Feb. 28th, 1969
Westwood, New Jersey, USA
Robert Sean Leonard's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles2001 - Driven
2001 - Tape
1998 - The Last Days of Disco
1993 - Much Ado About Nothing
1993 - Swing Kids
1993 - The Age of Innocence
1991 - Married to It
1989 - Dead Poets Society
1986 - The Manhattan Project
Guest TV Roles
One actor who has deserved much acknowledgment and fame, and has had to do without it on a number of occasions, is Robert Sean Leonard, known by most as Dr. James Wilson on "House M.D." (2004). But his career has spanned a number of classic films, alongside such greats as Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale, Paul Newman (I), and Denzel Washington.
Born Robert Lawrence Leonard in Westland, New Jersey, he attended first Fordham University and then Columbia University. Afterwards, he was accepted into the Screen Actor's Guild, changing his middle name to 'Sean'. Leonard's first acting role was My Two Loves (1986) (TV) where he was cast in a small role. That same year, he was also in The Manhattan Project (1986). The film is a comedy starring John Lithgow (I), and is about a science experiment taken too far.
Leonard continued on from these firsts and landed a role in Bluffing It (1987) (TV), and then acted in another teen comedy: My Best Friend Is a Vampire (1987). His next role is easily one of his most memorable. He took the second billing in Dead Poets Society (1989) opposite Robin Williams (I) and Ethan Hawke. His character of Neil Perry is a young student whose passion for acting is smothered in fear of his father's wrath, and his parents' domination of his life. While Robin Williams (I) earned himself an Oscar nomination, Leonard gave a truly Oscar-worthy performance.
The 20-year old actor was well on his way now, and he proceeded to act in another Oscar-nominated film: Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990) starring Paul Newman (I). Leonard resumed the rebellious youth act from "Dead Poets" as he played on of the children caught between their father's conservative ways and their own ideas. Leonard followed up with the not-so successful Married to It (1991). Two years after that, Leonard found massive success in three different films.
Firstly, he acted in Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing (1993). Pulling in 60 million on an 8 million dollar budget, it remains one of the most successful films based off of a play by Shakespeare. Leonard was surrounded by other talents apart from Branagh, such as Brian Blessed, Kate Beckinsale, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, and Emma Thompson (I). Leonard played the character of Claudio, and was sadly criticized by several critics for his acting. However, others such as Roger Ebert defended the young lead, whose character is deceived into thinking his betrothed is unfaithful.
In the same year, Leonard took the lead in Swing Kids (1993), which also starred Christian Bale, Frank Whaley, Barbara Hershey and Kenneth Branagh who rather than upstage Leonard, Bale, and Whaley, refuse any credit in the film. The film, another success for Leonard, told the story of a group of friends in the Hitler Youth attempting to hold onto something they love- the Lindy hop. Reviews were mixed, but the film has a faithful following to this day.
Also that year, Leonard took a smaller role in Martin Scorsese's elaborate and artistic film The Age of Innocence (1993) starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, and Michelle Pfeiffer. The film is about the aristocrat who must choose between two women and risk scandal. The film earned Ryder an Oscar nomination, and a win for Best Costume. Leonard himself played the young son of Danny Archer, and plays a crucial role at the end of the film.
After these three great films, Leonard's career slowed down. Despite acting in three different films in 1996 (the Oliver Stone (I)-produced Killer: A Journal of Murder (1996) starring James Woods (I), the light-hearted The Boys Next Door (1996) (TV), and the romantic I Love You, I Love You Not (1996)) none were as successful as those he made in 1993. Leonard moved onwards to act in (among other things) The Last Days of Disco (1998) and the thriller Ground Control (1998) opposite Kiefer Sutherland, Henry Winkler, and Bruce McGill.
Leonard's work changed as the new millennium began. He turned to television as well as continuing film. He acted in the series "Outer Limits" and "Wasteland" as well as making movies such as the dramatic film Tape (2001) by Richard Linklater, A Glimpse of Hell (2001) (TV) opposite James Caan (I), and the box office bomb Driven (2001) starring Sylvester Stallone and Burt Reynolds (I). After a few more films, Leonard was cast in the series that gave him much fame.
"House M.D." (2004) is a drama series about a cynical, antisocial, crippled doctor who is almost always correct in his solutions to medical problems. Leonard, the first actor to be cast in the series, plays the character of Dr. Wilson, the only person that House considers a friend. Wilson is a much more humane person than House, which leads to many debates between himself and House, though he is plagued by his own problems. It is the best known face that Leonard has ever portrayed in his career, and hopefully he will take on other fantastic roles and obtain the honors he so richly deserves.
- He co-founded a theater company called Malaparte with 'Ethan Hawke' (qv), 'Frank Whaley' (qv), and 'Steve Zahn' (qv).
- Received the 2001 Tony Award as Best Actor (Featured Role - Play) for his portrayal as 'A.E. Housman' (qv) in 'Tom Stoppard' (qv)'s "The Invention of Love." Nominated in the same category two other times: in 1993, for a revival of 'George Bernard Shaw' (qv)'s "Candida," and in 2003 for a revival of "Long Day's Journey into Night" by 'Eugene O'Neill (I)' (qv).
- Grew up on the same block as actor 'Casper Van Dien' (qv). They raced each other in go-carts.
- To this day, is still close with _Dead Poets Society (1989)_ (qv) co-star 'Ethan Hawke' (qv).
- Took his brother's first name (Sean) as his middle name.
- Attended the Columbia University school of General Studies and Continuing Education.
- Is married to Gabriella Salick, a professional horse racer who is Executive Director of the West Coast Active Riders. Expecting their first child.
- Won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (2001) for The Invention of Love.