Donnie Wayne Johnson (born December 15, 1949) is an American actor, producer, director, singer and songwriter. He played the role of James "Sonny" Crockett, in the 1980s television series Miami Vice, winning a Golden Globe for his work in the role. He also played the protagonist, Nash Bridges, in the 1990s series Nash Bridges.
Donnie Wayne Johnson
December 15, 1949
Flat Creek, Missouri, U.S.
|Partner(s)||Patti D'Arbanville (1981–1985)|
|Children||5, including Jesse and Dakota|
Donnie Wayne Johnson was born on December 15, 1949 in Flat Creek, Missouri. His mother, Nell (née Wilson) (1933-1975), was a beautician. His father, Fredie Wayne Johnson (1930–2017), was a farmer. At the time of his birth, Johnson's mother and father were 16 and 19 years old, respectively. Johnson was raised in poverty in Wichita, Kansas, where his parents relocated when he was six years old.
He graduated from Wichita South High School, where he was involved in the high school's theater program. As a senior, he played the lead role of Tony in West Side Story. His biography noted that he had previously appeared in Burnt Cork & Melody and The Hullabaloo. After graduating from high school in 1967, he enrolled at the University of Kansas as a theater major, but dropped out after one year. He subsequently relocated to San Francisco, California, to attend the American Conservatory Theater.
Johnson's first major role was in the 1969 Los Angeles stage production of Fortune and Men's Eyes, in which he played the lead role of Smitty. The play included a "shockingly realistic prison rape" scene portrayed by Johnson. This exposure led to the quickly forgotten film The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970). Johnson continued to work on stage, film and television without breaking into stardom. His notable films from this period were Zachariah (1971), The Harrad Experiment (1973) (a film in which Johnson displayed frontal nudity), Lollipop and Roses (1974) and A Boy and His Dog (1975). In 1976, Johnson was the roommate of actor Sal Mineo at the time Mineo was murdered.
In 1984, after years of struggling to establish himself as a TV actor, Johnson landed a starring role as undercover police detective Sonny Crockett in the Michael Mann/Universal Television cop series, Miami Vice. The show ran from 1984 to 1990. Miami Vice made Johnson "a major international star". According to Rolling Stone, "No one had more swagger in the Reagan era than Don Johnson. As Miami Vice‘s Sonny Crockett, the undercover detective and professional stubble-cultivator who lived on a houseboat with his pet alligator Elvis, he embodied masculine cool in the era of coke binges and Lamborghinis". The Sonny Crockett character typically wore thousand-dollar Versace and Hugo Boss suits over pastel cotton T-shirts, drove a Ferrari, wore expensive timepieces by Rolex and Ebel, and lived on an Endeavour yacht. Miami Vice was noted for its revolutionary use of music, cinematography and imagery; and for its glitzy take on the police drama genre. In the show, Crockett's partner was Ricardo Tubbs, played by Philip Michael Thomas.
Johnson's work on Miami Vice earned him a Golden Globe Award, for Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama, in 1986. Johnson was nominated for the same award in 1987. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1985.
Between seasons on Miami Vice, Johnson gained further renown through TV miniseries such as the 1985 remake of The Long, Hot Summer. During the time he was on Miami Vice, he had set up an hour-long music video/pay cable program in the works, with videocassette versions of the programs Johnson had hosted being handled by distributor CBS/Fox Video, and the upcoming product will be a tie-in to his first album Heartbeat, which would be available for CBS/Epic Records.
Johnson later starred in the 1996–2001 CBS-TV police drama Nash Bridges with Cheech Marin, Jeff Perry, Jaime P. Gomez, Kelly Hu, Wendy Moniz, Annette O'Toole, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe as his daughter Cassidy, and James Gammon as his father Nick. Johnson portrayed the title role, an inspector (later promoted to captain) for the San Francisco Police Department. In Nash Bridges, Johnson was again paired with a flashy convertible car, a yellow 1971 Plymouth Barracuda.
