Martin Donovan

Active - 1984 - 2021  |   Born - Aug 19, 1957 in Reseda, California, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Thriller, Comedy Drama, Comedy, Crime

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

Most recognizable as a Hal Hartley regular, tall, lanky Martin Donovan has made an indelible impression, gaining widespread respect as one of the more underrated figures in the film industry.

Born August 19, 1957, in Reseda, CA, Donovan attended the American Theater of Arts in Los Angeles before working for a number of theaters in Los Angeles and New York. Donovan's first starring role came in the 1984 drama Hard Choices, which also starred John Sayles and J.T. Walsh. 1991 marked his first collaboration with Hartley, as he starred in both Surviving Desire (made for PBS' American Playhouse) and Trust. The latter became an art house favorite, helping to establish Hartley's reputation. The following year, Donovan made his next film with Hartley, 1992's Simple Men.

Following his role in Hartley's critically acclaimed Amateur (1994), Donovan performed in a steady number of films throughout the rest of the decade. For Hartley, he appeared in Flirt (1995) and The Book of Life (1999), in which he played a modern-day Christ opposite PJ Harvey's Magdalena. Other notable work for the versatile actor included his role as Nicole Kidman's consumptive confidant in The Portrait of a Lady (1996); a turn as a divorced gay father in the unsettling Hollow Reed (1996); the part of Holly Hunter's philandering husband in Living Out Loud (1998); and his triumphantly understated portrayal of Christina Ricci's too-tolerant half-brother in Don Roos' black comedy The Opposite of Sex (1998). It was this last role, in particular, that helped to thrust Donovan a little further into the spotlight, introducing him to an audience that was eager to learn more about this multi-talented, multifaceted actor.

Movie Highlights

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  • First role was in a high-school production of Bye Bye Birdie.
  • Worked odd jobs, including installing draperies, to help support his family when they moved to New York City.
  • Has appeared in a number of director Hal Hartley's productions, including Trust (1990), Simple Men (1992), Surviving Desire (1993), Amateur (1994), Flirt (1995) and The Book of Life (1998). Donovan once interviewed Hartley for Bomb Magazine in 1991.
  • Has costarred with Mary-Louise Parker several times, including in The Portrait of a Lady (1996), Pipe Dream (2002), Saved! (2004) and the Showtime series Weeds.
  • Song "Martin Donovan," written by Jeffrey Nothing and performed by Mushroomhead, is about him; he's referenced in "Crackstatic" by Ron Hawkins and the Rusty Nails and "Martin Donovan in Trust" by Herman Dune.