August 12, 1950
Laramie, Wyoming, United States
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Actor and writer James Beaver could well be called a factotum. His long and varied career has included stints as a film historian, playwright, ghost writer, stage, television and film actor, cab driver, projectionist, amusement-park stunt man, ballet stagehand, and corn-chip dough mixer. He started acting in theater in Oklahoma while attending college. As a bourgeoning film historian, he also completed his first book at this time on actor John Garfield. His stage work continued with his move to New York City in the late 1970s and, in 1983, he ventured out to Hollywood. He joined Theater West and became both actor and playwright for the organization. Beaver soon thereafter branched into television with scripts for the famous suspense anthology "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and the war serials "Tour of Duty" and "Vietnam War Story." As a Marine Corps veteran, he was snatched up for a part as Bruce Willis's army buddy in 1989's "In Country." The role kick-started his onscreen acting career and he has worked steadily in film and TV ever since, most notably as the crusty but warm-hearted prospector Whitney Ellsworth on HBO's cunningly foul-mouthed Western "Deadwood" and in a recurring role on the horror-fraught "Supernatural." His memoir, "Life's That Way," recounts his wife's lost battle with lung cancer in 2003. He is also the author of a biography of George Reeves and was a consultant on "Hollywoodland," a film about the actor's curious death.