He has appeared in more than 30 films and played everything from a cheating husband in the drama "Terms of Endearment" to Jim Carrey's clueless friend in the comedy "Dumb and Dumber."
Daniels visited The Early Show to discuss his current movie release, "The Hours," and his upcoming Civil War movie, "God And Generals."
"The Hours" interweaves the lives of three women during a single day. All three live on the edge of happiness and despair and are connected through Virginia Woolf's novel, "Mrs Dalloway." Nicole Kidman plays Woolf as she writes the novel, Julianne Moore plays an unfulfilled and isolated 1950s housewife reading the novel; and Meryl Streep plays a modern working woman whose life mirrors it.
"The Hours" places Daniels face to face with Streep as a memory she would rather forget.
He says his character's purpose in the film is to get Streep's character to keep moving in her life and not be burdened by her surroundings. He says the part is small, but his was the one character able to leave burdens behind.
Daniels says he was honored for the invitation to work on "The Hours" because of the talent associated with the film. He says he had no idea it would receive the acclaim it has.
The soon-to-released "Gods and Generals" is Daniels' next movie. The film is a sceen adaptation of Jeff Shaara's heralded best-selling novel and prequel to the acclaimed drama "Gettysburg." The novel is an epic portrayal of a nation divided at the start of the Civil War — beginning in early 1861 and continuing through 1863, just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. Daniels plays a professor who gives up his career to join the Union Army.
Daniels was born in Athens, Ga., on Feb. 19, 1955. Reared in Michigan, Daniels attended Michigan University in Mount Pleasant with the intention of becoming a teacher, although he minored in theater. But he caught the acting bug at school.
After he was cast by guest director Marshall W. Mason in a production of "Summer and Smoke" in his junior year, he dropped out of college and moved to New York City to work with Mason at the Circle Repertory Company. Beginning as an apprentice, Daniels eventually made his stage debut with the company in 1976. He went on to become a successful theatrical actor in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Daniels entered films with the small role of a policeman who breaks up a fight between Coalhouse Walker and the fire chief in "Ragtime" (1981). From there, he went on to act in such movies as "Terms of Endearment" (1983), Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo" (1985) and the offbeat comedy-thriller, "Something Wild" (1986)
In 1994, he teamed with Keanu Reeves in the action movie "Speed" and displayed a goofy side in the comedy with Jim Carrey in "Dumb and Dumber"
Films of Jeff Daniels:
- "I Witness" (2003)
- "Gods and Generals" (2003)
- "The Hours" (2002)
- "Blood Work" (2002)
- "Super Sucker" (2002)
- "Escanaba in da Moonlight" (2001)
- "Chasing Sleep" (2000)
- "Cheaters" (2000)
- "The Crossing" (2000)
- "All the Rage" (1999)
- "My Favorite Martian" (1999)
- "Saturday Night Live: The Best of Chris Farley" (1998)
- "Pleasantville" (1998)
- "Trial and Error" (1997)
- "101 Dalmatians, a Canine's Tale" (1996)
- "101 Dalmatians" (1996)
- "2 Days in the Valley" (1996)
- "Fly Away Home" (1996)
- "Redwood Curtain" (1995)
- "The Making of 'Speed'" (1994)
- "Dumb & Dumber" (1994)
- "Speed" (1994)
- "Gettysburg" (1993)
- "There Goes the Neighborhood" (1992)
- "Rain Without Thunder" (1992)
- "Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story"(1992)
- "Grand Tour: Disaster in Time" (1992)
- "Love Hurts" (1991)
- "The Butcher's Wife" (1991)
- "Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael" (1990)
- "Arachnophobia" (1990)