Haley was born on July 14, 1961, and raised just outside Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. His mother had been a singer who turned to oil painting and his father was a radio DJ who had the idea that his son should also be in show business. His father landed him an agent and by the age of 10, Haley was a professional actor, appearing in television commercials, guest spots on top primetime shows like "The Partridge Family" (ABC, 1970-74) and "The Waltons" (CBS, 1972-1981). The child actor also launched a voice-over career with characters on animated TV shows like "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home" (syndicated, 1972-74), "These Are the Days" (ABC, 1974-76) and "Valley of the Dinosaurs" (CBS, 1974-76). In 1975, Haley made his feature film debut with a small role in John Schlesinger's grotesque, fantastical adaptation of Nathanael West's Hollywood portrait, "The Day of the Locust" (1975). The following year the actor made a name for himself in the family film classic, "The Bad News Bears" (1976), establishing his juvenile delinquent persona as Kelly Leak - a cigarette-smoking, motorbike-riding, authority-scoffing addition to a rag tag baseball team coached by a drunk former minor leaguer (Walter Matthau) and saved by a female pitching prodigy (Tatum O'Neal).
The absence of stars Matthau and O'Neal from "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" (1977) transformed Leak into the sequel's central focus. His character reunited with a long lost father (William Devane) and helped the team make it to the Houston Astrodome. After a supporting role in the post-apocalyptic actioner "Damnation Alley" (1977), Haley reprised Leak a final time in the least successful offering of the franchise, "The Bad News Bears Go to Japan" (1978). In 1979, Haley gave one of the best performances of his early career in the light drama "Breaking Away" (1979), where he was perfectly cast as a post-high school working class townie and one of a group of best friends involved in a continual class war with the students of the local university. Immature, always looking for a fight, and destined for a minimum wage life with his pregnant girlfriend, Haley was oddly sympathetic and inarguably realistic in the milestone film that went on to earn half a dozen Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture. When it was adapted into a television series the following year, Haley enjoyed another short run as his character, Moocher.
In Haley's final teen movie role, he co-starred alongside Tom Cruise in the forgettable sex comedy Losin' It (1983), about a group of teens that take a road trip South of the border to lose their virginity. Haley hit Broadway the same year, co-starring with Val Kilmer, Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn in the drama "Slab Boys," but soon after, found himself aged out of his reliable niche. Like many a child actor before and after, his phone stopped ringing. He voiced the cartoon series "Rick Moranis in 'Gravedale High'" (NBC, 1990) and took the only screen offers that came his way, starring in increasingly low budget horror and sci-fi thrillers like Dollman () and Nemesis (1993). The post-child actor identity crisis set in and Haley, who had never planned for a life doing anything but acting, became an anonymous working stiff, driving a limousine, delivering pizza, and making for a not-very-threatening security guard at only 5'5"inches. With a fierce tenacity many of his early film characters would have admired, Haley finally admitted that his acting career was over and focused on building a new career in production. He trained in all aspects of pre- and post-production, eventually finding a niche in commercials. He moved to San Antonio, TX, where he launched his own company JEH Productions.
In his early forties, the commercial director and business owner who had finally made peace with his past got an unexpected phone call and discovered that, unlike Haley suspected, not everyone had forgotten about him. Director Steve Zaillian tracked down the former kid star who he thought would be a perfect casting choice for a small role as a thuggish bodyguard in All The King's Men (2006). Zaillian's adaptation of the Robert Penn Warren novel about the rise and fall of an idealistic politician (Sean Penn) sadly missed the mark with both critics and audiences, but Haley did make a noticeable impression with his imposing onscreen presence, putting him back on the industry radar. He immediately followed up with a bravura performance in Little Children (2006), playing a convicted sex offender who is ostracized by the citizens of the staid suburban town where he has moved in with his mother. The former "where are they now?" actor blew critics away with his raw, gutsy performance, raking in wins for Best Supporting Actor from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, the Chicago Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle. He also earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nod for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role and an honor that would have seemed unthinkable in his pizza delivery days - an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
At the age of 45, the "character" looks that were a hindrance to Haley at age 21 proved an asset, sending more acting offers his way. While still holding down the fort at his Texas production company, Haley took time out to make a cameo in the 1970s-set Will Ferrell sports comedy Semi-Pro (2008), obviously an homage to Haley's role in one of the best-loved sports comedies of the 1970s. The following year, Haley played the father of a teen boy struggling with the aftermath of witnessing a shooting spree and murder at a small town restaurant in "Winged Creatures" (2009), starring Forest Whitaker, Kate Beckinsale and Dakota Fanning. On a seemingly unstoppable roll, Haley rose to the top of the marquee with a lead part in the big budget comic book adaptation, Watchmen (2009), where he gave a strong showing as Rorschach, the key figure of a team of vigilante superheroes who uncover government conspiracy amid a Cold War environment. Haley's second act continued to be filled with unimaginable opportunities, and later in the year he had a supporting role as a mental patient in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island (2010), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo as detectives investigating a disappearance at a Massachusetts mental hospital.
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