Chad Michael Murray moved easily from television into feature films thanks to his roles in highly rated teen dramas on the WB network such as Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill. By the time he began appearing in box office successes opposite Lindsay Lohan (1986–) and Hilary Duff (1987–), Murray had emerged as the new teen heartthrob for his boyish good looks and appealing screen portrayals of the sensitive loner-type.
On One Tree Hill, Murray had been cast as a teen from a struggling single-parent household, a situation that was not unlike the actor's own upbringing. Born in Buffalo, New York, in August 1981, he was the second of five children. His mother left the family when he was ten years old. Their father, Rex, an air traffic controller, raised them as a solo parent, and money was tight; Murray has said that he was a target for bullies because of the clothes he wore. By the time he was thirteen, he was working as a janitor in a doughnut shop to earn his own spending money.
At Clarence High School, outside of Buffalo, Murray played football, and one day on the field he suffered a bad hit to the stomach that put him in the hospital. A nurse suggested that he should model, and so Murray signed with a local agency, which eventually sent him to an industry event in Orlando, Florida. There, a Hollywood talent scout told the seventeen-year-old Murray that he should move to California and try his luck in the entertainment business. Murray was already a film enthusiast and had a job at a local movie theater, where he was able to see small, well-crafted independent films. "That's when I really fell in love with great acting," Murray recalled about the high-school job in an interview with Buffalo News writer, Toni Ruberto. "I just wanted to do it and give it a shot."
Murray also may have been eager to leave certain things behind. When he was eighteen, his mother appeared at the Murray family doorstep after an absence of several years. "I answered the door, it was really uncomfortable," he told Alan Pergament in the Buffalo News. "I don't really have a relationship with her." That same year, in 1999, Murray graduated from Clarence High and used the money he had received as a graduation gift to fund his cross-country move. "I told myself that if nothing happened in a year, I'd go to
"I've made decisions for me that some people may not see as proper decisions, but it works for me."
college and play football," he said to American Fitness writer Bonnie Siegler.
Murray and his father made the cross-country road trip together, and then his father flew back home. Some of Murray's first solo weeks were spent at a Red Roof Inn, and he was determined to make his savings stretch as long as possible. "I had a dollar a day to buy a chicken sandwich or a salad from Jack in the Box [a fast food chain]," he told Teen People. "At the beginning of every week, I would buy milk and a box of cereal. Every morning and night I ate cereal, and during the day I would have a chicken sandwich. That was pretty much all I had. I bought a 19-inch TV that had, like, four channels, and one was the WB."
In the meantime, the talent scout Murray had met in Orlando helped him find an agent, who in turn helped him find a manager and an acting coach. Murray began to get some modeling work, appearing in ads for Tommy Hilfiger, Sketchers, and Gucci. But it was a visit to a fast-food restaurant that accidentally gave him his shot at stardom. At a Burger King, he was jumped by three guys, and his nose was broken. It was reset in the emergency room, and "a week later, I finally started getting work," he told Lauren Brown in a CosmoGIRL! interview. "Why? Because before that, I kept getting comments that my nose made me too 'pretty."'
Murray made his television debut as Chad Murray in an episode of Chicken Soup for the Soul, the feel-good PAX TV drama. In the show, he played a rich teenager who doesn't like his own family. In 2000, he went on an audition for a WB pilot, Day One, and though the show never went into production, WB executives thought Murray had potential and signed him to a development deal. He was cast as another rich kid, Tristan DuGrey, in the first season of Gilmore Girls, a new sitcom. The show centered on the mother-daughter relationship between teenage Rory, played by Alexis Bledel (1981–), and her single mom, played by Lauren Graham (1967–). Murray was cast as Rory's arrogant classmate and romantic interest when she starts a new school year at an elite private academy.
In the 2001–02 television season, Murray appeared in several episodes of Dawson's Creek, a hit teen drama. He played college student and budding rock star Charlie Todd, who becomes romantically involved with both Joey Potter, played by Katie Holmes (1978–), as well as her friend, Jen, played by Michelle Williams (1980–), when both teenagers begin college in Boston. Murray was also cast in the title role in a WB television movie, The Lone Ranger, as well as starring in the television series One Tree Hill.
Murray was actually up for two parts at the time and had to choose between the WB show and a new one on Fox in which he was also offered a lead. The part he turned down was that of The O.C. 's Ryan Atwood, a troubled teen who is rescued by a kind lawyer and finds himself unexpectedly living in a posh community in Orange County, California. The show was a tremendous hit immediately upon its Fox debut in August 2003, winning both a devoted teen audience as well as older viewers thanks to its melodramatic storylines and alternative-music soundtrack. "Don't want to go into that," he said when asked about the decision by New York Times writer Kate Aurthur on the set of One Tree Hill. "This one felt like home to me."
