Also Credited As:William Emerson Arnett
|William Emerson Arnett on May 4, 1970 in Toronto, Ontario, CA|
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Will Arnett was born on May 5, 1970, and raised in Toronto, Ontario, where he got into enough trouble that his parents sent him to an all-boys boarding school to straighten him out. Their remedy was far from successful, and after several years of getting caught drinking and smoking, the school gave up on him. Arnett went back to public school and eventually graduated. While continuing his lackluster academic efforts at several area colleges his mother encouraged the tall, handsome, but directionless teen to try acting. He auditioned for some commercials and latched onto performing right away, moving to New York City in 1990 to study acting at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute. And while he would eventually be known for his comic prowess, Arnett initially considered himself a dramatic actor, and, as such, began building his resume in off-Broadway dramatic plays. His first professional success came with voiceover work, his gravelly, authoritative voice proving to be a lucrative asset in demand by networks and movie trailers.
Arnett appeared on the big screen in the urban drama "Southie" (1999), written and directed by his friend Dave McLaughlin. He scored a guest television appearance on HBO's "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) and was cast as a series regular on the short-lived "The Mike O'Malley Show" (NBC, 1999). While suffering from a run of bad luck with several pilots that never panned out, his personal life began to look up when he met actress Amy Poehler, who, at that time, was known primarily on the New York sketch comedy scene as a founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. The pair began dating and just as his love life was taking off, Arnett's professional dance card began filling up as well, with steady TV appearances booked on "Boston Public," (Fox, 2000-04), "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) and two episodes of "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007), where he played agent Mike Waldrup. In 2003, Arnett married Poehler - who had by now become a recognizably zany cast member of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). At the same time he found himself happily hitched to his soul mate, Arnett achieved a professional breakthrough when he was cast as George Michael Bluth II on Fox's irreverent, one-camera comedy, "Arrested Development."
The show was a critical darling from its debut, with Arnett an especially popular draw for his portrayal of the eldest son of an eccentric, nouveau riche family who insists on becoming an "illusionist." Among the dizzying talent of the show's ensemble cast, Arnett stood out with his deadpan characterization of the humorless, Segway-riding son who is openly disliked by his parents. The wildly imaginative and well-written show was close to cancellation from the very beginning, due to its limited audience appeal and whip-smart humor. Despite outcries from its devotees, Fox pulled the plug in 2006 after having threatened to each year it had premiered. But Arnett had made a very strong impression on the series and the comedy offers had already begun pouring in. He appeared in the successful big screen comedy "Monster-in-Law" (2005) alongside Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda and voiced Lone Gunslinger the vulture in "Ice Age: The Meltdown" (2006), the wildly successful sequel to "Ice Age" (2002). He had a supporting role as a smarmy boss in the family road comedy "RV" (2006) starring Robin Williams, which, despite devastating reviews, did surprisingly well at the box office. Not long after, he upped his status to lead actor for the first time in "Let's Go To Prison" (2006), a low budget comedy from the mind of "Mr. Show" (HBO, 1995-98) creator Bob Odenkirk, about a criminal who teaches the naïve son of a judge how to be a thief when they become incarcerated.
Arnett's career maintained momentum with over half a dozen film roles in 2007. In the little-seen indie "Brothers Solomon," he starred as one of a pair of socially inept brothers trying to fulfill their father's dying wish for a grandchild. Other below-the-radar offerings that year included buddy Dave McLaughlin's "On Broadway" and the dark, festival favorite "Wristcutters: A Love Story." Arnett also enjoyed roles in the blockbuster comedies "Blades of Glory" (2007), where he paired with Poehler to play an over-the-top figure skating duo and rivals of cutthroat competitors Will Ferrell and Jon Heder, as well as Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille," where he voiced an authoritative sous chef.
On the small screen, Arnett earned an Emmy nomination for his recurring guest stint as the sneaky, predatory gay rival of Alec Baldwin's network executive, Jack Donaghy on "30 Rock." Arnett returned to family features the following year in the successful Dr. Seuss adaptation "Horton Hears a Who" (2008). A second pairing with Ferrell in "Semi-Pro," a 1970s-set basketball comedy, was less successful than their previous outing, though Arnett was singled out for his hilarious supporting performance as a foulmouthed sportscaster. Following a cameo as the charismatic singer of a 1980s hair metal band in the 2008 summer comedy "The Rocker" starring Rainn Wilson, Arnett had a small role in Jerry Bruckheimer's 2009 action blowout "G-Force." As always, he kept one foot in the funny with a voice role in Dreamworks' animated space tale, "Monsters vs. Aliens" (2009) and a co-starring role as a lovelorn Italian artist in the Touchstone Pictures romantic comedy, "When in Rome" (2010).
Arnett's distinctive voice and delivery continued to be one of his calling cards, and he earned great reviews for voicing the main character in the self-referential, action-parody video game "Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard" (2009) and provided one of the only redeeming features of the short-lived animated "Sit Down, Shut Up" (Fox, 2009) as an English teacher. He popped up in a small role on wife Poehler's "Parks and Recreation" (NBC, 2009- ) as a medical tech who hilariously "treats" Poehler to an MRI on their horrible first (and only) date. He also brought his unique charms to the supernatural-tinged Western "Jonah Hex" (2010) as Lieutenant Grass, a Union soldier and ally of Josh Brolin's titular bounty hunter in the adaptation of the cult comic book series. Arnett reprised his hilarious turn as the Ben Silverman-like television executive, Devon Banks, on "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-2013), and received Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 2010 and 2011.
The Arnett's personal fortunes only grew when he and Poehler welcomed a second child, Abel James, into the growing family. Back at work, Arnett co-starred with Keri Russell as an eccentric millionaire on the exceptionally short-lived "Running Wilde" (Fox, 2010-11), in addition to a recurring role as hedonistic marketing manager Brent Wilts on David Cross' U.K.-set comedy series "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" (IFC, 2010-12). Then, after the many false starts and failed sitcoms, it appeared as if Arnett had at last found series success as the co-star of "Up All Night" (NBC, 2011-12). Arnett played Chris, a lawyer-turned-stay at home dad trying to adjust to life as a new parent alongside his wife, Reagan (Christina Applegate). His distinctive voice was also heard that same year in the role of the titular sprite's protective father in the English-dubbed version of Studio Ghibli's animated fantasy "The Secret World of Arrietty" (2012). In September 2012, fans were shocked to learn that their favorite comedic couple, Arnett and Poehler, were separating after nine years of marriage. In happier news, after years of false-starts, it was announced that "Arrested Development" (Netflix, 2013- ) would return for a fourth season to be aired on Netflix's live-streaming application. Returning with Arnett were cast members Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Jessica Walter, David Cross and Jeffrey Tambor, prompting devotees of the dysfunctional Bluth dynasty to once again hold out hope for a feature film adaptation.
"Up All Night" petered out in the middle of its second season, after a conceptual retooling and some casting changes did not revive its anemic ratings. Executive producer Lorne Michaels announced that the series would return as a three-camera comedy filmed in front of a studio audience, but after creator Emily Spivey and Applegate left, it was quietly canceled. Instead, Arnett returned to network television as the star of "The Millers" (CBS 2013- ), a sitcom developed by Greg Garcia starring Arnett as a TV news reporter whose abrasive parents (Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges) divorce late in life; the series suffered from poor ratings and indifferent critics and was canceled partway through its second season. However, Arnett had a big-screen hit, playing a sarcastic take on Batman in the unexpected animated smash "The LEGO Movie" (2014), a surprisingly clever and heartfelt comedy based on the familiar construction toys.