William Forsythe

William Forsythe Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: June 7, 1955

Age: 69 years old

Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York

Burly, intense character actor William Forsythe played his share of tough guys in features ranging from big-budget extravaganzas to low-rent, direct-to-DVD exploitation movies. After his big break playing a bootlegger opposite Robert De Niro in Sergio Leone's gangster epic "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984), the actor quickly established himself - most often as a heavy - in more commercial endeavors like the Steven Seagal actioner "Out for Justice" (1991). Forsythe delivered exceptional performances in acclaimed indie films as well, including the rehabilitation drama "The Waterdance" (1992) and the quirky crime comedy "Palookaville" (1995). Increasingly known as a staple in genre films of all stripes and budgets, the actor could be seen in everything from Michael Bay's blockbuster "The Rock" (1997) to rocker-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie's blood-soaked "The Devil's Rejects" (2005). Appearing more often than not in low-budget fare, he occasionally starred in features like the sardonic character study "Happy in the Valley" (2009) and on television as the star of such crime-dramas as "The Mob Doctor" (Fox, 2012-13).

Like grizzled character actors Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates or Lee Marvin before him, Forsythe regularly delivered solid work in respected projects amongst the steady stream of B-movies that were the working actor's bread and butter.

Born in Flatbush, NY on June 7, 1955, Forsythe grew up with a movie-obsessed mother who schooled him in actors and films from Hollywood's Golden Age. But his interest in performing did not fully develop until a teacher forced him to play Caesar in a school production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." The acting bug bit deep, with Forsythe appearing in numerous high school plays before setting out for Manhattan at age 17 to try his hand at professional acting. The gambit worked. Forsythe found frequent work in summer stock and other stage shows on and off-Broadway, including several turns in musicals which took advantage of his opera training.

Eventually, Forsythe made his way to California, where he blitzed studios and casting agencies in an attempt to land work. In an interview, Forsythe once confessed to disguising himself as a gas company worker and even a singing telegram performer in a gorilla suit to gain entry into casting sessions. His efforts began to pay off in the early 1980s with small roles in low-budget films and on television, including parts on "Hill Street Blues" (NBC, 1981-87) and an infamous episode of "CHiPS" (NBC, 1977-1983) in which he played a nefarious punk rocker. Forsythe's big break came in 1984 when legendary director Sergio Leone cast him opposite Robert De Niro and James Woods as cold-blooded Jewish gangster Philip "Cockeye" Stein in Leone's final film, "Once Upon a Time in America." The experience was a revelatory one for Forsythe, but studio interference led to the film arriving D.O.A. in theaters in a truncated form.

However, the exposure gave Forsythe's career a considerable boost, and he began appearing regularly in features and TV movies. Most of these roles were based entirely on Forsythe's imposing build and granite-faced stare; he played his share of tough cops, bikers and killers in "The Lightship" (1985) with Robert Duvall, Walter Hill's "Extreme Prejudice" and "Savage Dawn" (1985). But independent features saw some shades of grey at the edges of his stony persona. He was very funny as the dim-witted brother and partner to John Goodman's escaped convict in the Coen Brothers' "Raising Arizona" (1987), and played a jailbird who joins Nick Nolte's prison theater program in the underrated "Weeds" (1987).

Forsythe also gave a volcanic performance as a member of the underground revolutionaries who kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst in Paul Schrader's "Patty Hearst" (1988). For the rest of the 1980s and 1990s, Forsythe divided his time between action films and independent fare - the latter of which allowed him to stretch his considerable acting talents. He was the gun-crazy Flattop in Warren Beatty's expensive film version of "Dick Tracy" (1990), and stole the show from leads Steven Seagal and pro-footballer-turned-actor Brian Bosworth in "Out for Justice" (1991) and "Stone Cold" (1991), respectively.

But he gave nuanced performances in Neal Jimenez's "The Waterdance," which earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination, and Edward James Olmos' "American Me" (1992). Forsythe also played gangster lord Al Capone in the syndicated TV revamp of "The Untouchables" (1993), as well as starred alongside Vincent Gallo in "Palookaville," a charming comedy based on the stories of Italo Calvino.

