Family & Companions
With his malleable face dominated by large brown eyes, a seemingly perpetual hangdog expression and a facility for mimicry, Scottish actor Tom Conti proved to be a gifted comedic player, often cast in a variety of ethnic roles. This son of an Italian immigrant and a Scottish mother, both of whom were hairdressers, received his training at Glasgow's Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. In the late 1950s, Conti joined the Citizens' Theatre where he made his stage debut. It was more than a decade later, though, before he enjoyed the first fruits of success, starting with a well-praise turn opposite Paul Scofield in "Savages" (1973). British TV afforded him good parts in two highly-praised productions, "The Glittering Prizes" (1976), Frederic Raphael's look at a group of Canterbrigians from their college days to middle age, and "The Norman Conquests" (1977), Alan Ayckbourn's cycle of six plays about three couples spending weekends together. In both, Conti demonstrated his ease with shifting from comic material to more dramatic fare. He displayed similar virtuosity with his galvanizing turn as a sculptor left paralyzed after an automobile accident in "Who's Life Is It Anyway?." For his performance, the actor received numerous accolades, including a 1979 Tony Award as Actor in a Play.
Conti had entered features with a small but pivotal role in the little-seen film version of Brecht's "Galileo" (1975). He offered a wonderful performance as a man who may or not have murdered his twin in the well-crafted "Eclipse" (1976) but he did not truly come into his own as a leading actor until the one-two punch of "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" (1982) and "Reuben, Reuben" (1983). In the former, Conti was effective as a bilingual POW while in the latter, he shone as a boozy Scottish poet teaching at a New England college. Conti earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for "Reuben, Reuben" but Hollywood was uncertain as to how best tap his prowess. He was wasted in the comedy "American Dreamer" (1983) but not as the hilarious neurotic psychiatrist in Robert Altman's "Beyond Therapy" (1987) or as the archetypal Greek lothario in "Shirley Valentine" (1989) or as a Spanish bar owner in "Someone Else's America" (1995). An attempt to find small screen stardom as a transplanted lawyer in "The Wright Verdicts" (CBS, 1995) proved futile and Conti returned to the London stage. More recently, he appeared in a couple of episodes of the NBC sitcom "Friends" as the snobby father-in-law of Ross Geller (David Schwimmer).
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
TV debut, "Mother of Men"
Stage debut in "The Roving Boy" at the Citizens Theatre
London stage debut, "Savages"
Appeared in films: "Galileo" and "Flame"
Had the lead in the six-part BBC series "The Glittering Prizes", written by Frederic Raphael
Starred in the TV production "The Norman Conquests"; aired in the USA on PBS in 1978
Broadway directing debut, "Last Licks"
Broadway debut, "Whose Life Is It, Anyway?"; received Tony Award for reprising his his portrayal of a paralyzed sculptor who wants to die
Stage musical debut in "They're Playing Our Song"
Co-starred in the CBS TV-movie "The Wall"
Cast as Col. Lawrence in "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence"
Appeared opposite Pauline Collins in the London stage production of "Romantic Comedy"
Earned Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for his performance as Scottish poet teaching at a New England college in "Reuben, Reuben"
Starred opposite Farrah Fawcett as her husband in the ABC biopic "Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story"
Cast as the Pope in the comedy "Saving Grace"
Acted with John Travolta in the ABC production of Harold Pinter's "The Dumb Waiter", directed by Robert Altman
Appeared as the heroine's Greek lover in "Shirley Valentine"; reunited with former co-star Pauline Collins
Portrayed a Spanish bar owner in "Someone Else's America"
Starred as a British barrister who relocated to the USA and practiced law in the short-lived CBS series "The Wright Verdicts"
Directed and starred in the Neil Simon play "Chapter Two" in London's West End
Made guest appearances on episodes of the NBC sitcom "Friends", playing the father-in-law of David Schwimmer's Ross Geller
Returned to series TV as co-star of the NBC fall series "Deadline"
Cast opposite Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston in the psychological thriller "Derailed," directed by Mikael Håfström