Oscar Actors: Church, Thomas Haden–Background, Career, Awards

Updated July 14, 2020
Thomas Haden Church Career Summary:

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Thomas Haden Church (born Thomas Richard McMillen( June 17, 1960) is an American actor, director, and writer. After co-starring in the 1990s sitcom Wings, Church became known for his Oscar-nominated performance in Sideways, his role as the Sandman in Spider-Man 3 and his role of Lyle van de Groot in George of the Jungle. He also made his directorial debut with Rolling Kansas.

Church was born as Thomas Richard McMillen in Woodland, Yolo County, California, the son of Maxine (née Sanders; born 1936) and Carlos “Carl” Richard McMillen (1936–2008), who served for eight years in the Marines and who was on active duty at the end of the Korean War; after 1962, Carlos worked as a surveyor. Church’s parents divorced and his mother moved to Texas. She remarried in 1969, to widower George A. Quesada, a veteran of an Army Air Forces reconnaissance unit which served in Guam in World War II. Church took his stepfather’s surname for a time but changed it to “Haden Church,” extracted from the names of other relatives, when people found Quesada difficult to pronounce.[2] He left high school in 1977 to work in the oil fields of Louisiana, but he returned to graduate from Harlingen High School in 1979. He attended the University of North Texas while living in Dallas.

Church started in the entertainment business as a radio personality and doing voice-over work.[8] He changed his name to “Thomas Haden Church”, taking “Haden” and “Church” from his ancestry.[2] After appearing in an independent film, he moved to California to pursue an acting career. His character delivers a last love letter from “Eddie Labec” to “Carla” in the Cheers episode, “Death Takes a Vacation on Ice”. He played the part of slow-witted aircraft mechanic Lowell Mather for six seasons (1990–95) on the NBC sitcom Wings.

He worked in television for two more seasons with a lead role on Ned & Stacey opposite Debra Messing. He has had supporting roles in films such as Tombstone, George of the Jungle, and The Specials. He has often played villains or comic relief in films, such as in Demon Knight.

Church bought a ranch in Texas in 1998. In late 2000, he took a break from films. After having small roles in films such as Monkeybone and 3000 Miles to Graceland, he made his directorial debut with Rolling Kansas in 2003. He has voiceover work in commercials, such as for Merrill Lynch and Icehouse beer.

In 2003, director Alexander Payne called him regarding the role of “Jack”, the selfish best friend to Paul Giamatti’s character, in Sideways. During the audition, Church stripped naked to read the audition scene, later saying “To me, it was painfully obvious… I was reading the scene where Jack comes in naked and there has to be in-born vulnerability in the scene.” (He later found that he was the only actor to strip down for the audition). Sideways earned acclaim for Church. He won an IFP Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

He has since appeared in films such as Idiocracy, done voice-over work on films such as Over the Hedge and starred in one of AMC’s highest rated television productions, Broken Trail, with Robert Duvall, in 2006, for which he won an Emmy. In 2007, he appeared as the tragic villain Sandman in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.[11]

In 2005, he was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In October 2008, Church appeared as “Joe Six-Pack” in a video on funnyordie.com, challenging Joe the Plumber by drinking more beer.[12] Church starred in the FEARnet webseries, Zombie Roadkill, alongside David Dorfman.

He appeared in the HBO original series Divorce playing the role of Robert.

Church lives on his 2,000-acre ranch in Kerrville, Texas. During the filming of Divorce, he rented a house in New Rochelle, New York. He has two children from a former relationship with Mia Zottoli, but was never married to her or anyone else.