For most of the late 1990s and into the new millennium, Forsythe stayed busy in action pictures of both the big-budget and direct-to-cable variety, ranging from "The Rock" and "Firestorm" (1998) to "The Substitute" (1996) and the Tarantino manqué "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" (1996). He also gave a notable turn as mobster informant Sammy "The Bull" Gravano in the superior TV biopic "Gotti" (1996), and took another rare comic turn as an LAPD detective with an embarrassing physical problem in the broad comedy "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" (1999). In the late 1990s, Forsythe began co-producing several of his own features, including two action titles with Burt Reynolds, "Big City Blues" (1999) and "The Librarians" (2003).

Forsythe also shared a writing credit on the latter. He also made recurring appearances on two well regarded but ratings-challenged TV series: "UC: Undercover" (NBC, 2001-02, as a homicidal thief) and "John Doe" (Fox, 2002-03, as the title character's best friend).

In 2003, rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie tapped Forsythe to play the seething Sheriff Wydell, who was consumed by his obsession to destroy the murderous Firefly family in "The Devil's Rejects" (2005), the semi-sequel to "House of 1000 Corpses" (2003). The collaboration was evidently a positive one, as Zombie cast Forsythe as the ill-fated boyfriend of Michael Myers' mother in his revamped version of "Halloween" (2007). Forsythe continued to split his time between Hollywood and the indie world during this period, playing hardnosed cops opposite Samuel L. Jackson in the Richard Price-penned "Freedomland" (2006) and Al Pacino in the Jon Avnet thriller "88 Minutes" (2007).

He also found time to turn up in lower-budgeted features like the horror spoof "Hack!" (2007), as a Scottish groundskeeper-cum-red herring, and "We All Scream for Ice Cream," a 2007 episode of the Showtime splatter anthology "Masters of Horror" (2005-), as a gentle ice cream truck driver who returns from the dead to avenge his murder.

Although the majority of his work was not always widely viewed, Forsythe appeared constantly in material both large and small in budget. He comfortably played a hired gun in the direct-to-DVD revenge movie "Stiletto" (2008), then enjoyed a starring role as the washed-up, self-described "world's greatest erotic photographer" in the indie drama "Happy in the Valley' (2009). Never afraid of darker material, he later portrayed one of America's most notorious and prolific serial killers in the based-on-fact drama "Dear Mr. Gacy" (2010). Forsythe battled ferocious creatures on an isolated deep-sea oil derrick in "The Rig" (2010), and took part in a slew of similar low-budget genre pictures over the course of the next year, prior to picking up a recurring role as Philadelphia mobster Manny Horvitz on the heralded prohibition drama "Boardwalk Empire" (HBO, 2010-14).

Forsythe grabbed one of his higher profile roles in years when he was cast as Alexander Constantine, a morally ambiguous mob leader exerting control over an indebted surgeon (Jordana Spiro) in the crime drama "The Mob Doctor" (Fox, 2012-13).

