Steven James Zahn
November 13, 1967
Marshall, Minnesota, U.S.
|Education||Harvard University (MFA)|
Steven James Zahn (//; born November 13, 1967) is an American actor and comedian. His film roles include Reality Bites (1994), That Thing You Do! (1996), Out of Sight (1998), Stuart Little (1999), Riding in Cars with Boys (2001), Stuart Little 2 (2002), Shattered Glass (2003), Sahara (2005), Rescue Dawn (2007), the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (2010–2012), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017). On television, Zahn appeared in the recurring roles of Davis McAlary on HBO's Treme (2010–2013) and Ronnie LaFontaine on ABC's Modern Family (2014–2015). He won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for his performance in the film Happy, Texas (1999). In 2021, he starred in a main role on the HBO satire comedy miniseries The White Lotus.
Zahn was born in Marshall, Minnesota, the son of Carleton Edward Zahn, a Lutheran minister, and Zelda Clair Zahn, a bookstore clerk and later a YMCA administrator. His father is of German and Swedish descent, and his mother is of German ancestry. Zahn spent part of his childhood in Mankato, Minnesota, attending Kennedy Elementary School, and moved to the suburbs of Minneapolis for high school, where he acted in school plays and became a two-time Minnesota state speech champion. He graduated from Robbinsdale Cooper High School in 1986, planning eventually to join the United States Marine Corps.
Zahn attended Gustavus Adolphus College for one semester but dropped out after seeing the original West End production of Les Misérables. "I remember sitting through the second act thinking, I'm as good as that guy standing on the barricade," Zahn recalled. "I wanted to be part of the circus." Zahn later enrolled in the Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University, earning a Master of Fine Arts.
In 1991, Zahn made his professional stage debut in a Minnesota production of Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues after falsely claiming to be a member of Actors' Equity. His fellow actors suggested that Zahn study acting, inspiring him to enroll in American Repertory Theater's two-year training program. At A.R.T., he worked with the venerated stage director Andrei Șerban.
In 1991, Zahn formed the Malaparte theater company with a group of actor friends, including Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard. From 1991 to 1992, he played Hugo Peabody in a national tour of Bye Bye Birdie starring Tommy Tune, and subsequently appeared in two Off-Broadway plays, Sophistry and Eric Bogosian's Suburbia.
After his breakout film role in 1994's Reality Bites, Zahn quickly gained a reputation for playing amiable stoners, slackers, and sidekicks in films such as That Thing You Do! (1996), You've Got Mail (1998), and Out of Sight (1998). In the 1990s, Zahn was often approached by fans who assumed that he was an archetypal Generation X slacker, which was not the case. He has said, "I'm the guy who gets up at six without an alarm clock. I was always that guy."
In 1999, Zahn landed his first starring role in the critically acclaimed indie film Happy, Texas, for which he won a Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In the wake of Happy, Texas, Zahn began playing darker, more nuanced characters. He received Oscar buzz for his role as Drew Barrymore's deadbeat ex in Riding in Cars with Boys (2001), and played the investigative journalist Adam Penenberg in Shattered Glass (2003). A longtime Werner Herzog fan, Zahn campaigned for the role of Vietnam prisoner of war Duane W. Martin in Herzog's 2007 film Rescue Dawn; to prepare for the role, he lost 40 pounds by eating mostly raw food.
In 2017, Zahn played Bad Ape in War for the Planet of the Apes. He researched the role by watching chimp videos on YouTube, and later said that the motion capture process and lengthy digital takes made Bad Ape "the most challenging acting job I've ever had".
Zahn met author and theater artist Robyn Peterman, the daughter of clothier J. Peterman, while they were performing in a national tour of Bye Bye Birdie in 1991. The couple married in 1994 and have two children, Henry (b. 2000) and Audrey (b. 2002). In the 1990s, they bought a cabin in Pennsylvania and then a farm in New Jersey, near the Delaware Water Gap. They next moved to a 360-acre horse farm outside Lexington, Kentucky, where Zahn gardens and raises horses, goats, and sheep. He and his wife also run a local community theater, in which Zahn occasionally performs. He also has a lake cabin near Pine City, Minnesota, where he enjoys tubing and fishing with his two children.
