John Peter Sarsgaard ( born March 7, 1971) is an American actor. He landed his first feature role in the movie Dead Man Walking in 1995. He then appeared in the 1998 independent films Another Day in Paradise and Desert Blue. That same year, Sarsgaard received a substantial role in The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), playing Raoul, the ill-fated son of Athos. Sarsgaard later achieved critical recognition when he was cast in Boys Don’t Cry (1999) as John Lotter. He landed his first leading role in the 2001 film The Center of the World. The following year, he played supporting roles in Empire, The Salton Sea, and K-19: The Widowmaker.
For his portrayal of Charles Lane in Shattered Glass, Sarsgaard won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for the 2004 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sarsgaard has appeared in an eclectic range of films, including the 2004 comedy-drama Garden State, the biographical film Kinsey (2004), the drama The Dying Gaul (2005) and big-budget films such as Flightplan (2005), Jarhead (2005), Orphan (2009), An Education (2009), Knight and Day (2010), and the superhero film Green Lantern (2011), Lovelace (2013), Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves (2013), Woody Allen’s critical Blue Jasmine (2013) and Black Mass (2015). Sarsgaard also appeared in the U.S. TV series The Killing (2013) as a man on death row perhaps wrongfully convicted for the brutal murder of his wife—a performance which he says included “some of the best acting I have ever done in my life. His latest film, Experimenter, in which he stars alongside Winona Ryder, was released in the U.S. on October 16th 2015.
Sarsgaard has also appeared in Off-Broadway productions including Kingdom of Earth, Laura Dennis, and Burn This. In September 2008, he made his Broadway debut as Boris Alexeyevich Trigorin in The Seagull. Sarsgaard appeared in the off-Broadway production of Uncle Vanya in January 2009. Sarsgaard is married to actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. They have two daughters.
Sarsgaard was born at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, the son of Judy Lea (née Reinhardt) and John Dale Sarsgard. His father was an Air Force engineer and later worked for Monsanto and IBM. He is American (although his surname originates in Denmark, where two of his paternal great-great-grandparents were born) Sarsgaard was raised a Roman Catholic and served as an altar boy. His family moved more than 12 times during his childhood, following his father’s job. At the age of 7, Sarsgaard originally wanted to become a soccer player and took up ballet to help improve his coordination. After suffering several bad concussions while playing soccer, he gave up the sport and became interested in writing and theater.
Sarsgaard attended Fairfield College Preparatory School, a private Jesuit boys’ school in Connecticut, where he became interested in movies. Following his graduation from Fairfield Prep, he attended Bard College in New York for two years before transferring to Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) in 1991, where he co-founded an improvisational comedy troupe “Mama’s Pot Roast.” While at WUSTL, Sarsgaard began performing in plays in an offshoot of New York’s Actors Studio. His first role was as the servant Lawrence in Molière’s Tartuffe. In 1993, he graduated with a degree in history and moved to New York.
In an interview with the New York Times, Sarsgaard stated that he followed Catholicism, saying: “I like the death-cult aspect of Catholicism. Every religion is interested in death, but Catholicism takes it to a particularly high level. Seriously, in Catholicism, you’re supposed to love your enemy. That really impressed me as a kid, and it has helped me as an actor. The way that I view the characters I play is part of my religious upbringing. To abandon curiosity in all personalities, good or bad, is to give up hope in humanity.”
Among his most notable romantic relationships, Sarsgaard dated burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese and model and actress Shalom Harlow Early in his film career, he dated photographer Malerie Marder, a close friend from his days attending Bard College, who had featured Sarsgaard in some of her early work Sarsgaard has been in a relationship with actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, the sister of his close friend Jake Gyllenhaal, since 2002. In April 2006, they announced their engagement, and on May 2, 2009, they married in a small ceremony in Brindisi, Italy. They have two daughters, Ramona, born October 3, 2006, and Gloria Ray, born April 19 2012. The family lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Sarsgaard is vegan, although he says he cooks meat for his children.
In June 2013, Sarsgaard and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.