02/06/1972 (47 years old) Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England
The strikingly handsome and refined British actor Wentworth Miller gained his greatest notoriety as Michael Scofield on the Fox network's serial drama Prison Break. Born June 2, 1972, in Chipping Norton, England, as the son of a Rhodes Scholar, Miller moved to Brooklyn with his parents as a boy; his family relocated to Pennsylvania's Quaker country during Miller's adolescence. After high school, Miller attended Princeton University and studied English, but -- despite a love of acting that he had harbored since boyhood -- he reportedly gravitated away from drama in the pro-business atmosphere of the university. Following graduation, Miller moved to Los Angeles and held down jobs as an assistant at a film production company and a bookstore clerk while he gradually realized his own desire to act and started attending auditions. He debuted before the cameras in a one-episode role, as Gage Petronzi on the hit syndicated series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and landed another one-time stint as Mike Palmieri on ER. But he was poised to break through to more prominent roles with his turn in the 2003 Robert Benton-directed, Nicholas Meyer-scripted drama The Human Stain. That picture casts Anthony Hopkins as Coleman Silk, a Negro who has spent all his life passing as a Jew; Miller plays the young Silk, and delivers some of the most effective scenes in the film. (One memorable bit has him climbing into the boxing ring and beating a black opponent senseless, out of self hatred). Unfortunately, despite outstanding craftsmanship and winning performances all around, the public mysteriously rejected The Human Stain, and thus inadvertently held Miller back from A-list stardom. (The critics were particularly vicious about Miller's inclusion in the film -- The New York Times' A.O. Scott unfairly complained that Miller looked nothing like Hopkins, and cynically remarked that his juxtaposition alongside coal-black parents reminded one of Steve Martin in The Jerk). Miller's determination doubled, however, and he became notoriously selective, even turning down less esteemed roles to hold out for more respected films and parts. The gamble paid off: after a solid turn as Dr. Adam Lockwood in the sci-fi action thriller Underworld (2003) and a best-forgotten contribution to the embarrassing action thriller Stealth (2005) -- as the voice of the computer EDI -- the thesp landed second billing on Prison Break. His Michael Scofield is a structural engineer whose brother Lincoln sits on death row in a local penitentiary, for a crime he did not commit. Armed with a full blueprint of the prison and an outrageously complex escape plan, Michael commits a crime to have himself incarcerated and assist his brother with a breakout. The program premiered in late 2005 to solid ratings; Variety observed of the program: "Thus far, easily the most compelling element is Miller, who with his steely intensity conveys a guy capable of outwitting, outlasting, and outplaying whatever the prison and its gruff warden (Stacy Keach, billed as a guest star) can throw at him."