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PETER SARSGAARD: Flying High in Hollywood
by Nancy Simon

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Within the span of a decade, the 34-year old Illinois born actor, Peter Sarsgaard has appeared in more than 22 feature films. Having been called an actor with a fearless ability to explore the darker side of human nature, Sarsgaard's career seems poised to go into high gear.

As Luke a New Orleans' estate lawyer in SKELETON KEY; Air Marshal Gene Carson in FLIGHTPLAN; and Troy, a Marine–mentor-friend in JARHEAD, a Gulf War, bio-epic directed by Sam Mendes, Sarsgaard has major roles in three big budget studio flicks all of which are being released within a short span of each other during the summer and fall 2005 season.

Nabbing pivotal supporting roles opposite some very high profile Hollywood talent the likes of Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, Jodie Foster and Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllanhaal; though some audience-goers may recognize his face, conjuring up his name seems to be more of a challenge.

Comfortable with his anonymity, Sarsgaard has been known to say, "People usually only know me from one of the roles I play...I don't have to carry around a little suitcase full of fans that like me."

This matter-of-fact industry observation is not meant as a negative commentary on his lack of talent or inability to immerse himself in a dizzying array of offbeat roles, but more along the lines of praise for his adroitness as an actor.

Appearing on screen with the likes of big name actors is nothing new for Sargaard who made his feature film debut as Walter Delacroix in Tim Robbins' DEAD MAN WALKING and then went on to play Raoul, the son of John Malkovich's Three Muskateers' character in the MAN IN THE IRON MASK.

After several obscure Indie films, Sarsgaard hit the big time with the little engine that could-BOYS DON'T CRY; in which he played, John Lotter, a violent, ex-con, homophobic.

While he earned critical reassurance with both his commanding performance in SHATTERED GLASS as Charles Lane, the pragmatic New Republic editor who took down a plagiarizing journalist; and as Mark, Zach Braff's low-life, stoner gravedigger friend in GARDEN STATE; it was his role as the conservative protégé to Liam Neeson's Dr. Alfred Kinsey in KINSEY that earned him major kudos.

Quite a diverse repertoire of roles have played up not only Sarsgaard's range, but also upon his conservative handsome appearance. Humble, low-key and subtly precise in his acting - all such traits may be attributed to the fact that he was born on Scotts Air Force Base in Illinois and, as such, acquired a sense for deftly flying below the radar.

While studying at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, Sarsgaard formed the improvisational comedy troupe,"Mama's Pot Roast." A reference to the odds and ends melded together from previous nights' dinners, the name captured the essence of his career as he so very often wound up with leftover parts, those which other actors may have passed on or for which casting directors had trouble finding the ideal candidate.

After graduation, Sarsgaard moved to New York City where he studied under Ellyn Burstyn and Shelley Winters at the famed Actor's Studio and found work in off-Broadway theatre productions.

Present day, not only has Sarsgaard labored at a fervid pace (making more than two films per year) he has also found time to return to his roots of off-Broadway productions and edgy film productions.

During the summer of 2005, Sarsgaard starred on stage opposite Elizabeth Shue in the reincarnated, off-Broadway version of BURN THIS the story of four New Yorkers who lives converge around the death of a young dancer.

And, in early 2006, Sarsgaard can be seen on the big screen (that is if the no-budget Indie film is able to secure adequate distribution)in the Sundance Film festival darling, THE DYING GAUL, in partnership with actors Patricia Clarkson and Campbell Scott, as Robert, a gay screenwriter romantically involved with a married studio executive.

And as an interesting "All in the Family" aside, Sarsgaard lives with his actress girlfriend, Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose brother, Jake, has the lead role in JARHEAD.

Clearly not one to censor the roles he takes on, Peter Sarsgaard continues to ascend to new heights as both actor and chameleon....

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A capsulized profile on an emerging talent, i.e., actor/director in the film world and a snippet as to why he or she is destined to soon become a household name.


Other Columns
Other columns by Nancy Simon:

EMILE HIRSCH: Young Upstart

SIENNA MILLER:B-day Girl\ Factory Girl

DJIMON HOUNSOU: A Diamond in the Rough

ABBIE CORNISH: Who's That Girl?

DARREN ARONOFSKY: Daring to go further

All Columns


Nancy Simon
A Chicago-based freelance writer and film enthusiast, Nancy has an insatiable curiousity and knack for picking out talented, promising individuals.


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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Nancy Simon by clicking here.


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