Character actor Kurtwood Smith was educated at Stanford University, then worked briefly as a drama teacher before distinguished himself on the San Francisco theatrical circuit. Making his first fleeting film appearance in Roadie, Smith toiled away in quiet, mild-manner roles until finding his niche in oily villainy as the drug lord in Robocop (1987). The actor was at his all-time nastiest as Mr. Perry, the ultra-judgmental father who drives his sensitive son (Robert Sean Leonard) to suicide in Dead Poet's Society (1989). More character roles followed over the next decade until Smith found fame as Red, the comedically tough dad in the sitcom That '70s Show.
He continued to work steadily into the next decade tackling parts in film as diverse as the comedy Teddy Bears' Picnic, the drama Girl, Interrupted, and Cedar Rapids, where he played an ethically compromised real estate salesman.