F. Murray Abraham
F. Murray Abraham (born Murray Abraham; October 24, 1939) is an American actor. He became widely known during the 1980s after winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984). He has appeared in many roles, both leading and supporting, in films such as All the President’s Men (1976), Scarface (1983), The Name of the Rose (1986), Last Action Hero (1993), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), Finding Forrester (2000), The Bridge of San Luis Rey (2004), The Inquiry (2006), Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). He is also known for his television and theatre work and is now a regular cast member on the award-winning TV series Homeland.
Abraham was born Murray Abraham in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Frederick Abraham, an auto mechanic, and his wife Josephine (née Stello), a housewife.His father was Assyrian  and immigrated from Syria during the 1920s famine; his paternal grandfather was a chanter in the Syriac Orthodox Church. His mother, one of fourteen children, was Italian American, and the daughter of an immigrant who worked in the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania. Abraham added “F.” to his stage name in honor of his father Frederick. He has stated “Murray Abraham just doesn’t seem to say anything. It just is another name, so I thought I’d frame it”. Abraham was raised in El Paso, Texas, near the Mexican border. He attended Vilas Grammar School, and graduated from El Paso High School in 1958. He was a gang member during his teenage years. He attended Texas Western College (later named University of Texas at El Paso), where he was given the best actor award by Alpha Psi Omega for his portrayal of the Indian Nocona in Comanche Eagle during the 1959–60 season. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, then studied acting underUta Hagen in New York City. He began his acting career on the stage, debuting in a Los Angeles production of Ray Bradbury‘s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.
Film and television
Abraham made his screen debut as an usher in the George C. Scott comedy They Might Be Giants (1971). By the mid-’70s, Murray had steady employment as an actor, doing commercials and voice-overs. Abraham can be seen as one of the undercover police officers along with Al Pacino in Sidney Lumet‘s Serpico (1973), and in television roles including the bad guy in one third-season episode of Kojak. He played a cab driver in the theatrical version of The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975), a mechanic in the theatrical version of The Sunshine Boys (1975), and a police officer in the film All the President’s Men (1976).
Despite these small roles, Abraham continued to do commercials and voice-over work for income. But in 1978, he decided to give them up. Frustrated with the lack of substantial roles, Abraham said, “No one was taking my acting seriously. I figured if I didn’t do it, then I’d have no right to the dreams I’ve always had.” His wife, Kate Hannan, went to work as an assistant and Abraham became a “house husband.” He described, “I cooked and cleaned and took care of the kids. It was very rough on my macho idea of life. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Until his acclaimed role in Amadeus (1984), Abraham was perhaps best known to audiences as drug dealer Omar Suárez alongside Pacino again in the gangster film Scarface (1983). He also gained visibility voicing a talking bunch of grapes in a series of television commercials for Fruit of the Loom underwear.
Abraham won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as envious composer Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984), an award for which Tom Hulce, playing Mozart in that movie, had also been nominated. He also won a Golden Globe, among other awards, and his role in the film, directed by Miloš Forman, is still his most iconic.
After Amadeus, he next appeared in The Name of the Rose (1986), in which he played Bernardo Gui, nemesis to Sean Connery‘s William of Baskerville. His director on the film, Jean-Jacques Annaud, has described Abraham—perhaps jokingly—as an “egomaniac” on the set, who considered himself more important than Sean Connery, since Connery did not have an Oscar. That said, the film was a critical success.
Though Abraham had fewer prominent roles in the next decade or so, he also became known for his roles in Woody Allen‘s Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Ahdar Ru’afo in Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), and Gus Van Sant‘s Finding Forrester (2000), where he once again played nemesis to Connery. He also had a significant role in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), but chose not to be credited due to a contract dispute.
Abraham’s relatively low-profile film career subsequent to his Academy Award has been widely considered an example of the “Oscar jinx“. According to film critic Leonard Maltin, professional failure following an early success is referred to in Hollywood circles as the “F. Murray Abraham syndrome”. Abraham rejected this notion and told Maltin, “The Oscar is the single most important event of my career. I have dined with kings, shared equal billing with my idols, lectured at Harvard and Columbia. If this is a jinx, I’ll take two.” In the same interview, Abraham said, “Even though I won the Oscar, I can still take the subway in New York, and nobody recognizes me. Some actors might find that disconcerting, but I find it refreshing.”
After an extended period of low profile work, Abraham has recently been more prolific with mainstream film and television appearances. These have included guest appearances on popular television series such as Saving Grace, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Louie, among others, as well as a recurring role on The Good Wife. Additionally, Abraham has worked as the primary narrator for the PBS series Nature for 32 episodes spanning 2007–2010. Most notably, starting in 2013, Abraham has had a starring role in Showtime‘s drama series Homeland as black ops specialist Dar Adal.
He has recently appeared in prominent supporting roles in two widely acclaimed films: as a folk music impresario in the Coen brothers‘ drama Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) and Mr. Moustafa in Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).
