A much-sought-after actor who played a variety of characters - but chiefly psychopathic villains - James Remar added emotional depth and complexity to each of his many film and television projects. Remar first gained notice as the crazed gangster Ajax in Walter Hill's cult classic "The Warriors" (1979), before he earned respect as a psychotic prison escapee in the blockbuster action comedy "48 HRS" (1982). From there, he appeared in a number of notable films like "The Cotton Club" (1984), "Clan of the Cave Bear" (1986) and "Drugstore Cowboy" (1989), but struggled a bit to find another memorable character. After showing his softer side in "Renaissance Man" (1994) and "Boys on the Side" (1995), Remar turned more to television and scored with a recurring role as billionaire playboy Richard Wright, who romanced Kim Cattrall before breaking her heart on "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004). Remar bounced back and forth between television and features, before gaining both stability and further acclaim with a long-running role as Harry Morgan, adoptive father and mentor to Michael C. Hall's titular serial killer on "Dexter" (Showtime, 2006-13). As he continued to play that role, Remar racked up credits both on animated and live-action projects, which allowed him to distance himself from the sleazy villains of days past in order to expand upon his long and esteemed career.
Born on Dec. 31, 1953 in Boston, MA, Remar was raised by his father, S. Roy, an attorney, and his mother, Elizabeth, a state official involved in mental health. When he was seven, Remar watched the movie "Spartacus" (1960) and decided at that moment he wanted to be an actor, though at 15 years old, he took a detour into music when he left high school to tour with a rock band. He eventually returned and graduated. Rekindling his desire to become an actor, Remar moved to New York City, where he learned his craft at the famed Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, studying under renowned teacher Stella Adler. At the time, Remar performed in a touring company production of the stage musical, "Grease," and made his film debut in the melodramatic prison movie "On the Yard" (1979). From there, he was cast by director Walter Hill as the aggressively violent and sexually charged Ajax in the cult favorite, "The Warriors" (1979), and earned critical acclaim as Richard Gere's lover in the Broadway production of "Bent" (1979), a play about the goings-on at a concentration camp.
Remar was so good at playing bad guy Ajax that intensely loyal director Hill cast him in several more projects, including the action classic, "48 Hrs" (1982), in which he portrayed Albert Ganz, a homicidal maniac escaped from prison who is hunted down by a gruff racist cop (Nick Nolte) and Ganz's former associate (Eddie Murphy). Two years later, Remar was cast in Francis Ford Coppola's ode to the jazz age, "The Cotton Club" (1984), starring as Dutch Schultz, another psychotic gangster role that had almost become second nature for the actor to channel at this point in his career. After receiving top billing as a New York policeman in "Quiet Cool" (1986), Remar was Neanderthal Creb in "The Clan of the Cave Bear" (1986) and turned back to play psychopathic killers in the awful action flick "Rent-a-Cop" (1987), starring Burt Reynolds and Liza Minnelli. He next portrayed a prying cop who is gleefully humiliated by a junkie criminal (Matt Dillon) in Gus Van Sant's excellent character drama, "Drugstore Cowboy" (1989), and followed that with a turn as an artist who makes a deal with the devil in "Tales from the Darkside: The Movie" (1990).
As he entered the 1990s, Remar balanced more of his time between film and television. He had supporting turns in "White Fang" (1991), "Fatal Instinct" (1993) and "Blink," while also logging guest spots on "Tales from the Crypt" (HBO, 1989-1996) and small screen movies like "Brotherhood of the Gun" (CBS, 1991) and "Indecency" (USA Network, 1992). Though prone to playing villains, Remar occasionally showed his lighter side with the Penny Marshall-directed comedy "Renaissance Man" (1994) starring Danny DeVito, and the female buddy road movie, "Boys on the Side" (1995) with Whoopi Goldberg and Drew Barrymore. After co-starring opposite Jeff Bridges in the Western "Wild Bill" (1995), he appeared in a string of rather forgettable movies like "The Quest" (1996), "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" (1997) and "Inferno" (1998). Turning back to television, Remar was able to branch out with the short-lived Steven Bochco series "Total Security" (ABC, 1997), which he followed up with episodes of popular programs like "Walker, Texas Ranger" (CBS, 1993-2001), "Third Watch" (NBC, 1999-2005) and "7th Heaven" (The WB, 1996-2007). But it was his recurring role as billionaire playboy Richard Wright on "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) that at long last made Remar a household name as well as a hot topic of water cooler conversation throughout the show's run, if only because he remained the one and only man capable of breaking the heart of man-devouring vixen Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall).
