Character actor James Rebhorn, of ‘Homeland,’ passes away

James Rebhorn, a longtime character actor known for "Scent of a Woman" and "Homeland," has died at 65. Credit: Getty Images
James Rebhorn, a longtime character actor known for “Scent of a Woman” and “Homeland,” has died at 65.
Credit: Getty Images

Movies and TV are filled with “that guy” guys (or gals): character actors you’ve seen a thousand times, with faces you faintly remember and names you never look up. James Rebhorn was one of those guys. You know him without knowing him.

Rebhorn passed away in his home on Friday, March 21. He was 65.

Born in Philadelphia, Rebhorn collected his Masters of Fine Arts at Columbia University. He remained in the city to toil in the theater scene. He went on to collect over one hundred screen credits, in television and film, including a three year stint on “Guiding Light” in the ’80’s and three separate characters on “Law and Order.”

One of his most recognizable roles was his memorably preening and hissable prep school president in “Scent of a Woman.” He would often play villainous authority figures. You probably, once upon a time, cheered as his arrogant Secretary of Defense, modeled on Oliver North, was fired in “Independence Day.” He played an automobile expert, whose testimony is undone by Marisa Tomei, in “My Cousin Vinny.” When it came time for “Seinfeld”’s notorious final episode, he was elected to play the judge who sends Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer to jail.

He also played Dickie Greenleaf’s snooty shipping magnate father in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and fired off a couple decent lines as the father of the groom in “Meet the Parents.”

If he’s definitely known at all, it’s for “Homeland,” on which he played Claire Danes’ father.

His best performance, though, was in “The Game,” the David Fincher thriller in which Michael Douglas’ life is unraveled by what appears to be a massive con. He was the face of the mysterious organization allegedly behind it, firing off wry observations meant to calm a skeptical and cold Douglas into signing up. The role used him perfectly, tapping into his authoritarian qualities while subtly suggesting something more sinister behind it.

If you didn’t know James Rebhorn’s name before now, hopefully you do now. Movies and TV just got a little bit smaller.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


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