James Rebhorn, one of the busiest character actors in New York and Hollywood who specialized in flawed authority figures, including the bipolar father of a CIA agent in the Showtime series “Homeland,” died Friday at his home in South Orange, N.J. He was 65.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Rebecca Linn. He had melanoma.
An instantly recognizable face on stage and screen for more than three decades, Rebhorn was often typecast as WASP-ish businessmen, lawyers and cabinet ministers — powerful men whose dignified appearance often hid eccentricities, menace or even insanity.
On television, Rebhorn had a recurring part on the HBO show “White Collar” (2009-14) and, playing a district attorney, memorably prosecuted the “Seinfeld” cast on that series’s 1998 finale.
Rebhorn’s movie roles, though small, were often pivotal to the plot. In “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999), he played the wealthy shipbuilder whose spoiled son (Jude Law) disappeared, killed by sociopath Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) who has taken the son’s identity. As the headmaster Mr. Trask in “Scent of a Woman” (1992), he faced off against a blind and argumentative Vietnam veteran Al Pacino defending one of Trask’s students accused of cheating.
His other movie appearances included “Silkwood” (1983), “Independence Day” (1996) as the secretary of defense, “Meet The Parents” (2000) and “Carlito’s Way” (1993).
In New York, he was a member of the Ensemble Studio and Roundabout theater companies. He appeared in the original 1985 stage production of playwright Herb Gardner’s comedy “I’m Not Rappaport” and in stage revivals of “Our Town” and “Twelve Angry Men.” For Roundabout, Rebhorn portrayed a man grappling with dementia in the 2013 production “Too Much, Too Much, Too Many” by Meghan Kennedy.
Charles Isherwood wrote in The New York Times, “Mr. Rebhorn gives a beautiful portrait of a man struggling to come to terms with his faltering mind. Hale and frankly refusing to believe the doctor’s news at first, James becomes more scattered (if not more resigned) with each succeeding scene, culminating in a heartbreaking final moment in which he simply stares into the distance, as if searching for something, while Emma [the wife] tries wordlessly to comfort him.”
James Robert Rebhorn was born Sept. 1, 1948, in Philadelphia. His father was a tool and die maker and later a salesman. Initially, Rebhorn worked as a theatrical technician before embarking on a full-time acting career.
He had a bachelor’s degree in political science and theater from Wittenberg University in Ohio and a master’s in fine arts from Columbia University in New York City.
In addition to his wife of 32 years, survivors include two daughters, Emma Rebhorn and Hannah Rebhorn, both of Philadelphia.