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William B. Davis (1938)

William Bruce Davis

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William Bruce Davis is a Canadian actor and director, known for his role as The Smoking Man on The X-Files. Besides appearing in many TV programs and movies, Davis founded his own acting school the William Davis Centre for Actors Study. In his personal life, Davis is an avid water-skier, works with the Canadian Cancer Society and lectures on skepticism most recently at CSICON . In 2011 Davis published his memoir, Where There’s Smoke .... The Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man.


 early life
Davis was born in Toronto, Ontario, to a lawyer father and psychologist mother. He began his acting career as a child in 1949, in radio drama and summer stock theatre. His cousins Murray and Donald Davis ran The Straw Hat Players in Ontario in the late forties and early fifties and rehearsed in the basement of Davis' house before going north for the summer. When they needed a boy they gave William his first professional acting job. He went on from there to have a career as a boy actor on CBC radio before his voice broke. In 1955 he enrolled in the University of Toronto studying philosophy but really pursuing his career as an actor along with other prospects like Donald Sutherland. In 1959, he graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in philosophy. While at university he switched his attention from acting to directing and with his partner, Karl Jaffary, took over and ran The Straw Hat Players for four years.

In 1960 he went to England to train at LAMDA . He worked in the U.K. for the next five years directing in rep theaters and acting schools. He was artistic director of the Dundee Repertory Theatre. His last position in the UK was as an assistant director at The National Theatre of Great Britain under Laurence Olivier where he worked with Albert Finney, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, and Ronald Pickup among others. He returned to Canada in 1965 to work at The National Theatre School of Canada and soon, at the age of 28, was appointed artistic director of the English Acting Section. During this period he was also active as a free lance director at major Canadian theatres. In 1971 he joined the newly formed Drama Department at Bishop's University in Lennoxvile, Quebec. While there he became the founding artistic director of Festival Lennoxille, a professional summer theatre that ran for the next decade.

Returning to Toronto in the late seventies Davis spent several years as a radio drama director and on the faculty of Humber College. In demand as an acting teacher during this period he offered himself as an actor after being away from acting for nearly twenty years. He was landing a number of roles on stage and film before accepting the position of artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse Acting School on the other side of the country. Davis writes in his memoir, "And so, in the fall of 1985, we hitched our second hand boat to our second hand car and drove across the country".

While his time at the Vancouver Playhouse was short-lived, he remained in Vancouver where he founded his own acting school, The William Davis Centre for Actors Study,a training ground for several future stars including Lucy Lawless, Xena: Warrior Princess. Acting roles became more frequent leading to his iconic role, The Cigarette Smoking Man, on The X-Files where he made frequent appearances for the next nine years. In addition to X-Files Davis has played a wide range of roles, on series from Stargate to Smallville and a host of television movies and other projects. From time to time he attends fan conventions, signing autographs and copies of his memoir.

In recent years Davis has returned to directing for theatre and film. He wrote and directed three short films and co-wrote and directed several episodes of a television series for CBC Television, 49th & Main. In 2011 he directed two plays for The United Players of Vancouver, Waste by Harley Granville Barker and Hay Fever by Noël Coward.

 personal life
Despite being known for his smoking character, Davis quit smoking in the 1970s; when The X-Files started up, he was given a choice between herbal cigarettes and actual cigarettes. At first he chose the actual cigarettes, but switched to herbal shortly after for fear of becoming addicted again while playing the Cigarette Smoking Man. Davis used his notoriety on the show to assist The Canadian Cancer Society in its programs to combat smoking.

He is also a former national champion water skier and for a time held various records in older age divisions. In a conversation with Brendan Beiser Davis states he holds the record for tricks in his age category, and until recently "I did hold the slalom record until this past year until some young whippersnapper of 65 from Ontario took the record away from me".

Davis now divides his time between North America and France where he recently married Emmanuelle Herpin who lives and works in the south of France. He has two daughters, Melinda and Rebecca, from an earlier marriage.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "William B. Davis", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.