Rip Torn

Capable of shifting from unctuous charm to snarling menace in a split second, character actor Rip Torn is liable to steal almost any scene he's in. Born Feb. 6, 1931, in Temple, Texas, he took up acting to buy a ranch. His dreams of easy riches faded, however, when he failed to become an instant star.

But Torn's perseverance paid off, and he made his film bow in Baby Doll (1956) before moving to the Big Apple to study at the Actors Studio. He soon turned up on live TV shows such as "Omnibus," and big-screen roles followed, with Torn delivering acclaimed performances in movies such as Payday (1973) and 1983's Cross Creek (for which he earned an Oscar nod).

In 1992, Torn began playing caustic producer Artie on "The Larry Sanders Show," a part that won him an Emmy. Torn has since appeared in several prominent films, including 1997's Men in Black (and its 2002 sequel) and Wonder Boys (2000).