Keir Dullea

Keir Atwood Dullea (/ˈkɪər dʊˈl/; born May 30, 1936) is an American actor[1] best known for his portrayals of astronaut David Bowman in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey and its 1984 sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. His other film roles include Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) and Black Christmas (1974).[2] He studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City.

Keir Dullea
Dullea in Kraft Mystery Theatre's "Cry Ruin" (1962)
Born (1936-05-30) May 30, 1936
EducationRutgers University
San Francisco State University
Years active1960–present
Margot Bennett
(m. 1960; div. 1968)

Susan Lessons
(m. 1969; div. 1970)

Susie Fuller
(m. 1972; died 1998)

Mia Dillon
(m. 1999)

Dullea has also had a long and successful career on stage in New York City and in regional theaters; he has stated that, despite being more recognized for his film work, he prefers the stage.[3]


Early life

Dullea was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Margaret (née Ruttan) and Robert Dullea. His mother was of Scottish descent and his father was a second-generation Irish-American.[4][5] He was raised in the Greenwich Village section of New York City where his parents ran a bookstore. He graduated from George School in Pennsylvania, then attended Rutgers University in New Jersey and San Francisco State University in California before deciding to pursue an acting career.[3][6]

Early career

Dullea made his TV debut in an adaptation of Mrs. Miniver (1960) with Maureen O'Hara, playing the German pilot. He was also in the TV movies Give Us Barabbas! (1961) and an adaptation of All Summer Long (1961).[7]

Dullea was in demand for guest shots on TV shows such as Route 66, The New Breed, Checkmate and Cain's Hundred.

Dullea made his film debut in 1961's Hoodlum Priest, cast off the strength of his work on Route 66.[8]

The performance was well received. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Disney offered long term contracts (roles in Two Weeks in Another Town and Bon Voyage) but Dullea turned both down. He did accept a non exclusive contract with Seven Arts. He shot a pilot for a TV series that was not picked up.[9][6] He appeared in LA on stage in The Short Happy Life.[10]

David and Lisa

In 1962, he starred with Janet Margolin in David and Lisa, a film based on the book by Theodore Isaac Rubin, M.D., a psychiatrist who treated the two mentally ill adolescents portrayed in the film. It was a low budget film that became a break out hit, making over $2 million, and turning Dullea into an established name.[11] Film Daily voted him "find of the year".[12]

Dullea appeared on television in shows such as Empire, The United States Steel Hour, Bonanza, Naked City, Going My Way, The Eleventh Hour, Alcoa Premiere, Kraft Mystery Theater and Channing.

Dullea was second billed in his third feature, Mail Order Bride (1964) written and directed by Burt Kennedy.

He starred in the first screen adaptation of James Jones' The Thin Red Line (1964), then did a TV adaptation of Pale Horse, Pale Rider and went to Italy to star in The Naked Hour (1964).[6]

In 1965, he guest-starred as Lieutenant Kurt Muller in episode 20, "To Heinie, With Love", of Twelve O'Clock High. He took these roles to avoid being typecast as a troubled youth.[13]

Dullea went to England to make Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), which co-starred Dullea with Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, and Noël Coward. Although they shared no scenes together in the film, when Coward initially met Dullea on the set, he uttered the often quoted line, 'Keir Dullea, gone tomorrow.' Nonetheless he was voted one of 1965's "stars of tomorrow".[14]

He played the son of Lana Turner in Ross Hunter's remake of Madame X (1966), which under performed commercially. However he appeared with Anne Heywood and Sandy Dennis in the Canadian film, The Fox (1967) which became a surprise box office hit.[15]

His first Broadway appearance was in 1967 in Ira Levin's Dr. Cook's Garden with Burl Ives, which only had a short run.

2001: A Space Odyssey

In 1968 he appeared as astronaut David Bowman in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey,[16] which became a box-office success and was eventually recognized by critics, filmmakers, and audiences as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. His line, "Open the pod bay doors please, HAL," is #78 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 movie quotes.

Dullea was offered the title role in movie De Sade (1969), playing the title role (the Marquis de Sade). The movie was a critical and commercial disappointment, despite a cast including John Huston.

