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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 14:31 GMT
Ed Harris leaves the sidelines
Ed Harris
Harris has taken gripping supporting roles
Ed Harris is probably best known as a screen actor who puts on intense scene-stealing performances - but in a supporting role.

Parts in hit movies Glengarry Glen Ross - with Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon - and Apollo 13 - with Tom Hanks - have shown Harris can pull his weight alongside A-list stars.

But it has taken his best actor Oscar-nominated role in Pollock - a film he directed and produced himself - to prove to Hollywood he can carry a lead with equal success.

Ed Harris movies
Borderline - 1980
Knightriders - 1981
Dream On - 1981
Creep Show - 1982
The Right Stuff - 1983
Under Fire- 1983
Places in the Heart -1984
Alamo Bay - 1985
The Abyss - 1989
Glengarry Glen Ross - 1992
The Firm - 1993
Apollo 13 - 1995
Nixon - 1995
Absolute Power - 1997
The Truman Show - 1998
Stepmom - 1998
Pollock - 2000

Harris, 50, grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey where he was a baseball and American football hero and captained the school team.

He capitalised on his skill to win a scholarship to Columbia University, where he spent two years playing football.

His interest in acting began when he transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he studied acting and gained amateur experience. He then continued at the California Institute of Arts, graduating in 1975.

Newsweek

He cut his teeth on stage for a few years before winning his first movie parts, including that of a killer in the Charles Bronson film Borderline.

It was followed by a role in cult favourite Knightriders. Neither films were a hit and it took another year for Harris to make an impression.

The Truman Show
The Truman Show earned Harris an Oscar nomination

This he did in The Right Stuff in 1983 in which he played astro-pioneer John Glenn. His performance was lapped up by the critics. Indeed, Harris even made the cover of Newsweek.

Still, Harris's most commercially successful parts continued to be in films headlined by other stars, such as Places in the Heart in 1984 with Sally Field.

In 1989, Harris finally got a lead role in James Cameron's sci-fi movie The Abyss. But even this proved disappointing with its enormous budget making The Abyss a financial loser overall.

Since then, the actor has seemed to have resigned himself to taking secondary roles - but with every intention of making an impact.

Project

David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross in 1992 saw him sizzle with indignation.

Glengarry Glen Ross
Glengarry Glen Ross had an all-star cast

In thriller The Firm he played a menacing, corrupt FBI agent alongside Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman.

In 1995, space drama Apollo 13 saw Harris play the grim-jawed head of Mission Control.

A major turning point came in 1998 when Harris won a supporting actor Oscar nod for playing the manipulative creator of The Truman Show in Jim Carrey's movie of the same name.

Pollock is the result of Harris's 15-year desire to make a movie about the acclaimed abstract artist.

Ed Harris in Pollock
Harris had long wanted to make Pollock

Almost everything about the movie - from screenplay to finance - has happened because of his efforts.

The actor was told by his father that he looked liked the painter.

Yet, if the film works it is because of the deep sympathy Harris clearly felt for the unhappy Pollock.

And in taking control of his own career in this way, Harris could give casting directors the necessary jolt to consider him more seriously as a lead.

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