William Pullman was born on December 17, 1953 in Hornell , New York , USA . His father James was a physician and his mother Johanna (Blaas) a nurse. He was the youngest boy in a family of 4 brothers and 3 sisters.
The Pullman family lived in a red brick Victorian house on Main Street in Hornell , New York . Summers were spent in the country at a tree farm nearby that the Pullmans bought the year Bill was born. Bill worked summers for a local dairy farmer. He planted his first orchard at 1 3 . In high school he was on the football, wrestling, and track teams as well as playing the trombone in the band. He graduated from Hornell High School in 1971.
When he started college at SUNY-Delhi, Pullman planned to major in building construction in part because he loved the barns in the countryside of western New York . One night he ended up at auditions for "The Bald Soprano", and an interest in theater was awakened. Later, at the suggestion of one of his theater professors, he became a theater major with the intention of working as a director. He graduated from SUNY-Oneonta with a degree in Theater Arts.
Pullman went on to study at University of Massachusetts , Amherst , where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree with a major in Directing in 1980. While studying at Amherst , he met Tamara Hurwitz when they were cast as husband and wife in Moliere’s “Impromptu at Versailles ”. When he directed “The Changeling” later, she was the Choreographer.
After graduation, Pullman was offered a teaching position at Montana State University , Bozeman . He accepted the job in part because he had come to love Montana while doing summer theater there with a group called "Shakespeare in the Parks". He played both romantic leads and comic parts and directed for the company. While teaching at Montana State , he became co-chairman of the Theater department. Director John Dahl (The Last Seduction, Red Rock West) was one of Pullman 's students. Pullman 's connection to Montana continues to this day: he co-owns a cattle ranch there with his brother.
In 1981 Pullman decided to take a shot at professional acting and directing. He moved to New York 's East Village and between auditions was a proof-reader, liquor store clerk, and bank teller. His New York appearances include a critically acclaimed performance as Wesley in a revival of "The Curse of the Starving Class" with Kathy Bates.
In 1985 he was offered a part in "Nanataiwai" for a 3-month run on Los Angeles . While there, he decided to go on a few film auditions. Pullman arrived at his first movie audition on a bike. He was reading for the part of the serial killer in Ruthless People. He had just played a Russian tank commander on stage and his hair was dyed blond. Pullman went on to win the part of Earl, "the stupidest person on Earth" and the blond dye job was incorporated into the part.
Ruthless People was Pullman 's film debut. It was followed closely by Spaceballs for Mel Brooks, who chose Pullman to play Lone Star because he wanted "a leading man with comic timing". During the shooting of Spaceballs, Bill Pullman married Tamara Hurwitz.
In his early films, Pullman is most often the handsome guy with an edge: The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Accidental Tourist, (Academy Award nomination, Best Picture, 1988) and Rocket Gibraltar. In the theater, Pullman had a reputation for doing serious drama, but Hollywood soon discovered his knack for comedy and that talent, along with his acting range, allowed him to play the nerdy guy in comedies like Cold Feet and Sibling Rivalry, as well as a geeky academic in Brain Dead. He also continued to do excellent work in dramas like: Home Fires Burning, Liebestraum, A League of Their Own, and Crazy in Love.
While making movies, Pullman continued working in the theater in Los Angeles . Much of his work was done with the Los Angeles Theater Company. His credits include: "Barabbas", "All My Sons", "Demon Wine", and Beth Henley’s "Control Freaks".
Bill and Tamara Pullman settled in Los Angeles . They have three children: Maesa, Jack, and Lewis. Pullman loves trees and has an extensive orchard behind his house.
A belief in the importance of strong communities has inspired Bill Pullman to give his time and resources to strengthen communities he has a connection with. In his hometown, Hornell , New York , he was a contributor to renovations at St. James Mercy Hospital that resulted in the new Pullman Women’s Health and Birthing Center, named to honor his parents, James and Johanna. The new Hornell YMCA was also the recipient of a significant contribution from Pullman , honored with naming rights for the music and arts classrooms.
At Alfred University in his home state of New York , he has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2007 and his given lectures and classes at the university.
In Los Angeles , he served as a member of the Board of Directors at the Cornerstone Theater for seven years. He has been an Ambassador for the MS Society since 1998.
