May 31, 1949, University of Missouri graduate Tom Berenger began his theater work in regional repertory. Once he hit New York, he was employed in several TV soap operas, most prominently as the ill-fated Timmy Siegel on One Life to Live. His first film acting ranged from the grittier urban demands of Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) to the cavalier heroics of Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979). After such relatively sympathetic assignments as The Big Chill in 1983, Berenger followed in the role of the sociopathic, battle-scarred Sergeant Barnes in Platoon (1986), a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination. This did not, however, stop the versatile actor from trying future good-guy roles like the irresponsible baseball player in Major League (1988). Berenger continued to successfully fluctuate between heroes and villains into the '90s, with a few side trips into television, notably in an amusing, unheralded guest stint in the waning days of the sitcom Cheers. In 1998, he gave a particularly good portrayal of a villainous low life in Robert Altman's adaptation of John Grisham's The Gingerbread Man. Berenger continued to take on supporting roles, and starred in TNT's short-lived television series Nightmares & Dreamscapes in 2006. Other notable work includes a role alongside Armand Assante and Busta Rhymes in the 2009 thriller Breaking Point, and his turn of the wealthy father of Robert Michael Fischer (Cillian Murphy) in 2010's Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Originally intended to study journalism in college, but switched majors after auditioning for a student production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf on a bet and scoring the lead role.
- First major movie role was in 1977's Looking for Mr. Goodbar, where he portrayed a psychopathic murderer named Gary Cooper White.
- Dislikes the Hollywood scene and decided to move to Beaufort, SC, after shooting 1983's The Big Chill there.
- Played Don, a plumber who wins Kirstie Alley's heart in the final episodes of Cheers.
- In March 2011, was honored with a Career Achievement Award at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa.