David Schwimmer shot to worldwide fame back in the ’90s; at that time, some even touted him as Hollywood’s next big star. As it happens, though, Schwimmer wasn’t destined to be an A-lister. In fact, he isn’t even seen much on TV or in movies anymore. And if you’re wondering exactly why Schwimmer has seemingly vanished from our screens, then read on to find out…
Chances are, of course, that you know Schwimmer best as Ross Geller from the incredibly popular award-winning sitcom Friends. That show boosted Schwimmer’s career exponentially, making him one of television’s most recognizable faces of the ’90s and early ’00s.
Even from an early age, though, Schwimmer showed a penchant for acting by appearing in school plays. The young performer then decided to hone his budding skills by majoring in theater and speech at Northwestern University in Illinois.
Furthermore, it wasn’t long after Schwimmer’s graduation from university that he decided to form his very own enterprise: the Lookingglass Theatre Company. Perhaps in an effort to branch out beyond the stage, though, the aspiring star began to look for other parts on TV and in the movies.
And Schwimmer made some sacrifices to become a bona fide actor, often scraping by with very little reward. Then, in 1989, he had a small breakthrough when he was cast in the television movie A Deadly Silence. What’s more, in time, other acting gigs began to fill up his resumé.
In the early ’90s, for example, Schwimmer appeared in shows such as L.A. Law, The Wonder Years and NYPD Blue. He also bolstered his public profile on the big screen with roles in smaller films such as Crossing the Bridge, Twenty Bucks and The Waiter.
And it seemed as if all of Schwimmer’s hard work and dedication to his craft had finally paid off when he was cast in a sitcom starring none other than Happy Days legend Henry Winkler. Sadly, however, Monty was canceled after just six episodes – unceremoniously sending Schwimmer back to square one again.
In 1994, though, Schwimmer got his big break. After auditioning for the part of Ross Geller in Friends, he secured the role – and his portrayal of the goofy paleontologist would win the actor fans across the globe. Schwimmer’s turn in the popular sitcom would even earn him an Emmy Award nomination for his efforts.
And Schwimmer’s Friends success seemed to pave the way for appearances in other projects, such as 1996’s The Pallbearer, 1997’s Breast Men and 1998’s Kissing a Fool. However, the actor’s role as Geller remained arguably his most enduring part, right up until the Friends finale in 2004.
In fact, Schwimmer remains virtually synonymous with Geller to this day. And perhaps that’s partly down to the star’s absence from TV and movie screens in recent years; as a result, he’s not had the chance to become renowned in another big role. There’s a few reasons why Schwimmer has seemingly disappeared from Hollywood, however.
First of all, the typecasting that sometimes comes with an iconic television role also apparently applied to Schwimmer after Friends had wrapped up. Indeed, the actor has since reflected on how his stint on the sitcom may have ultimately hindered his chances of landing more varied parts.
In 2016 Schwimmer told The Hollywood Reporter, for instance, “There’s less of a barrier [to getting to know a TV star] than there is with, say, a big movie star. You see them in this other kind of a space with a lot of other people on a big screen. And you see that their role changes in every movie, for the most part.”
Schwimmer went on, “[Movie stars are] very different people in very different situations, whereas in our show I’m the same guy for ten years. You can rely on me to be a certain way, and you know me – or you think you know me.” Perhaps, then, Schwimmer’s reputation preceded him – for better or for worse.
It may be fair to say, though, that Schwimmer has a greater acting range than Ross Geller suggests. The star’s no-nonsense portrayal as Captain Herbert Sobel in Band of Brothers, for example, arguably shows off his true abilities as a performer – so, too, does his self-aware performance in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Perhaps Schwimmer’s greatest chance to shine outside of Friends, though, came in 2005 drama Duane Hopwood. And, indeed, the film sees Schwimmer deliver a riveting performance as a father trying to overcome alcoholism and to cope with divorce and a custodial battle for his two children. But despite receiving plaudits from the likes of Roger Ebert, the movie didn’t garner much of an audience.
Plus, there may well have been other factors to Schwimmer’s seeming absence from Hollywood. His denunciation of sexual harassment at a time when most other entertainment figures were quiet on the matter may not have been received cordially by some, for example. His desire to lead a private life away from the cameras may have kept him out of the spotlight, too.
Another of the reasons we rarely see Schwimmer on screen now, though, could be because he’s since switched his attention to what goes on behind the camera. Yes, the actor’s transitioned into the directorial realm in recent years, helming movies such as Run Fatboy Run and Trust as well as TV shows such as Little Britain USA and Growing Up Fisher.
Furthermore, Schwimmer has also spent time on stage, making his West End debut in London in the 2005 comedy Some Girl(s). Since then, he’s appeared in other theatrical productions such as Our Town, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial and Detroit – even if critical adulation hasn’t always been forthcoming.
And, of course, the former Friends star has kept busy by voicing Madagascar’s Melman the Giraffe. So, while Schwimmer may not have been seen that often at movie theaters over the last decade, he’s certainly been heard in them.
Given how Schwimmer’s career has fared in recent years, though, perhaps he’d like to be part of a Friends reunion? Apparently that’s not the case, according to show co-star Courtney Cox. She slyly told the Daily Mail in 2015, “We’ve gotten about 80 percent there. But there’s always one person who flakes at the end. I’m not going to name names, but it may not be Schwimmer.”
And perhaps Schwimmer doesn’t need Friends anymore. After all, in 2016 the actor was heralded for his emotive performance in the FX miniseries American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson. What’s more, the star even notched up an Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of Robert Kardashian. It could be, then, that we end up seeing a lot more of the man in the future…