William Sadler

Active - 1978 - Present  |   Born - Apr 13, 1950 in Buffalo, New York, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Science Fiction, Action, Thriller

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

If you're a fan of movies, you've no doubt seen William Sadler's face countless times. With a versatile career that has spanned from long-haired, small-town rock star to banjo-plucking entertainer to Shakespearean actor to his role as Death in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991), William Sadler attacks all roles with equal gusto with his characters never ceasing to leave an impression on viewers, even if they can't recall the name of "that guy in that movie."

Born in April of 1950 in Buffalo, NY, Sadler's imagination was fueled from a young age on his family's sprawling farm where he would pass the time with friends reenacting scenes from their favorite television and radio programs. Around the age of eight, Sadler's father's interest in music sparked a passion in the young boy as well with his father's gift of a ukulele. The two frequently performed at family functions together: Sadler Sr. on the guitar and Jr. on the uke. Later taking interest in a number of stringed instruments, after following in his father's footsteps and taking up the guitar, Sadler quickly learned that the mystique of the musician's life was difficult to resist. Forming a cover band with his Orchard Park High schoolmates, he began to gain popularity and a surprising amount of attention from the opposite sex. Armed with a banjo and a fistful of jokes, Sadler soon took on the persona of "Banjo Bill Sadler" for the school's annual variety show, and the result was an instant success. The students and teachers loved the performance, and English teacher Dan Larkin soon persuaded Sadler to audition for a role in Harvey, the senior play. Winning the lead and igniting a fire within the young performer, Sadler would soon follow his dreams and enroll in the drama program at State University College in Geneseo, NY. After spending two intense years in Cornell University's Fine Arts following his tenure at State University College, Sadler was finally prepared to be humbled in the grueling trials of the aspiring actor.

Sadler took his first post-school role in Florida and soon relocated to Boston, moving in with his sister while scrubbing the floors of a lobster boat by day and cutting his acting chops at night. Slowly working up the nerve to take a shot at the big time in New York, a chance meeting with an old schoolmate on a trip into the city resulted in Sadler's casting in an off-off-Broadway production of Chekhov's Ivanov. After a brief turn at the Trinity Square Repertory Company in Providence, RI, Sadler moved back to New York and rented an apartment in the East Village, beginning a grueling 12 years in which he appeared in over 75 productions. It was here that Sadler would meet Marni Bakst, the woman who would soon become his wife, and a young actor named Matthew Broderick, in a Broadway production of Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues, who would kick-start Sadler's film career with a role in Project X (1987).

After memorable turns in such films as Die Hard 2 (1990), Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, and The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Sadler found himself becoming one of the most sought-after character actors working in Hollywood. His friendly demeanor and warm sense of humor standing in stark contrast to his usually villainous onscreen antics, Sadler has gained a reputation among actors as a helpful and good-natured craftsman, always willing to offer advise and assistance without being pushy or overbearing. Increasingly busy in both television and films in the latter '90s, Sadler gained widespread recognition with his film roles in Disturbing Behavior (1998) and The Green Mile (1999) and on television with his role as Sheriff Jim Valenti on Roswell.

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  • Started playing the ukulele when he was 8 years old.
  • Played guitar in a cover band called the Knight Ryders during high school. He left the band for college and soon after, all but one of the remaining band members were killed in a car accident on their way home from a gig.
  • Once performed stand-up under the name "Banjo Bill" Sadler.
  • Won a Clarence Derwent Award and a Drama-Logue Award in 1985 for his portrayal of Sgt. Toomey in Neil Simon's Broadway hit Biloxi Blues, in which he starred opposite Matthew Broderick.
  • Appeared as the Grim Reaper in 1991's Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
  • Provided the voice of Victor in the video game Fallout: New Vegas