969

The Dick Cavett ShowStream

Guest
Talk
1968

News aboutKris Kristofferson