Peter Sarsgaard is an American film, television, and stage actor who is best known for portraying the character of John Lotter in the movie Boys Don`t Cry (1999) and for essaying the role of the American journalist Charles Lane in the movie Shattered Glass (2003). Apart from appearing in several successful feature films, Sarsgaard also starred in the third season of AMC`s crime drama, The Killing.
Peter Sarsgaard was born to John Dale Sarsgaard, an Air Force engineer, and Judy Lea at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. He was raised as a Roman Catholic and also served as an altar boy. As his father was associated with the Air Force, Sarsgaard`s family moved frequently, as many as 12 times. He was enrolled at the Fairfield College Preparatory School in Connecticut, where he became interested in movies.
At the age of seven, Sarsgaard dreamed of becoming a soccer player. Determined to hone his skills, he even enrolled in a ballet class to improve his coordination. However, Sarsgaard`s dream of becoming a soccer player suffered a setback as he experienced several concussions while playing the game. Owing to this, Sarsgaard quit football and became interested in theater and writing, He later attended the Bard College in New York for two years; following which he took a transfer to Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) in 1991.
It was at WUSTL that he co-founded `Mama`s Pot Roast`, an improvisational comedy troupe. The next two years Sarsgaard appeared in several plays in an offshoot of New York`s Actors Studio. His first theater role came in the form of the character of servant Lawerence in one of the most famous theatrical comedies by Mollere. Later, after graduating in 1993 with a degree in history, he moved to New York.
Sarsgaard has dated the burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese and the model and actress Shalom Harlow. Also, he later dated the photographer Malerie Marder, who had been his close friend since his college days at Bard College. In 2002 Sarsgaard started dating Maggie Gyllenhaal, the sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal
. The couple got engaged in 2006 and got married in Italy in 2009. The couple has two daughters Ramona (born in 2006) and Gloria Ray (2012).
After moving to New York, Sarsgaard made his professional acting debut with the Off-Broadway play, Laura Dennis directed by James Houghton. His performance was highly praised by the critics and Sarsgaard followed this up with another commendable performance in Kingdom of Earth directed by John Cameron Mitchell
. Following this, the actor shifted his focus on films and only returned to theater in October 2002.
In 2002, Sarsgaard appeared in the play Burn This, replacing Edward Norton
. However, the actor for the second time in his career took a break from stage acting only to return in 2008 to make his Broadway debut with the play The Seagull alongside Mackenzie Crook
, Carey Mulligan
, and Kristin Scott Thomas
. The next few years saw him appear in the plays Uncle Vanya (2009), an off-Broadway production and Three Sisters (2010).
After he moved to New York, Sarsgaard appeared in several small roles on television. He starred in Law & Order (1995), New York Undercover (1997), and Subway Stories (1997). He made his feature film debut with the movie Dead Man Walking (1995), in which he portrayed the character of a murdered teenager, who is killed by the character essayed by Sean Penn
. However, it was not until 1998 that the actor got substantial screentime. Sarsgaard`s first noticeable role came via the movie The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), where he played the character of Raoul.
The following year, Sarsgaard received critical recognition for portraying the character of the notorious killer John Lotter in the movie Boys Don`t Cry (1999). The movie directed by Kimberly Peirce
is based on the real-life story of Brandon Teena, who was raped and murdered by Tom Nielson and John Lotter after duo finds out that Brandon is a trans man. The movie turned out to be highly successful and Sarsgaard`s performance was noted by the critics. The Boston Globe quoted: "Peter Sarsgaard_... makes the killer`s terrible trajectory not only believable but grounded in the most mundane clodhopper behavior. He isn`t a drooling monster, he`s a guy you wouldn`t look twice at a bar or a convenience store."
In 2001, Sarsgaard made his debut as the lead in the movie The Center of the World. The movie received average reviews at the box office. In the following year, the actor appeared in several supporting roles in movies such as K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), Empire (2002), and The Salton Sea (2002), none of which made a significant impact on his career. However, it was his role as journalist Charles Lane, the lead editor of The New Republic, in the movie Shattered Glass (2003) that marked a significant turning point in his career. Based on true events, the movie showcased the rise and fall of the journalist Charles Lane and went on to be highly successful at the box office. On his role, Sarsgaard commented: "I just wanted to get his perspective on the actual events. [...] I think that I tried to have some respect for myself and that way you`re respecting the real person you`re playing. I`ve done it a number of times. And it`s always a little bit confusing. The best thing to do is just to ignore the fact, I think, that you`re playing somebody who is a real life character."
Following the success of Shattered Glass, the actor was seen in another biographical movie, Kinsey (2004) based on the life of Alfred Kinsey, an American biologist, and sexologist. Sarsgaard portrayed the character of Clyde Martin, Alfred Kinsey`s assistant. This was the actor`s first role where he displayed full frontal nudity which also involved kissing scenes with Liam Neeson
, who portrayed the character of Kinsey. Sarsgaard was once again appreciated for his role and Paul Clinton of CNN stated that Sarsgaard stands out and "confirms that he`s without doubt one of the best character actors of his generation." When the actor was questioned about his kissing scenes with Neeson, he said: It wasn`t as hard as, say, running around with all my gear on in_Jarhead. I`d rather go for an awkward moment than physical exertion any day. The only thing that I think [male actors] get freaked out about when they have to do something like kiss a guy in a movie-when to their knowledge they`re straight-is that they`re afraid they`re going to be turned on. And if you`re not afraid that you`re going to be turned on-meaning that you know what you like-then really it`s not that hard".
In 2005 Sarsgaard appeared in The Dying Gaul, The Skeleton Key
(2005), Jarhead (2005), and Robert Schwentke`s Flightplan. Although the movie Flightplan received mixed reviews, it was a financial success. He next starred in Year of the Dog (2007) and Rendition (2007). The latter, a political thriller directed by Gavin Hood
also starred Meryl Streep
, Alan Arkin
, Jake Gyllenhaal
, and Reese Witherspoon
In 2007, Sarsgaard named as the Sexiest Man Living in 2007 by Salon.com. A couple of years later the actor portrayed a bisexual character, Cleveland, in the movie The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (2007) starring Jon Foster and Sienna Miller
. He next appeared in the thriller Orphan
(2009) directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
. The thriller movie that also starred Vera Farmiga
was a box office success.
In 2009, he also starred in the movie An Education, a coming of age film directed by Lone Scherfig
. The role required Sarsgaard to speak in a British accent and he was praised by the critics for his performance. Variety stated: "Sarsgaard... marvelously expresses the savoir-faire that has such an impact on Jenny.
In subsequent years, Sarsgaard starred in movies such as Knight and Day
(2010), Green Lantern
(2011), Pawn Sacrifice
(2014), and Black Mass
(2015). His more recent works include Jackie (2016), Loving Pablo (2017), The Lie (2018) and Mr. Jones