Dennis Christopher





12/2/1955 , Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Birth Name




Let's see, where do I start in describing this talented actor? "DC" as he's affectionately called by his fans, was born December 2, 1955, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he started his acting career in Blood and Lace (1971) and Federico Fellini's Roma (1972). Following his graduation from Temple University, also in Philadelphia, he began working in stage and TV. (1) Christopher's formal acting training has been with Tracy Roberts in Hollywood, Austin Pendleton at the H.B. Studio in New York and Charles Conrad in Los Angeles. He has also studied with Florence Riggs and David Craig.(10) His first acting jobs were followed closely by movies such as September 30, 1955, also known as 24 Hours of the Rebel (1977); A Wedding (1978); and the sleeper hit Breaking Away (1978). Christopher displayed such a convincing character of youth, that he won a Youth in Film Award and was catapulted into stardom winning several other awards and nominations (Young Artist Award 1979; Golden Globe Award Nomination for New Star of the Year 1980; and The British Academy Awards (BAFTA) Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer to a Leading Film Role (1980).(2) He was also listed as one of twelve "Promising New Actors of 1979".(3) The Hollywood Women's Photo and Press Club also honored him with an award for Breaking Away. (10) It's ironic that the actor, who's real name is Carelli, (4)(9) should have his biggest hit portraying a teenager pretending to be Italian. (There has to be a bit of Italian in him somewhere don't you think?). I've also noticed that the two projects garnishing him the greatest fame had the word "Breaking" in the title (Breaking Away and Breaking the Code). Hmmmm. Makes you wonder if he should look for another project with the word "Breaking" in the title?

One thing I've noticed about this actor is his versatility and adaptability. Following Breaking Away, where he convincingly portrayed the innocent anxieties of youth, he starred in Fade to Black (1980) as Eric Binford, whose only escape from the cruelty of life comes from classic films. Although both characters had dreams they wanted to achieve, in Fade to Black you see the darker side of life where the normally loving family is replaced by the verbally abusive "Mommy Dearest" aunt. DC's portrayal of an emotionally-starved young man going insane is very well depicted and gives a strong statement about abuse and neglect. There are some who say this film has achieved "cult" status. Fade to Black was followed by Don't Cry, It's Only Thunder (1982) in which Christopher played a sensitive American G.I. paired with a dedicated doctor during the Vietnam War. He also received respectable notices for this role.(5) Whether he's eating leeches in Circuitry Man (1990), making a pact with the devil in Monsters (1988), or playing a sensitive asthmatic in It (1990), Dennis Christopher can change his persona to match the character and give a convincing performance.

Through the 80's and 90's Dennis Christopher made numerous movies and TV appearances, not to mention theatre. Probably one of his best known theatre appearances was in Breaking the Code (1996) at The Blank Theatre where he again earned several awards (Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award – Lead Performance (6); LA Weekly Awards – Best Actor; and the Drama-Logue Award for Best Actor).(7) Another theatre appearance that he received great reviews in was Retribution (1998). In it, his character, the monstrous Carl, still bears the scars of the concentration camp at Auschwitz where he knew Judah. The play is set 20 years later as Carl has tracked down Judah to take revenge for some mysterious horror.(8)

And of course I must mention DC's appearance on NBC's Profiler (1996-1999). He was the serial killer, "Jack of All Trades" who's face was never shown clearly. Likewise, his name was never shown in the credits and his contract forbid him from telling anyone that he was "Jack." Christopher developed a solid fan following from this series and numerous fan-fiction has been posted on the internet, a sure sign of the popularity of his character, Jack, and a tribute to the fine actor who portrayed him.
Dennis Christopher is quite capable of playing both good and bad characters with great charm as he has shown in many of his roles. I always believe that you can tell a great actor by whether he can make you feel for the bad guy and understand where that character is coming from. Tommy Lee Jones did it in Under Siege, Michael Ironside has done it in many roles, and Dennis Christopher did it in Profiler. Not only did the audience feel for Jack in Profiler, they romanticized about him.
  • © 2005 Amy Graves/