Zahn in 2008
Steven James Zahn
November 13, 1967
Marshall, Minnesota, U.S.
|Education||Gustavus Adolphus College|
Harvard University (MFA)
Steven James Zahn (; born November 13, 1967) is an American actor. He also works regularly in television, including the recurring role of Davis McAlary on HBO's Treme (2010 to 2013) and Ronnie LaFontaine on ABC's Modern Family (2014-2015). He won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for his performance in Happy, Texas and he was later nominated again for the same award for his performance in Rescue Dawn.
Zahn was born in Marshall, Minnesota, the son of Carleton Edward Zahn, a Lutheran minister, and Zelda Clair Zahn, a bookstore clerk and later a YMCA administrator. His father is of German and Swedish descent, and his mother is of German ancestry. Zahn spent part of his childhood in Mankato, Minnesota, attending Kennedy Elementary School, and moved to the suburbs of Minneapolis for high school, where he acted in school plays and became a two-time Minnesota state speech champion. He graduated from Robbinsdale Cooper High School in 1986, planning eventually to join the United States Marine Corps.
Zahn attended Gustavus Adolphus College for one semester but dropped out after seeing the original West End production of Les Misérables. "I remember sitting through the second act thinking, I'm as good as that guy standing on the barricade," Zahn recalled. "I wanted to be part of the circus." In 1991, Zahn made his professional stage debut in a Minnesota production of Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues after falsely claiming to be a member of Actors' Equity. His fellow actors suggested that Zahn study acting, inspiring him to enroll in American Repertory Theater's two-year training program. At A.R.T., he worked with the venerated stage director Andrei ?erban.
In 1991, Zahn formed the Malaparte theater company with a group of actor friends, including Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard. From 1991 to 1992, he played Hugo Peabody in a national tour of Bye Bye Birdie starring Tommy Tune, and subsequently appeared in two Off-Broadway plays, Sophistry and Eric Bogosian's Suburbia.
After his breakout film role in 1994's Reality Bites, Zahn quickly gained a reputation for playing amiable stoners, slackers, and sidekicks in films such as That Thing You Do! (1996), You've Got Mail (1998), and Out of Sight (1998). In the 1990s, Zahn was often approached by fans who assumed that he was an archetypal Generation X slacker, which was not the case. He has said, "I'm the guy who gets up at six without an alarm clock. I was always that guy."
In 1999, Zahn landed his first starring role in the critically acclaimed indie film Happy, Texas, for which he won a Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In the wake of Happy, Texas, Zahn began playing darker, more nuanced characters. He received Oscar buzz for his role as Drew Barrymore's deadbeat ex in Riding in Cars with Boys (2001), and played the investigative journalist Adam Penenberg in Shattered Glass (2003). A longtime Werner Herzog fan, Zahn campaigned for the role of Vietnam prisoner of war Duane W. Martin in Herzog's 2007 film Rescue Dawn; to prepare for the role, he lost 40 pounds by eating mostly raw food.
In 2017, Zahn played Bad Ape in War for the Planet of the Apes. He researched the role by watching chimp videos on YouTube, and later said that the motion capture process and lengthy digital takes made Bad Ape "the most challenging acting job I've ever had".
Zahn met author and theater artist Robyn Peterman in 1991 while they were performing in a national tour of Bye Bye Birdie; Peterman is the daughter of clothier J. Peterman. The couple married in 1994 and have two children, Henry (b. 2000) and Audrey (b. 2002). They live on a 360-acre horse farm outside Lexington, Kentucky, where Zahn gardens and raises horses, goats, and sheep. He and his wife also run a local community theater, in which Zahn occasionally performs. He also has a lake cabin near Pine City, Minnesota, where he enjoys tubing and fishing with his two children.
