Family & Companions
Once described as the bard of the urban underbelly, protean "downtown" performance artist Eric Bogosian established himself as one of the wittiest, most incisive chroniclers of the 1980s. In a series of highly acclaimed one-man shows, he combined black humor and an aggressive, confrontational energy with an underlying charm to make pointed social commentary about the environment, racism, sexism and human behavior in general. His 1977 off-off Broadway debut "Careful Moment" was the first step on the road to many super-charged solo performances. Three of his one-man shows ("Drinking in America," "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll," "Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead") earned him well-deserved OBIE Awards.
Bogosian made his film debut in 1982's "Born in Flames," and though he achieved his highest profile as the combative late-night radio host Barry Champlain in "Talk Radio" (1988), which he adapted from his stage play with director Oliver Stone, he has acted in over a dozen features, as well as some critically acclaimed work for TV. He portrayed Lieutenant Barney Greenwald, a leading character in Robert Altman's TV remake of "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" (CBS, 1988), and two years later starred as a former US embassy official returning to Vietnam to help organize "The Last Flight Out" (NBC). Since director John McNaughton captured "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" on film as a 1991 feature, Bogosian has compiled an eclectic resume, playing such parts as a Nixon-esque senator investigating witchcraft in Paul Schrader's "Witch Hunt" (HBO, 1994), a psychotic villain in "Under Siege 2: The Dark Territory" (1995) and a literary agent in the film adaptation of Jon Robin Baitz's play "The Substance of Fire" (1996), in addition to voicing a Damon Runyonesque bird for the animated "Arabian Knight" (1995). He also showed up briefly in Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" (1997) as the title character's religious brother-in-law.
Still, Bogosian continues to make his strongest impact as a writer. Until the mid-90s, he had focused his biting exegeses on things urban, but beginning with his 1994 play "subUrbia," he returned to his roots to explore the nightmare of middle-class anomie against a backdrop of over-fertilized lawns. He didn't act in the play or in the 1997 movie version, but his voice was unmistakably there, particularly in the character of Jeff, the thinker of the bunch and recent college dropout who has rejoined his friends on their suburban corner next to the 7-Eleven. Capturing the slang and posturing of a world where there isn't much to do but "smoke a doob and hang out," Bogosian, director Richard Linklater and a top-notch cast delivered a very watchable picture somewhat hampered by its stage origins and excessive length. If "subUrbia" eluded the 20-year-old crowd because of its older, more cerebral and ruminative feel, the writer dealt straight from his gut for his next play "Griller" (1997), set around a backyard grill during the 4th of July (and 50th birthday) barbecue of the main character Gussie. Extremely funny, "Griller" was also unrelentingly dark in its expose of a complacent, materially sold-out baby boomer hitting a metaphorical brick wall.
Bogosian continued to act in films, although his roles were not as prominent or showy as in the 1980s and 1990s. He had a thankless role as a college professor in the teen-skewed would-be thriller "Gossip" (2000), then essayed a small character role in the pleasing indie "Igby Goes Down" (2002) before tackling Atom Egoyan's serious exploration of Armenians coming to grips with their country's past, "Ararat" (2002).
A newly prolific Bogosian reemerged in high profile films in 2003, including a supporting turn as a villain in "Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle" and in an uneven performance, as least as far as the consistency of his accent went, as the sinister real life L.A. nightclub owner and alleged drug kingpin Eddie Nash in "Wonderland," a recounting of the 1981 drug related murders on Los Angeles' Wonderland Avenue involving porn legend John Holmes. Next, he narrated the documentary "Khatchaturian" (2003), about Armenian composer Aram Khatchaturian who, as a communist functionary in the Soviet Union, had great influence over the course of Russian music while maintaining friendships with dissident composers. In "Blade: Trinity" (2004), Bogosian provided a short, but entertaining stint as Bentley Tittle in the third installment of the B-movie trilogy, a movie that appealed more to videogame aficionados than mainstream moviegoers.
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Moved to Manhattan; first job was as a gofer at the Chelsea Westside Theatre; later appeared in performance pieces at the downtown arts center, The Kitchen
Made Off-Off Broadway debut with the one-man play, "Careful Moment"
Created the persona of Ricky Paul, a racist and sexist stand-up comedian, while perfoming at Tier 3 and the Mudd Club
Made Off-Broadway debut in double-bill of "Men Inside" and "Voices of America" at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theatre
Film acting debut, "Born in Flames"
Wrote and starred in one-man play, "FunHouse" at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theatre; directed by his wife Jo Anne Bonney
Made TV debut in guest appearance on NBC's "Miami Vice"
Played title role in "The Healer" episode of CBS' "The Twilight Zone"
Breakthrough performance piece, a series of urban monologues, "Drinking in America"; also aired on Cinemax as "Eric Bogosian Takes a Look at Drinking in America"
Co-wrote first full-length play, "Talk Radio" with Tad Savinar (first shown at the Portland Center as a one-man performance piece in 1985; expanded for NYSF production directed by Zollo)
Co-wrote first short film, "Arena Brains"; also acted in film
Made TV-movie acting debut in "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" (CBS), directed by Robert Altman
Co-wrote first feature, "Talk Radio," with director Oliver Stone; also starred
Portrayed Larry Rose, a former US Embassy staff member, in "The Last Flight Out," an NBC movie about the final days of the US involvement in Vietnam
Starred in a concert presentation of his one-man show, "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll"
Made first appearance as defense attorney Gary Lowenthal on the NBC series, "Law & Order"
Premiered his one-man show, "Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead," at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum
Delivered a first-rate performance as a Nixon-esque senator investigating black magic for Paul Schrader's "Witch Hunt" (HBO)
Had cameo as himself in "Naked in New York"
Appeared in the film, "Dolores Claiborne," adapted from Stephen King's novel
Surprised the theatrical world with a play set in and, entitled "subUrbia"; directed by Robert Falls at NYC's Lincoln Center; later adapted as a 1996 film directed by Richard Linklater
Played a crazy scientist who hijacks a train in "Under Seige 2: Dark Territory"
Contributed the voice of Phido, a Damon Runyonesque bird, to the animated musical "Arabian Knight"
Co-created the short-lived ABC police drama, "High Incident"
Portrayed an agent in Daniel Sullivan's "The Substance of Fire"; adaptated by Jon Robin Baitz from his play
Appeared in Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" and HBO's Vietnam drama "A Bright Shining Lie"
Reportedly made uncredited contributions to the script for "Mad City"
Returned to the suburbs for his play "Griller" (also directed by Falls at Chicago's Goodman Theater)
Appeared in "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee"; directed by Jo Anne Bonney
Acted in Davis Guggenheim's "Gossip"
Cast in "Humpty Dumpty" at McCarter Theatre under the direction of Jo Bonney
Had a small role in "Igby Goes Down"
Cast in the historical drama feature, "Ararat"
Played Eddie Nash in "Wonderland," a film based on the Wonderland Murders starring Val Kilmer
Cast in the short-lived CBS series, "Love Monkey"
Opened his play "Talk Radio" on Broadway
Joined the cast of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (USA Network) as Captain Danny Ross
Cast in Manhattan Theatre Club's Broadway production of Donald Margulies' "Time Stands Still"