John Getz was born in Davenport, Iowa and was raised in the Mississippi River Valley. He attended the University of Iowa during wich time he began acting and helped found the Center for New Performing Arts.
Getz dropped out of school and attended San Francisco's respected American Conservatory Theater. While working in a winery, he became involved with the Napa Valley Theater Company. The distinctive locale led to Getz' professional acting debut playing an attendant in Killer Bees (ABC, 1974), a made-for-TV thriller starring Gloria Swanson filmed in Napa Valley. Getz next moved to New York City where he became active in local theater while doing an 18-month stint in a recurring role on a daytime soap opera Another World.
Getz had a bit part in the 1975 film The Happy Hooker and followed up with several other small roles before starring in the Coen Brothers' 1984 crime thriller Blood Simple. In Blood Simple, Getz played the sympathetic part of a doomed lover of a married woman who woefully misinterprets his increasingly complex circumstances.
He co-starred in the well-loved, if not well-known, police drama MacGruder and Loud in 1985. ABC had high hopes for this show. The pilot was given the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot. After the game, millions of Americans contributed to its strong debut in the ratings. However, the MacGruder and Loud series was rescheduled repeatedly and finally was given the 10:00 PM EST Monday night "graveyard slot".
A bearded Getz also appeared in the 1986 film The Fly as Stathis Borans, a somewhat less than likeable science magazine editor who pays a heavy price for his curiosity. He reprised the role of a traumatized survivor in the 1989 sequel, The Fly II. He has also played a Marine major in Born on the Fourth of July in 1989. Getz played the role of unpleasant boyfriends of professional women in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead and Curly Sue, both of which were released in 1991.
Getz has appeared in many television series, most recently How I Met Your Mother. He also had a role in the David Fincher film Zodiac. His most recent film appearance was in Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman's 2007 film, Nanking, a retelling of first hand accounts from the rape of Nanking.