Dullea had success on Broadway, starring in the 1969 hit comedy Butterflies Are Free alongside Eileen Heckart and Blythe Danner. The play detailed a blind youth's desire to break free from his overprotective mother and pursue love with a free spirited girl. In the play, he introduced the title song written by Stephen Schwartz (later recording the tune on an album for Platypus Records). The play was a huge hit, running for 1,128 performances, although Dullea did not appear in the film version.


Dullea travelled to London to be in the production of Butterflies there and decided to stay. He did a series of TV movies, Black Water Gold (1970), Montserrat (1971), and A Kiss Is Just a Kiss (1971).[17]

He did a thriller in Italy, Devil in the Brain (1972), and guest starred on McMillan & Wife.

Dullea made a film in Canada, Paperback Hero (1973) and worked in that country for a number of years. He had the lead role in a Canadian TV series The Starlost (1973) but it only ran 18 episodes.[18]

He was a regular vocal performer on CBS Radio Mystery Theater, which ran from 1974 to 1982.

Dullea was in Paul and Michelle (1974) and had a major role in the Canadian production, 1974 cult classic Black Christmas.

In 1974, he played Brick in the Tennessee Williams classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opposite Elizabeth Ashley and Fred Gwynne on Broadway which ran 160 performances. The production featured the now definitive rewrite of the play.

He also starred in the 1975 play P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. Dullea was one of the last people to see actor Sal Mineo alive. The two were rehearsing for P.S. Your Cat is Dead on the night of Mineo's murder.

He appeared in Law and Order (1976) for TV, the Canadian movies Welcome to Blood City (1977), The Haunting of Julia (1977), and Three Dangerous Ladies (1977), the British Leopard in the Snow (1977), the Australian Because He's My Friend (1978), and some films for US TV: The Legend of the Golden Gun (1978), an adaptation of Brave New World (1980), The Hostage Tower (1980), No Place to Hide (1981), and BrainWaves (1982).


In 1981 Dullea moved to Westport, Connecticut.[19]

In 1982, Dullea starred in an off-Broadway production of A. E. Hotchner's Sweet Prince, under the direction of his wife, Susie Fuller.[20] The following year, the couple co-founded the Theater Artists Workshop of Westport.[3]

Dullea appeared as a regular cast member in the Canadian adult soap opera Loving Friends and Perfect Couples, which ran in 1983.[21] He was in Blind Date (1984) and The Next One (1984).


In 1984, he reprised his role as David Bowman in 2010: The Year We Make Contact,[22] Peter Hyams' sequel to 2001. 2010 was nominated for five Academy Awards.[23]

In July 1984, Dullea was guest artist aboard the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2. On July 11, he performed Anton Chekhov's one-act play The Harmfulness of Tobacco in the QE2 Theatre.

He returned to Broadway when he joined the cast of the successful Doubles (1985–86).[24]

He toured with a theatre show Keir Dullea and Friends (1988).[25]

In 1990 he said " My career has a lot to do with choices I made in my life. My focus over the last, oh, at least 10 years has been the theater. I really haven't made very much effort with films. I did more than 20 plays before I ever did `The Hoodlum Priest,' and (after that) I've done more than 20 films... It wasn't as if the industry had fired me; I had just made certain life decisions I suddenly was having to pay the piper for. So there was no film career at all. I'm always working (in theater). If I'm not engaged on stage in something, I'm working with my wife on another project. I no longer live my life waiting for my phone to ring to give me permission to work."[24]

He did The Servant on stage in 1990.

He was in Oh, What a Night (1992) and played F. Scott Fitzgerald off Broadway in The Other Side of Paradise (1992).[26]

In 2000, he appeared in The Audrey Hepburn Story as Hepburn's father Joseph.[27] That year he was also in Songs in Ordinary Time (2000), and episodes of Witchblade, Ed, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law and Order.

In 2002 he performed in The Little Foxes on stage.[28]

He could be seen in Alien Hunter (2003).