Since Amadeus, he has mainly focused on classical theatre, and has starred in many Shakespearean productions such as Othello and Richard III. He was highlighted in many other plays by the likes of Samuel Beckett and Gilbert and Sullivan, and played the lead in Anton Chekhov‘s Uncle Vanya (for which he received an Obie Award).
Abraham has focused on stage work throughout his career, giving notable performances as Pozzo in Mike Nichols‘s production of Waiting for Godot, Malvolio in Twelfth Night for the New York Shakespeare Festival, and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice for the Off Broadway Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) in March 2007, which was performed at the Duke Theatre in New York and also at The Swan Theatre, part of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He reprised this role in February 2011, when he replaced Al Pacino in the Public Theater’s production. In the 1997/98 Broadway season he starred in the new chamber musical Triumph of Love opposite Betty Buckley, based on Marivaux‘s classic comedy. The production did not find a large audience, running 85 performances, after its pre-opening preview period. He has also taught theater at Brooklyn College.
In January 2010, Abraham was the on-the-scene hero of a real-life crime scene at the Classic Stage Company in New York City, when he traded blows with a thief in the dressing room area during a public rehearsal.
Faith: “I’ve attended many churches. I grew up as an orthodox Christian and I was an altar boy. I love the Society of Friends, the Quakers. I attended their meetings for almost 15 years. I’m (2008) now attending the First Presbyterian Church of New York because they’re such a generous, terrific church with outreach. They reach out to old people, to homeless, to A.A., to cross-dressers; it’s truly a church of the teachings of Christ. Religion is essential to my life.”
|1971||They Might Be Giants||Clyde|
|1975||The Prisoner of Second Avenue||Taxi driver|
|1975||The Sunshine Boys||Car mechanic|
|1976||All the President’s Men||Paul Leeper|
|1978||The Big Fix||Eppis|
|1984||Amadeus||Antonio Salieri||Academy Award for Best Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
|1986||The Name of the Rose||Bernardo Gui|
|1988||The Third Solution (Russicum – I giorni del diavolo)||Father Carafa|
|1989||Beyond the Stars||Dr. Harry Bertram|
|1989||The Favorite||Abdul Hamid|
|1989||An Innocent Man||Virgil Cane|
|1990||Cadence||Capt. Ramon Garcia||Uncredited|
|1990||A Season of Giants||Pope Julius II||Television film|
|1990||La batalla de los Tres Reyes||Osrain|
|1990||The Bonfire of the Vanities||D.A. Abe Weiss||Uncredited|
|1991||By the Sword||Max Suba|
|1991||Eye of the Widow||Kharoun|
|1992||Through an Open Window||Narrator||Short film|
|1992||The First Circle||Joseph Stalin||Television film|
|1993||National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon||Dr. Harold Leacher|
|1993||Journey To The Center Of The Earth||Professor Harlech||Television film|
|1993||Last Action Hero||Detective John Practice|
|1993||Il caso Dozier||Goldstein||Television film|
|1994||Surviving the Game||Wolfe Sr.|
|1996||Children of the Revolution||Joseph Stalin|
|1997||Una vacanza all’inferno||Belisario|
|1998||Star Trek: Insurrection||Ad’har Ru’afo|
|1999||Excellent Cadavers||Tommaso Buscetta||Television film|
|1999||Muppets From Space||Noah||Cameo|
|2000||The Darkling||Bruno Rubin||Television film|
|2000||Finding Forrester||Prof. Robert Crawford|
|2000||Un dono semplice||Thomas Barlow||Television film|
|2000||David Proshker||Narrator||Short film|
|2001||I cavalieri che fecero l’impresa||Delfinello da Coverzano|
|2001||Thir13en Ghosts||Cyrus Kristicos|
|2002||Ticker||Airport Guru||Short film|
|2003||Five Moons Square||The Entity|
|2003||Rua Alguem 5555: My Father||Paul Minsky|
|2004||Another Way of Seeing Things||Narrator||Short film|
|2004||Too Much Romance… It’s Time for Stuffed Peppers||Jeffrey|
|2004||The Bridge of San Luis Rey||Viceroy of Peru|
|2006||The Stone Merchant||Shahid|
|1993/2006||Quiet Flows the Don||Pantaley|
|2007||Wine and Kisses||Ruggero|
|2007||Blood Monkey||Professor Hamilton||Direct-to-DVD|
|2008||Shark Swarm||Bill Girdler||Television film|
|2008||Carnera – The Walking Mountain||Léon Sée|
|2008||A House Divided||Grandfather Wahid|
|2010||The Unseen World||John Henry Newman|
|2012||Goltzius and the Pelican Company||The Margrave of Alsace|
|2012||September Eleven 1683||Father Marco d’Aviano|
|2013||Dead Man Down||Gregor|
|2013||Inside Llewyn Davis||Bud Grossman|
|2013||The Gambler Who Wouldn’t Die||Braque|
|2014||The Grand Budapest Hotel||Mr. Moustafa||Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|2014||The Mystery of Dante||Dante Alter Ego|
|2014||A Little Game||Norman Wallach|
|1976||All in the Family||Clerk||Episode: “The Unemployment Story: Part 1”|