Pullman is a supporter of “Concerned Citizens Montana” a group working to mitigate the construction of a power transmission line they believe will be harmful to their community.
By the early 1990s Pullman was a sought-after supporting player in films. With Sommersby, Sleepless in Seattle, and Malice in 1993, Pullman 's career reached a turning point. He had three showy lead roles in major studio releases in one year. A role in a little movie called The Last Seduction, directed by Pullman 's former student, John Dahl, further enhanced his reputation. In 1995 he starred in While You Were Sleeping and Casper , both box office hits, and in 1996 he starred as the President in the blockbuster Independence Day.
Bill Pullman is a critically acclaimed leading man for whom directors often write parts. Zero Effect, Lost Highway, and The End of Violence were all written with Pullman in mind to play the roles he later created on screen.
An experienced stage director, Pullman made his film directing debut and played the title role in a critically acclaimed new version of the classic western The Virginian (Wrangler Award - Best Picture 2000).
In 2002 Pullman starred in Edward Albee's "The Goat or Who is Sylvia?" on Broadway. He created the role of Martin. His performance was widely praised by critics. He was nominated for the Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor but his performance was passed over in the Tony nominations for Best Actor. This snub has become the stuff of theater legend. "The Goat" won the 2002 Tony Award, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play.
In Igby Goes Down (2002) Pullman was on screen less than fifteen minutes but his performance was singled out and highly praised.
Pullman 's amazing range as an actor coupled with his uncanny ability to create richly textured distinct characters combine to make him an unusually talented and creative actor. His work is invariably fascinating to watch.
In January 2004, Pullman conceived and directed "Expedition 6", a multimedia performance piece created with students of the Denver Center 's National Theater Conservatory. The play was performed at New York Stage and Film's Powerhouse Theater in June 2004.
In January 2006 Pullman starred in "The Subject Was Roses" at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C. He was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award as Outstanding Lead Actor for his role as John Cleary.
"Expedition 6" took part in an ACTF Playwrights' workshop in Washington D.C. in July 2006. Pullman directed the play. Theatre Project of Baltimore produced two open rehearsals of "Expedition 6" on July 28-29 with Pullman directing.
In September 2007, "Expedition 6" had its world premiere at the Magic Theatre, San Francisco with Pullman directing his play.
From October-December 2007 Pullman starred as Peter in the hugely successful, critically acclaimed production of Edward Albee's "Peter and Jerry" at the Second Stage Theatre in New York . Pullman is now being described as one of the greatest living interpreters of Albee's work.
Pullman ’s graduate alma mater, University of Massachusetts , Amherst conferred an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree on him on May 24, 2008 . On November 23, 2008 he was presented with the prestigious John Cassavetes Award at the Starz Denver Film Festival. This award is given annually to "an individual who has made a significant contribution to the world of filmmaking and whose work reflects the spirit of the late John Cassavetes." In 2008, he was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Riverrun Film Festival and Best Actor Award for his performance in Your Name Here at the Cinevegas Film Festival.
In the summer of 2009, he starred in the hugely successful Los Angeles production of David Mamet's "Oleanna" directed by Doug Hughes. The Broadway debut of "Oleanna" followed in October 2009 with Pullman playing the role of John once again.
On January 14, 2010 Pullman gave the keynote address at the Region II American College Theater Festival held at Indiana University , Indiana , Pennsylvania . With passion, humor and a little whimsy, Pullman told the story of his own journey from theater student to working professional.
In 2011 Pullman joined the cast of Torchwood as a series regular for the joint STARZ-BBC production: Torchwood: Miracle Day.
On May 14 Pullman gave the Commencement Speech at Alfred University and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.
With his participation in the making of the documentary “The Fruit Hunters”, Pullman has found the perfect connection between his love for the cultivation of fruit and his skills in front of the camera. The film explores the passion people can have for exotic fruit and the lengths to which they will go to obtain and taste rare fruits.
Pullman has recently completed the films Lola Versus and Innocent (TNT). In February 2012, he will star in “The Jacksonian", a new play by Beth Henley.
© 2002-2015 Mary Cochrane-McIvor