Who was Michael Jeter?
The late American actor Robert Michael Jeter was born in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee USA, on 26 August 1952, meaning that Virgo was his zodiac sign. He appeared in 80 movies and TV series, and is perhaps remembered best for playing Percy in the 2003 romantic comedy movie “Open Range”, which starred Kevin Costner, who also directed it; it follows a former gunslinger who has to take up arms again because corrupt lawmen are after him; the movie won one of its six award nominations.
Michael died from an epileptic seizure at his home on 30 March 2003, aged 50.
Education and early life
Michael was raised in Lawrenceburg alongside his four sisters and brother William, by their father William Claud Jeter who was a dentist and who passed away on 1 March 2010, aged 87, and mother Virginia (nee Raines) who was a housewife and who died on 21 May 2019, aged 92.
Michael studied at a local high school, and was passionate about several activities during his time there, as he took dance lessons, appeared in school plays and played soccer. He matriculated in 1970 and then enrolled at Memphis State University, wanting to study medicine; he dropped out after he fell in love with acting, and honed his skills at the Playhouse on the Square and the Circuit Theatre, appearing in a number of plays performed at both.
Michael eventually moved to Baltimore, Maryland in pursuit of more roles.
Roles in movies
Michael’s debut film role was playing Sheldon in the evergreen 1979 musical comedy “Hair – based on the stage production – which starred John Savage and Treat Williams, and was directed by Milos Forman. It follows Claude Bukowski who’s come from his family ranch in Oklahoma to New York City, and has been embraced by a hippie group; the movie won two of its seven award nominations.
Some of Michael’s following roles were in the 1979 drama “My Old Man”, the 1980 romantic comedy “The Mating Season” and the 1981 drama “Ragtime”. In 1984, he portrayed Messenger in the musical “Sentimental Journey”, which starred David Dukes and Jaclyn Smith, and was directed by James Goldstone and William Cosel; it follows the lives of a precocious child, a Broadway producer and hear husband. The remainder of the ‘80s saw Michael appear in the 1986 comedy “The Money Pit”, and in 1989 the crime action “Dead Bang” and the action crime comedy “Tango & Cash”.
He attracted a lot of attention with his portrayal of Homeless Cabaret Singer in the evergreen 1991 fantasy comedy “The Fisher King”, which starred Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams, and was directed by Terry Gilliam. It follows a former radio DJ as he’s helping out a deranged homeless man, and the film won 14 of its 53 award nominations, including an Oscar win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mercedes Ruehl).
Michael’s also remembered for portraying Old Gregor in the 1995 action science fiction adventure “Waterworld”, which starred Jeanne Tripplehorn and Kevin Costner, and was directed by Kevin Reynolds. It follows a mutated mariner as he’s searching for land in a post-apocalyptic submerged Earth, and the movie won six of its 15 award nominations, including an Oscar nomination for Best Sound.
In 1999, Michael played Eduard Delacroix in the critically acclaimed crime fantasy “The Green Mile”, which starred Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan, and was based on Stephen King’s book. It follows the officers who are running a small jail, and have discovered that inmate John has healing powers; the movie won 15 of the 52 awards for which it was nominated – the website IMDb has ranked it #29 best movie of all time.
Some of Michael’s final film roles were in the 2004 animated adventure comedy “The Polar Express”, the 2006 family drama “Elmo’s World: Pets!” and the 2007 family drama “Elmo’s World: What Makes You Happy?”, all voice roles, and all released posthumously.
Roles in TV series
Michael played Max Galt in the 1980 episode “Dogs” of the crime drama “Lou Grant”, and he was then cast to appear in the romantic drama “Search for Tomorrow”, the comedy “Night Court” and another comedy “Designing Women”.
In 1988, he portrayed Dr. Art Makter in all seven episodes of the drama “Hothouse”, which starred Josef Sommer and Michael Learned, and was created by Jay Presson Allen. It follows the lives of people employed at a mental hospital.
In 1993, Michael portrayed Carson Callas in two episodes of the romantic mystery mini-series “Tales of the City”, which starred Donald Moffat and Olympia Dukakis, and follows the lives of several people from San Francisco, California; the mini-series won three of its eight award nominations.
From 1990 through 1994, he starred as Herman Stiles in all 99 episodes of the popular comedy “Evening Shade”, which also starred Elizabeth Ashley and Burt Reynolds, and was created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. It follows a former professional Football Player who’s moved back to his hometown in Arkansas, and has begun coaching a high school football team; the series won nine of its 41 award nominations.
Michael’s final three TV series roles were voicing Nate Horowitz in the 2002 episode “Gerald’s Game” of the animated comedy “Hey Arnold!”, playing Bill Jeffries in two episodes of the 2002 mystery science fiction mini-series “Taken”, and voicing Mr. Noodle in 40 episodes of the family comedy “Elmo’s World” from 1998 through 2003.
Michael directed the 1992 episode “The Perfect Birthday Party, Sort Of” of the comedy series “Evening Shade”.
He received special thanks for the 2003 romantic action movie “Open Range”, the 2004 documentary movie “Beyond the ‘Open Range’”, and the animated adventure comedy film “The Polar Express” also in 2004, and all posthumously.
Some of Michael’s last talk-show appearances were in “The Whoopi Goldberg Show”, “The Directors” and “Sesame Street”.
Awards and nominations
Michael won six of his 15 award nominations. Some of his wins were a 1992 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, for “Evening Shade”, three Viewers for Quality Television Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Comedy Series in 1991, 1992 and 1993, all for “Evening Shade”, and a 2004 Western Heritage Award for Theatrical Motion Picture, for “Open Range” (posthumously).
Love life and boyfriend
Michael preferred to keep the details of his love life to himself, but still occasionally spoke about it in interviews.
In the first half of the ‘90s, he revealed that he was gay, and had met his partner, American non-celebrity man Sean Blue in 1995; the two remained together until Michael’s death. In a 1997 interview on the talk-show “Entertainment Tonight”, Michael revealed that he’d tested positive on HIV, but he still remained healthy for years; he had also previously revealed that he’d been struggling with alcohol and drug addiction for a while, but was finally clean.
There are no other men whom Michael had perhaps been with, that we know about; he was in a long-term relationship with Sean Blue at the time of his death, didn’t marry and had no children.
Michael’s remains were cremated, and Sean was given his ashes.
Interesting facts and hobbies
Michael’s sisters’ names are Larie, Emily, Amanda and Virginia.
It was his boyfriend Sean who found him dead at his home.
For his performance in the Broadway musical “Grand Hotel”, Michael won the prestigious Tony Award.
He was active with a number of charity organizations, and mostly enjoyed donating to HIV research and underprivileged children.
Michael wasn’t into playing sports, but still enjoyed playing golf occasionally with his friends.
One of his favorite actors was Marlon Brando, and some of Michael’s favorite movies were “On the Waterfront”, “The Godfather” and “Last Tango in Paris”.
Appearance and net worth
Michael would’ve been 70 today. He had blue eyes and brown hair, was 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall and weighed around 145lbs (65kgs).
At the time of his death, Michael’s net worth was estimated at over $2 million.