In December 2004, for their annual birthday celebration to "The Master", the Noël Coward Society invited Dullea as the guest celebrity to lay flowers in front of Coward's statue at New York's Gershwin Theatre, thereby commemorating the 105th birthday of Sir Noël. Around the same time, Sony Home Video released Bunny Lake Is Missing for the first time on DVD.

In 2006, he had a role as a US Senator and a "major influence and mentor" to Matt Damon's character, in Robert De Niro's film The Good Shepherd (2006). He was the narrator in an off Broadway production of Mary Rose (2007).

Later career

Dullea was in The Accidental Husband (2009), All Me, All the Time (2009), Castle, Fortune (2009), and Damages.

In April 2010, Dullea performed the role of Tom Garrison in the off-Broadway production of the Robert Anderson play, I Never Sang for My Father co-starring Oscar-nominated actress Marsha Mason (as Margaret Garrison) and film and stage actor Matt Servitto (as Gene Garrison).

In October 2012, Dullea performed the role of Heinrich Mann in the Guthrie Theater production of Tales from Hollywood by Christopher Hampton.

He was in Isn't It Delicious (2013) with his wife Mia Dillon, Infinitely Polar Bear (2014), Space Station 76 (2014), and April Flowers (2017).[29]

During August and September 2013, Keir Dullea starred as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, playing opposite wife Mia Dillon in a joint production for Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.

Between July 10-August 2, 2015, Dullea and wife Mia Dillon were joined by Todd Cerveris, Cameron Clifford, Don Noble and Christa Scott-Reed in the Bucks County Playhouse production of Ernest Thompson's On Golden Pond.[30]

He had a regular role in The Path (2014–16) and could be seen in Fahrenheit 451 (2018).

Personal life

Dullea has been married four times, first to stage and film actress Margot Bennett from 1960 until their divorce in 1968. He was married from 1969 to 1970 to Susan Lessons. In 1972, Dullea married Susie Fuller, who had two daughters from a previous relationship. The couple met during the London run of Butterflies Are Free. Dullea, Fuller and her children lived in London for several years. She died in 1998 after 26 years of marriage. In 1999, Dullea married actress Mia Dillon. They divide their time between an apartment in Manhattan and a house in Connecticut.


Year Title Role Notes
1961 Hoodlum Priest Billy Lee Jackson
1962 David and Lisa David Clemens
1964 The Naked Hours Aldo
Mail Order Bride Lee Carey
The Thin Red Line Pvt. Doll
1965 Bunny Lake Is Missing Stephen Lake
1966 Madame X Clayton Anderson Jr.
1967 The Fox Paul Grenfel
1968 2001: A Space Odyssey Dr. David Bowman
1969 De Sade Louis Alphonse Donatien, Marquis de Sade
1972 Devil in the Brain Oscar Minno
Pope Joan Dr. Stevens Uncredited Role
1973 Paperback Hero Rick Dylan
1974 Paul and Michelle Garry
Black Christmas Peter Smythe
1977 Three Dangerous Ladies David Segment: The Mannikin
Welcome to Blood City Lewis
Full Circle Magnus Lofting
1978 Leopard in the Snow Dominic Lyall
1983 Brainwaves Julian Bedford
1984 Blind Date Dr. Steiger
The Next One Glenn/The Next One
2010 Dr. David Bowman
1992 Oh, What a Night Thorvald Released Direct-to-Video
2000 The Audrey Hepburn Story Joseph Hepburn-Ruston TV film
fr:La Divine Inspiration William Shakespeare Short film
2003 Three Days of Rain
Alien Hunter Secretary Bayer
2006 The Day My Towers Fell Harry Gold Short film
A Lonely Sky Older Man Short film
The Good Shepherd Senator John Russell, Sr.
2008 The Accidental Husband Karl Bollenbecker
2009 Fortune Jonah Pryce
All Me, All the Time Jake
2012 HENRi Henri (voice) Short film
2013 Isn't It Delicious Bill Weldon
2014 Infinitely Polar Bear Murray Stuart
Space Station 76 Mr. Marlowe
2017 April Flowers Mr. X
2019 Valley of the Gods Ulim


