Jonathan Kimble Simmons was born on January 9, 1955 in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, the son of Patricia (née Kimble), an administrator, and Donald William Simmons, a middle school music teacher. In 1965, when he was 10 years old, his family moved to Worthington, Ohio. In 1973, when he was 18, they moved to Missoula, Montana, where his father became director of the School of Music at the University of Montana. The younger Simmons graduated from the University of Montana in 1978 with a music degree, where he joined Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.
In Broadway, Simmons played Benny Southstreet in the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls, and in 1994, he sang multiple roles in the Wagner opera satire, Das Barbecu. He also played the role of Jigger in a revival of Carousel with the Houston Grand Opera and starred in the 1987 Off-Broadway musical Birds of Paradise.
Film and television roles
Simmons is known for his television roles as Dr. Emil Škoda, a police psychiatrist, who has appeared on three of the four incarnations of Law & Order and New York Undercover, and as sadistic neo-Nazi inmate Vernon Schillinger on the prison drama Oz. He also stars as Ralph Earnhardt, the father of race-car driver Dale Earnhardt, in 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story. He plays Will Pope, Assistant Chief of the LAPD, in the series The Closer. In an interesting precursor to his joining the Law & Order cast as Škoda, Simmons appeared in Homicide: Life on the Street, portraying a criminal in a Law & Order cross-over episode. Other roles include that of an army general in the television sitcom Arrested Development, and Dan the Barber in the surreal Nickelodeon kid's show The Adventures of Pete & Pete in 1995.
He played B.R. in the film Thank You For Smoking (2005) and has been praised for his performance in Juno (2007) as "Mac" McGuff, the title character's father. In all three of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films Simmons played J. Jonah Jameson (as well as in the expanded video game adaptation of Spider-Man 3). In 2008, Simmons played a CIA superior in Burn After Reading and appeared in Postal as Candidate Wells. He also appeared in I Love You, Man.
Simmons has starred in several films produced or directed by his friend Jason Reitman, including Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air, and Jennifer's Body. In 2013, he had a small role as Mr. Jervis in Reitman's film Labor Day. He voices Tenzin, an Airbending master and the son of Aang and Katara, in the 2012 Nickelodeon series The Legend of Korra. He starred as blind lawyer "Mel Fisher" in Growing Up Fisher.
In 2014, Simmons starred as Terence Fletcher in Whiplash. Fletcher is an intensely demanding conductor at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music, where he bullies and cajoles the protagonist, Andrew Neiman, played by Miles Teller. The wide acclaim for Simmons's performance includes an Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actor. Rolling Stone said "Beat the drums for an Oscar for Simmons". Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times said "Simmons delivers one of the most memorable performances of the year." Entertainment Weekly summed up the reaction by saying Simmons's performance "has been universally praised" and that he was "a leading contender for Best Supporting Actor". On January 11, 2015 Simmons won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture for his role in Whiplash. On February 22, 2015, Simmons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actorat the 87th Academy Awards for his role in the 2014 film Whiplash.
In January 2015 Simmons was cast in a leading role in the upcoming film Kong: Skull Island. Simmons has performed a substantial number voice-over roles alongside his live action work. Several of these have arisen from his J. Jonah Jameson character in Spider-Man films, including voices of two newspaper editors in episodes of the eighteenth season of The Simpsons. While unnamed, these characters are clearly meant to emulate Jameson (one, bearing Jameson's appearance, demands "pictures of Spider-Man", then on being reminded he works at a poetry journal, demands "poems about Spider-Man"). Likewise, Simmons voiced an editor-in-chief of a newspaper (with Jameson's appearance and mannerisms) for a 2013 episode of The Hub's Pound Puppies.
He has resumed his role as the voice of J. Jonah Jameson in the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and Avengers Assemble. He said he would like to reprise the role again in Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man series, a reboot of the Spider-Man film series. Other voice-over work is heard in friend Reitman's film Young Adult, as the protagonist's boss via a series of voicemails. Simmons provides the voice of the yellow M&M in the product's commercials, as well as the 3-D film I Lost My M in Vegas, playing at M&M's World in Las Vegas. He has also done voice-over work for Norelco razors. He also provided the voice of General Wade Eiling in Wikipedia:Justice League UnlimitedJustice League Unlimited. He recorded an audiobook for Tom Clancy's Net Force: Point of Impact.
In the world of television commercials, Simmons has been featured as Professor Nathaniel Burke of the University of Farmers in television commercials for Farmers Insurance Group, beginning in 2010.
Simmons appears as the anti-communist U. S. President Howard T. Ackerman in the video game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 and a series of promotional advertisements parodying the 2008 presidential elections. In these advertisements, he offers himself (as Ackerman) as an alternative to other, unnamed presidential candidates and uses the slogan "Vote for me, if you want to live."
Simmons and his wife, Michelle, have two children: Joe and Olivia.
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- J.K. Simmons at the Internet Broadway Database.