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William Bruce Davis (born January 13, 1938) is a Canadian actor and producer best known for his role on The X-Files as the Cigarette Smoking Man.
Davis also appeared on many television shows and films, as well as his own acting school, the William Davis Center for Actors Study.
Davis, a lifelong water-skier, gives lectures on skepticism at events like the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry's Convocation and calls for action on climate change.
Where There's Smoke, Davis' memoir, was published in 2011... A Cigarette Smoking Man's Musings.
Early life and education
Davis was born in Toronto to a lawyer father and a psychologist mother. In 1949, he began acting as a child, in radio drama and summer stock theatre. Murray and Donald Davis, Hamilton's cousins, were players in the Straw Hat Players in Ontario in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and they were rehearsed in Davis' basement. William's first professional acting gig came as they needed a boy. He became a child actor on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio before he died. In 1955, he attended the University of Toronto to study philosophy, but he pursued acting in a film career, as did his mentor Donald Sutherland. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1959. When he was at university, he changed his focus from acting to writing, and the Straw Hat Players, with his partner, Karl Jaffary, ran the Straw Hat Players for four years.
Davis, who is best known for his vaping personae, quit smoking in the 1970s. He was given the opportunity to choose between herbal cigarettes and nicotine cigarettes when The X-Files were first introduced. He started using cigarettes at first, but later switched to herbal because he was afraid of getting addicted to them again. He aided the Canadian Cancer Society in its efforts to combat smoking through his fame on the program. In 2014, he donated his fossil fuels to the David Suzuki Foundation in an attempt to both ethically invest and help combat climate change. He is a vocal advocate for climate change, recognizing that it is a critical issue in our time and often speaking out about it. He drives a Tesla that is powered by hydrogenic energy, which is taking personal responsibility.
He is also a former national champion water skier who has held records in older age divisions for a time. "I didn't hold the slalom record until this past year, until some young whippersnapper of 65 from Ontario took the record away from me," Brendan Beiser said in a chatting with Brendan Beiser.
Davis married Emmanuelle Herpin in 2011. Melinda and Rebecca, both from a previous marriage, and two grandchildren.
Davis went to England in 1960 to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He worked in repertory theatres and acting schools in the United Kingdom for the next five years. He was artistic director of the Dundee Repertory Theatre. He served as an assistant director at the National Theatre of Great Britain under Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, and Ronald Pickup to name a few others. He returned to Canada in 1965 to work at the National Theatre School of Canada, and shortly thereafter, at the age of 28, he was appointed artistic director of the English speaking section. He was also active as a freelance director at major Canadian theatres during this time. He joined the newly formed drama department at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, in 1971. He spent time at Festival Lennoxville, the nation's first professional summer theatre, which operated for the next decade.
Davis, who returned to Toronto in the late seventies, served as both a radio drama director and on the faculty of Humber College. After an absence of nearly 20 years, he returned to acting as an acting tutor during this period. He appeared on stage and film before taking over as the artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse Acting School, which required relocating with his wife and family. "We hitched our second hand boat to our second hand vehicle and rode around the country in 1985," Davis writes in his book.
Although his time at the Vancouver Playhouse was short-lived, he remained in Vancouver, where he founded his own acting school, the William Davis Centre for Actors Study, which served as a training ground for many young actors, including New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless. Acting roles became more popular, leading up to his legendary role as the Cigarette Smoking Man (also known as the "Cancer Man") on the hit TV series The X-Files, where he made regular appearances for the next nine years. Davis has appeared in a number of television shows, including Stargate SG-1 and Smallville, as well as other television shows and other productions. He attends fan conventions, autograph signings, and books of his memoir from time to time.
Davis has returned to directing theatre and film in recent years. He wrote and directed three short films, co-wrote and produced numerous episodes of a television series for CBC Television, 49th & Main. Waste by Harley Granville Barker, and Nol Coward's Hay Fever were two plays for The United Players of Vancouver in 2011. Alan Bennett, Sherlock Holmes' The Habit of Art (2013), and Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons at the Jericho Arts Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, were among his recent exhibits.He appeared on ten episodes of the Canadian hit show Continuum as Older Alec Sadler on Showcase during this period. In the six-episode Season 10, he recalled his iconic X-Files role.