Year Title Role Notes
1960 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Tim Dryden Episode: Cry Ruin
Mrs. Miniver German Pilot CBS TV-Movie
1961 Route 66 Paul Episode: Black November
Hallmark Hall of Fame Elisha Episode: Give Us Barabbas!
Play of the Week Episode: All Summer Long
The New Breed Frank Episode: Prime Target
1961, 1962, 1963 The United States Steel Hour

Donald 'Don' McCabe
Episode: The Big Splash
Episode: The Golden Thirty
Episode: Far from the Shade Tree
Episode: The Young Avengers
Alcoa Premiere Maples
Linc Ketterman
Tommy Miller
Eric Green
Episode: People Need People
Episode: The Tiger
Episode:Ordeal in Darkness
Episode: The Broken Year
1961, 1963 Naked City Joey Ross
Les Gerard
Episode: Murder Is a Face I Know
Episode: The Apple Falls Not Far from the Tree
1962 Checkmate Eddie Phillips Episode: A Very Rough Sketch
Cain's Hundred Alec Benden Episode: A Creature Lurks in Ambush
Kraft Mystery Theater Episode: Cry Ruin
The DuPont Show of the Week Lieutenant Episode: The Outpost
The Eleventh Hour Jerry Bullock Episode: Cry a Little for Mary Too
1963 Empire Skip Wade Episode: Stopover on the Way to the Moon
Bonanza Bob Jolley Episode: Elegy for a Hangman
Going My Way Dennis Brady Episode: One Small Unhappy Family
1964 Channing Episode: The Trouble with Girls
The Wednesday Play Episode: Pale Horse, Pale Rider
1965 Twelve O'Clock High Lt. Muller Episode: To Heine - With Love
1970 Black Water Gold Christofer Perdeger ABC TV-Movie
1971 Montserrat Montserrat PBS TV-Movie
1972 McMillan & Wife Buzz Simms Episode: Blues for Sally M
19731974 The Starlost Devon
1975 Switch Anthony Kirk Episode: The James Caan Con
1976 Law and Order Johnny Morrison NBC TV-Movie
1978 Because He's My Friend Eric ABC TV-Movie
1979 The Legend of the Golden Gun General Custer NBC TV-Movie
1980 Brave New World Thomas Grambell NBC TV-Movie
The Hostage Tower Mr. Smith CBS TV-Movie
1981 No Place to Hide Cliff Letterman CBS TV-Movie
1983 Loving Friends and Perfect Couples
1986 Guiding Light Dr. Mark Jarrett
1989 Murder, She Wrote Jason Reynard Episode: Test of Wills
2000 The Audrey Hepburn Story Joseph Hepburn ABC TV-Movie
Songs in Ordinary Time Sam Fermoyle CBS TV-Movie
2001 Witchblade Dr. Immo Episode: Convergence
2001, 2006 Law & Order Paul Lyman
Andrew Keener
Episode: Hubris
Episode: Cost of Capital
2002 Ed Robert Stanley Episode: Nice Guys Finish Last
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Judge Walt Thornburg Episode: Justice
2009 Castle Jonathan Tisdale Episode: Flowers for Your Grave
2011 Damages Julius Episode: I'm Worried About My Dog
2016 The Path Dr. Stephen Meyer
2018 Fahrenheit 451 Historian HBO TV-Movie

Radio appearances

January 6, 1975CBS Radio Mystery TheaterThe Premature Burial
January 27, 1975CBS Radio Mystery TheaterA Coffin For The Devil
March 18, 1975CBS Radio Mystery TheaterIt's Murder Mr. Lincoln
March 19, 1982CBS Radio Mystery TheaterThe Magic Stick Of Manitu
March 31, 1982CBS Radio Mystery TheaterI Am The Killer

Awards and nominations

BAFTA Awards

  • 1964: Nominated, "Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles" - David and Lisa

Golden Globe Awards

  • 1962: Won, "Most Promising Male Newcomer"

Laurel Awards

  • 1963: Nominated, "Top New Male Personality"

