Peter Frederick Weller was born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, to Dorothy Jean (Davidson) and Frederick Bradford Weller, a federal judge and career helicopter pilot for the United States Army. He traveled extensively as his father literally flew around the world. Before he was out of his teens, he had attended high schools in Heidelberg, Germany and San Antonio, Texas, then enrolled the University of North Texas — attracted by the chance of playing trumpet in one of the college’s celebrated jazz bands. Music is in his family. Three generations on his mother’s side were piano players and jazz is still his overriding interest. Ask him who his favorite performer in any art form is and he will say Miles Davis. It was with a B.A. in Theatre and a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts that he left Texas for New York. Two weeks after graduating, he made his first appearance on Broadway as David in Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival production of David Rabe’s “Sticks and Bones”, a role he repeated on the London stage.
While a student of legendary actress and drama coach, Uta Hagen, Weller appeared on and off Broadway in works like William Inge’s “Summer Brave”, Thomas Babe’s “Rebel Women” and “Full Circle”, one of the last plays directed by Otto Preminger. He began garnering critical acclaim with his portrayal of Billie Wilson in “Streamers”, directed by Mike Nichols for Joseph Papp at Lincoln Center. He continued that success with his performances as Cliff in “The Woolgatherer” and as Nick in the first American production of David Mamet’s “The Woods”. During this period, he became a member of the highly respected Actor’s Studio, under the aegis of Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg.
Weller’s film debut was in Richard Lester’s Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979). He then co-starred with Alan King and Ali MacGraw in Sidney Lumet’s Just Tell Me What You Want (1980) and, with Albert Finney and Diane Keaton, in Alan Parker’s Shoot the Moon (1982). Other film credits include Firstborn (1984) with Teri Garr, the HBO made-for-TV Apology (1986), co-starring Lesley Ann Warren, and Of Unknown Origin (1983), the film which won Weller the Best Actor award at the Paris International Film Festival for his performance as an upwardly mobile bachelor with a serious rat problem. That same film also marked his first association with Leviathan (1989) director George P. Cosmatos.
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