In the fall of 2005, Johnson briefly starred in The WB courtroom television drama show Just Legal as a jaded lawyer with a young and idealistic protégé/partner (Jay Baruchel); the show was canceled in October 2005 after just three of the eight produced episodes aired. In January 2007, Johnson began a run in the West End of London production of Guys and Dolls as Nathan Detroit.
Johnson also had a role in the Norwegian comedy Lange Flate Ballær 2 ("Long Flat Balls II"), directed by Johnson's friend Harald Zwart. Johnson did the movie as a favor to Zwart. The movie was launched on March 14, 2008 in Norway, with Johnson making an appearance at the premiere. He next appeared in When in Rome with Danny DeVito, Anjelica Huston and Kristen Bell.
Johnson had a supporting role in Robert Rodriguez's film Machete. Johnson played Von Jackson, "a twisted border vigilante leading a small army". The film was released on September 3, 2010. In October 2010, he began appearing on the HBO series Eastbound & Down, playing Kenny Powers' long-lost father, going by the alias "Eduardo Sanchez". He also reprised his role as Sonny Crockett for a Nike commercial with LeBron James in which the NBA player contemplates acting and appears alongside Johnson on Miami Vice.
In September 2011, Johnson had a cameo in the comedy A Good Old Fashioned Orgy with Jason Sudeikis. Johnson had a supporting role in the 2012 Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, playing a southern plantation owner named Spencer 'Big Daddy' Bennett. In 2014, Johnson starred as the character "Jim Bob" opposite Sam Shepard and Michael C. Hall in Jim Mickle's critically acclaimed crime film, Cold in July. In 2015, Johnson began starring in the ABC prime time soap opera Blood & Oil.
In 2018, he starred as the character of Arthur, the love interest of Vivian, played by Jane Fonda in Bill Holderman's romantic-comedy Book Club. In 2019, Johnson played the role of Richard Drysdale in Rian Johnson's murder-mystery Knives Out; and starred as Police Chief Judd Crawford in the HBO series Watchmen.
Johnson released two albums of pop music in the 1980s. Heartbeat was released in 1986. Let it Roll was released in 1989. His single "Heartbeat" reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
"Till I Loved You", a duet with then-girlfriend Barbra Streisand, was a top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It was released on the Columbia Records studio album Till I Loved You on October 25, 1988. The song was re-released on the Streisand album Duets in 2002.
In 1986, Johnson achieved his first motor sport victory. He won a 1,100-mile powerboat race up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Louis. Characterized by shipmates as an aggressive, fearless pilot who did not make mistakes, Johnson was named the American Power Boat Association's 1988 World Champion of the Offshore World Cup.
Relationships and familyEdit
Johnson has been married five times to four women. Three of his marriages were brief; the first two were annulled within a matter of days. The names of Johnson's first two wives have not been made public, though they are said to have been a dancer and a "rich bimbo".
During the first half of 1972, Johnson met Melanie Griffith, the 14-year-old daughter of his Harrad Experiment co-star Tippi Hedren. When Griffith was 15, she and Johnson began living together in a rented house in Laurel Canyon. On her 18th birthday they became engaged, and were married in January 1976; they separated that July and divorced in November. They reunited close to the start of 1989, and gave birth to a daughter, Dakota Johnson (born October 4, 1989) and were married again from that year until 1996.
In January of the following year, he met former Warhol model Patti D'Arbanville at a Los Angeles restaurant. The pair lived together from 1981 to 1985, but never married. Johnson and D'Arbanville have a son, Jesse Wayne Johnson (born December 7, 1982).
On April 29, 1999, Johnson married San Francisco socialite and Montessori nursery school teacher Kelley Phleger, former longtime girlfriend of Governor Gavin Newsom, at the Pacific Heights mansion of Ann and Gordon Getty. Actor Robert Wagner served as best man, and Mayor Willie Brown presided over the civil ceremony. Johnson and Phleger have three children together: a daughter, Atherton Grace (born December 28, 1999), and two sons, Jasper Breckinridge (born June 6, 2002), and Deacon (born April 29, 2006).