Credits

Once Upon a Time in America

Actor
Cockeye
Show
2023

Open

Actor
Captain Edgar J. Steadman
Movie
2023

God's Not Dead: We the People

Actor
Robert Benson
Movie
2021

Ida RedStream

Actor
Lawrence Twilley
Movie
2021
33%

A Perfect Plan

Actor
Grayson
Movie
2020

I Am Fear

Actor
Marco
Movie
2020

Run With the HuntedStream

Actor
Augustus
Movie
2020
0%

Cold Pursuit

Actor
Brock
Movie
2019

Vault

Actor
Buddy Providence
Movie
2019

Awake

Actor
Roger Bower
Movie
2019

Magnum P.I.Stream

Guest Star
Harry Brown
Series
2018

Chicago JusticeStream

Guest Star
Series
2017
73%

Check Point

Actor
The Sheriff
Movie
2017

Check Point

Producer
Movie
2017

The Making of the Mob: Chicago

Actor
Show
2016

Criminal Minds: Beyond BordersStream

Guest Star
Oleg Antakov
Series
2016
25%

The Midnight Man

Actor
Fairbanks
Movie
2016

The Hollow

Actor
Big John Dawson
Movie
2016

パリ・オペラ座 夢を継ぐ者たち

Self
Movie
2016

Laugh Killer Laugh

Actor
Frank Stone
Movie
2015

Echoes of War

Actor
Randolph
Movie
2015

Road to Juarez

Actor
Doug Hermann
Movie
2015

Hidden in the Woods

Actor
Uncle Costello
Movie
2015

The Networker

Actor
Charles Mangano
Movie
2015

The Bronx Bull

Actor
Jake LaMotta
Movie
2015

Death for Hire

Actor
Uncle Rip
Movie
2014

The Ghost Club: Spirits Never Die

Actor
Stanley
Movie
2014

Tom Holland's Twisted Tales

Actor
Mr. Smith
Movie
2014

Infected

Actor
Dr. Edward Dennehey
Movie
2013

The Mob Doctor

Actor
Constantine Alexander
Show
2012

Underground Entertainment: The Movie

Actor
Bill
Show
2011

Slip & Fall

Actor
Jerry
Movie
2011

Jesse

Actor
Vince the Godfather
Movie
2011

Born to Ride

Actor
Jack Steele
Movie
2011

Loosies

Actor
Capt. Edwards
Movie
2011

Hawaii Five-0Stream

Guest Star
Series
2010

Boardwalk EmpireStream

Guest Star
Manny Horvitz
Series
2010
92%

JustifiedStream

Guest Star
Series
2010
97%

Dear Mr. Gacy

Actor
John Wayne Gacy
Movie
2010

Inkubus

Actor
Diamente
Movie
2010

The Rig

Actor
Jim
Movie
2010

The Last Victim

Actor
Movie
2010

The Nail: The Story of Joey Nardone

Actor
Massimo
Movie
2009

Happy in the Valley

Actor
Stewart
Movie
2009

The MentalistStream

Guest Star
Steve Rigsby
Series
2008

Final Approach

Actor
Silas Jansen
Show
2008

Stiletto

Actor
Alex
Movie
2008

iMurders

Actor
Professor Uberoth
Movie
2008

88 MinutesStream

Actor
Frank Parks
Movie
2007
5%

HalloweenStream

Actor
Ronnie White
Movie
2007
28%

Final Approach

Actor
Silas Jansen
Movie
2007

Hack!

Actor
Willy
Movie
2007

Southern Gothic

Actor
Enoch Pitt
Movie
2007

SharkStream

Guest Star
Series
2006
52%

Jam

Actor
Ted
Movie
2006

FreedomlandStream

Actor
Boyle
Movie
2006
24%

Masters of HorrorStream

Actor
Series
2005

Larva

Actor
Jacob Long
Movie
2005

Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy

Actor
Tom Reed
Movie
2005

The Devil's Rejects

Actor
Sheriff John Wydell
Movie
2005

EntourageStream

Guest Star
Eddie
Series
2004
65%

The Last Letter

Actor
Mr. Griffith
Movie
2004

Strike ForceStream

Actor
Simon
Movie
2004

Strike ForceStream

Writer
Movie
2004

CSI: MiamiStream

Guest Star
Series
2002

John Doe

Actor
Series
2002
73%

The Technical Writer

Actor
Joe
Movie
2002

Run for the Money

Actor
Bo Young
Movie
2002

City by the SeaStream

Actor
Spyder
Movie
2002
48%

Coastlines

Actor
Fred Vance
Movie
2002

UC: Undercover

Actor
Jack "Sonny" Walker
Show
2001

Sharkman

Actor
Tom
Movie
2001

Camouflage

Actor
Alton Owens
Movie
2001

Blue Hill AvenueStream

Actor
Det. Torrance
Movie
2001

Mysterious Ways

Guest Star
Show
2000

Civility

Actor
Andrew LeBretian
Movie
2000

18 Shades of Dust

Actor
Tommy Cucci
Movie
2000

G Men From Hell

Actor
Dean Crept
Movie
2000

Luck of the Draw

Actor
Max Fenton
Movie
2000

The Last Marshal

Actor
DeClerc
Movie
1999

Blue StreakStream

Actor
Detective Hardcastle
Movie
1999
36%

Paradise Lost

Actor
Mike Stark
Movie
1999

Four Days

Actor
Milt
Movie
1999

Deuce Bigalow: Male GigoloStream

Actor
Detective Chuck Fowler
Movie
1999
22%

Big City Blues

Actor
Hudson
Movie
1999

Víctimas del Odio

Actor
Mike Organski
Movie
1998

Firestorm

Actor
Randall Alexander Shaye
Movie
1998

Ambushed

Actor
Mike Organski
Movie
1998

Dollar for the Dead

Actor
Dooley
Movie
1998

Hell's Kitchen N.Y.C.

