Spalding GrayActor / Monologuist
Born: 5 June 1941
Died: 10 January 2004(?) (suicide by drowning)
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island
Best known as: Creator of Swimming to Cambodia and other monologues
By turns neurotic, brainy, funny and gloomy, Gray was known for theatrical one-man shows in which he simply sat and talked directly to the audience. His monologues were based on his own life: his small role in the movie The Killing Fields
(1984) formed the basis for the stage monologue Swimming to Cambodia
, which in turn became a hit film in 1987. Other monologues followed: Monster in a Box
referred to his attempts to write the novel Impossible Vacation
(the "monster" being the manuscript) and Gray's Anatomy
covered his search for a cure for an eye problem known as a macular pucker. Gray co-founded the experimental Wooster Group in 1977 and became a popular figure in the New York theater scene. He also had supporting roles in many films, including The Killing Fields
(1988, with Bette Midler
and The Paper
(1994, with Michael Keaton
). Gray disappeared on the evening of 10 January 2004 after being spotted on the Staten Island Ferry. Because he had often talked about death and suicide, friends feared Gray may have jumped from the ferry and drowned. His body was found two months later, on 8 March 2004, in New York's East River.
In 2001 Gray was in a severe traffic accident while touring Ireland, dislocating his hip and fracturing his skull. Friends said the injuries sent him into a deep depression… Gray’s own mother committed suicide at age 52… His character in the 1994 film King of the Hill (directed by Steven Soderbergh) also committed suicide… On the day of his disappearance, Gray saw the Tim Burton film Big Fish.
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