"First, you have to lose the neck." The top six inches of his spine seem to disappear. "You go down, down. You lose the body; you get softer shoulders, you slump, you create a little gut." He is almost there. "Then you extend the neck and you do a little duck walk." He walks across the room. Add ill-fitting clothes, mop-top hair, a pair of oversize glasses and a cold stare, and the impersonation is complete.
Hall was born on Easter Sunday, April 14, 1968, in West Roxbury, a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the only child of blues-jazz singer Mercedes Hall's first marriage. She divorced Hall's Father, Larry, an auto-body-shop owner, when their son was six months old. When Hall was three, he and his mother relocated to the West Coast, where she found work as a featured singer. After a year and a half, they returned to the East, eventually moving to New York City, where Hall grew up. Hall's ancestry is Irish and Italian. He has one half-sister, Mary Chestaro, from his mother's second marriage to Thomas Chestaro, a show Business manager. His half-sister is pursuing a career as a singer under the name of Mary C. Hall uses the name Anthony, rather than Michael. He transposed his first and middle names when he entered show Business because there was another actor named Michael Hall who was already a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Hall started his career in commercials when he was seven years old. He was the Honeycomb cereal kid and appeared in several commercials for toys and Bounty. His stage debut was in 1977, when he was cast as the young Steve Allen in Allen's semi-autobiographical play The Wake. He went on to appear in the Lincoln Center Festival's production of St. Joan of the Microphone, and in a play with Woody Allen. In 1980, he made his screen debut in the Emmy-winning TV movie The Gold Bug, in which he played the young Edgar Allan Poe. In 1981 he started as Huck Finn in Rascals and Robbers: The Secret Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn but it was not until the release of the 1982 Kenny Rogers film Six Pack that he gained real notice.
Hall became a regular subject of tabloid media after New York magazine named him a member of the "Brat Pack," the group of young actors who became famous in the 1980s and frequently starred together. In the late 1980s, Hall's drinking Problem, which began in his early teens, made headlines. Hall eventually quit drinking and became fully sober by 1990. "The truth is, I had my partying nights, but I never really bounced at the bottom," he said. "I never went to rehab...I was able to govern myself and continue my work."
The following year, Hall landed the role of Rusty Griswold, Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo's son, in National Lampoon's Vacation, catching the attention of the film's Screenwriter John Hughes, who was about to make the jump to directing. "For [Hall] to upstage Chevy, I thought, was a remarkable accomplishment for a 13-year-old kid," said Hughes. The film was a significant box office hit in 1983, grossing over US$61 million in the United States. After Vacation, Hall moved on to other projects and declined to reprise his role in the 1985 sequel.
Hall's breakout role came in 1984, when he was cast as Farmer Ted, the scrawny, braces-wearing geek, who pursued Molly Ringwald's character in John Hughes' directing debut Sixteen Candles. Hall tried to avoid the clichés of geekness. "I didn't play him with 100 pens sticking out of his pocket," he said. "I just went in there and played it like a real kid. The geek is just a typical freshman." Hall landed a spot on the promotional materials, along with co-star Ringwald. Reviews of the film were positive for Hall and his co-stars, and one for People Weekly even claimed that Hall's performance "[pilfered] the film" from Ringwald. Despite achieving only moderate success at the box office, the film made overnight stars of Ringwald and Hall.
Hall joined the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL) during its 1985–86 season at the age of 17. He was, and remains, the youngest cast member in the show's history. His recurring characters on the show were Craig Sundberg, Idiot Savant, an intelligent, talented teenager with a vacant expression and stilted speech, and Fed Jones, half of the habitually high, hustling pitchmen known as The Jones Brothers. (The other Jones Brother was played by short-lived featured player Damon Wayans). Art Garfunkel, Edd Byrnes, Robert F. Kennedy, and Daryl Hall were among Hall's Celebrity impersonations. Hall had admired the show and its stars as a child, but he found the SNL environment to be far more competitive than he had imagined. "My year there, I didn't have any breakout characters and I didn't really do the things I dreamed I would do," he said, "but I still learned a lot, and I value that. I'll always be proud of the fact that I was a part of its history." Hall was one of six cast members (the others being Joan Cusack, Robert Downey, Jr., Randy Quaid, and Terry Sweeney) who were dismissed at the end of that season.
