James Spader is the king of playing smarmy antiheroes and villains on TV and film. He won three Emmy Awards for his role as snarky lawyer Alan Shore on Boston Legal.
Born on February 7, 1960, in Boston, Massachusetts, actor James Spader has tackled some of the most off-the-beaten-path television and film roles. He excels at transforming himself into smarmy, villainous and eccentric types. Spader's turn as devilish lawyer Alan Shore, first on The Practice and then on Boston Legal, earned him three Emmy Awards. From 2011 to 2013, he was a part of The Office's final hoorah, playing seedy salesman Robert California. Spader went on to star in the hit drama The Blacklist, beginning in 2013, and played the villain Ultron in the superhero blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).
Teachers Todd and Jean Spader welcomed son James Todd Spader on February 7, 1960, in Boston, Massachusetts. His upbringing included around a private-school education, including attendance at the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. But theater was his strong suit over academics, so much so that Spader bailed out of his education at 17 to pursue acting in New York City. The aspiring performer supported himself by bartending, teaching yoga, driving a meat truck and doing other odd jobs while training at Michael Chekhov Acting Studio. His first legit film role was as Brooke Shields' character's brother in 1981's Endless Love. More TV and film gigs followed, but none of a career-making nature.
'80s Teen Films & More
Spader finally hit his acting stride in the mid-1980s while creating one unlikable onscreen persona after another. There was the spoiled and jealous teen who sabotages his best friend's romance in Pretty in Pink, the drug dealer who forces Robert Downey Jr.'s character into prostitution in Less Than Zero and the greedy yuppie lawyer in Wall Street. Playing a voyeuristic and damaged loner in Sex, Lies and Videotape earned Spader a Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival. This was the kickoff of him playing individuals with sexual deviances throughout the 1990s and beyond. He fooled around with an older woman (Susan Sarandon) in White Palace, developed a fetish for car accidents in Crash and dominated his assistant (spankings and all), who was fresh out of the mental ward, in Secretary. (Maggie Gyllenhaal was his leading lady.)
Legal Drama Stardom
Spader's portrayal of the antihero lawyer with unconventional sexual habits in Secretary made him perfect to fill the shoes of a similar character on David E. Kelley's courtroom drama The Practice in its final season in 2003. His role on the show as Alan Shore earned him an Emmy. He won two more for continuing the character for five seasons on the series' spinoff, Boston Legal, co-starring William Shatner. After the drama concluded, Spader made his Broadway debut in 2009 in David Mamet's Race. Then it was back to TV in 2011 as a less-than-ethical salesman on The Office. (That same year, he appeared in the critically acclaimed feature film Lincoln.)
Next up for Spader was the NBC series The Blacklist, about a fugitive intelligence officer who turns himself in to the FBI and then brokers deals for other criminals. The show, which debuted in 2013, became a huge hit. On the big screen, Spader portrayed the villain Ultron in the big action blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).
Off-screen, Spader's world has been far less dramatic. Private about his personal life, he met his former wife Victoria while the two were both yoga instructors. The couple, married from 1987 to 2005, has two sons. Since his divorce, Spader has been with actress Leslie Stefanson, his co-star in the 2002 robbery flick Stickup; they have a son together. The entertainer isn't ruling out his boys getting into showbiz like their dad. "My younger son has done plays at school and he was great, and my eldest came to intern on the TV show (Boston Legal)," Spader said in an interview with The Independent. "I will present them with limitless options, but acting has to be right for you."