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David Lawrence Schwimmer (born November 2, 1966) is an American actor and director of television and film. Born in New York, he moved to Los Angeles at the age of two. Several years later, he began his acting career performing in school plays at Beverly Hills High Schoolmarker. In 1988, he graduated from Northwestern Universitymarker with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater and speech. After graduation, Schwimmer co-founded the Lookingglass Theatre Company. For much of the late-1980s, he lived in Los Angeles as a struggling, unemployed actor.

He appeared in the television movie A Deadly Silence in 1989. He then appeared in a number of television roles, including L.A. Law, The Wonder Years, NYPD Blue, and Monty in the early-1990s. Schwimmer later gained worldwide recognition for playing Ross Geller in the situation comedy Friends. Aside from appearing in television, he starred in his first feature film The Pallbearer (1996), which was followed by roles in Kissing a Fool (1998), Six Days Seven Nights (1998), Apt Pupil, and Picking Up the Pieces (2000). He was then cast in the miniseries Band of Brothers (2001) as Herbert Sobel.

Following the series finale of Friends in 2004, Schwimmer was cast as the titular character in the 2005 drama Duane Hopwood. Other film roles include the computer animated film Madagascar (2005), the dark comedy Big Nothing (2006), the thriller Nothing But the Truth (2008), and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008). Schwimmer made his London stage debut in the leading role in Some Girl in 2005, for which he received critical reviews. In 2006, he made his Broadwaymarker debut in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. Schwimmer made his feature film directorial debut with the 2007 comedy Run Fatboy Run. The following year he made his Off-Broadway directorial debut in the 2008 production Fault Lines.

Early life

David Lawrence Schwimmer was born on November 2, 1966 in Queensmarker, New York, to attorneys Arthur and Arlene Colman-Schwimmer. He has an older sister named Ellie (born 1965). He lived in Valley Streammarker, Long Islandmarker until he was two years old. His family subsequently moved to Los Angeles, Californiamarker, where Schwimmer had his first experiences of acting at the age of 10 when he was cast as the fairy godmother in a Jewish version of Cinderella. In 1979, Schwimmer went to a Shakespeare workshop given by Ian McKellen in Los Angeles. He recalls that he was riveted with the experience. Schwimmer then entered a contest in the Southern California Shakespeare Festival three years in a row, winning two first prizes.

Following his mother's successful career as a divorce lawyer, in which she represented Elizabeth Taylor and Roseanne Barr in their divorce settlements, the family moved to Beverly Hillsmarker, where Schwimmer attended Beverly Hills High Schoolmarker. Schwimmer admitted to being an outsider during his time at the school. Also a troublemaker and a bully, he did not fit in with the other kids. "When I was there I always felt: 'this is not me, I'm surrounded by people with a different value system. And I just wanted to get out of California.'" He was best at the subjects of science and math and thought he would become a doctor. Schwimmer enrolled in a drama class, in which he appeared in stage productions. Encouraged by his school drama teacher to further his acting, he flew off to Chicagomarker for an acting workshop. He noted, "It was both enlightening and exhilarating."

In 1984, Schwimmer graduated from Beverly Hills High, and wanted to go straight into acting, but his parents insisted he go to college first so he would have something to fall back on, in case his acting career did not work out. Schwimmer moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern Universitymarker, where he had attended a summer drama course when he was 16 years old. At the university, he enrolled as a theater major, joining Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and Arts Alliance. After graduating in 1988, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater and speech, Schwimmer co-founded the Lookingglass Theatre Company. After graduating, he returned to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.


Early work

Schwimmer received his first television role in A Deadly Silence in 1989. He followed this with roles in L.A. Law in 1992, and the comedy-drama series The Wonder Years. He was then cast in the 1992 film Crossing the Bridge (1992). He had a recurring role as a lawyer-turned-vigilante in NYPD Blue and appeared briefly in ER in 1993, before auditioning, unsuccessfully, for a series pilot called Couples. He landed his first regular series role as the liberal son of a conservative talk show host (Henry Winkler) in the sitcom Monty.


