A boyishly affable, stage-trained lead since the 1980s who has displayed gifts for both comedy and drama, Matthew Broderick became established in NYC theater before scoring a big-screen success as a young computer wiz caught up in nuclear intrigue in WAR GAMES (1983). He has enjoyed significant collaborations with two major playwrights — Neil Simon, who provided the young actor with memorable comic roles, and Horton Foote, who allowed him to hone his dramatic skills. Broderick debuted on stage at age 17 in a workshop production of Foote’s “On Valentine’s Day” with his late father James Broderick and went on to win acclaim for his portrayal of David, the adopted gay son of drag queen Arnold Beckoff (Harvey Fierstein) in the Off-Broadway production of “Torch Song Trilogy.”
Broderick’s career accelerated with parts in two Neil Simon projects: “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (1982-83), the first in a semi-autobiographical trilogy wherein Broderick created the part of Eugene Jerome, a character based on Simon as a youth, and the feature MAX DUGAN RETURNS (1982). He won a Tony Award for the play and positive notices for his feature debut. Broderick reprised the role of Eugene in “Biloxi Blues,” the second installment of the trilogy, for both the 1984 Broadway production and the 1988 film adaptation helmed by Mike Nichols. The actor also worked on various Foote projects, appearing in the 1986 film version of “On Valentine’s Day” (broadcast on PBS as STORY OF A MARRIAGE, PART 2), “1918” (1985), and Off-Broadway in “The Widow Claire” (1986-87).He may be best known, however, as the charmingly manipulative titular character of John Hughes’ popular teen comedy FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986). Yet his subsequent transition to adult leads has been fitful and uneven. Broderick’s first romantic lead was opposite Harvey Fierstein in the film version of “Torch Song Trilogy” (1988), this time not as his son but as his lover. He was impressively convincing as the young commander of the first black Union regiment in the acclaimed Civil War drama, GLORY (1989). Broderick joined forces with Dustin Hoffman and Sean Connery for Sidney Lumet’s FAMILY BUSINESS (1989), a critical and commercial misstep. Reverting to a comic juvenile part, he fared better as THE FRESHMAN (1990) opposite Marlon Brando. Sporting a beard, the baby-faced actor next joined an ensemble of bright young talents for the romantic comedy THE NIGHT WE NEVER MET (1993), which failed to make much impact. Ironically, Broderick enjoyed his greatest screen success (to date) in relative anonymity as the voice of the adult Simba in Disney’s cartoon blockbuster THE LION KING (1994) — he would reprise the role for the direct-to-video sequels THE LION KING 2: SIMBA’S PRIDE (1998) and THE LION KING 1/2 (2004).
Broderick returned to his theatrical roots for the acclaimed 1995 Broadway revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” In the original production, Robert Morse interpreted what would become his signature role as an outwardly simple soul who lucks into good fortune. In contrast, Broderick made his character a bit more knowing and openly ambitious yet still emerges as a likeable sort. His vocal mettle found official confirmation as he walked off with the Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. Broderick took a leave from the show to film THE CABLE GUY (1996), playing the hapless customer whose life becomes nightmarish after encountering Jim Carrey’s title character in Ben Stiller’s black comedy-thriller. When he returned to the Broadway musical in early 1996, he was teamed with his future wife Sarah Jessica Parker in the female lead.
In 1996, the compact, dark-haired actor switched gears and stepped behind the cameras to helm INFINITY, a biopic of Nobel laureate Richard Feynman that featured a script by his mother. Although the film was not widely seen, Broderick proved effective in his first outing as a filmmaker. He also starred as Feynman and shared a nice chemistry with his leading lady, Patricia Arquette. The following year, he began to portray a string of darker characters ranging from the jilted boyfriend out for revenge in ADDICTED TO LOVE (1997) to the schoolteacher determined to stop an overachiever from becoming student body president in ELECTION (1999). He continued in the same vein, playing a blustery bank manager who engages in an adulterous affair with one of his employees, in the Sundance hit YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (2000), written and directed by childhood pal Kenneth Lonergan.
- "Biloxi Blues"
- "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
- "How to Succeed in Business"
- "The Producers"
- "Torch Song Trilogy"
- Mel Brooks
- Harvey Fierstein
- Nathan Lane
- Susan Stroman
Source: Excerpted from Baseline. BaselineStudioSystems — A Hollywood Media Corp. Company.
Photo credits: Photofest and the New York Public Library