|February 22, 1959|
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Born Feb. 22, 1959 in Yakima, WA, MacLachlan attended local Eisenhower High School prior to graduating from the University of Washington's Professional Actor Training Program in 1982. After the requisite stint in summer stock, he joined Seattle's Empty Space Theater for a mounting of "Tartuffe" later that year when suddenly everything changed for the young actor. Idiosyncratic director David Lynch was conducting a nationwide audition for the lead in his big-budget adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic science fiction tome, Dune. Adopting a decidedly "what have I got to lose" attitude, MacLachlan tried out for the part, reading a few lines on video tape. Lynch clearly liked what he saw, as MacLachlan - who had never before acted on screen - was soon cast in the epic fantasy film. "Dune" (1984) may have been a lavish feast for the eyes, but it was terribly bloated, nearly collapsing under its own weight, and unfocused in its execution. Many critics viewed MacLachlan's debut performance as stilted and lacking the gravitas the role demanded. "Dune" would go on to achieve a degree of cult status, but upon its release was considered a spectacular failure. Despite the film's disappointing reception, David Lynch had found in MacLachlan a leading man with whom he wanted to collaborate again. It would, in fact, be on the director's very next project.
In "Blue Velvet" (1986), Lynch's neo-noir journey into the rotten underbelly of American suburbia, MacLachlan played college student-turned-amateur sleuth, Jeffrey Beaumont. The violent, surrealistic thriller starring Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini shocked and offended many critics and theater goers alike upon its release. Over time, however, it would go on to be considered by many to be the pinnacle of Lynch's career - not to mention MacLachlan's - as well as one of the most influential films of the 1980s. It was on the set of "Blue Velvet" that MacLachlan met co-star Laura Dern, daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, with whom he would remain romantically involved until the end of the decade. With his next project MacLachlan stepped out from under the wing of Lynch, starring in the sci-fi thriller "The Hidden" (1987). Playing an intergalactic lawman disguised as an FBI agent sent to capture an alien criminal capable of inhabiting host bodies here on earth, "The Hidden" was as ridiculous as it was fun, with MacLachlan's stiff body language put to good use in his role as a stranger in a strange world. MacLachlan followed with the television family drama "Dream Breakers" (CBC, 1989), and the barely seen romantic comedy "Don't Tell Her It's Me" (1990). After this string of increasingly disappointing endeavors, it was once again in working with David Lynch where MacLachlan would create his most indelible character - oddly enough as yet another quirky FBI agent.
Co-created with Mark Frost, the television series "Twin Peaks" (ABC, 1990-91) found Lynch revisiting the theme of darkness lurking just under the surface in small-town U.S.A., viewed though the prism of his surrealistic lens. As Special Agent Dale Cooper, the eager, super-efficient FBI man with a weakness for non sequiturs, cherry pie and a "damn fine cup of coffee," MacLachlan blossomed as an actor, his former rigidness becoming stylish and engagingly goofy. In a show populated by weird characters and bizarre happenings, Cooper provided a likable and reassuring anchor. Although canceled after its second season, "Twin Peaks" was an instant pop culture phenomenon, with millions of viewers asking the question, "Who killed Laura Palmer?" While filming the series, MacLachlan began a brief relationship with co-star Lara Flynn Boyle, who played Donna Hayward, the girl-next-door harboring a secret. After "Twin Peaks," MacLachlan returned to the big screen with another director as accomplished as he was controversial. In Oliver Stone's rock history lesson "The Doors" (1991), he essayed keyboardist Ray Manzarek, the pragmatic band mate of Val Kilmer's self-destructive Jim Morrison. It was a thankless role when viewed alongside Kilmer's scenery-devouring performance as the doomed "Lizard King." The resulting film, while beautiful to look at and featuring some spot-on performances, failed to shed any new light on the troubled icon. As a vehicle for MacLachlan's career, it also failed to produce the desired result of elevating his status in Hollywood.