San Francisco International Film Festival

  • 1962: Won, "Best Actor" - David and Lisa

See also


  1. "Keir Dullea". The New York Times.
  2. "Screen: Murky Whodunit; 'Black Christmas' Is at Local Theaters". The New York Times. October 20, 1975. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  3. Nash, Margo (April 8, 2007). "After 50 Years in Acting, Fully Relaxed in His Craft". The New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2009.
  4. "Keir Dullea Biography (1936-)". Retrieved March 30, 2009.
  5. YOUNG 'DAVID' IN THE DEN OF MAKE-BELIEVE: Western Exposure Onward and Upward By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]12 May 1963: X7.
  6. Teen Idol Dullea Likes His Image Los Angeles Times 28 Nov 1962: C19.
  7. "Hoodlum Priest". The New York Times.
  8. Keir's Haircut Was a Success Shortcut Beene, Wally. Los Angeles Times 22 Dec 1963: b13.
  9. Play Drawn From Hemingway to Open Run Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]01 Oct 1961: M13.
  10. "Top Rental Features of 1963", Variety. 8 January 1964, pg 71.
  11. FILM DAILY POLL WON BY NEWMAN: Shirley MacLaine Is Named Best Actress of 1963 New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]11 Jan 1964: 14.
  12. Dullea Returns With New 'Image': Once Typed in Psycho Roles, He Escaped in Films Abroad Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]12 Jan 1965: C6.
  13. At 70, John Ford Still Makes History: His Next Is 'Seven Women'; Elke New Star of Tomorrow Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]01 Feb 1965: C15.
  14. Looking at Hollywood: 'Greatest Story' Called Magnificent Spectacle Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Tribune 12 Feb 1965: c12.
  15. Adler, Renata (April 4, 1968). "2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) The Screen: '2001' Is Up, Up and Away:Kubrick's Odyssey in Space Begins Run". The New York Times.
  16. TV Today: Keir Dullea Shifts Roles in Attempt to Avoid Typecasts Kramer, Carol. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill]30 Dec 1969: a7.
  17. Keir Dullea's career more than movies: [FIN Edition] Henry Mietkiewicz Toronto Star. Toronto Star; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]06 June 1990: F1.
  18. Nash, Margo (April 8, 2007). "After 50 Years in Acting, Fully Relaxed in His Craft". New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  19. Rich, Frank (September 25, 1982). "Theater: Hotchner's 'Sweet Prince'". The New York Times.
  20. "No more low profile for Keir Dullea". The Globe and Mail, August 13, 1983.
  21. Canby, Vincent (December 7, 1984). "2010 (1984) '2010,' PURSUES THE MYSTERY OF '2001'". The New York Times.
  22. "The 57th Academy Awards (1985) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  23. Never a dull moment for Keir Dullea: [SOUTH SPORTS FINAL Edition] Blank, Ed. Chicago Tribune (pre-1997 Fulltext); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill]30 Aug 1990: 12.
  24. THEATER; Keir Dullea Stars In Westport Show Klein, Alvin. New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]17 July 1988: A.13.
  25. On the Wrong Side of Paradise: [NASSAU AND SUFFOLK Edition] By Jan Stuart. STAFF WRITER. Newsday, Combined editions; Long Island, N.Y. [Long Island, N.Y]06 Mar 1992: 81.
  26. Enjoying life after '2001' Ayres, Jeff. Northwest Florida Daily News; Fort Walton Beach, Fla. [Fort Walton Beach, Fla]13 Mar 2001: B1.
  27. Actor Keir Dullea back on the stage Kilian, Michael. Knight Ridder Tribune News Service; Washington [Washington]19 July 2002: 1.
  28. Keir Dullea To Do Q&A After 'David & Lisa' Screening In Ridgefield Dunne, Susan. McClatchy - Tribune Business News; Washington [Washington]03 July 2012.

Further reading

  • Paul, Louis (2008). "Keir Dullea". Tales From the Cult Film Trenches; Interviews with 36 Actors from Horror, Science Fiction and Exploitation Cinema. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 68–74. ISBN 978-0-7864-2994-3.
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