One Tree Hill also debuted in the fall new-series line-up of 2003, but unlike its Fox counterpart, pulled in terrible ratings in its early weeks. Murray played Lucas "Luke" Scott, a teen from a single-parent household in a small North Carolina town called Tree Hill. Luke is a talented basketball player who finds himself competing with a new star on his high school team, an arrogant rich kid named Nathan who also turns out to be his half-brother. Luke's father, who he never knew, left his mother when their high school romance produced an unplanned pregnancy. His dad went to college on a basketball scholarship, got married, and had another child soon after leaving Tree Hill. He returns to
One Tree Hill had a much better second season, scoring a number one spot in prime-time ratings among teenage girls on Tuesday nights. Some of the new interest came from Murray's heartthrob status, and also because the show's writers and producers began to play up the romantic competition between the two half-brothers.
In 2003, Murray also appeared in a highly anticipated feature film, Freaky Friday. He played Jake, the romantic interest somewhat confused by the switched-identity premise that fuels the plot of this teen comedy. Freaky Friday did well at the box office in the summer of 2003, and Murray's performance earned a good mention in Variety. "As Jake finds himself, much to his perplexity, equally attracted to Anna's 'mother,' Murray offers a textbook example of how to grab attention while engagingly underplaying," wrote critic Joe Leydon.
Murray appeared opposite another teen-screen queen in A Cinderella Story, which was released in 2004. This time, he played the "prince" who falls in love with Hilary Duff's character. Several months later, in the spring of 2005, he played the on-screen twin brother of Elisha Cuthbert (1982–) in his first horror flick, House of Wax. The movie was a remake of a classic horror film from 1953 that starred Vincent Price, which itself was the second filmed version of the 1933 original, Mystery of the Wax Museum. The characters played by Murray and Cuthbert were part of a group of teens who come across a creepy, deserted town in which they find dead bodies covered in wax. Other castmates included Murray's friend and former Gilmore Girls actor, Jared Padalecki (1982–), and hotel-chain heiress Paris Hilton (1981–).
Murray became a teen heartthrob thanks to the success of One Tree Hill and the well-publicized films with Lohan and Duff. But the hit WB series, which began its third season in 2005, also served to remove him from the Hollywood celebrity-dating pool. He became involved with his One Tree Hill costar Sophia Bush, and the pair wed in April 2005 at the Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, California, with the Pacific Ocean as the scenic backdrop for the ceremony. The House of Wax premiere and required round of publicity appearances and magazine interviews for Murray
When Sophia Bush met her future husband on the set of the WB teen drama One Tree Hill, in which she had just been cast, she was a relative newcomer to the entertainment industry. She had spent the prior three years involved in her studies at the University of South California (USC) where she majored in journalism with a minor in theater. She had also worked for a student news service, been active in the USC chapter of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and was chosen as the Tournament of Roses Parade Queen in 2000, the annual New Year's Day parade before the college football Rose Bowl game. "My life was crazy," she recalled in an interview with In Style writer Rory Evans, "and I had never seen Chad on Dawson's Creek or Gilmore Girls. I had no idea whatsoever about the scope of his teen-idol status."
Born on July 8, 1982, Bush grew up in Pasadena, California, the home of the Rose Bowl since 1890. She attended a private school for girls in Pasadena, and while still at USC had won a small role in the 2002 feature film Van Wilder. After reporting to the set for a role in Terminator 3 she was recast because the director decided she looked too young for the part.
Bush and Murray began dating almost immediately after they met in 2003. The following spring, she traveled to visit him on the set of House of Wax , being shot in Australia. He proposed to her the day she arrived. They were wed in Santa Monica, California, the following April, and both went back to work almost immediately. In 2005 Bush was filming a 2006 thriller titled Stay Alive. The newlyweds were still castmates on One Tree Hill and shared a
meant they had to postpone their honeymoon until later that year. He admitted in some articles that it had not been easy to date a co-worker at first. They tried to keep it secret on the WB set, he said, "for about a month because we didn't know exactly how everyone was going to react," he confessed to Brown. "And we wanted to be sure that we were going to be serious as a couple. But when we knew this was real, we got sick of keeping it from everyone."
Murray was cast in his first motion picture lead role for a 2006 movie, Stealing Cars. The story centers around a troubled teen who lands in a brutal juvenile-detention facility. "It's a great story," he told Toni Ruberto in a Buffalo News interview. "It's very emotional and physical."
With a long career ahead of him—perhaps even one in which he moves from teen celebrity-hunk into serious drama, Murray is humble about his ambitions. For his future, he told Siegler in American Fitness, he hopes for "health, happiness, a family, a nice house, a dog and a few restaurants—basically slowing everything down and taking stress out of life. I already have ideas for three restaurants," he said, with one of them being a deli that would sell "my signature meal—a pepperoni and bacon sandwich." His father is the person he admires most, he told Teen People. "The fact that he worked full-time and got dinner on the table every night is an amazing thing," he asserted. "Having him as a role model makes you realize you've got to work for what you want."
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