The next year saw MacLachlan taking a small part in the teenage runaway melodrama "Where the Day Takes You" (1992), co-starring his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, Lara Flynn Boyle. The same year there was also an extended cameo, reviving his role as Agent Cooper, in the prequel "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (1992), which chronicled the days leading up to the brutal murder of Laura Palmer. The film, plagued with problems from the start - not the least of which being MacLachlan's reluctance to participate in the project - was poorly received by both critics and fans of the enigmatic series. Equally disappointing was the Harold Pinter-scripted adaptation of Franz Kafka's "The Trial" (1993), with MacLachlan starring as Joseph K, an Everyman accused of an unspecified crime. In 1993, MacLachlan was given the opportunity to direct an episode of the horror anthology "Tales from the Crypt" (HBO, 1989-1996), with a tawdry tale of a jealous husband's plot to murder his wife's secret lover. Whether it was born of a desire to participate in lighter fare, or simply collect a paycheck, MacLachlan's next appearance in a feature film was in "The Flintstones" (1994), a live-action rendering of the beloved cartoon. In it, MacLachlan played Cliff Vandercave, a sleazy Neolithic yuppie bent on framing Fred in a stone-age embezzlement scheme. If "The Flintstones" seemed like an unlikely choice for the eclectic actor to take part in, MacLachlan's next project would be truly jaw-dropping - and for all the wrong reasons.
"Showgirls" (1995) told the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), a beautiful, young drifter who finds herself thrust into the world of Las Vegas glitz, sex and power. As Zack Carey, the ambitious entertainment director at a major resort, MacLachlan oozed a sort of reptilian charm, providing the NC-17 rated film with one of its more lascivious moments when Zack and Nomi loudly, almost comically make love in his swimming pool. Directed by Paul Verhoeven from a script by Joe Esterhaus - for which the writer was paid a reported $2 million - the film was given a vicious drubbing by the critics. So bad was it, "Showgirls" later achieved cult status, with the likes of Quentin Tarantino regarding it as one of the few examples of enjoyable big-budget exploitation. However for MacLachlan, it was an embarrassment. In an attempt at redemption, MacLachlan next starred in the criminally under-seen "The Trigger Effect" (1996) alongside Elisabeth Shue and Dermot Mulroney. Written and directed by David Koepp, the film explored man's tenuous grasp on civility when a massive power blackout lasts for several days. Perhaps a victim of preconceived notions, the slow-burn drama was not the apocalyptic survival thriller people were expecting, and the film quickly disappeared from theaters. Even if his film career was not exactly firing on all cylinders, at least MacLachlan's romantic life was flourishing, when in 1996 he announced his engagement to supermodel Linda Evangelista.
MacLachlan rounded out the decade with a slate of television performances and overlooked feature films. Among them, Larry Bishop's onerous gangster comedy "Mad Dog Time" (1996); director Mike Figgis' cautionary tale of marital infidelity "One Night Stand" (1997); the experimental "Timecode" (2000), also helmed by Figgis; and a contemporarily set adaptation of "Hamlet" (2000), starring Ethan Hawke. Following his breakup with Evangelista, MacLachlan began dating television producer Desiree Gruber in 1999 and marrying her three years later. It seemed as if the Hollywood player, known for keeping company with ingénues and supermodels, had finally settled down. MacLachlan's professional visibility received a boost in 2000 when he scored a recurring role on the incredibly popular dramedy series "Sex in the City" (HBO, 1998-2004). Perfectly cast as the uptight "momma's boy" and love interest of Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), MacLachlan's Trey MacDougal did his best to give Carrie's Pollyannaish gal pal the life she had dreamed of. MacLachlan's character left the show in 2002, after finally admitting to Charlotte that he had no desire to have children, but the recurring role went a long way toward putting the actor back on the map.
Post-"Sex," MacLachlan moved on yet again to another stretch of roles in films that few people saw. There was a brief appearance in "Perfume" (2002), a largely improvised ensemble comedy set in the world of New York high fashion. He had a small supporting role in the coming-of-age drama "Me Without You" (2002), and played the ghost of Cary Grant in "Touch of Pink" (2004). MacLachlan took another shot at starring in his own series with the courtroom procedural "In Justice" (ABC, 2005-06). Despite setting itself apart from similar crime dramas by focusing on MacLachlan's legal team representing wrongly convicted prisoners, the series lasted only a season. He would not be out of work for long, however, when diehard "Twin Peaks" fan and creator of the primetime histrionic soap "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004- ) Marc Cherry cast MacLachlan as Orson Hodge. As the dentist husband of Bree (Marcia Cross) and a generally creepy guy, MacLachlan once again channeled his Lynchian side, much to the delight of the show's fans. As the 2010-11 season approached it was announced that after a few more cameos, Hodge would be leaving Wisteria Lane for good. Back in theaters, MacLachlan appeared as immigration attorney Charles Foster in "Mao's Last Dancer" (2010), a biopic recounting the story of famed Chinese dancer Li Cunxin. MacLachlan would also have a recurring role as the Mayor of Portland, Oregon, on the sketch comedy series "Portlandia" (IFC, 2010-11).