Actor
Lou Reilly
Movie
1998

The Pass

Actor
Charles Duprey
Movie
1998

Row Your Boat

Actor
Gil Meadows
Movie
1998

Soundman

Actor
Frank Rosenfeld
Movie
1998

Dead Man's Gun

Actor
Harlan Riddle
Show
1997

Criminal por Primera Vez

Actor
Movie
1997

First Time Felon

Actor
Sorley
Movie
1997

On the Edge

Actor
Movie
1996

The SubstituteStream

Actor
Hollan
Movie
1996
42%

The RockStream

Actor
Special Agent Ernest Paxton
Movie
1996
67%

Gotti

Actor
Sammy Gravano
Movie
1996

For Which He Stands

Actor
Johnny Rochetti
Movie
1996

Stories From the Edge

Actor
Movie
1996

CybillStream

Guest Star
Series
1995

Things to Do in Denver When You're DeadStream

Actor
Franchise
Movie
1995
37%

VirtuosityStream

Actor
William Cochran
Movie
1995
32%

The Immortals

Actor
Tim James
Movie
1995

Palookaville

Actor
Sid Dunleavy
Movie
1995

Beyond Desire

Actor
Ray Patterson
Movie
1995

Tiro Directo

Actor
Movie
1994

Direct Hit

Actor
Hatch
Movie
1994

The Untouchables

Actor
Show
1993

Relentless 3

Actor
Walter Hilderman
Movie
1993

A Kiss to Die For

Actor
Detective Mike Stoller
Movie
1993

Sangre de Mi Sangre

Actor
Movie
1992

The Waterdance

Actor
Bloss
Movie
1992

American Me

Actor
J.D.
Movie
1992

Cruel Doubt

Actor
Police Chief John Crone
Movie
1992

The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag

Actor
William "Billy" Beaudeen
Movie
1992

Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story

Actor
Terry Harper
Movie
1992

Dispuesta a Matar

Actor
Movie
1992

Pistola en la Cartera de Betty Lou

Actor
Movie
1992

Stone Cold

Actor
Ice
Movie
1991

Out for JusticeStream

Actor
Richie Madano
Movie
1991
23%

Dick TracyStream

Actor
Flattop
Movie
1990
61%

Torrentes de Primavera

Actor
Movie
1989

Dead BangStream

Actor
Arthur Kressler
Movie
1989
33%

Torrents of Spring

Actor
Prince Ippolito Polozov
Movie
1989

Sons

Actor
Mikey
Movie
1989

Poursuite

Actor
Movie
1989

Baja Oklahoma

Actor
Tommy Earl Browner
Movie
1988

Patty Hearst

Actor
Teko
Movie
1988

Weeds

Actor
Burt the Booster
Movie
1987

Raising ArizonaStream

Actor
Evelle Snopes
Movie
1987
90%

Extreme Prejudice

Actor
Sgt. Buck Atwater
Movie
1987

The Long Hot Summer

Actor
Show
1985

The Lightship

Actor
Gene
Movie
1985

Venganza Salvaje

Actor
Movie
1985

Savage Dawn

Actor
Pigiron
Movie
1985

Cloak & DaggerStream

Actor
Morris
Movie
1984
67%

Once Upon a Time in AmericaStream

Actor
Philip 'Cockeye' Stein
Movie
1984
88%

The Man Who Wasn't There

Actor
Pug Face Crusher
Movie
1983

Fame

Guest Star
Series
1982

Hill Street BluesStream

Guest Star
Richard Brady
Series
1981
97%

Smokey Bites the Dust

Actor
Kenny
Movie
1981

CHiPsStream

Guest Star
Series
1977