Date of Birth : Oct 24th 1947
Kline was born in St. Louis, Missouri to Robert Joseph Kline, a classical music buff who owned and operated The Record Bar, the largest toy and record store in St. Louis, and Peggy (Kirk), whom Kline has described as the “dramatic theatrical character in our family”. His father’s family also owned Kline’s Inc., a department store chain. He has two younger brothers, Alex and Christopher, and an older sister, Kate. Kline’s father was an Agnostic of German Jewish descent and his Irish American mother, the daughter of an immigrant from County Louth, was Catholic. Kline was raised in his mother’s faith and graduated from the Catholic Saint Louis Priory School in 1965. He attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where he began as an aspiring classical pianist, but after joining the on-campus theater group “Vest Pocket Players” as an undergraduate, he fell in love with the theater and switched to acting, graduating from IU in 1970.
In 1970, Kline was awarded a scholarship to the newly formed Drama Division at the Juilliard School in New York. In 1972, he joined with fellow Juilliard graduates, including Patti Lupone and David Ogden Stiers, and formed the City Center Acting Company (now The Acting Company), under the aegis of famed British actor John Houseman. The Company traveled across the U.S. performing Shakespeare’s plays, other classical works, and the musical The Robber Bridegroom, founding a dedication and mission unparalleled in American repertory theatre.
In 1976, Kline left The Acting Company and settled in New York City, doing a brief stint as the character “Woody Reed” in the now-defunct soap opera Search for Tomorrow. He followed this with a return to the stage 1978 in the small role of “Bruce Granit”, a matinée idol caricature, in Hal Prince’s On The Twentieth Century, for which he won his first Tony Award. In 1981, Kline paired up with rock diva Linda Ronstadt and singer Rex Smith in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Central Park production of The Pirates of Penzance, winning another Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, for his comically dashing portrayal of the Pirate King. He later played the role in a film version of the musical, also with Ronstadt, which had a limited theatrical release.
In the ensuing years, Kline appeared many times in New York Shakespeare Festival productions of Shakespeare, including starring roles in Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, two productions of Hamlet (one of which he also directed) and a Tony-nominated Falstaff in a production that combined the two parts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Dubbed “the American Olivier” by New York Times theater critic Frank Rich for his stage acting, Kline finally ventured into film in 1982, winning the coveted role of the tormented and mercurial Nathan opposite Meryl Streep in Alan Pakula’s Sophie’s Choice. Streep won an Academy Award for her performance in the film, and Kline was nominated for a Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for best debut performance.
Though he has been offered many roles that could have boosted him to box-office stardom, Kline has kept a wary distance from the Hollywood star-making machine and developed a reputation for picking parts with discrimination (such as strong roles in Grand Canyon and Life as a House), leading to the industry moniker “Kevin Decline”. Other awards have included Drama Desk Awards, Golden Globe awards, a Gotham Award, a Hasty Pudding Theatricals Man of the Year Award, and a St. Louis International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award. He also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Most recently, he played the title role in King Lear at the Public Theatre, and is soon to play the lead role in a Broadway production of Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Jennifer Garner.
The Kevin Kline Awards honor theater professionals in St. Louis in a wide array of categories, which include best actor and actress, set design, choreography, and original play. The first awards ceremony took place on March 20, 2006.