James Rebhorn, best known for his role as the Secretary of Defense in 1996’s Independence Day has died. He was 65. Born in Philadelphia, his family moved to Indiana when he was still in childhood. He attended Wittenburg University, majoring in Political Science. From there it was off to Columbia’s Art School in NYC where he picked up a MFA.
He began his acting career on stage before making his movie debut in The Yum Yum Girls in 1976. He had other roles early in his career in He Knows You’re Alone and Silkwood, while doing a lot of work in made for TV movies and guest shots on TV shows.
From there he moved on to more film roles, playing a variety of character types. He was an FBI analyst in My Cousin Vinny, a doctor in Regarding Henry and a stuffy private school headmaster in Scent of a Woman. In the mid-1990s he had roles in Guarding Tess, White Squall, Up Close & Personal and If Lucy Fell before landing a plum role in Independence Day. One of the best moments of that film is when Rebhorn’s “Secretary of Defense Nimzicki” hears “President Whitmore” (Bill Pullman) say “The only mistake I ever made was to appoint a sniveling little weasel like you Secretary of Defense. However, that is a mistake, I am happy to say, that I don’t have to live with. Mr. Nimzicki, you’re fired!”
He went on to play roles in many more films, a list that includes The Game, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Baby Mama, Meet the Parents, and Cold Mountain. He also appeared in television, doing a multiple episode-arc on “Third Watch,” a recurring role on “Law & Order” and most recently on “Homeland.”
He had been suffering from skin-cancer since 1992 and finally succumbed at home on March 21st. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.