Schwimmer received his breakthrough role in 1994 when he was cast as Ross Geller in NBC's situation comedy Friends, a series revolved around a group of friends who live together in Manhattan, New York City. He played a hopeless romantic paleontologist who works at a museum. Schwimmer notes when first approached about the role of Ross, he turned it down, but accepted the role afterwards. Executive producer Kevin S. Bright noted that he had previously worked with Schwimmer, the character of Ross was written with him in mind, and he was the first actor cast. The show debuted on September 22, 1994 and watched by almost 22 million American viewers. Friends quickly developed a loyal audience, with the show and Schwimmer receiving strong reviews. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was complimentary of Schwimmer, calling him "terrific". Variety's television reviewer, said: "All six of the principals, especially [Courteney] Cox and Schwimmer, appear resourceful and display sharp sitcom skills."{{cite news|url=|title=Friends|last=Scott|first=Tony|date=September 22, 1994|work=[[Variety (magazine)|Variety]]|accessdate=June 19, 2009}} For this performance, he earned an [[Emmy Award]] nomination in the category of [[Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor - Comedy Series|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series]] in 1995.{{cite news|url=|title='E.R.' Leads Nominations for Emmy Awards|date=July 21, 1995|work=[[The New York Times]]|accessdate=January 20, 2009}} In 1996, Schwimmer starred in his feature film debut in the dark comedy ''[[The Pallbearer]]'', opposite [[Gwyneth Paltrow]].{{cite news|url=|title=Young Love at a Funeral|last=Maslin|first=Janet|date=May 3, 1996|work=[[The New York Times]]|accessdate=January 20, 2009}} In review of the film, critic [[Janet Maslin]] of ''[[The New York Times]]'' wrote: "Mr. Schwimmer's own funny, self-deprecating flair is well known ... but his first movie relegates him to a drab role." ''Variety'''s film reviewer complimented Schwimmer, writing that it had enjoyed his performance, stating that he displayed a winning "personality along with good comic timing". It also concluded that Schwimmer had a "promising bigscreen future." When asked why he decided to accept the role in The Pallbearer, Schwimmer admitted the decision was to "make an effort to find roles that are as far away from the character of Ross as possible".

His next film roles in 1998 were Kissing a Fool, Six Days Seven Nights, and Apt Pupil. In Kissing a Fool, a romantic comedy, Schwimmer plays Max, a dapper, smart-mouthed ladies' man. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Fans of the sitcom Friends may be surprised by David Schwimmer in Kissing a Fool. [...] Take it from someone who has never seen Friends and comes at Schwimmer with no preconceptions: He does just fine. As a TV sports reporter in Kissing a Fool, he oozes the command and self-satisfaction of a young, successful man." The film was critically and financially unsuccessful. In Six Days Seven Nights, he played the boyfriend of Anne Heche's character. In Apt Pupil, he had a supporting role as a school guidance counselor. The film is adapted from a novella of the same name by Stephen King. Schwimmer subsequently appeared opposite Woody Allen and Sharon Stone in Alfonso Arau's straight-to-cable comedy Picking Up the Pieces (2000).

In 2001, he played Captain Herbert M. Sobel in Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks' HBO World War II miniseries Band of Brothers (2001). The television miniseries is based on the book of the same title written by historian and biographer Stephen Ambrose. Although Band of Brothers was met with positive reception, Schwimmer's performance was criticized and the BBC News concluded, "Part of the problem ... may have been the ridiculous fact that Friends favourite David Schwimmer plays the hard and cruel Captain Herbert Sobel. The only thing believable about Schwimmer's acting is when he cowers in the face of true battle. His puppy dog eyes make him appear even more pitiful." Also in 2001, Schwimmer portrayed Yitzhak Zuckerman in the war drama Uprising, based on the true events of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943.

During the lengthy run of Friends, Schwimmer directed ten of the show's episodes. The show's tenth and final season premiered on May 6, 2004. The finale garnered 52.5 million American viewers, making it the most watched entertainment telecast in six years.

Friends and after

Following the end of Friends, Schwimmer starred in the 2005 independent drama Duane Hopwood, in which he plays the titular character. Hopwood is an alcoholic whose life is spiraling downward rapidly after a divorce and is looking to turn his life around. The film received mixed reviews, but many film critics complimented Schwimmer's performance. Roger Ebert commented that it was Schwimmer's "career-transforming performance". Duane Hopwood was screened at a special presentation at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. That same year he voiced Melman, a hypochondriac giraffe, in the computer animated film Madagascar. The Washington Post noted that Schwimmer is particularly appealing as Melman. Despite the mixed response from critics, the film was a commercial success, earning $532 million worldwide, making it one of the biggest hits of 2005, and it has become his highest grossing film to the end of 2008.

