All the celebrities who have starred in 'Death of a Salesman'
Discover all the stage and screen stars who have tackled this iconic, Tony-winning play through the years.
Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman is widely regarded as one of the best American plays of the 20th century, having received six Broadway productions and more than 10 film adaptations. Its 1949 premiere won the Best Play Tony Award, and three of its revivals have won the Best Revival prize. The show is a haunting portrait of the salesman Willy Loman, who is in the late stages of his life and is unhappy with how he and his career have turned out. Having deluded himself for years with false, idealized memories, Willy now has to face his failings — and the fact that they may be his fault.
Since Death of a Salesman is such a renowned and juicy play, it's no wonder that celebrity actors flock to star in it. The latest to do so are Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke, who played the roles of Willy and his wife Linda, respectively, in London in 2019. Now, they're doing so again at Broadway's Hudson Theatre this fall, beginning in September. They're making history as the first Black couple to lead a major production of this show, but they're just two of the many stars who have taken on Death of a Salesman's various roles in the past 70-plus years.
In reverse chronological order, we're looking back on all the celebrities who have tackled this iconic play, from modern Hollywood favorites to stage greats to historic Golden Age stars.
Wendell Pierce leads the latest Death of a Salesman Broadway revival as Willy Loman. He previously played the role twice in London, receiving acclaim for his performances at the Young Vic and then the Piccadilly Theatre in the West End. The five-star London Theatre review of the Young Vic production called his performance "heartbreaking to watch as his life crumbles around him and he is powerless to stop it."
LT's review of the Piccadilly production, also five stars, states that he and Clarke "totally inhabit the riveting central roles of Willy Loman and his ever-loyal wife Linda; both were brilliant before, but the crumbling desperation and eager warmth they embody feels even more crushingly truthful." That performance earned Pierce a 2019 Olivier Award nomination.
Besides Death of a Salesman, you might recognize Pierce from his many roles on screen, such as Detective Bunk Moreland in The Wire, Robert Zane in Suits, and appearances in the films Malcolm X and Selma.
Sharon D Clarke
Sharon D Clarke just made her Broadway debut in 2021 in the title role of the musical Caroline, or Change, a role she first played in London's West End. She earned a Best Actress Olivier Award win and a Tony Award nomination, respectively, for her performances on each side of the pond. It almost feels like deja vu to say she's now returning to Broadway as Linda Loman, also reprising a lauded London role.
The London Theatre review of her performance at the Young Vic calls her "a tower of support and resilience," and the Piccadilly review praises her as "long one of the secret weapons of the London musical theatre and dramatic stage... with a toweringly sympathetic but also completely unsentimental performance."
Clarke is mainly known for her roles in British theatre and TV; she's won two other Oliviers and has appeared in dozens of films and TV shows in the UK. American audiences might not be as familiar with her storied career, but you'll become a fan after seeing this Tony-nominated actress perform in Death of a Salesman.
André De Shields
Also in the star-studded cast of the 2022 Death of a Salesman is André De Shields, who wrapped his Tony-winning run as Hermes in Broadway's Hadestown in May. He now plays Uncle Ben in this revival. His career on stage and screen spans decades; on Broadway, he's played the Wizard of Oz in The Wiz, the Jester in the Duke Ellington musical Play On!, and the original Noah "Horse" T. Simmons in The Full Monty. He received Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations for Play On! and The Full Monty.
One notable stage/screen crossover of De Shields's is Ain't Misbehavin' — he performed in the 1978 premiere and its 1988 revival, and in between, he earned an Emmy Award for the filmed broadcast of the production. He's also appeared in TV shows like Cosby, Sex and the City, and Law & Order.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
The most recent Broadway Death of a Salesman revival was at the Barrymore Theatre in 2012, when Philip Seymour Hoffman played Willy Loman. It was his third and final Broadway role, following starring gigs in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Sam Shepard's True West. He received Tony Award nominations for all three.
A screen legend, Hoffman has won an Academy Award (and received three additional nominations), BAFTA, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award. His many credits, up until his death in 2014, include Scent of a Woman, Capote, The Big Lebowski, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Almost Famous, among dozens more. Another film credit is Synecdoche, New York, within which Death of a Salesman is featured.
Coincidentally, another Arthur Miller play, All My Sons, is what got Hoffman interested in acting at a young age.
Before winning a Best Leading Actor Tony Award for Angels in America, Andrew Garfield got a Best Featured Actor Tony nomination for playing Biff in Death of a Salesman in 2012. The production marked his Broadway debut, but has done plenty more theatrical projects, including Angels on Broadway and in London's West End. The Tony-winning director of that play, Marianne Elliott, also co-directed Pierce and Clarke's Death of a Salesman in London and won an Olivier Award for her work.
