NetWorkWise Presents: Conversations with Connors

Holt McCallany: Bringing Hollywood Down to Earth

July 10, 2019

Throughout his career, character actor Holt McCallany was a go-to for strong, silent and decidedly dangerous men on either side of the moral fence, as evidenced by his small but memorable turns in films like "Alien 3" (1989), "Tyson" (HBO, 1995), "Fight Club" (1999) and "Three Kings" (1999). The scion of an acting family, McCallany paid his dues in a wide variety of projects, rarely vaulting past supporting roles, but always delivering a committed and often unsettling performance. In 2011, he advanced to leading man status with "Lights Out" (FX), a gritty drama about a former heavyweight boxer who forges a comeback to save his family from criminal pressures. Though the series lasted only one season, it propelled the actor to a new level of visibility through key roles in films including hacking drama "Blackhat" (2015), crime thriller "Shot Caller" (2016), action sequel "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" (2016) and Clint Eastwood's aviation biopic "Sully" (2016).


Born Holt Quinn McAloney on Sept. 3, 1964, Holt McCallany was the oldest of two sons by Irish actor Michael McAloney, who won a Tony Award for his production of Brendan Behan's "Borstal Boy," and actress-singer Julie Wilson. A childhood spent in Dublin was cut short by his parents' divorce, with McCallany returning with his parents to the United States. There, he was sent to live with his maternal grandparents in Omaha, NE, but this period was a troubled one for him. After being expelled from school, he ran away to Los Angeles, where he decided to become an actor. McCallany's parents eventually tracked him down and sent him back to Ireland to finish high school. After graduation, he studied French at the Sorbonne and theater at the Ecole Marcel Marceau.


Upon returning to the States, McCallany apprenticed at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland, OH, then relocated to New York City, where he landed a job as an understudy in Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues" on Broadway. His feature film debut came in 1987's "Creepshow 2" as a murderous Native American who receives his comeuppance at the hands of a cigar store Indian come to life. Soon after, he found steady work in films and on television. His intense presence and formidable build made him a natural for men of action on either side of the law, whom he portrayed in minor and supporting roles for such noted directors as Brian De Palma with "Casualties of War" (1989); David Fincher, who cast him as a self-sacrificing convict in "Alien 3" (1989) and as the Mechanic who explains the rules of "Fight Club" (1999); and for William Friedkin in the box office bomb, "Jade" (1995). McCallany found more substantial roles in independent fare or television; the former provided him with his first starring role in "The Search for One-Eye Jimmy" (1994), as a film student who encounters a parade of odd characters upon his return to his hometown of Brooklyn. The latter brought him to the HBO biopic "Tyson" (1995), in which he starred as legendary fight trainer Teddy Atlas, who helped develop Tyson from street tough to boxing legend. The project inspired McCallany to develop his own television program about a trainer, which would eventually bring him to the FX Network and "Lights Out."


McCallany continued to work steadily throughout the late 1990s and early 21st century in steely character roles for films and television shows both major and minor. He was the by-the-books lieutenant who made life difficult for George Clooney in "Three Kings" (1999), enjoyed a recurring role for three seasons of "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 2002-12) as a tormented cop who ends his own life after being implicated with tampered evidence, and played an Irish mobster who pressed Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) into committing crimes for him on "Heroes" (NBC, 2006-2010). While pitching his boxing trainer series to HBO, he was informed that FX was developing a show about an aging fighter who was forced to return to the ring. McCallany was eventually cast in "Lights Out" as Patrick "Lights" Leary, a forty-something brawler who re-enters the sport after landing in trouble with a local mobster. After the show's cancelation, McCallany returned to the big screen with supporting roles in action thriller "Gangster Squad" (2012) and Sylvester Stallone vehicle "Bullet to the Head" (2012). Another TV series, crime drama "Golden Boy" (CBS 2013) was again canceled after a single season, but led to a recurring role as a district attorney on later seasons of procedural drama "Blue Bloods" (CBS 2010- ). Supporting roles in Liam Neeson thriller "Run All Night" (2015), hacking adventure "Blackhat" (2015), romantic comedy "The Perfect Guy" (2015) and crime drama "Shot Caller" (2016) were followed by a pair of high profile character roles opposite Tom Hanks in Clint Eastwood's "Sully" (2016) and Tom Cruise" in action-adventure sequel "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" (2016).

This bio was provided by Turner Classic Movies

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