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Elias Koteas

Elias Koteasb. March 11, 1961, Montreal, Quebec


One of Canada’s most prominent and well-respected actors, Elias Koteas was born in Montreal to parents of Greek descent and is perhaps best known for his frequent work with director Atom Egoyan. An intense, focused actor with sensitive eyes and a compelling gravitas, Koteas routinely displays an almost startling willingness to take risks and typically portrays complex, troubled and unsettling characters. Shy, soft-spoken and self-effacing, he planned on becoming an architect before being inspired to pursue acting by, of all things, the TV show “Happy Days.”

He studied at Vanier College in Montreal and took acting classes with drama teacher Ann Page before leaving in 1981 to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. After graduating, he studied at the Actors Studio under Ellen Burstyn and Peter Masterson and went on to star in such stage productions as Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Death of a Salesman, Bent and The Cherry Orchard. After being spotted at the Actors Studio by legendary producer Fred Roos (The Conversation, 1974, Apocalypse Now, 1979), he made his feature film debut in the Mary Steenburgen drama One Magic Christmas (1985) and had memorable supporting parts in John Hughes’s Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Gardens of Stone (1987) and Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988).

His breakout role came with Malarek (1989), a true story about a troubled street kid turned reporter, for which he received a Genie nomination for Best Lead Actor. Following that success he appeared in two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies (1990, 1993) and earned wide recognition for his striking work in Atom Egoyan’s The Adjuster (1991) and Exotica (1994), for which he received a second Genie nomination. Subsequently, David Cronenberg cast him as the collision-obsessed Vaughn in the simultaneously praised and maligned Crash (1996). This led to a variety of roles in Hollywood films including Gattaca (1997), Apt Pupil (1998), Fallen (1998) and Terrence Malick’s acclaimed The Thin Red Line (1998), which allowed him to work with one of his idols, Nick Nolte.

More recently, Koteas appeared opposite Josh Brolin in a Broadway production of Sam Shepard’s True West and won a Best Supporting Actor Genie for his portrayal of a Turkish-Canadian actor playing a fiendish Turkish general in Egoyan’s Ararat (2002).

By Andrew McIntosh

Film and video work includes

One Magic Christmas, a.k.a. Disney’s One Magic Christmas, 1985 (actor)
Private Sessions, 1985 (actor; TV)
Gardens of Stone, 1987 (actor)
Some Kind of Wonderful, 1987 (actor)
Full Moon in Blue Water, 1988 (actor)
Onassis: The Richest Man in the World, 1988 (actor; TV)
She’s Having a Baby, 1988 (actor, uncredited)
Tucker: The Man and his Dream, 1988 (actor)
Blood Red, 1988 (actor)
Friends, Lovers & Lunatics, a.k.a. She Drives Me Crazy, 1989 (actor)
Malarek, a.k.a. Malarek: A Street Kid Who Made It, 1989 (actor)
Almost an Angel, 1990 (actor)
Backstreet Dreams, a.k.a. Backstreet Strays, 1990 (actor)
Desperate Hours, 1990 (actor)
Look Who’s talking Too, 1990 (actor)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1990 (actor)
The Adjuster, 1991 (actor)
Contact, 1992 (actor)
Chain of Desire, 1992 (actor)
The Habitation Dragons, 1992 (actor; TV)
Cyborg 2, a.k.a. Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow, 1993 (actor)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, 1993 (actor)
Camilla, 1994 (actor)
Exotica, 1994 (actor)
Power of Attorney, 1995 (actor)
The Prophecy, a.k.a. God’s Army, 1995 (actor)
Sugartime, 1995 (actor; TV)
Crash, 1996 (actor)
Hit Me, 1996 (actor)
Gattaca, 1997 (actor)
Apt Pupil, 1998 (actor)
Divorce: A Contemporary Western, 1998 (actor)
Fallen, 1998 (actor)
Living Out Loud, 1998 (actor)
The Thin Red Line, 1998 (actor)
Dancing at the Blue Iguana, 2000 (actor)
Harrison’s Flowers, 2000 (actor)
Lost Souls, 2000 (actor)
Novocaine, 2001 (actor)
Shot in the Heart, 2001 (actor; TV)
Ararat, 2002 (actor)
Collateral Damage, 2002 (actor)
Rosy-Fingered Dawn: A Film on Terrence Malick, 2002 (appears as himself)
S1m0ne, 2002 (actor, uncredited)
The Sopranos series, 2002 (actor; TV, one episode)
Traffic series, a.k.a. Traffic: The Miniseries, 2004 (actor; TV)
The Big Empty, 2005 (actor)

Note: Updated to June 30, 2005


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