Also in 2005, Schwimmer starred on the London stage, opposite Catherine Tate, Lesley Manville, Sara Powell, and Saffron Burrows, in Neil LaBute's Some Girl at the Gielgud Theatremarker. In the production, he plays a teacher who is ready to settle down and marry, but decides to visit four ex-girlfriends first. For his performance, Schwimmer received critical reviews. The Independent wrote: "David Schwimmer ... is not called upon to extend his range nearly as far as one might have expected in Some Girl(s). Throughout Schwimmer remains bland, competent, and boyish – though not fatally boyish in the manner that appears to have turned these women on." However, Charles Spencer of The Daily Telegraph praised Schwimmer, noting he "proves inspired casting. He takes to the stage with ... his endearing gaucheness seems designed to ensure our continued sympathy. Schwimmer mercilessly lays bare his character's opportunism, casual cruelties, and chronic self-deception."

In 2006, he made his Broadwaymarker debut in Herman Wouk's two-act play The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. Schwimmer played the role of Lieutenant Barney Greenwald in the production, which was directed by Jerry Zaks. In an interview with New York magazine, Schwimmer revealed that he had wanted to try Broadway, but admitted, "a couple of things came up that just never quite felt right. Either because I liked the play but wasn’t hot on the director, or there was another star attached that I wasn’t jazzed about working with." Also adding, that when showed a copy of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, "I was just shocked at how good the writing was." He also noted that he relates to Greenwald because of his "philosophical sense of human suffering". His next film role was in the 2006 black comedy Big Nothing, in which he played a bitter, unemployed scientist.

In his directorial feature debut, Schwimmer directed the 2007 British comedy Run Fatboy Run. The film stars Simon Pegg as a man who deserted his pregnant fiancée (Thandie Newton) on what was to be their wedding day. Pegg's character signs up in a marathon, although he is out of shape, it is to impress his former girlfriend and his five-year-old son that he has turned his life around. When asked why he decided to direct the film, Schwimmer said: "As a director, I was struck by the challenge that I thought the script presented, which was that it was kind of three films in one. You had some great, big physical comedy, and I thought funny dialogue and characters. And then there was some real emotion to it with the relationship between the father and the son and the romance aspect. And then it turns into kind of a sports movie – kind of a comic Rocky in a way." Run Fatboy Run garnered mixed reception, with the New York Daily News rating it one-and-a-half out of five stars and writing, "Most disappointing is how Schwimmer – who spent 10 seasons on a sitcom filled with hyperverbal characters – manages to bumble 'Fatboy's' tender moments." USA Today, however, was favorable towards Schwimmer, reporting he "possesses filmmaking finesse, having wisely chosen strong comic material for his debut behind the camera". For his directorial work, he was nominated for a British Independent Film Award in the category of Best Debut Director.

On November 8, 2007, Schwimmer made a guest appearance in the second season of the television series 30 Rock, where he played Greenzo, an NBC environmental mascot. The following year, he was part of an ensemble cast that included Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, and Noah Wyle in the thriller Nothing But the Truth (2008). The movie received generally favorable reviews. The success of Madagascar led Schwimmer to return to the role of Melman in the 2008 sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. The sequel, while not as lucrative as the first one, earned $518 million at the international box office. Schwimmer took part in directing in-studio segments for Little Britain USA, an American spinoff of the British BBC television series Little Britain. In regards to this, he admitted that he had "a good time directing episodes" for the show.

In October 2008, Schwimmer made his Off-Broadway directorial debut in Fault Lines at the Cherry Lane Theatremarker in New York. In review of the production, the Los Angeles Times, wrote: "Based on 'Fault Lines' ... we can't really tell whether Schwimmer has much talent as a director. We're surprised he didn't try something more challenging for his debut. If not much else, Schwimmer has encouraged his actors to intense their energy levels and comic timing at all costs." The New York Post noted that Schwimmer "knows a thing or two about freewheeling banter, thanks to his long tenure on Friends, and for a good while the play crackles with terrific dialogue, expertly delivered."

In February 2009, he returned to theater in a Chicago production of Thornton Wilder's three-act play Our Town as George Gibbs. Variety reported that Schwimmer's George "is slightly dim, with a deer-in-the-headlights look of a kid who knows he doesn't know what he's doing. [...] In fact, partly due to the skills of sitcom vets Schwimmer and [Joey] Slotnick, the show benefits from polished comic timing, finding a nice balance between the oh-so-mildly ironic humor and the play's darker but still warm philosophy."

