Aidan Quinn

Active - 1984 - Present  |   Born - Mar 8, 1959 in Chicago, Illinois, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Thriller

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

A leading actor of the stage and screen, Aidan Quinn specializes in portraying sensitive, intelligent characters. Easily recognizable thanks to his platitude-inspiring baby blues and classically handsome features, Quinn has long enjoyed a reputation as the thinking woman's fantasy fodder.

Born in Chicago on March 8, 1959, to Irish immigrants, Quinn and his four siblings were raised in both the U.S. and their parents' native country. The family spent so much time in Ireland that Quinn had part of his high school education there, and he moved to Dublin in his late teens. While in Dublin, he tried to break into the local theatre scene; when that proved to be less than fruitful, Quinn returned to Chicago. There, he worked as a roofer and joined local acting companies. He acted in a number of productions and made his New York debut in an off-Broadway production of Sam Shepard's Fool for Love.

Quinn broke into film playing an angry young man who gets involved with faux "good girl" Daryl Hannah in James Foley's Reckless (1984). The film went largely ignored by both critics and audiences, and it wasn't until he starred in Susan Seidelman's Desperately Seeking Susan the following year that Quinn began to attract notice. The recognition he earned for that film was nicely complemented during the same year by his acclaimed, Emmy-nominated portrayal of a gay lawyer with AIDS in An Early Frost, the first TV movie to deal directly with the subject of the virus.

Quinn subsequently carved a niche for himself with strong portrayals in a series of disparate films throughout the '80s and '90s. He did some of his more memorable work in Barry Levinson's Avalon (1990), a family drama that saw him give a convincing portrayal of a Jewish father; The Playboys (1992), which cast him as an amorous Irish musician; Benny and Joon (1993), in which he played the long-suffering brother of a mentally unstable young woman (Mary Stuart Masterson); Legends of the Fall (1994), in which he portrayed wild man Brad Pitt's responsible older brother; and Neil Jordan's Michael Collins (1996), in which Quinn got to play against type as an ambitious IRA terrorist.

In 1998, Quinn collaborated with brothers Paul and Declan, starring in and executive producing This Is My Father, a heartfelt drama set in Ireland. Featuring a script and direction by Paul, cinematography by Declan, and a touching, tender performance by Aidan as a shy, stumbling dirt farmer, the film earned moderately strong reviews, particularly from critics who felt that Quinn was finally acting in a film worth his mettle. The actor followed This is My Father with a return to mainstream Hollywood fare, starring as Annette Bening's husband in the thriller In Dreams and as an old high school friend of Meryl Streep's in Wes Craven's Music of the Heart, both released in 1999.

He appeared in a pair of music-themed projects in 2000, playing Paul McCartney in the made-for-cable Two of Us, and the rural drama Songcatcher. He starred in the Project Greenlight feature Stolen Summer in 2002. He continued to get steady work in a diverse array of projects that include Cavedweller, Empire Falls, Dark Matter, and Wild Child. In 2010 he appeared as the President of the United States in the comic-book adaptation Jonah Hex, and the next year he had a major part in the fantasy family film The Greening of Whitney Brown. In 2012, Quinn nabbed a lead role on the TV series Elementary, playing police captain Tommy Gregson.

In addition to his stable film career, Quinn has enjoyed a stable marriage to Elizabeth Bracco (sister of Lorraine Bracco) since 1987. They have one daughter.

Movie Highlights

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  • Parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland before he was born, but he spent most of his childhood split between Illinois and Ireland.
  • Trained at the Piven Theatre Workshop in Evanston, IL, run by Jeremy Piven's father, Byrne, and made his stage debut opposite Byrne Piven in 1979 in The Man in 605.
  • Made his film debut in the 1984 drama Reckless, but made his name a year later in Desperately Seeking Susan and the TV-movie An Early Frost.
  • The 1998 romantic drama This Is My Father starred Aidan, was written and directed by his brother Paul, with cinematography by brother Declan and featured a cameo by his sister Marian.
  • Brother-in-law of actress Lorraine Bracco.
  • Works with several autism-related organizations; his daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with the disorder when she was a toddler.