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With the handsome looks and winning sarcasm that befit a late-night television talk show host, it is no surprise that Greg Kinnear first shot to stardom as the host of the E! channel's Talk Soup. More surprising, and thus more impressive, has been Kinnear's success in making the leap from television to the big screen. With only his fourth major celluloid outing, As Good As It Gets, Kinnear scored his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, effectively establishing himself as someone whose scope included screens small and large.
Born June 17, 1963, in Logansport, IN, as the youngest of three sons, Kinnear led a peripatetic childhood. His father was a Foreign Services diplomat for the State Department, and his family accompanied him to places as far-flung as Beirut and Athens. While a student in Athens, Kinnear first ventured into the role of talk show host with his radio show School Daze With Greg Kinnear. Returning to the States for a college education, Kinnear attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he graduated in 1985, with a degree in broadcast journalism. From Arizona, he headed out to Los Angeles, where he landed his first job as a marketing assistant with Empire Entertainment. It was there that Kinnear got his first taste of show business, creating promotional campaigns for such films as Space Sluts in the Slammer. Following this stint, Kinnear found a job with the Movietime cable channel. Using an audition tape from a failed attempt at an MTV VJ position, Kinnear became a host and on-location reporter for the channel. All went swimmingly until he was fired, when Movietime became the E! Entertainment Network, and Kinnear soon found himself taking bit parts on such television shows as L.A. Law and Life Goes On.
His luck began to change, however, when he became the creator, co-executive producer, and host of Best of the Worst, which aired from 1990 to 1991. In a more ironic and satisfying twist of fate, Kinnear was then hired back by E! to host Talk Soup, the network's new talk show. The show proved to be hugely popular, and Kinnear acted as its host and eventual executive producer until 1994, when he left the show for the NBC late-night talk show Later With Greg Kinnear. It was also in 1994 that he had his first big-screen role, as — wait for it — a talk show host in the Damon Wayans comedy Blankman. In 1995, he snared the part that was to give him more prominence among film audiences — that of the irresponsible David Larrabee in Sydney Pollack's remake of Billy Wilder's 1954 classic romance Sabrina. The film was less than a success, but it did nothing to prevent Kinnear from getting the lead role in the 1996 comedy Dear God. That film, too, had a somewhat unfortunate fate, but Kinnear (now resigned from Later) more than rebounded with his next effort, James L. Brooks' As Good As It Gets (1997). The film was an unqualified hit, netting seven Oscar nominations and winning two, a Best Actor for Jack Nicholson and a Best Actress for Helen Hunt. Kinnear himself had the honor of both a Best Supporting Actor nomination and a Golden Globe nomination.
Kinnear's next film, the romantic comedy A Smile Like Yours, had him starring opposite Lauren Holly as one-half of a couple trying to have a baby. The film met with lukewarm reviews and fairly anemic box-office results, but Kinnear's subsequent film, 1998's You've Got Mail, struck gold. He played Meg Ryan's significant other, a newspaper columnist wholly unlike what was to be his next character, that of Captain Amazing in the 1999 summer action film Mystery Men. With a stellar cast, including Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Janeane Garofalo, Lena Olin, and Tom Waits, Kinnear was indeed in good company, further proof of how far he had come in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, both Mystery Men and the subsequent Garry Shandling comedy What Planet Are You From (in which Kinnear amusingly portrayed Shandling's sleazy co-worker) fared poorly with both critics and audiences, and by the time he landed the role of a much-desired soap-opera star in Nurse Betty, it seemed that his star may have faded a bit. His role as a smug, one-dimensional college professor in the 2000 comedy Loser seemed near the bottom of the barrel for the formerly Oscar-nominated actor. Despite the fact that none of these failures were necessarily the fault of everyone's favorite smirky former talk-show host, his choice of projects left many wondering what had become of Kinnear.
Of course, where there's darkness there will always be room for hope, and thankfully for Kinnear, the choices he was making began to pay off.
In 2000, Kinnear essayed the role of a missing woman's grieving fiancé in the dark Sam Raimi thriller The Gift; the film seemed to mark the beginning of a comeback. His next role as the catalyst for an investigative report into the nature of male behavioral patterns in Someone Like You (2001) proved a step in the right direction, and following supporting performances in Dinner With Friends (2001) and We Were Soldiers (2002), Kinnear's comeback had been primed. Cast as ill-fated television star Bob Crane in Paul Schrader's disturbing 2002 biopic Auto Focus, Kinnear's spot-on performance was so eerie that it made the film almost discomforting to watch. The spotlight was somewhat stolen however, by co-star Willem Dafoe's indescribably creepy turn as the man generally believed to have caused Crane's untimely death. The following year Kinnear lightened the mood considerably when he was cast (literally) alongside Matt Damon as one-half of a pair of conjoined twins in the Farrelly Brothers' comedy Stuck on You. Intent on following his dreams of becoming an actor, Kinnear's character drags his reluctant brother to Hollywood to hilarious results. Kinnear's next role would come as the grieving father of a dead son who goes to desperate lengths to recapture his former happiness in the horror flavored Godsend (2004).
A fun turn as a salesman who becomes involved with in hitman in the Golden Globe-nominated crime comedy The Matador went largely unseen despite generally favorable critical response, and after lending his voice to the animated Robots and berating little-league players in The Bad News Bears, Kinnear later join an impressive ensemble cast to investigate America's love affair with burgers and fries in director Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation. Later that same year, Kinnear would take family dysfunction to a whole new level as a motivational speaker attempting to get his daughter to a beauty pageant in Little Miss Sunshine, with a role as NFL coach Dick Vermeil following shortly thereafter in the inspirational sports drama Invincible.
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