Steve Guttenberg, known primarily for his starring roles in the first four “Police Academy” movies, grew up in a working-class family on New York’s Long Island — his father was an electrical engineer and his mother was a surgical assistant.
Guttenberg attended school at the State University of New York at Albany and later attended the Juilliard School and UCLA. He also trained with the Groundlings improvisational comedy troupe in Los Angeles. He got his start in theater in New York City, where he starred in productions of “Prelude to a Kiss” on Broadway and “Furthest From the Sun.”
In the late 1970s, he had roles in several films, including the Nazi clone thriller “The Boys From Brazil” and the Village People’s big-screen vehicle, “Can’t Stop the Music.” He also starred in the short-lived television sitcom “Billy” in 1979. But Guttenberg’s big break came in 1982, when he was part of the ensemble cast of young actors in director Barry Levinson’s “Diner.” The film about a group of young friends struggling with the transition to adulthood in 1950s Baltimore also starred Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, Tim Daly and Paul Reiser and solidified the careers of all involved.
Guttenberg went from leading man to box office star two years later with his role as ladies man Carey Mahoney in the sophomoric comedy “Police Academy.” The film wasn’t a favorite with the critics, but it was a major worldwide hit and spawned six sequels. (Guttenberg only appeared in the first three sequels).
Despite the continued derision of critics — Movieline magazine quoted one critic that called him a “bland smudged Xerox of Chevy Chase” — he racked up a series of box office hits, including “Cocoon,” “Short Circuit” and “Three Men and a Baby.”
In 1988, he married actress Denise Bixler. They divorced in 1992. Guttenberg’s box office fortunes took a bad turn around this same time. After a string of disappointing releases, including “Cocoon: The Return,” Guttenberg was absent from the big screen for five years. He came back in 1995 with roles in three movies, including director Jodie Foster’s family comedy “Home for the Holidays.”
In recent years, he has appeared in TV films, including a remake of “The Poseidon Adventure” in 2005, and independent productions. This year, he returned to Broadway, appearing in “Relatively Speaking,” a trio of plays by Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Woody Allen.
In addition to acting, Guttenberg has been actively involved in charitable causes, including his own, Guttenhouse. The apartment complex, located in South Los Angeles, is designed for children to transition from being foster children to becoming adults.