In November 2002, German customs officers at the Swiss–German border performed a routine search of Johnson's car. Bank statements evidencing US$8 billion in transactions were found in the trunk of his car. He was accompanied in his black Mercedes-Benz by three men: an investment adviser, a personal assistant, and a third unknown individual who could not be identified. Initially it was thought Johnson was involved in money laundering, but he was cleared of wrongdoing.
In July 2010, a Los Angeles jury awarded Johnson $23.2 million in a lawsuit against production company Rysher Entertainment, from whom Johnson sought a share of profits commensurate with his ownership of half the copyright of Nash Bridges. Rysher announced it would appeal the verdict. In January 2013, Rysher settled the suit with a $19 million payment.
|1970||The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart||Stanley Sweetheart|
|1973||The Harrad Experiment||Stanley Cole|
|1974||Lollipops, Roses and Talangka||Franky|
|1975||A Boy and His Dog||Vic|
|1975||Return to Macon County||Harley McKay|
|1981||Swan Lake||Benno (voice)||English version|
|1981||Soggy Bottom, U.S.A.||Jacob Gorch|
|1982||Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp||Wazir's Son (voice)||English version|
|1985||Cease Fire||Tim Murphy|
|1987||G.I. Joe: The Movie||Lieutenant Vincent R. Falcone / Lieutenant Falcon (voice)||Direct-to-video|
|1988||Sweet Hearts Dance||Wiley Boon|
|1989||Dead Bang||Jerry Beck|
|1990||The Hot Spot||Harry Madox|
|1991||Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man||Robert Lee Edison / The Marlboro Man|
|1993||Born Yesterday||Paul Verrall|
|1993||Guilty as Sin||David Edgar Greenhill|
|1996||Tin Cup||David Simms|
|1998||Goodbye Lover||Ben Dunmore|
|2007||Moondance Alexander||Dante Longpre|
|2008||Long Flat Balls II||Admiral Burnett|
|2008||Torno a vivere da solo||Nico||Johnson's voice is dubbed by Roberto Pedicini|
|2010||When in Rome||Mr. Martin||Uncredited|
|2011||Four Loko Vineyards||Mr. Four Loko||Short film|
|2011||A Good Old Fashioned Orgy||Jerry Keppler||Uncredited|
|2011||Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star||Miles Deep|
|2012||Django Unchained||Spencer 'Big Daddy' Bennett|
|2014||Cold in July||Jim Bob Luke|
|2014||The Other Woman||Frank Whitten|
|2015||Alex of Venice||Roger|
|2017||Vengeance: A Love Story||Jay Kirkpatrick|
|2017||Brawl in Cell Block 99||Warden Tuggs|
|2018||Dragged Across Concrete||Lieutenant G. Calvert|
|2019||Vault||Gerard 'Gerry The Frenchman' Ouimette||Also executive producer|
|2019||Knives Out||Richard Drysdale|
|TBA||Unit 234||Also executive producer|
|1971||Serge||Deloy Coopersmith||Episode: "The Combatants"|
|1972||Young Dr. Kildare||Ted Thatcher||Episode: "House Call"|
|1972||The Bold Ones: The New Doctors||Ev Howard||Episode: "Endtheme"|
|1973||Kung Fu||Nashebo||Episode: "The Spirit-Helper"|
|1974||The Rookies||Al Devering||Episode: "The Teacher"|
|1976||The Streets of San Francisco||Officer Larry Wilson||Episode: "Hot Dog"|
|1976||Barnaby Jones||Wayne Lockwood||Episode: "Renegade's Child"|
|1976||Law of the Land||Quirt||Television film|
|1977||The City||Sergeant Brian Scott||Pilot|
|1977||Cover Girls||Johnny Wilson||Television film|
|1977||Nashville 99||Mike Watling||Episode: "Sing Me a Song to Die By"|
|1977||Eight Is Enough||Doug||Episode: "Trial Marriage"|
|1977||Big Hawaii||Gandy||Episode: "Gandy"|
|1977||Police Story||Lee Morgan||Episode: "Trigger Point"|
|1978||What Really Happened to the Class of '65?||Edgar||Episode: "Class Crusader"|
|1978||The American Girls||Everett Simms||Episode: "A Crash Course in Survival"|
