Birth Name: Kevin Delaney Kline
Date of Birth: October 24, 1947
Born in St. Louis, Missouri to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, he was exposed to family-style histrionics long before he ever set foot in a theater. "My mother was the really dramatic theatrical character in our family," Kline says. "I think I learned comedy watching my father react to her, because you had to have a sense of humor, because, well, she's formidable."
Kline appeared in a number of plays at school, but his main interest was music. He spent the first two years of his college career at Indiana University studying composing and conducting. Fortunately for the film world, his interests in drama became too strong to resist and he switched his focus to drama studies, and to founding the Vest Pocket Players, an off-campus theatrical troupe that specialized in satirical revues.
After completing his degree in speech and theater, Kline traveled to New York City, where he completed his graduate studies in the drama department at Juilliard. He graduated in 1972 and became a founding member of Houseman's the Acting Company as well as became romantically involved with his fellow graduate, Patti Lupone.
During the '70s, Kline remained completely focused on the theater. He starred on and off Broadway in such plays as The School for Scandal, Scapin, and The Hostage, and also essayed minor roles in New York Shakespeare Festival productions. After leaving his acting company in the mid-'70s, he was forced to take roles in the soap opera, Search for Tomorrow, to survive.
In 1978, he earned a Tony Award for his role in the musical On the Twentieth Century; he won a second in 1981 for his performance in The Pirates of Penzance.
In 1982 he left for Hollywood and struck gold with his debut films, Sophie's Choice, followed by The Big Chill. The double success put him very much in demand, but Kline seemed to shun the superstardom. He took smaller roles in big films until 1988 when he made an Oscar-winning appearance as the slow-witted Otto in the comedy A Fish Called Wanda. But, as his co-star in that film, John Cleese, noted, Kline seemed determined to turn down the kind of roles that would make him a star: "He's known in Hollywood as Kevin D. Kline," Cleese teases. "He's the only actor I know who played Hamlet in order to learn to be decisive."
In 1989, he married Phoebe Cates, and the two have two children, Greta Simone and Owen.
The '90s saw Kline through a mix of good and mediocre films. He was given great opportunities to forward his career, but continually refuses to take the roles. "I have turned down terrific roles in terrific films, and I have never had the slightest regret about doing so." Unfortunately, he didn't turn down a role in the big screen bomb Wild Wild West (1999) opposite Will Smith, and for his efforts received a Razzie nomination not only as Best Actor in the film, but as Best Actress (for his role as a prostitute). Although he didn't win in either of those categories, he and Smith shared the award for Worst Screen Couple.
Fortunately, he has scored hits such as Dave (1993), French Kiss (1995), The Emperor's Club (2002) and A Prairie Home Companion (2006). In 2002 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the St. Louis International Film Festival. He received his fifth Golden Globe award nomination in 2005 for his leading role in De-Lovely (2004) and was nominated for an Emmy in 2009 for playing the title role in the PBS production Cyrano de Bergerac. He also appeared alongside Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher in the 2011 romantic comedy No Strings Attached, in Lawrence Kasdan's drama Darling Companion (2012) and in My Old Lady (2014) opposite Dame Maggie Smith.
More recently, he starred in Ricki and the Flash (2015) with Meryl Streep, the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast (2017) with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, and the indie dramedy Dean (2017).