On the big screen, Robert Zemeckis cast Remar as Warren Feur in the paranormal thriller "What Lies Beneath" (2000) starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, before he continued appearing more on television with guest appearances on "The X Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) and "The Twilight Zone" (UPN, 2002-03). Around this time, the actor began using his baritone voice to play characters on animated series like Hawkman on "Justice League" (Cartoon Network, 2001-04) and "Justice League Unlimited" (Cartoon Network, 2004-06). Back in live action, he played Agent Markham in "2 Fast 2 Furious" (2003), the sequel to the adrenaline-fueled franchise, and was the villain once again in "Blade: Trinity" (2004) and "The Girl Next Door" (2004). In 2005, Remar reprised his most famous role, lending his voice to the character of Ajax in the video game release of "The Warriors," and landed episodes of "The Grid" (TNT, 2004), "North Shore" (Fox, 2004-05), "Battlestar Galactica" (Syfy, 2004-09), "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 2002-2012), "Thief" (FX, 2006) and "Jericho" (CBS, 2006-08).
Finally, after decades of looking for the one role that could define his career, Remar was cast as Harry Morgan on the brilliant, twisted and controversial series "Dexter" (Showtime, 2006-13), which centered on the secret serial killer life of blood spatter specialist, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). Remar was his deceased adoptive father, a former Miami Metro police officer who took Dexter in after finding the three-year-old in a pool of blood at the scene of his mother's horrific murder. Later, after adopting him into the fold, Harry discovers that Dexter has serial killer tendencies and spends the ensuing years training him to use his dark urges for the purpose of good - namely killing other killers who have slipped through the cracks and evaded justice. All throughout the series, Harry appeared to Dexter as an apparition dispensing advice during complicated situations. Meanwhile, Remar continued appearing in other projects, voicing Larousse in "Ratatouille" (2007), playing the unforgettable General Brat in "Pineapple Express" (2008), and ruthless killer Ace Speck, who is tracked down by a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) and runaway slave (Jamie Foxx) in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" (2012).
By Shawn Dwyer
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Left high school at age 15 to tour a with rock band; eventually returned and graduated
Made feature film debut in "On the Yard"
Played aggressively violent character Ajax in cult film "The Warriors"; first film with director Walter Hill
Acted on Broadway opposite Richard Gere in "Bent"
Played murdering sociopath Albert Ganz in Eddie Murphy hit "48 Hrs."
Returned to stage work, starring opposite Darren McGavin in "California Dog Fight"
First received top billing in "Quiet Cool"
First TV-movie, "Desperado: The Outlaw Wars"
First foreign film, West German feature "Zwei Frauen/Silence Like Glass"
Played a narcotics cop opposite Matt Dillon in Gus Van Sant's "Drugstore Cowboy"
Featured remake of "Miracle on 34th Street"
Played a rugged, gentle bartender opposite Mary-Louise Parker in "Boys on the Side"
Played regular role of Frank Cisco on ABC's "Total Security"
Cast as a policeman in Gus Van Sant's remake of "Psycho"
Landed regular role on USA Network drama "The Huntress"
Cast in recurring role on HBO's "Sex and the City" as Samantha's (Kim Cattrall) tycoon boyfriend Richard Wright
Featured as a slick hit man who fronts as a pornographer in Danny DeVito directed "Duplex"
Played Agent Markham, a tough customs agent in sequel "2 Fast and 2 Furious"
Cast as a managing partner of a Hawaiian resort on short-lived Fox drama "North Shore"
Played adult film producer Hugo Posh in comedy "The Girl Next Door"
Played recurring guest role on CBS series "Jericho"
Co-starred on Showtime series "Dexter" as Dexter Morgan's adoptive father Harry Morgan
Featured in stoner comedy "Pineapple Express" with Seth Rogen and James Franco
Appeared in horror movie "The Unborn"
Landed recurring role on ABC's "FlashForward"
Featured in "X-Men" prequel "X-Men: First Class"
Voiced Sideswipe in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
Played two roles in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained"