Wilford Brimley

Actor, Extra, Stuntman
The actor of choice to play gruff, but lovable grandfathers, old salts and dispensers of sage advice in the 1980s, Wilford Brimley was a former real-life ranch hand who worked his way up the Hollywood food chain from ... Read more »
Born: 09/26/1934 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Filmography

Actor (63)

Did You Hear About the Morgans? 2009 (Movie)

Earl Granger (Actor)

Brigham City 2001 (Movie)

Sheriff Stu (Actor)

Louis L'Amour's Crossfire Trail 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

All My Friends Are Cowboys 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Storytime 1993 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Progeny 1998 (Movie)

Dr David Kelly (Actor)

Summer of the Monkeys 1998 (Movie)

Grandpa Sam Ferens (Actor)

In & Out 1997 (Movie)

Frank Brackett (Actor)

Seinfeld 1997 (Tv Show)

Actor

Chapter Perfect 1996 (Movie)

Chief Danny Hawkins (Actor)

My Fellow Americans 1996 (Movie)

Joe Hollis (Actor)

Last of the Dogmen 1995 (Movie)

(Narrator)

Walker, Texas Ranger 1993 - 1995 (Tv Show)

Actor

A Place to Grow 1994 (Movie)

(Actor)

Heaven Sent 1994 (Movie)

(Actor)

Homicide: Life on the Street 1993 - 1994 (Tv Show)

Actor

Mutant Species 1994 (Movie)

Devro (Actor)

Hard Target 1993 (Movie)

Uncle Douvee (Actor)

The Firm 1993 (Movie)

William Devasher (Actor)

The River of Doubt 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Voice

Shadows on the Wall 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

The Boys of Twilight 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

Where the Red Fern Grows, Part Two 1992 (Movie)

(Actor)

Eternity 1990 (Movie)

Eric/King (Actor)

Cocoon: the Return 1988 (Movie)

Ben Luckett (Actor)

Our House 1986 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

End of the Line 1987 (Movie)

Will Haney (Actor)

American Justice 1986 (Movie)

Sheriff Mitchell (Actor)

Cocoon 1985 (Movie)

Ben Luckett (Actor)

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins... 1985 (Movie)

Harold Smith (Actor)

Country 1984 (Movie)

Otis (Actor)

Harry & Son 1984 (Movie)

Tom (Actor)

The Hotel New Hampshire 1984 (Movie)

"Iowa Bob" Berry (Actor)

The Natural 1984 (Movie)

Pop Fisher (Actor)

The Stone Boy 1984 (Movie)

George Jansen (Actor)

10 to Midnight 1983 (Movie)

Captain Malone (Actor)

High Road to China 1983 (Movie)

Bradley Tozer (Actor)

Tender Mercies 1983 (Movie)

Harry Silver (Actor)

The Firm 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Actor

Tough Enough 1983 (Movie)

Bill Long (Actor)

The Thing 1982 (Movie)

Blair (Actor)

Absence of Malice 1981 (Movie)

Wells (Actor)

Death Valley 1981 (Movie)

Sheriff (Actor)

Borderline 1980 (Movie)

Scooter Jackson (Actor)

Brubaker 1980 (Movie)

Rogers (Actor)

The China Syndrome 1979 (Movie)

Ted Spindler (Actor)

The Electric Horseman 1979 (Movie)

Farmer (Actor)

Oregon Trail 1975 - 1976 (TV Show)

Actor

Act of Vengeance (TV Show)

Actor

Amber Waves (TV Show)

Actor

Blood River (TV Show)

Actor

Ewoks: The Battle For Endor (TV Show)

Actor

Murder in Space (TV Show)

Actor

Rodeo Girl (TV Show)

Actor

Roughnecks (TV Show)

Actor

The Awakening Land (TV Show)

Actor

The Big Black Pill (TV Show)

Actor

The Good Old Boys (TV Show)

Actor

Thompson's Last Run (TV Show)

Actor

Tom Clancy's Op Center (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

The actor of choice to play gruff, but lovable grandfathers, old salts and dispensers of sage advice in the 1980s, Wilford Brimley was a former real-life ranch hand who worked his way up the Hollywood food chain from stunt rider and extra to popular character actor and television pitchman. On the advice of friend Robert Duvall, Brimley set his course down the acting path and earned his big break in "The China Syndrome" (1979). By the mid-1980s, Brimley was adding old-fashioned grit and homespun charm to high-profile pictures like "The Natural" (1984), "Cocoon" (1985) and "The Firm" (1993), as well as on the primetime series "Our House" (NBC, 1986-88). His profile lessened in subsequent years, though his avuncular presence was well used in a series of ads for Quaker Oats and the Liberty Medical supply company, keeping fresh his distinctly whiskered visage to audiences.

Born on Sept. 27, 1934 in Salt Lake City, UT, Brimley was the son of a real estate broker, who moved the family to California when his son was six years old. Brimley dropped out of high school to join the Marines during the Korean War, serving three years in the Aleutian Islands. After an honorable discharge, Brimley worked as a ranch hand, wrangler and blacksmith throughout the Western states, then spent three years as bodyguard to Howard Hughes. When he returned to California, he found work at stables that provided horses for film and television projects, but soon after lit out again to work as a cowboy in Idaho. He eventually returned to Los Angeles to find work as a riding extra and stunt man in Hollywood Westerns like "Bandolero!" (1968).

During this period, Brimley struck a friendship with Robert Duvall, who encouraged him to become an actor. Brimley eventually logged enough hours as a stunt man to earn his Screen Actors Guild card and soon landed small parts in "True Grit" (1969) and "Lawman" (1971). Brimley was frequently credited as "A. Wilford Brimley" in his early roles, a trend that continued until the mid-1980s. In 1974, Brimley began a recurring role on "The Waltons" (CBS, 1972-1981) as town blacksmith Horace Brimley, which lasted until 1977. His dedication to his craft impressed cast member Ralph Waite, who invited Brimley to join and train with his Los Angeles Actors Theater. Soon after, Brimley graduated to larger character roles, many of which emphasized his skill with gruff blue-color types. He earned his first spate of solid reviews as Ted Spindler, a foreman at a nuclear facility who knows that his plant suffers from safety issues, in "The China Syndrome" (1979). The film's finale afforded Brimley an emotional soliloquy which caught the eye of numerous producers and casting agents.

Brimley was soon riding high as a character actor in Hollywood features throughout the 1980s. Robert Redford employed him on several occasions, first as a farmer in "The Electric Horseman" (1979) and later in "Brubaker" (1980), before giving Brimley one of his best roles as the crusty manager of a struggling baseball farm team in Barry Levinson's "The Natural" (1984). Other solid performances came as a tough assistant attorney general in "Absence of Malice" (1981), a scientist who is driven mad by an alien presence in John Carpenter's cult classic "The Thing" (1982) and the no-nonsense manager of Robert Duvall's ex-wife (Betty Buckley) in "Tender Mercies" (1983).

Brimley's biggest hit came as one of a trio of senior citizens (alongside Don Ameche and Hume Cronyn) who discover that a hidden alien pod is also the fountain of youth in Ron Howard's "Cocoon" (1985). The role emphasized the gentler aspects of his screen persona and led to more tenderhearted roles, like the hermit who aids George Lucas' cuddly Ewoks in the TV feature "Ewoks: The Battle for Endor" (ABC, 1985). Brimley graduated to regular series work, playing kindly grandfather Gus Witherspoon, who dispenses wisdom to his daughter-in-law's children (Shannen Doherty and Chad Allen) on the well-regarded, but ultimately short-lived family series "Our House." Brimley also spun his newfound status as Hollywood's Favorite Curmudgeon into a series of television ads for Quaker Oats cereal, which reportedly surged in sales as a result of his appearance. The spots, which hinged on Brimley's admonition to eat the cereal because it was the "right thing to do and the tasty way to do it," were lampooned - often mercilessly - by television and radio comics.

When Brimley's popularity started to peter out in the early 1990s, he wisely shifted to playing stern heavies, like the security chief in "The Firm" (1993). After a supporting role in "My Fellow Americans" (1996), he enjoyed a brief comic turn as Kevin Kline's bewildered father in "In and Out" (1997). But for the most part, Brimley spent the remainder of his career appearing in television movies and independent features. In 2001, he returned to the stage in an off-Broadway production of the venerable play by Robert E. Sherwood, "The Petrified Forest." Brimley also enjoyed wide exposure from a series of ads for Liberty Medical, which sold supplies for testing diabetes on daytime television ads. Himself suffering from diabetes, Brimley became the company's official spokesperson in 1999. Like his ads for Quaker Oats, he found himself the target of numerous jibes and spoofs from comics, who fixated on his folksy pronunciation of the disease as "dya-beet-us."

Relationships

Bill Brimley

Son

Jim Brimley

Son

John Brimley

Son

Lynne Brimley Actor

Wife
Married on July 6, 1956 Lynne died on June 14, 2000

Milestones

2009

Cast alongside Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant in "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"

2004

Released an album of jazz standards titled This Time, the Dream's on Me

2001

Starred in an off-Broadway revival of "The Petrified Forest"

2001

Played a sheriff in "Brigham City"

2001

Co-starred in the CBS movie "The Ballad of Lucy Whipple"

1998

Acted in the PBS aired production "All My Friends Are Cowboys"

1997

Appeared as Kevin Kline's father and Debbie Reynolds' husband in Frank Oz's comedy "In & Out"

1996

Reunited with good friend Robert Duvall for a sixth time in the feature "My Fellow Americans"

1993

In a departure from type, gave an outstanding performance as the sinister head of security in "The Firm"

1989

Portrayed Gov. Lew Wallace (author of "Ben Hur") in "Gore Vidal's 'Billy the Kid'" (TNT)

1986

Co-starred on NBC comedy drama series "Our House"

1985

Delivered memorable performance as leader of spunky senior citizens in Ron Howard's "Cocoon"

1984

Portrayed disillusioned farm patriarch in "Country"

1984

Played Robert Redford's reluctant baseball manager in "The Natural"

1979

Breakthrough supporting role as the plant foreman in "The China Syndrome"

1976

TV-movie debut in "The Oregon Trail" (NBC)

1974

Landed recurring role on CBS series "The Waltons"

1970

Credited as Bill Brimley for movie role in "Lawman"

1968

Film debut, an uncredited bit part in "True Grit"

1965

Returned to Los Angeles; became a riding extra for Westerns

1940

Moved to California at the age of six

Shoed horses for stables that furnished animals for movie and TV Westerns

Received Screen Actors Guild card for work as stuntman

Parlayed his folksey down-home image into job as spokesperson for Quaker Oats

Dropped out of school to serve in Marines during the Korean War

Spent three years in the late 1950s as a bodyguard for Howard Hughes

After Korea, drifted though the western states working as a ranch hand, blacksmith and wrangler

Moved to Idaho

Was founding member of Los Angeles Actors Theater

Befriended by actor Robert Duvall who urged him to pursue acting as a career

Bonus Trivia

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"I announced to the world that I was an actor and then didn't work for eight years." – Brimley, quoted throughout the years in multiple PR profiles

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