James Rebhorn, a character actor who appeared in dozens of popular movies and television shows and recently starred on the Showtime hit “Homeland,” died Friday at his home in South Orange, N.J. He was 65.
The cause was melanoma, his agent, Dianne Busch, said.
Rebhorn had memorable supporting roles in major films and worked consistently in television and theater. He appeared in more than 50 films, including “Meet the Parents,” “Independence Day,” “My Cousin Vinny” and “Cold Mountain.”
In the acclaimed political thriller “Homeland,” now in its fourth season on Showtime, he played the pivotal role of Frank Mathison, the father of Carrie Mathison, the CIA officer played by Claire Danes. The show has chronicled how both father and daughter have grappled with bipolar disorder.
Tall and lanky with an ever-receding hairline, Rebhorn liked to joke that his characters tended to wear suits, whether he was the secretary of defense in “Independence Day,” the 1996 blockbuster about an alien invasion, or an assistant district attorney in the ballyhooed series finale of “Seinfeld.”
On stage, Rebhorn was active in the Roundabout Theater Company and appeared on Broadway in a successful 2004-05 revival of “Twelve Angry Men,” playing a juror; in the short-lived “Prelude to a Kiss” in 2007; in Arthur Miller’s “The Man Who Had All the Luck” in 2002; and a production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” in 1988-89, among other plays.
Last year he played a character with Alzheimer’s disease in Meghan Kennedy’s “Too Much, Too Much, Too Many,” at the Roundabout Underground’s Black Box Theater.
“Although his role is perhaps the play’s smallest, Rebhorn gives a beautiful portrait of a man struggling to come to terms with his faltering mind,” critic Charles Isherwood wrote in The New York Times.
James Rebhorn was born on Sept. 1, 1948, in Philadelphia. He said he had considered becoming a Lutheran minister but ultimately decided to study political science and theater at Wittenberg University in Ohio. He then moved to New York and received a master’s degree in fine arts from Columbia University.
Rebhorn began working in theater and television commercials as well as on soap operas before he started appearing in films. In the 1980s, he acted in a number of television movies and the theatrical release “Silkwood.” In the 1990s, he had supporting roles in films like “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Scent of a Woman,” “Basic Instinct,” “Carlito’s Way,” “Lorenzo’s Oil” and Woody Allen’s “Shadows and Fog.” More recently, he appeared in “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” and “Sleepwalk With Me,” both in 2012. He continued to work in television as well, appearing in “Law & Order” and “The Practice,” and he had recurring roles on USA’s “White Collar” and on HBO’s “Enlightened.”
He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Linn, and his daughters, Hannah and Emma.
In an interview in 2007, Rebhorn said that he had tried to do one play every year because he enjoyed the immediate feedback from the audience. He allowed that it could be difficult to escape the roles people were used to seeing him in — the lawyers and politicians — but he noted that he had recently played a farmer in a Hallmark Hall of Fame special called “Candles on Bay Street.”
“It was a small role, but it was a pleasure to be a character who doesn’t wear a suit,” he said.