Smith was born in New Lisbon, Wisconsin, the son of Mabel Annette Lund (née Larson) and George Smith. Smith's mother was a fan of a country singer named Kurt (or Curt) in the early 1940s. However, she thought "Kurt Smith" was too short a name, so she added "wood" ("she just tacked it on to the end", he said). Smith has said that he is likely the only Kurtwood.
Smith attended Canoga Park High School, where he was senior class president. He went on to study theater at the College of San Mateo and San Jose State University and earned a drama fellowship from Stanford University's Master of Fine arts program. In the 1970s, he began working regularly with the California Actors Theater in Los Gatos, California. He also attended Santa Clara University. He moved back to Los Angeles to pursue a television and film career.
In 1964, he married Cecilia Souza, with whom he had a son Shannon Smith, a musician, and daughter Laurel Garner, an actress. He divorced in 1974.
In 1988, he married actress Joan Pirkle.
Smith most notably portrayed the father role of Red Forman on the Fox sitcom That '70s Show, which ran from 1998 to 2006. After That '70s Show, Smith played Senator Blaine Mayer in the seventh season of the action thriller 24, and portrayed Dick Clayton in the CBS series Worst Week.
Before That '70s Show his other roles included playing Clarence Boddicker, the villain in Paul Verhoeven's influential science fiction action movie RoboCop, and Mr. Sue on Fox's "espionage comedy" The New Adventures of Beans Baxter from 1987-89. He also co-starred as the strict father of Robert Sean Leonard's Neil in 1989's Dead Poets Society. He also made a number of appearances in the Star Trek franchise, playing the President of the Federation in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, a Cardassian named Thrax in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Things Past", and a Krenim scientist named Annorax in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Year of Hell".
He also has an extensive voice acting résumé, appearing in computer games such as Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, and FreeSpace 2, and on a number of animated series. He played a recurring role on the claymation series Gary & Mike as the vengeful Officer Dick and voiced the Dinosaur military commander character General Galapagos in the Fox animated series Terrible Thunderlizards. He voiced Bob Johnson on Squirrel Boy and supplied the voice of Kanja Ro in Green Lantern First Flight.
Other work (excerpt)
|1987||RoboCop||Clarence J. Boddicker|
|1989||Dead Poets Society||Mr. Perry|
|1991||Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country||Federation President|
|1998||That '70s Show||Red Forman|
|1999||FreeSpace 2||Colossus Scene Voiceover|
|2008||Worst Week||Dick Clayton|
|2009||24||Senator Blaine Mayer|
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