“You would recognize him immediately if you saw his picture.” That’s what people say about actors who have achieved the level of success of Patrick Kilpatrick, R’72. An English major and history minor, Kilpatrick says he was not at all theatrical during his Richmond years. In fact, he crossed the threshold of Camp Theatre exactly once.
I looked in and remember thinking that actors were sort of weird,” he says.
Now Kilpatrick enjoys a successful Hollywood career working with directors such as Steven Spielberg and Tony Richardson and actors such as Tom Cruise in Minority Report and Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing. Kilpatrick specializes in action films and bad guy roles—and at six-two, 200-plus pounds, he looks the part. He’s acted with Jean-Claude Van Damme twice, playing the title role in The Sandman and a smaller part in Death Warrant. He’s had starring or lead roles in more than a dozen movies and more fight scenes than he can recall.
“I’ve been beaten up by every leading man in Hollywood,” he quips.
Kilpatrick also has appeared on more than 30 television shows including ER, the X-Files, a recurring role on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and most recently as a murderer on Blind Justice.
He was also, he says, “the kiss of death” for a couple of long-running soap operas. The Edge of Night had been on about 25 years and closed two weeks after he joined the cast. Another World had been around 31 years and, he says, “I closed it in two weeks, too.” General Hospital, however, survives despite his appearances on that soap.
Kilpatrick also has acted on stage in New York and in regional theaters, including leading roles in Requiem for a Heavyweight and Anthony & Cleopatra. Yet, with all his acting experience, he thinks of himself primarily as a writer.
“After I graduated from Richmond,” he says, “I went to New York and spent six years writing for ad agencies and for Time Inc., then freelancing for Playboy and Rolling Stone magazines among others. Then I wrote a play that got produced, and that started me on a theatrical career.” Once he was hooked, he went to acting school in New York for two years, which confirmed his original opinion that actors are weird. “But now,” he says, “I revel in weird. All you care about in this business is, can a person deliver the goods? But I have to say this life has been a circus.”
Kilpatrick still writes, developing projects for his own production company, Uncommon Dialogue Films.
“I’m working on five projects right now that are historical in nature: war stories, the rape of Nanking, one about women pirates—stories that need to be witnessed. So I’m still indulging my old interests in both history and literature,” he says.
Though he never had a theatre course at Richmond, he studied creative writing, painting and sculpture.
“For the sculpting class,” he recalls, “I’m afraid I stole a bunch of the billiard balls off the pool tables in the student center. I drilled holes in them and inserted wires and made a kinetic sculpture. I felt kind of bad about that because I actually played a lot of pool when I was there.”
Kilpatrick’s family figures prominently in his Richmond memories. His dad, Robert Kilpatrick, R’48, was captain of the baseball team and a longtime trustee.
“Dad struck out the senior George Bush when the Spiders played Yale,” he notes.
Patrick’s mother, Faye Hines, W’48, married Robert Kilpatrick in the chapel, and Patrick’s brother and sister attended Richmond, too.
“The University,” says Kilpatrick, “is a big part of my history. I want to bring my sons there soon to take a look at it. It’s still the most beautiful school I’ve ever seen, and it really did help me prepare for what I do. The most important thing I did there was read books. That’s what English and history students did then, and I hope it’s what they still do. I left there with the mind of a writer. When I die, I think I’ll be able to say I used every part of myself, and most of what I was given. Richmond helped to give me intellect, physicality, language skills—and I’m still doing research. My education serves me well.”
Editor’s Note: Many alumni have succeeded in the performing arts without majoring or minoring in theatre, dance or music at the University. The group includes actor Grant Shaud, R’83, who starred in the Murphy Brown and Oliver Beene television series for years; Steve Buckingham, R’71, a Grammy Award-winning producer and musician; and Patrick Kilpatrick, the prolific actor, writer and producer profiled above. While Richmond’s performing arts programs can’t claim credit for the dozens of alumni who have succeeded “on their own” in show business, the performers themselves often credit the broad curriculum at Richmond and the creativity it inspired.