Zahn is a lifelong military history buff and has said that one of his biggest regrets was having turned down a role in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. In 2007, he was awarded an honorary Ph.D in Fine Arts from Northern Kentucky University. A University of Kentucky sports fan, Zahn is often seen at games and events.
|1990||All My Children||Spence||Episode #5303|
|1993||South Beach||Lane Bailey||Episode: "Pirates of the Caribbean"|
|1995||Friends||Duncan||Episode: "The One with Phoebe's Husband"|
|Mike & Spike||Nick Pickles (voice)||Episode: "Person to Clothes"|
|Picture Windows||Crook||Episode: "Armed Response"|
|1997||Liberty! The American Revolution||American Sergeant||4 episodes|
|1998||From the Earth to the Moon||Astronaut Elliot See||Miniseries|
Episode: "Can We Do This?"
|2008||Comanche Moon||Augustus "Gus" McCrae||3 episodes|
|2008–2012||Phineas and Ferb||Swampy/Sherman (voices)||3 episodes|
|2009||Monk||Jack Monk, Jr.||Episode: "Mr. Monk's Other Brother"|
|WWII in HD||Nolen Marbrey (voice)||3 episodes|
|2010–2013||Treme||Davis McAlary||Regular, 36 episodes|
|2014||Mind Games||Clark Edwards||Regular, 13 episodes|
|2014–2015||Modern Family||Ronnie La Fontaine||Recurring role, 4 episodes|
|2015–2016||Mad Dogs||Cobi||Series regular, 10 episodes|
|2018||The Crossing||Jude Ellis||Series lead, 11 episodes|
|2019||Valley of the Boom||Michael Fenne||Main role|
|2020||The Healing Powers of Dude||Dude (voice)||Main role|
|2020||The Good Lord Bird||Chase||2 episodes|
|2021||The White Lotus||Mark Mossbacher||Main role|
|2005||Chicken Little||Runt of the Litter|
- Good Morning America (July 11, 2017). "Steve Zahn: Filming 'War of the Planet of the Apes' was 'physically the hardest job I ever did'". Retrieved February 10, 2020 – via YouTube.
- Simon, Alex (July 3, 2015). "Great Conversations: Steve Zahn," The Huffington Post Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Braun, Liz (February 26, 2001). "Steve Zahn has a smart funny humour," Archived 2017-09-16 at the Wayback Machine Jam!. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Covert, Colin (August 18, 2009). "Local boy Steve Zahn grows up," Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Riesman, Abraham (July 13, 2017). "Steve Zahn. Seriously." New York. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- "Steve Zahn: The Hollywood Interview". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
- Copley, Rich (June 23, 2016). "Steve Zahn talks craft and Kentucky at UK's Singletary Center," Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved on September 15, 2017.
- O'Sullivan, Michael (July 13, 2007). "Steve Zahn . . . in All Seriousness," The Washington Post. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Sternbergh, Adam (January 31, 2010). "The Ethan Hawke Actors Studio," New York. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
- Klein, Alvin (March 15, 1992). "Tommy Tune and 'Bye Bye Birdie,'" The New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Rabin, Nathan (July 3, 2007). "Interview: Steve Zahn," The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Ojumu, Akin (November 13, 1999). "Steve Zahn's habitual scene-stealing," The Guardian. (London) Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Smith, Neil (December 4, 2001). "Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)," BBC News. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Rottenberg, Josh (April 21, 2017). "Why Steve Zahn's 'Bad Ape' in 'War for the Planet of the Apes' made director Matt Reeves cry," Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
- Lammers, Tim (July 13, 2017). "Interview: Steve Zahn Talks 'War of the Planet of the Apes,'" DirectConversations.com. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
- Belloni, Matthew (October 27, 2008). "Steve Zahn: What I've Learned," Esquire. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Justin, Neal (21 February 2014). "Steve Zahn plays 'Mind Games' in new ABC series". Star Tribune. Minneapolis.
- Justin, Neal (30 March 2018). "TV star Steve Zahn may save the world – but saving his Minnesota cabin comes first". Star Tribune. Minneapolis.
- "Steve Zahn," interviewed by Doug Boyd (May 29, 2013). Colonel Arthur L. Kelly American Veterans Oral History Collection, University of Kentucky Libraries. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Watson, Heather C. (18 March 2015). "The HerKentucky UK and U of L Fan Elite Eight". Her Kentucky. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
- "The Healing Powers of Dude". Netflix Media Center. Retrieved December 13, 2019.
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