|1982–1983||Marco Polo||Jacopo||6 episodes|
|1986||Dream West||Abraham Lincoln||TV miniseries|
|1989||The Betrothed||Innominato||TV miniseries|
|1996||Dead Man’s Walk||Captain Caleb Cobb||TV miniseries|
|2003||Kingdom of David: The Saga of the Israelites||Narrator||Television documentary|
|2003||Pompeii: The Last Day||Narrator||Television documentary|
|2010||Bored to Death||Professor Richard Hawkes||Episode: “I’ve Been Living Like a Demented God!”|
|2010||Law & Order: Criminal Intent||Dr. Theodore Nichols||Episode: “Three-In-One”|
|2011–2012, 2014||The Good Wife||Burl Preston||4 episodes|
|2011–2012, 2014||Louie||John / Uncle Excelsior / Louie’s father||3 episodes|
|2012||Blue Bloods||Leon Goodwin||Episode: “The Job”|
|2012–present||Homeland||Dar Adal||16 episodes, recurring seasons 2 and 4, starring season 3
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
|2013||Do No Harm||Cozar||Episode: “Six Feet Deep”|
|2013||Elementary||Daniel Gottlieb||Episode: “A Landmark Story”|
- The Ritz (1975–76) … Chris
- Legend (1976) … Jesse Lymburner
- Teibele and Her Demon (1979–80) … Alchonon
- Macbeth (1986–87) … Macbeth
- Angels in America (1994) … Roy Cohn
- A Month in the Country (1995) … Ignaty Illyich Shpichelsky
- Triumph of Love (1997–98) … Hermocrates
- Mauritius (2007) … Sterling
- It’s Only a Play (2014-15) … Ira Drew
- The Fantasticks (1967) … El Gallo
- Landscape of the Body (1977) … Holahan
- Uncle Vanya (1983–84) … Astrov
- Twelfth Night (1986) … Malvolio
- Waiting for Godot (1988) … Pozzo
- A Life in the Theatre (1992) … Robert
- King Lear (1996) … Lear
- The Jew of Malta (2007) … Barabas
- Almost an Evening (2008) … Control/God Who Judges
- The Merchant of Venice (2011) … Shylock
Awards and honours
- 1980: Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play, for Teibele and Her Demon – Nominated
- 1984: Obie Award for Best Performance, for Uncle Vanya – Won
- 1992: Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play, for A Life in the Theatre – Nominated
- 2011: Obie Award for “sustained excellence of performance”, for The Merchant of Venice – Won
- 2015: Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play, for It’s Only a Play – Pending
- 1984: Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, for Amadeus – Won
- 1985: Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor (Tied with Albert Finney for Under the Volcano (1984)), for Amadeus – Won
- 1985: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, for Amadeus – Won
- 1985: Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, for Amadeus – Won
- 1985: Albert Schweitzer Award for Classic Film Acting, for Amadeus – Won
- 1986: BAFTA Award for Best Actor, for Amadeus – Nominated
- 2015: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for The Grand Budapest Hotel – Nominated
- 2014: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for Homeland – Nominated
Awards for lifetime achievement
In July 2004, during a ceremony in Rome, he was awarded the “Premio per gli Italiani nel Mondo“. This is a prize distributed by the Marzio Tremaglia foundation and the Italian government to Italian emigrants and their descendants who have distinguished themselves abroad.
In 2015, Abraham was an inductee to the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
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- Salomon, Andrew (2007-02-15). “The Lion in Winter”. Backstage.com. Archived from the original on 2007-03-04. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- How I Got My Equity Card. Actorsequity.org. Retrieved on 2012-10-15.
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- Jean-Jacques Annaud, The Name of the Rose, DVD commentary, Warner Home Video, 2004.
- “The Name of the Rose (Der Name der Rose)”. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved2013-11-14.
- Is winning an Oscar a curse or a blessing? at the Wayback Machine (archived December 7, 2008) film.com (2007).
- The official source for Broadway Information. IBDB. Retrieved on 2012-10-15.
- The Movie : F. Murray Abraham at the Wayback Machine (archived September 28, 2007). amadeusimmortal.com
- González, María Cortés. “Josephine Abraham, 96, loved life, according to famous son F. Murray Abraham”. ElPasoTimes.com. El Paso Times and MediaNews Group. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
- Healy, Patrick (January 26, 2010). “F. Murray Abraham: Action Hero”. The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
- [http:/gothamist.com/2008/04/21/f_murray_Abraham.php (Arts & Entertainment) author: John Del Signore]
- Rizzo, Frank. (2011-05-18) F. Murray Abraham Receives Obie for Tresnjak Production of “Merchant”. Blogs.courant.com. Retrieved on 2012-10-15.
- F. Murray Abraham Gielgud Award 2010. Vimeo.com (2011-01-17). Retrieved on 2012-10-15.