One of America's most recognizable character actors, James Rebhorn was a veteran of over 100 television shows, feature films, and plays. While best known for portraying lawyers, politicians, doctors, and military men, he delivered equally notable performances in a variety of other roles, including that of a brutal serial killer on NBC's Law & Order, a shipping magnate in Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), and a comically doomed restaurateur in Billy Morrisette's Scotland, PA (2001).
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Born in Philadelphia, PA, on September 1, 1948, Rebhorn moved to Anderson, IN, as a child. A devout Lutheran, he attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Wittenburg University in Ohio, where he studied political science. After graduating in 1970, Rebhorn moved to New York City, where he earned a Master's of Fine Arts in acting from Columbia University's School of the Arts and joined the metropolitan theater scene.
After making his television debut on the NBC soap opera The Doctors in 1977, Rebhorn starred on Another World: Texas and The Guiding Light, as well as earned a 1989 Soap Opera Digest Award for his performance as Henry Lange on As the World Turns. He displayed his comic talents during a recurring role on Kate and Allie, and in an unforgettable turn as the district attorney who jails the Seinfeld gang in the show's final episode. He also garnered recurring roles on some of television's most heralded dramas -- including Law & Order, Third Watch, Now and Again, and The Practice -- and memorable telefilms -- including Sarah, Plain and Tall (1981), North and South (1985), Skylark (1993), From the Earth to the Moon (1998), and A Bright Shining Lie (1998).
Rebhorn's feature-film career began in the early '80s with roles such as "Lawyer" in Soup for One (1982), "Los Alamos Doctor" in Silkwood (1983), and "Drunken Business Man" in Cat's Eye (1985). As the decade progressed, his parts increased in importance and he emerged in the '90s as an established supporting actor with roles in several high-profile films. After appearing in 1991's Regarding Henry with Harrison Ford and Annette Bening, Rebhorn gave stand-out performances opposite Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny (1992), Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct (1992), Chris O'Donnell and Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman (1992), and Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte in Lorenzo's Oil (1992). He went on to earn prominent roles in Carlito's Way (1993), Guarding Tess (1994), I Love Trouble (1994), Up Close & Personal (1996), Independence Day (1996), If Lucy Fell (1996), and My Fellow Americans (1996). Rebhorn rounded out the '90s by playing the mysterious Consumer Recreation Services representative in The Game (1997), the prosecuting attorney in Snow Falling on Cedars (1999), and Jude Law's shipping magnate father in the above-mentioned The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). The new millennium saw him starring as Robert De Niro's future in-law in Meet the Parents (2000) and a modern-day version of Macbeth's Duncan in the above-mentioned Scotland, PA, before gearing up for the Eddie Murphy sci-fi vehicle The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002), and Todd Haynes' long-awaited return to directing, Far From Heaven (2002).
Towards the end of his career, Rebhorn returned to television, playing recurring characters on several different shows, playing the CEO of Abbadon Industries on HBO's Enlightened, an FBI special agent on USA's White Collar and, his final role, Carrie Mathison's father on Showtime's Homeland.
While juggling his film and television work, Rebhorn frequently returned to the stage. He appeared at the Manhattan Theater Club, Playwright's Horizons, the New York Shakespeare Festival, the LaJolla Playhouse, the Ensemble Studio Theater, and Lincoln Center. In 2002, he earned rave reviews for his performance in the Roundabout Theater's production of Arthur Miller's first play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, with Chris O'Donnell and Samantha Mathis.
Rebhorn was diagnosed with melanoma in 1992 and struggled with the disease for the next two decades, before succumbing in 2014 at the age of 65. ~ Aubry Anne D'Arminio, Rovi