Studied acting at New York's famed Herbert Berghof Studio after serving in the U.S. Air Force. Before his acting career took off, worked as a lumberjack, janitor and short-order cook. While living in Rome, dubbed Italian films into English and appeared in films by neorealist director Roberto Rossellini. First high-profile screen role was in Clint Eastwood's 1979 prison thriller Escape From Alcatraz. His acclaimed performance as doomed astronaut Gus Grissom in The Right Stuff (1983) led to one of his few starring roles, in 1985's Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.