Bruce Davison is a highly respected actor who has received major awards and nominations for his work on the stage and screen since his auspicious debut in Frank Perry's disturbing coming-of-age tale Last Summer in 1969. Since then, Davison has become known for taking on difficult roles, and he specializes in sensitive, idealistic, and offbeat characters.
A native of the Philadelphia area, where he was born June 28, 1946, Davison attended Penn State, where he studied art before switching to theater. He received his training at N.Y.U.'s School of the Arts, and, at the age of 21, he launched a successful Broadway career in a production of Tiger at the Gate. A versatile stage actor, Davison went on to perform in everything from Shakespeare to contemporary dramas. Over the course of his theatrical career, he has been awarded three Dramalogue Awards, one of which he earned for his portrayal of John Merrick in the Broadway version of The Elephant Man.
In 1972, Davison gained national recognition for playing the title role of a nebbish, rat-loving mama's boy in the creepy horror outing Willard. Other notable films from the '70s include the chilling, realistic Short Eyes (1977), in which the actor played a convicted child molester struggling to survive in prison, and Robert Aldrich's Ulzana's Raid (1972), a Western that cast him as a lieutenant dispatched to catch a group of renegade Apaches.
Also during the '70s, Davison began appearing in such television movies as the moving holiday favorite, The Gathering (1977). In 1978, he earned an Emmy nomination for playing an escaped German POW who befriends an innocent young girl in Summer of My German Soldier. The actor continued to appear on television throughout the '80s and '90s, doing particularly strong work in the dramas Ghost Eyes (1983) and Someone Else's Child (1994).
Although Davison has been active in films since the early '70s, he has remained a solid character actor rather than becoming a major star. He had one of his greatest critical successes in 1990, when he received an Oscar nomination (as well as several other honors) for his poignant portrayal of a man who loses his lover, many friends, and eventually his own life to AIDS in Longtime Companion. He also did particularly notable work in Robert Altman's Short Cuts (1993), which cast him as the father of a gravely ill boy; The Crucible (1996), in which he played a brimstone-breathing Reverend; and Grace of My Heart (1996), which featured him as a married journalist who has an affair with the film's protagonist (Illeana Douglas).
In 2000, Davison was hard at work on a number of screen projects. Included among them were X-Men, Bryan Singer's highly anticipated adaptation of the celebrated comic series, and The King Is Alive, one of the latest Dogme 95 offerings that tells the story of a group of travelers who decide to stage a production of King Lear after their bus breaks down in an abandoned African town.