Hamilton Major: English Literature
College Productions: I was in two: The Lover by Harold Pinter and a play by Harry Kondoleon ['77]. He was a gifted playwright and friend who died about 10 years ago [March 1994].
First Job After Hamilton: I went to New York City and worked as a reporter for The Village Voice on the least serious of all sections. ("Someone's painting cows down on the docks. Go check it out.") The fashion editor asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I always liked acting. He introduced me to Lee Strasberg and things started to snowball. I ended up getting accepted into Yale [School of Drama], which was an honor since they only took 11 or 12 people into the acting program that year out of hundreds.
First Acting Job: I was a cadaver on The Guiding Light.
Big Break: Meeting Nick Cassavetes when we both were in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. He went on to direct, and I've been in all of his movies, Unhook the Stars opposite Marisa Tomei; She's So Lovely with Sean Penn; John Q with Denzel Washington;
The Notebook; and Alpha Dog with Sharon Stone.
Best-Known Role (for adults): I've done upward of 30 films, but I'm probably most recognized for the work I've done in the Law and Order series. I've been everything from a murderer to the recurring role of Lionel Granger [a defense attorney]. My parents live in South Carolina. My mother's friends watch the show and say, "That's not the Dave we know." Before an episode where my character kills off his mother, my mom warned her friend: "Better not watch this one, Grace."
Best-Known Role (for kids): The kids on my son's [Declyn, 8] hockey team think I'm the coolest thing going thanks to Home Alone 3. One time I ran into Alec Baldwin when he was in our building taking his daughter to a play date. He said, "Thornton, I'm so sick of seeing your face. We've watched Home Alone about 50 times. You really have the pre-K following."
Favorite Role: The work I did in A Civil Action. This was an exceptionally powerful film about the poisoning of children in Woburn, Mass., from pollution by W. R. Grace and Co. I did a lot of research for the role at a children's hospital.
Typical Role: I really don't have one. I've always been a bit of a chameleon and pretty good at changing how I look. For John Q, I grew out my beard, which came in white. I looked really sickly. After filming I was at a bar with Eddie Griffin when Denzel Washington walked in and says, "Hey, how you doing?" to Eddie and ignores me. I had just shaved and looked 25 years younger; he didn't even know who I was.
Best Thing About Your Career: I'd have to say traveling. You don't always work on projects you like, but I've been to some amazing places, like Malta when I was in Swept Away with Madonna (which was god-awful), and Indonesia for a horrible action movie. I've met some new and talented people and, not to be crass, get paid for doing something that's a lot of fun.
Hobbies: I wish I could say I paint or build cabinets or something, but I never seem to have enough time for that. When my wife [actress/singer Cyndi Lauper] is out of town, I'm focused on making hot breakfasts for my son and driving him to school. When Declyn started playing hockey, I did too. Our driveway is filled with 300 hockey pucks and assorted sticks and nets. [As the Alumni Review went to press, Declyn's Westchester Viper squirt major team had just won the Silver Sticks tournament in Philadelphia, and dad continues weekly games "with a bunch of D-1 guys and six-time Stanley Cup winner Glenn Anderson. It is a blast, humiliating, but a blast."]
Alternate Career: If I weren't acting? I'd probably write and illustrate children's books. I always loved hanging out at Kirkland and watching the girls painting with the sun streaming in the windows and music playing.
Advice for Aspiring Actors: There's no blueprint for an acting career. Go to New York City and get involved with a theatre company. Go to drama school. Go to LA and wait tables. The big thing is to go into it with the mind-set that you're not going to give up.