At the age of 82, prolific American actor Hal Holbrook became the oldest male Oscar nominee - 50 years after he first came to prominence with a one-man show as Mark Twain. The acclaimed veteran of stage and screen describes the nomination as "a miracle", but for his fans it's an honour long overdue.
Harold Rowe Halbrook Junior was born in Cleveland, Ohio on February 17, 1925, to parents Aileen a vaudeville dancer - and Harold Rowe Halbrook Sr. A project about Huckleberry Finn
author Mark Twain, undertaken while he was studying at Denison University, led him to create his famous one-man show Mark Twain Tonight
. The budding thesp, who served in the US Army in WWII, was 29 when he stepped into the shoes of an elderly version of the famed novelist. He went on to tour the country with the show, at one point performing in front of President Eisenhower.
Impressed by Hal's creativity, TV presenter Ed Sullivan gave him a slot on his show in February 1956. Hal recalled the subsequent level of attention was "so overwhelming, that it frightened me". Broadway was next, followed by a European tour. And in 1967 the show was broadcast on TV. He won both an Emmy and a Tony award for his efforts.
In 1967 Hal furthered his exposure on the small screen while racking up impressive theatre credits with his acclaimed portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in the mini-series Lincoln
. Another Emmy came for his portrayal of Hays Stowe in the 1970 TV series The Bold Ones: The Senator
. Other memorable parts included Captain Lloyd Butcher on Pueblo
and Evan Evans in early Nineties series Evening Shade
. Later TV credits included appearances in hit series The West Wing
, The Sopranos
He made his movie debut with The Group
in 1966, but despite landing starring roles on the small screen he was never cast as a movie lead normally playing fathers, military officers, lawyers and politicians. His best known film role was Deep Throat, the largely unseen informant helping to crack the Watergate case in 1976's All The President's Men
. His best performance, however, came courtesy of Sean Penn who cast him in 2007 flick Into The Wild
Hal and his third wife Dixie Carter he was previously married to Ruby Holbrook with whom he had two children and second wife Carol Eve Rossen, with whom he had one child had met Sean decades previously when they all starred in the TV movie The Killing Of Daniel Webster
. The couple had been impressed by the young actor's performance, and told him so. Sean sent a letter of thanks for encouraging him, and years later offered Hal the role of Ron Franz, an army veteran who befriends Emile Hirsch's character Chris McCandless.
''It has meant more to me than any role I've played," says Hal who, despite having a limited time on screen, made such a powerful impression he received a best supporting actor Oscar nod. An accomplished sailor and outdoors enthusiast, Hal related to the story's real-life story of a complex youngster who hiked into the wilds of Alaska."I have done a couple of things myself way out on the edge in the wilderness,'' he says. "I climbed a mountain by myself and was up there four days alone."
More poignantly, however, the story reminded him of his own son. ''He was on the road for two years, living outdoors, looking for something," says Hal. ''Even when he came to LA he lived outside in a sleeping bag... alongside the highway. I was busy, doing jobs and travelling, and couldn't really spend the time with him I should have. You spend a lot of years repairing something like that, and we have."