George Plimpton

Active - 1965 - 2019  |   Born - Mar 18, 1927 in New York, New York, United States  |   Died - Sep 25, 2003   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, History, Sports & Recreation, Language & Literature

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Biography by Hal Erickson

To call George Plimpton merely an actor is woefully inadequate. Plimpton has also been a bullfighter, an orchestra conductor, a baseball and football player, a boxer, a circus performer and a tennis pro. He has indulged in each of these activities precisely once. George Plimpton's principal career was writing, something he pursued while at Harvard (he was an editor of the Harvard Lampoon) and while serving on the editing staff of Paris Review in the '50s and Horizon and Sports Illustrated in the '60s. Early in his career, Plimpton determined that the best way to write with expertise on a subject was through first-hand experience. Thus he fought bulls in Spain with Ernest Hemingway, played football with the Detroit Lions, was matched with tennis champ Pancho Gonzalez and bridge expert Osward Jacoby, and survived a few rounds with champion boxer Archie Moore. And he acted. He was a Bedouin extra in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), a bit player in The Detective (1968), and the character Bill Ford in Paper Lion (1968), a film based on Plimpton's own account of his brief football career (Alan Alda played Plimpton). From his experience playing a bit role as a gunned-down desperado in John Waynes Rio Lobo (1970), Plimpton fashioned an entire one-hour network TV special! Easily recognizable in later days thanks to his lucrative lecture and commercial endorsements, George Plimpton's acting assignments in recent years have been on the basis of his personality rather than as a stunt: Jodie Foster gave him a particularly suitable role as a William Buckley-type talk-show moderator in Little Man Tate (1991). Increasingly prominant on the screen throughout the 1990s, Plimpton essayed numerous small roles in such popular films as L.A. Story (1991), Nixon (1995), Good Will Hunting (1997) and Edtv (1999). As the 1990s gave way to the new millennium Plimpton was still going strong despite the effects of the passing years, and in 2001 alone he essayed a supporting role in the comedy Just Visiting and provided voiceover work for the short film Bullet in the Brain.

On September 25, 2003, the world lost one of its most flamboyant and entertaining literary icons when George Plimpton died in his sleep in his New York apartment. He was 76.

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  • Studied at St. Bernard's School in New York.
  • Was expelled from Phillips Exeter Academy just shy of graduation.
  • Was a classmate at Harvard and close friend of Robert F. Kennedy.
  • Served in the military as a tank driver in Italy.
  • Was a teacher at Barnard College.
  • Known for writing about his experiences as an amateur athlete.
  • Appeared in three Oscar nominated films for Best Picture.
  • Asteroid 7932 Plimpton is named after him.
  • Long-time editor and co-founder of The Paris Review.