You may also know Garfield from his many TV and film roles, like Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network (Golden Globe nomination), Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge (Oscar nomination), and Jonathan Larson in tick, tick... BOOM! (Golden Globe win).
Another celebrity in the 2012 Death of a Salesman Broadway cast is Bill Camp, who just starred opposite his wife, Elizabeth Marvel, in Long Day's Journey into Night off Broadway in February. Ten years before, he played the role of Charley, Willy's neighbor, in Salesman. And four years later, in 2016, Camp got a Tony nomination for starring in another Miller play on Broadway: The Crucible, as Reverend John Hale alongside Saoirse Ronan.
On screen, you've seen Camp in films like Lincoln, 12 Years a Slave, Loving, Molly's Game, and Joker. He's also an Emmy Award nominee for his performance in the TV series The Night Of.
Philip Seymour isn't the only Hoffman to star in Death of a Salesman. Back in 1984, Dustin Hoffman took up the Willy Loman mantle at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre. He played opposite Kate Reid as Linda, and the pair reprised their roles a year later in a television film adaptation. (Their Broadway co-stars John Malkovich and Stephen Lang also reprised their roles for the film.) Hoffman won the 1986 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor - Miniseries or a Movie.
Since landing his breakout role in The Graduate, Hoffman has starred in films like All the President's Men, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Meet the Fockers, and dozens more. He has a total of two Oscars, two Emmys, six Golden Globes, and three Drama Desk Awards (including one for Death of a Salesman).
Alongside Hoffman in Death of a Salesman on stage and screen was John Malkovich as Willy's son, Biff. He made his Broadway debut with the role and later won the 1986 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor - Miniseries or a Movie for his performance in the film version. He is mainly a screen actor, having been nominated for two Oscars, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and a BAFTA.
Malkovich's many film credits include The Killing Fields, Dangerous Liaisons, Of Mice and Men, Ripley's Game, Warm Bodies, and Bird Box.
The third Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, in 1999, starred Brian Dennehy as Willy Loman. He won his first of two Tony Awards for his performance, the second being for Long Day's Journey into Night (which future Salesman stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Camp also acted in — there seems to be a trend!). Dennehy, who died in 2020, performed on Broadway until 2014 and has been inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Dennehy also has many film credits, like First Blood, F/X, Romeo + Juliet, and Ratatouille. Like Dustin Hoffman, Dennehy would also go on to star in a Death of a Salesman TV film after playing Willy on Broadway, earning a Golden Globe Award.
Cameron Mitchell is yet another actor who made the Death of a Salesman stage-to-screen jump. He originated the role of Happy Loman, Willy's second son, in the premiere Broadway production of Death of a Salesman in 1949. He got a 1949 Theatre World Award for his performance, and two years later, he and his Broadway co-star Mildred Dunnock (who played Linda) reprised their roles in the first Death of a Salesman film adaptation. He's also appeared in films like Les Misérables (1952) as Marius and How to Marry a Millionaire as Tom Brookman.
For playing Linda Loman in the 1951 Death of a Salesman film adaptation, Hollywood Walk of Fame and American Theater Hall of Fame honoree Mildred Dunnock got an Academy Award nomination, her first of two. (The second was for Baby Doll five years later.) First, though, she originated the role in the 1949 Broadway premiere. She'd go on to play the role one more time in the 1966 TV film adaptation.
The late Fredric March starred as Willy in the 1951 Death of a Salesman film, taking over the role from original Broadway star Lee J. Cobb. He kicked off the trend of Death of a Salesman actors also performing in Long Day's Journey into Night — the latter won him his second of two Tony Awards, after Years Ago. He's also a two-time Oscar winner, for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Best Years of Our Lives. He and Helen Hayes remain the only performers to have won two Oscars and two Tonys.
Alongside March and Dunnock in the Death of a Salesman movie was Kevin McCarthy as Biff. He's best known for starring in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but the role of Biff won him acclaim: he earned a Golden Globe Award win and an Academy Award nomination.
Lee J. Cobb
Two-time Oscar nominee Lee J. Cobb (for On the Waterfront and The Brothers Karamazov) was the original Willy Loman. He created the role on Broadway in 1949 later in his stage career; it was his fourth-to-last Broadway show out of nearly 20. He later starred in a 1966 TV film version of the play, and Cobb has also appeared in films like 12 Angry Men and Come Blow Your Horn, both of which got him Golden Globe nominations. He was a 1981 inductee into the American Theater Hall of Fame.