Frank Whaley biography

Frank Whaley

Date of Birth: July 20, 1963

Born in Syracuse, New York, Frank Whaley is best known for his vivid portrayals of put-upon, sometimes ill-fated young men. Whaley studied theater at both the University of New York, Albany and New York City's Actors Studio, where he earned a BA.

The actor got his first break with a role in Ironweed (1987), sharing the screen with movie icons Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Following secondary parts in films like Field of Dreams and Born on the Fourth of July (both 1989), he landed the more substantial role of Steve Bushak in The Freshman (1990). The film put Whaley on the Hollywood map, and he was able to work consistently throughout the rest of the decade, turning in particularly strong performances in films like A Midnight Clear (1991), in which he played a doomed World War I soldier; The Doors (1991), which cast him as Doors guitarist Robby Kreiger; Swing Kids (1993), in which he played a musician and a doomed man; and Pulp Fiction (1994), in which he had a brief but memorable appearance as a business associate who annoys Samuel L. Jackson's Jules Winnfield enough to get executed.

That same year, Whaley starred in Swimming with Sharks, a black comedy that gave him one of his comparatively few leading roles. As the used and abused office boy of a sadistic studio executive (Kevin Spacey), Whaley gave torment a good name, proving that it was possible to display a certain kind of finesse when portraying someone relentlessly slapped by power.

In 1999, after spending the previous few years playing more conflicted men, Whaley took matters into his own hands by writing and directing Joe The King. A dark, independent feature starring John Leguizamo, Camryn Manheim, Val Kilmer, and Ethan Hawke, it premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, where Whaley won a Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for his efforts.

He then went on to direct and play a role in The Jimmy Show (2001), but as he focused on directing, his acting career suffered. The early years of the new decade found him landing only roles in small budget features or uncredited roles in bigger films. He returned to big budget production with a part in Mrs. Harris (2005), starring Annette Bening, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Kingsley and Cloris Leachman. He most recently starred in the films Rob the Mob (2014), Cold Moon (2016), and Monster Trucks (2017). He has also made many appearances on television in recent years, including on Under the Dome, Madoff, and Netflix's Luke Cage.

Whaley, along with Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke, co-founded the New York City theater company Malaparte. He is also co-founder of Naked Angels theater group. He is married to playwright Heather Bucha.

Frank Whaley Filmography


  • Monster Trucks (2017)
  • Cold Moon (2016)
  • Marvel's Luke Cage (Netflix)
  • Rob the Mob (2014)
  • Aftermath (2013)
  • As Good as Dead (2010)
  • Janie Jones (2010)
  • Drillbit Taylor (2008)
  • Vacancy (2007)
  • Cherry Crush (2006)
  • Crazy Eights (2006)
  • The Hottest State (2006)
  • World Trade Center (2006)
  • Mrs. Harris (2005)
  • A Good Night to Die (2003)
  • The School of Rock (2003) (uncredited)
  • Red Dragon (2002) (uncredited)
  • Chelsea Walls (2001)
  • Pursuit of Happiness (2001)
  • The Jimmy Show (2001)
  • Went To Coney Island On A Mission From God...Be Back By Five (2000)
  • Curtain Call (1999)
  • Pulp Fiction (1999)
  • Went to Coney Island on a Mission From God... Be Back by Five (1998)
  • Glam (1997)
  • Retroactive (1997)
  • Bombshell (1996)
  • Broken Arrow (1996)
  • Homage (1996)
  • The Winner (1996)
  • Cafe Society (1995)
  • I.Q. (1994)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Swimming with Sharks (1994)
  • The Desperate Trail (1994)
  • Swing Kids (1993)
  • A Midnight Clear (1992)
  • Back in the U.S.S.R. (1992)
  • Hoffa (1992)
  • Career Opportunities (1991)
  • The Doors (1991)
  • Cold Dog Soup (1990)
  • The Freshman (1990)
  • Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
  • Field of Dreams (1989)
  • Little Monsters (1989)
  • Ironweed (1987)
  • The Wall (1998/I)

Frank Whaley Photo