People know William Fichtner. They just don't know they know him. A compelling actor known for his strong supporting performances in film, William Fichtner started out as a soap heartthrob on CBS' "As the World Turns"; his unconventional looks (a strong boned face dominated by sad haunted eyes) contribute to his attractive intensity.
His early film appearances included a role in the little seen "Ramona" (1990) and a bit part as a police officer in "Malcolm X" (1992). "Quiz Show" (1994) offered more exposure in a minor role as the game show's stage manager. In 1995, he was featured in "Virtuosity", "Strange Days" and as a sleazy banker undone by Robert De Niro in "Heat". He gave a more significant, although less seen, performance in Steven Soderburgh's 1995 feature "The Underneath" as Tommy Dundee, an intimidating and unstable club owner who becomes a rival of Peter Gallagher's Michael Chambers. Fichtner's work as the jealous and powerful Dundee caught the attention of casting director David Rubin who recommended him to Kevin Spacey for "Albino Alligator", the actor's 1997 directorial debut.
While undoubtedly already a familiar presence on screen, due to his prolific and strong performances in small parts, it was "Albino Alligator" that proved to be his breakthrough role. Fichtner, riveting as a slurring sociopath who creates a hostage situation in a bar, played up the character's volatility with an intense performance that masterfully stopped short of overacting. Later that year his well-researched turn as Dr Kent Clark, a blind astronomer in "Contact" was also touted, although a good bit of it ended up on the cutting room floor.
While his work in that year's "SwitchBack" was less memorable, 1998's action blockbuster "Armageddon" saw him return with a strong supporting turn as the hard-nosed and disciplined leader of an asteroid destroying mission. Through his own research, Fichtner added a realistic element to his character, making Sharp less combustible than he was initially written. The result was a portrait of an Air Force colonel complete with the steadiness that would be expected from an actual pilot to reach that level.
In 1999, Fichtner gave an enjoyable and scene stealing comedic performance in Doug Liman's high-energy ensemble film "Go". The elder statesman of the cast, he played an undercover narcotics officer with an apparent personal interest in his cohorts (Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf). The actor reached leading man status with a 1999 performance opposite Demi Moore in "Passion of Mind", playing a New York accountant pursuing a book editor (Moore) in this story of a woman who discovers she has a second life in a parallel universe.
In 2001, in "The Perfect Storm" he plays a defiant macho fisherman turned hero with a heart who answers to George Clooney. As in all of his roles, his appearance changes yet again and his speech is even peppered with a New England accent. Also in 2001, in the otherwise forgettable "What's The Worst That Could Happen", Fichtner gave the best performance of all of the other well known comedians in the film, playing Detective Alex Tardio, the swishy, androgynous cop and the owner of three cheese cutting Bichon Frise canines. Also in 2001, William starred in the film, "Black Hawk Down", where he played Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Sanderson. While it could have been difficult to recognize his character from the rest with all of the war dirt (look for the big white teeth that glow like two headlights), his work in this was outstanding. He trained for weeks in Fort Bragg with other actors in the film to prepare for realistic combat scenes and spent 12 weeks filming in Morocco.