Oscar Actors: Macy, William H.–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage–Emmys, Globes, SAG)

Updated July 12, 2020
William H. Macy Career Summary:

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Oscar Role: Fargo, 1996; age 46

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Other Awards: Emmys

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Screen Image: character actor

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Marriage: actress Felicity Huffman

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William Hall Macy Jr. (March 13, 1950) is an American actor and director. His film career has been built on appearances in small, independent films, though he has also appeared in action films.[4] Macy has described himself as “sort of a Middle American, WASPy, Lutheran kind of guy… Everyman”. Macy has won 2 Emmy Awards and 4 Screen Actors Guild Awards, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Fargo. Since 2011, he has played Frank Gallagher, a main character in the Showtime adaptation of the British television series Shameless.

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 WWII; he later ran a construction company in Atlanta, Georgia, and worked for Dun & Bradstreet before taking over a Cumberland, Maryland-based insurance agency when Macy was 9. His mother Lois was a war widow who met Macy’s father after her first husband died in 1943.

Macy graduated from Allegany High School in Cumberland, Maryland in 1968, and went on to Bethany College in West Virginia where he studied veterinary medicine. A ‘wretched student’ by his own admission, he transferred to Goddard College in rural Vermont, where he studied under playwright David Mamet. He studied theatre at HB Studio in New York City.

After graduating from Goddard in 1972, Macy originated roles in plays by collaborator David Mamet, such as American Buffalo and The Water Engine. While in Chicago in his twenties, he did a TV commercial. He was required to join AFTRA in order to do the commercial, and received his SAG card within a year, which for an elated Macy represented an important moment in his career.

Macy spent time in Los Angeles before moving to New York in 1980, where he had roles in over fifty Off Broadway and Broadway plays. One of his earliest on-screen roles was as a theatre critic congratulating Christopher Reeve in 1980’s Somewhere In Time, under the name W.H. Macy (so as not to be confused with the actor Bill Macy). Another memorable early performance was as a turtle named Socrates in the direct-to-video film The Boy Who Loved Trolls (1984). He also had a minor role as a hospital orderly on the sitcom Kate & Allie in the fourth-season episode “General Hospital”, and played an assistant district attorney in “Everybody’s Favorite Bagman”, the first produced episode of Law & Order; in both appearances, he was billed as W. H. Macy. He has appeared in numerous films that Mamet wrote and/or directed, such as 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’s leading role in Fargo boosted 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, A Civil Action, 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 stated that he wanted to star in a big-budget action movie “for the money, for the security of a franchise like that. And I love big action-adventure movies. They’re way cool.”

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 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, it was a financial success, grossing over $168 million. The film also reunited him with his A Civil Action costar, John Travolta.

In 2009, Macy made The Maiden Heist, a comedy that co-starred 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.

On January 13, 2009, Macy replaced Jeremy Piven in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow on Broadway. Piven unexpectedly dropped out of the play in December 2008 due to health problems; Norbert Leo Butz covered the role from December 23, 2008, until Macy took over the part.

Dirty Girl, which starred Macy along with Juno Temple, Milla Jovovich, Mary Steenburgen and Tim McGraw, premiered September 12, 2010 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In summer 2010, Macy joined the Showtime pilot Shameless as Frank Gallagher. The project ultimately went to series, and its first season premiered on January 9, 2011. Macy has received critical acclaim for his performance, eventually getting an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2014.

In The Sessions, Macy played a priest who helps a man with a severe disability find personal fulfillment through a sex surrogate.

He made his directorial debut with the independent drama Rudderless, which stars Billy Crudup, Felicity Huffman, Selena Gomez and Laurence Fishburne.

In 2017, he directed The Layover, a road trip comedy starring Alexandra Daddario and Kate Upton.

In 2015, he had a small role as Grandpa in the drama film Room, which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. The film reunited him with his Pleasantville costar, Joan Allen.

Macy and actress Felicity Huffman dated on-and-off for 15 years and married on September 6, 1997. They have two daughters, Sophia Grace (born December 1, 2000) and Georgia Grace (born March 14, 2002).

Macy and Huffman appeared at a rally for John Kerry in 2004. Macy plays the ukulele and is an avid woodturner. He has appeared on the cover of Fine Woodworking’s special edition, Wood Turning Basics and was featured in an article in the April 2015 issue of American Woodturner (American Association of Woodturners). He is a national ambassador for the United Cerebral Palsy Association.[24]

Since shooting the film Wild Hogs, Macy has had a strong interest in riding motorcycles.

In March 2019, Huffman paid $15,000 to have someone take an entrance exam, greatly improving the scores taken on the test in order to have a better chance of her daughter getting into college. Huffman was indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges as part of a wider federal investigation of college admissions bribery. For undisclosed reasons, no charges were filed against Macy. On September 13, 2019, a federal judge in Boston sentenced Huffman to 14 days in a federal prison.