Born in Los Angeles but raised in Manhattan and educated at Middlebury College and Carnegie-Mellon University, James Cromwell, the son of famous film director John Cromwell, studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon. He went into the theater (like both his parents) doing everything from Shakespeare to experimental plays. He started doing television in 1974, gaining some notice in a recurring role as Archie Bunker's friend Stretch Cunningham on Arcibaldo (1971), made his film debut in 1976, and goes back to the stage periodically. Some of his more noted film roles have been in La rivincita dei nerds (1984), Primo contatto (1996) and the surprise classic about a charming pig, Babe, maialino coraggioso (1995). He garnered some of the best reviews of his career (many of which said he should have received an Oscar) for his role as a corrupt, conniving police captain in L.A. Confidential (1997).