On August 2, 2009, Schwimmer played himself in the sixth season of the HBO television series, Entourage. In the episode, Ari Gold's (Jeremy Piven) agency tries to steer his career back to television. Aside from acting, Schwimmer is set to direct his second feature, Trust, starring Clive Owen and Catherine Keener. The film, a drama, is about a family whose teenage daughter becomes victim of an online sexual predator.

Personal life

Among his most notable romantic relationships, Schwimmer has dated Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia, actress Mili Avital, Carla Alapont, and French actress Emmanuelle Perret. Since 2007, Schwimmer has been in a relationship with British photographer Zoe Buckman.

In June 2006, he won a $400,000 defamation lawsuit against Aaron Tonken, a former charity fundraiser. Tonken claimed Schwimmer had demanded Rolex watches in order to appear at his own charity event, a claim that Schwimmer had denied.

Schwimmer opposes racism and child abuse and promotes women's rights. He is an active director of the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, where they specialize in helping victims of date rape, and child rape victims. He has also campaigned for legislation in banning drugs such as Rohypnol and GHB. Schwimmer owns homes in Los Angelesmarker, Chicagomarker, and New Yorkmarker.


Feature films

Year Film Role Notes
1988 Biloxi Blues Soldier on Train Uncredited Role
1991 Flight of the Intruder Duty Officer
1992 Crossing the Bridge John Anderson
1993 Twenty Bucks Neil Campbell
The Waiter Evil Waiter
The Pitch Vinnie Short film
1994 Wolf Cop
1995 The Party Favor Short film
1996 The Pallbearer Tom Thompson
1997 Breast Men Dr. Kevin Saunders
1998 The Thin Pink Line Kelly Goodish/J.T.
Kissing a Fool Max Abbitt
Six Days Seven Nights Frank Martin
Apt Pupil Edward French
1999 It's the Rage Chris
2000 Love & Sex Jehovah's Witness Uncredited Role
Picking Up the Pieces Father Leo Jerome
2001 Hotel Jonathan Danderfine
Uprising Yitzhak Zuckerman
2005 Duane Hopwood Duane Hopwood
Madagascar Melman Voice Role
2006 Big Nothing Charlie
2007 Run Fatboy Run Director
2008 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Melman Voice Role
Nothing But the Truth Ray Armstrong


Year Film Role Notes
1989 A Deadly Silence Robert 'Rob' Cuccio ABC TV-Movie
1991–1992 The Wonder Years Michael Episode: "The House That Jack Built"
Episode: "Dinner Out"
Episode: "Stormy Weather"
Episode: "The Wedding"

1992–1993 L.A. Law Dana Romney Episode: Second Time Around
Episode: "Love on the Rox"
Episode: "Christmas Stalking"
Episode: "Bare Witness"
Episode: "Hello and Goodbye"

1993 NYPD Blue Josh '4B' Goldstein Episode: Pilot
Episode: "4B or Not 4B"
Episode: "Brown Appetit"
Episode: "True Confessions"

Blossom Sonny Catalano Episode: "Six and Sonny"
Episode: "Blossom's Dilemma"
1994 Monty Greg Richardson
1994–2004 Friends Ross Geller
1995 The Single Guy Dr. Ross Geller Episode: "Neighbors"
1996 ER Dr. Karubian Uncredited Role
Episode: "Doctor Carter, I Presume"
1998 Since You've Been Gone Robert S. Levitt ABC TV-Movie
2001 Band of Brothers Captain Herbert Sobel HBO Miniseries
Episode: "Currahee"
Episode: "Replacements"
Episode: "Points"

2004 Curb Your Enthusiasm Himself HBO
2007 30 Rock Greenzo/Jared Episode: "Greenzo"
2009 Entourage Himself Episode: "Running on E"

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Series Result
1995 Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Friends Nominated
1996 American Comedy Awards Funniest Supporting Male Performer in a TV Series Friends Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Friends Won
1999 Blockbuster Entertainment Award Favorite Supporting Actor in a Comedy/Romance Six Days, Seven Nights Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Friends Nominated
2000 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Friends Nominated
TV Guide Awards Editor's Choice Friends Won
2001 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Friends Nominated
2002 Satellite Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television Band of Brothers Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Friends Nominated
2003 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Friends Nominated
2004 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Friends Nominated
2006 TV Land Award Most Memorable Kiss Friends Nominated
2007 British Independent Film Awards Douglas Hickox Award Run Fatboy Run Nominated
TV Land Awards Break Up That Was So Bad It Was Good Friends Nominated

See also


Further reading

External links

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