Zahn is a lifelong military history buff and has said that one of his biggest regrets was having turned down a role in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. In 2007, he was awarded an honorary Ph.D in Fine Arts from Northern Kentucky University. A University of Kentucky sports fan, Zahn is often seen at games and events.
|1992||Rain Without Thunder||Jeremy Tanner|
|1994||Reality Bites||Sammy Gray|
|1995||Crimson Tide||William Barnes|
|1996||Race the Sun||Hans Kooiman|
|That Thing You Do!||Lenny Haise|
|1998||The Object of My Affection||Frank Hanson|
|Out of Sight||Glenn Michaels|
|You've Got Mail||George Pappas|
|1999||Forces of Nature||Alan||Nominated - Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actor - Comedy/Romance|
|Freak Talks About Sex||Freak|
|Happy, Texas||Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr., aka David||Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male|
Special Dramatic Jury Prize for Best Comedic Performance
Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
|Stuart Little||Monty (voice)|
|2000||Chain of Fools||Thomas Kresk|
|Dr. Dolittle 2||Archie (voice)|
|Joy Ride||Fuller Thomas|
|Riding in Cars with Boys||Ray Hasek|
|2002||Stuart Little 2||Monty (voice)|
|2003||Daddy Day Care||Marvin|
|National Security||Hank Rafferty|
|Shattered Glass||Adam Penenberg|
|2004||Employee of the Month||Jack|
|2005||Chicken Little||Runt of the Litter (voice)|
|Rescue Dawn||Duane||Nominated - Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male|
|2008||The Great Buck Howard||Kenny|
|Strange Wilderness||Peter Gaulke|
|Unstable Fables: 3 Pigs and a Baby||Sandy Pig (voice)||Direct-to-DVD|
|2009||Night Train||Pete Dobbs|
|A Perfect Getaway||Cliff Anderson|
|2010||Calvin Marshall||Coach Little|
|Diary of a Wimpy Kid||Frank Heffley|
|2011||Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules||Frank Heffley|
|2012||Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days|
|Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Class Clown||Frank Heffley (voice)||Short film|
|2013||Escape from Planet Earth||Hawk (voice)|
|Dallas Buyers Club||Tucker||Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|Knights of Badassdom||Eric|
|2015||The Good Dinosaur||Thunderclap (voice)|
|The Ridiculous 6||Clem|
|2016||Captain Fantastic||Dave||Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|2017||War for the Planet of the Apes||Bad Ape (voice)||Also motion-capture|
Nominated - Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Motion Capture Performance
|Lean on Pete||Silver|
|2019||Where'd You Go, Bernadette||David Walker|
|Tall Girl||Richie Kreyman|
|2020||Uncle Frank||Mike Bledsoe|
|1990||All My Children||Spence||Episode #5303|
|1993||South Beach||Lane Bailey||Episode: "Pirates of the Caribbean"|
|1995||Friends||Duncan||Episode: "The One with Phoebe's Husband"|
|Mike & Spike||Nick Pickles (voice)||Episode: "Person to Clothes"|
|Picture Windows||Crook||Episode: "Armed Response"|
|1997||Liberty! The American Revolution||American Sergeant||4 episodes|
|1998||From the Earth to the Moon||Astronaut Elliot See||Miniseries|
Episode: "Can We Do This?"
|2008||Comanche Moon||Augustus "Gus" McCrae||3 episodes|
|2008-2012||Phineas and Ferb||Swampy/Sherman (voices)||3 episodes|
|2009||Monk||Jack Monk, Jr.||Episode: "Mr. Monk's Other Brother"|
|WWII in HD||Nolen Marbrey (voice)||3 episodes|
|2010-2013||Treme||Davis McAlary||Regular, 36 episodes|
|2014||Mind Games||Clark Edwards||Regular, 13 episodes|
|2014-2015||Modern Family||Ronnie La Fontaine||Recurring role, 4 episodes|
|2015-2016||Mad Dogs||Cobi||Series regular, 10 episodes|
|2018||The Crossing||Jude Ellis||Series lead, 11 episodes|
|2019||Valley of the Boom||Michael Fenne||Main|
|2020||The Healing Powers of Dude||Dude (voice)||Main|
|2020||The Good Lord Bird||Chase||Episode 2|
|2005||Chicken Little||Runt of the Litter|