Best known for his multi-decade contributions to film as a character actor, Mark Metcalf began life in Ohio but came of age in St. Louis. Though Metcalf entered college with engineering ambitions, he soon gravitated to theater and decided to shift majors, almost on a whim, then moved into the Manhattan theatrical community in his mid-twenties and accepted stage roles in productions of varying magnitudes. 1976-1977 represented Metcalf's breakthrough period -- the period that witnessed him turning heads with a performance in David Rabe's military-themed play Streamers (he reportedly received personal backstage visits and hearty praise from the likes of Warren Beatty and Bette Davis) and another acclaimed supporting turn in the 1977 Best Picture nominee Julia. Metcalf scored broadest recognition, however (and the role with which he permanently became associated), as equestrian Douglas C. Neidermeyer, the sadistic, obnoxious ROTC officer and Omega fraternity president at Faber College, in director John Landis' anarchic blockbuster comedy National Lampoon's Animal House (1978). Metcalf purportedly went in auditioning for lady-killer Otter -- the part eventually given to Tim Matheson -- but picked up the Neidermeyer role when he deceptively convinced Landis that he could ride a horse.
At about the same time, Metcalf stepped behind the camera and set up shop with actor Griffin Dunne (another future Landis associate), as well as actress Amy Robinson (Mean Streets), to form the production shingle Triple Play Productions in the late '70s. The trio turned out a single effort -- the critically well-received but commercially unsuccessful 1979 romantic drama Head Over Heels (later reedited and renamed Chilly Scenes of Winter). After that, however, Metcalf jumped ship and moved squarely into acting for many years, prompting Dunne and Robinson to rename the production company Double Play. Subsequent projects (which placed a particularly strong emphasis on comedic turns) included Where the Buffalo Roam (1980), Mr. North (1988), Hijacking Hollywood (1997), and Warden of Red Rock (2001). The outings Oscar and The Stupids re-teamed him with director Landis.
In the late '90s, Metcalf enjoyed a recurring role as The Master on the syndicated supernatural drama series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and became acquainted with producer David E. Kelley, on whose Ally McBeal he occasionally guest starred. Off-camera, Metcalf and his wife made headlines when they purchased a Mequon, Wisconsin-based restaurant from Kelley, called Kelley's, and co-ran it.