Some actors take decades to break into the business, while others simply walk through the door and land the part. Stage performer and movie star Tom Hulce certainly falls into the latter category. His first ever acting gig came on Broadway, starring opposite Anthony Perkins – evidence that natural ability can sometimes trump life experience. From then on, Hulce appeared in cinema classics such as Animal House, Dominick and Eugene, and of course, Amadeus. However, since the mid-’90s, Hulce has practically vanished from our screens. So, what happened? Well, the reason for his disappearance is interesting to say the least…
He may have wanted to be a singer when he was younger, but Tom Hulce likely had no regrets when he decided instead to pursue an acting career. Indeed, Hulce more than proved his worth in the thespian world, appearing in some of the most popular movies of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
Born in 1953 in Detroit, Michigan, Hulce was raised in Plymouth, MI, along with his three siblings. He was the youngest child of Joanna and Raymond Hulce. His mom sang in Phil Spitalny’s All-Girl Orchestra for a while, while his dad worked for Ford.
Clearly, Tom took after his mother. At 15, Hulce decided to leave home in order to to pursue his passion for the arts. This saw him studying at both the Interlochen Arts Academy and the North Carolina School of the Arts. Then, in 1975, his bold decision to follow his dreams paid off.
It was in this year that Hulce first took to the stage, starring alongside Anthony Perkins in the Broadway play Equus. It was a big step up, but one that Hulce thrived on – despite being a relative novice at the time.
With some stage work under his belt, then, it wasn’t long before Hulce found himself thrust into the cinema limelight. He kicked things off in 1977 with an appearance in the movie September 30, 1955. Moreover, his first film role proved to be a success, and things got even better the following year…
That’s right, 1978 saw him star in arguably one of the most influential comedies ever: the cult classic Animal House. Starring opposite John Belushi, Hulce proved he could hold his own with his portrayal of Larry “Pinto” Kroger. Equally importantly, the film raised Hulce’s profile to a greater extent than ever before.
All of this would culminate in Hulce’s most famous role to date as the lead in 1984’s Amadeus. Directed by Miloš Forman, and based on the play of the same name, the movie adaptation became an overwhelming success. It scooped up various gongs, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. Moreover, it also saw Hulce receive his very first Oscar nomination, thanks to his portrayal of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
In the decade following Amadeus, Hulce continued to star in more well-received movies, including Dominick and Eugene, Parenthood and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. However, by the mid-’90s, Hulce was becoming less and less of a fixture on our screens.
Indeed, he’s made only the occasional credited appearance in recent years, such as a small role in 2006’s Stranger Than Fiction and another in 2008’s Jumper. All of which begs the question: where exactly did Tom Hulce disappear to? Well, you may be surprised by the answer…
Much of it has to do with Hulce’s own desires – he simply doesn’t want to act anymore. Yes, after providing the voiceover for The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996, Hulce basically decided to put his acting career on hold. As he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2004, “My brain just changed.”
He added, “The very particular concerns of climbing inside the fictional circumstances of a part became much less compelling to me than looking at the full concerns of a story and putting all of the pieces together.” Evidently, appearing in front of the camera wasn’t enough to satisfy Hulce’s creative juices.
With that in mind, Hulce’s next move was to get more involved behind the scenes – and not just on movie sets. In fact, Hulce returned to the theatre, putting together a supremely impressive 1998 stage adaptation of The Cider House Rules. The production required an extensive two days to fully play out for audiences.
As the noughties rolled on, Hulce found himself more in a producer role, adding his expertise to musicals such as American Idiot and Spring Awakening. The latter turned out to be a big success, nabbing eight Tony Awards in 2007 for its tale of teenagers becoming acquainted with their sexual urges.
In 2004 Hulce also served as a producer on the Colin Farrell-led drama A Home at the End of the World. But while production work has certainly kept Hulce busy as of late, there could also be another factor at play with regards to his absence in front of the camera: privacy.
Yes, despite an acting career that stretches back to the ’70s, not a lot is known about Hulce’s personal life. He keeps things under wraps for the most part, but he’s willing to point out inaccurate reporting when he sees it – such as old claim on Wikipedia that he was married with two children.
Speaking to Seattle Gay News in 2008, Hulce said, “That information – having a wife and child – is false. In the world of the internet, there are many falsehoods. Anyone can write stuff on Wikipedia and it doesn’t have to be true.” Meanwhile, his flat-out dismissal of the story also fueled rumors that Hulce is gay.
These rumors were exacerbated when Hulce almost starred in Take Me Out – a drama about a top baseball player who comes out to his teammates. Hulce was originally penned in for the project before dropping out for reasons unknown.
However, before his unexpected exit from the production, Hulce seemed to be excited about it. He told Backstage in 2004, “This is a very intriguing moment for me. I would love it if this is kind of a re-engagement that becomes part of a vocabulary of work for me.”
Moreover, Hulce’s lack of recent screentime could also be down to the fact that he’s happy where he’s at geographically: Seattle. After all, the city is not the hotbed for movie parts that, say, Los Angeles is. But the real reason behind his absence seems to be that, in the 1990s, he simply fell out of love with performing.
As for the present day, well, Hulce’s upcoming project The Seagull is slated for a release in 2018. The movie, an adaptation of the iconic play of the same name, will again see Hulce in the producer role. As to when we will see him in an acting capacity once again, well, that’s anyone’s guess. Judging by Hulce’s past decisions, only he knows the answer to that one.