Michael O’Keefe attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and New York University, and made his acting debut in a 1970 Colgate television commercial. O’Keefe started his television acting career in 1974 with an episode of The Texas Wheelers. Since then, he has appeared in dozens of other roles including Ben Meechum in The Great Santini, Danny Noonan in Caddyshack, Simon MacHeath in Against the Law, and a recurring role on the sitcom Roseanne.
O’Keefe’s best known film role is Danny Noonan in the 1980 comedy film smash Caddyshack. He received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role as the oldest son of a Marine aviator in The Great Santini, starring Robert Duvall, also nominated for an Academy Award for the film. He played a Marine in 1980 in the miniseries A Rumor of War as the friend of Brad Davis’ character, Philip Caputo, and played the lead role in the 1982 film, Split Image, as an all-American college athlete who gets lured into a religious cult by a beautiful girl (Karen Allen). He has also appeared in the independent film The Glass House, and starred with Tommy Lee Jones in the 1983 pirate adventure Nate and Hayes (also known as Savage Islands). More recently O’Keefe appeared opposite George Clooney in the film Michael Clayton. He has appeared twice opposite Jack Nicholson, as his son in Ironweed, and as the father of a murdered girl in The Pledge. His film Frozen River was in the competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. He also plays the powerful District Attorney Calvin Beckett in the film American Violet.
O’Keefe’s Broadway theatre credits include Side Man, Mass Appeal, Fifth of July, and Reckless with Mary-Louise Parker.
O’Keefe’s highest profile television role to date has been his portrayal of Fred, the husband of Jackie Harris (Laurie Metcalf) on the ABC series Roseanne. O’Keefe appeared on the show from 1993 to 1995. After leaving the series, O’Keefe played the husband in the series Life’s Work, which aired after Roseanne in its final season. Additional television credits include the lead role of Simon MacHeath in the short lived Boston-based series Against the Law, which aired on Fox during the 1990-91 season, and the role of Ron Steffey in the short-lived 1992 CBS drama Middle Ages. He has guest starred on Saving Grace, The West Wing, Criminal Minds, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, House M.D., M*A*S*H, Ghost Whisperer, “Brothers and Sisters”, Leverage, and The Waltons. O’Keefe appears briefly in part 1 of the film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged as Hugh Akston.