|1978||Pressure Point||Unknown||Television film|
|1978||Ski Lift to Death (aka Snowblind)||Mike Sloan||Television film|
|1978||The Two-Five||Charlie Morgan||Television film|
|1978||Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold||Gunther||Television film|
|1978||First, You Cry||Daniel Easton||Television film|
|1979||Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill||Cowboy||Television film|
|1979||The Rebels||Judson Fletcher||2 episodes|
|1980||Beulah Land||Bonard Davis||Episode: "Part I"|
|1980||Revenge of the Stepford Wives||Officer Andy Brady||Television film|
|1980||From Here to Eternity||Private Jefferson 'Jeff' Davis Prewitt||13 episodes|
|1981||Elvis and the Beauty Queen||Elvis Presley||Television film|
|1981||The Two Lives of Carol Letner||Bob Howard||Television film|
|1982||Matt Houston||Terry Spence||Episode: "The Woman in White"|
|1983||Six Pack||Brewster Baker||Pilot|
|1984–1989||Miami Vice||Detective James 'Sonny' Crockett||Main role, 111 episodes|
|1985||Tales of the Unexpected||Reeve Baker||Episode: "People Don't Do Such Things"|
|1985||The Long Hot Summer||Ben Quick||Television film|
|1988; 2015||Saturday Night Live||Himself||2 episodes|
|1990||Seriously...Phil Collins||Himself||Television film|
|1995||In Pursuit of Honor||Sergeant John Libbey||Television film|
|1996–2001||Nash Bridges||Inspector / Captain Nash Bridges||Main role, 122 episodes; also executive producer|
|2003||Word of Honor||Lieutenant Benjamin Tyson||Television film; also co-executive producer|
|2005–2006||Just Legal||Grant H. Cooper||Main role, 8 episodes|
|2010||American Dad!||Mr. McCormick (voice)||Episode: "Don't Look a Smith Horse in the Mouth"|
|2010–2011||Glenn Martin, DDS||Grandpa Whitey (voice)||4 episodes|
|2010–2012||Eastbound & Down||Eduardo Sanchez Powers||5 episodes|
|2011||A Mann's World||Allan Mann||Pilot|
|2014–2015||From Dusk till Dawn: The Series||Sheriff Earl McGraw||5 episodes|
|2015||Blood & Oil||'Hap' Briggs||10 episodes|
|2016||TripTank||Johnny Bahama (voice)||Episode: "The Director"|
|2017||A Series of Unfortunate Events||Sir||2 episodes|
|2017||Sick Note||Kenny West||6 episodes|
|2018||LA to Vegas||Jack Silver||Episode: "Jack Silver"|
|2019||Watchmen||Chief Judd Crawford||4 episodes|
|2020||Home Movie: The Princess Bride||Humperdinck||Episode: "Chapter Seven: The Pit of Despair"|
|2021–2022||Kenan||Rick Noble||Main role, 20 episodes|
|2021||Nash Bridges||Nash Bridges||Television film|
|Title||Details||Peak chart positions|
|Let It Roll||
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|1987||"Voice on a Hotline"||—||—||—||—||—||—||59||—||—||—||—|
|1989||"Tell It Like It Is"||—||—||13||—||6||2||6||—||—||6||84||Let It Roll|
|"Other People's Lives"||—||—||—||—||46||57||53||—||—||—||—|
|"A Better Place" (with Yuri)||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|Year||Single||Artist||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1988||"Till I Loved You"||Don Johnson and Barbra Streisand||25||34||22||26||4||16||Till I Loved You|
- 1987: Heartbeat - Full Length Video (VHS) - (Release date: May 10, 1987)
Awards and recognitionEdit
|1975||Winner||Saturn Award||Best Actor||A Boy and His Dog|
|1985||Nominated||Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series||Miami Vice|
|1986||Winner||Golden Globe Awards||Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama|
|1987||Nominated||Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama|
|1988||Won||APBA Offshore World Cup||Superboat class|
|1996||Awarded||Hollywood Walk of Fame||Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame|
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