To avoid being typecast, Hall turned down roles written for him by John Hughes in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Cameron Frye) and Pretty in Pink (Phil "Duckie" Dale), both in 1986. Instead, he starred in the 1986 film Out of Bounds, Hall's first excursion into the thriller and action genre. The film grossed only US$5 million domestically, and was a critical and financial disappointment. Critic Roger Ebert described Out of Bounds as "an explosion at the cliché factory," and Caryn James from the New York Times claimed that not even "Hall, who made nerds seem lovable in John Hughes' Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, [could] do much to reconcile" the disparate themes of the movie.
Hall was offered the starring role in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket in a conversation with Stanley Kubrick, but after an eight-month negotiation, a financial agreement could not be reached. "It was a difficult decision, because in that eight-month period, I read everything I could about the guy, and I was really fascinated by him," Hall said when asked about the film. "I wanted to be a part of that film, but it didn't work out. But all sorts of stories circulated, like I got on set and I was fired, or I was pissed at him for shooting too long. It's all not true." He was replaced with Matthew Modine. His next film would be 1988's Johnny Be Good, in which he worked with Uma Thurman and fellow Saturday Night Live cast member Robert Downey, Jr. The film was a critical failure, and some critics panned Hall's performance as a high school football star, claiming that he, the movies' reigning geek, was miscast for the role. A review for The Washington Post claimed that the film was "crass, vulgar, and relentlessly brain-dead."
In 1990, Hall's physical appearance in Edward Scissorhands caught audiences off guard. His more muscular image provoked rumors of steroids, but Hall later said that "the weight gain was natural."
Hall's role in the 1993 film Six Degrees of Separation made news not because of what occurred onscreen, but rather what failed to occur. Hall played a gay love interest to Will Smith, who had previously agreed to a kissing scene between the two. However, on the day of the shoot, Smith backed off. Smith told the press that he called Denzel Washington for advice, who told him that an onscreen same-sex kiss was a bad career move. When asked about the incident during an interview, Hall said, "I didn't care. I wasn't that comfortable with it, either, and ultimately, we used a camera trick."
In 1994, Hall starred in and directed his first feature film, a low-budget Showtime comedy named Hail Caesar about a would-be rock star who works in a pencil eraser factory. The film also co-starred Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr., and Judd Nelson. In addition, he produced the Soundtrack for the film with Composer Herbie Tribino. The film featured songs written and performed by Hall.
Hall assists at-risk youth through his literacy program, The Anthony Michael Hall Literacy Club, in association with Chapman University. The club provides an opportunity for the students to improve their literacy skills by exploring genres not typically used to enhance literacy, such as films, music and lyrics, scripts, and novels with audio. Following family tradition, Hall pursues his other passion, music. He is the lead singer and Songwriter for his band, Hall of Mirrors, formed in 1998. The band released an album, Welcome to the Hall of Mirrors, through Hall's own RAM Records label in 1999, with collaborations from former Guns N' Roses Guitarist Gilby Clarke and Prince's former keyboard player Tommy Barbarella.
After making a cameo appearance as himself in the 2000 comedy film Happy Accidents, Hall appeared in several made-for-TV films. He starred opposite Sheryl Lee as a cheating husband in the 2001 USA Network cable movie Hitched. In the same year, he played renowned music Producer Robert "Mutt" Lange in VH1's movie Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story and starred as legendary lefty baseball pitcher Whitey Ford in Billy Crystal's highly acclaimed HBO film, 61*.
The 2001 film Not Another Teen Movie pays tribute to Hall's numerous appearances in the teen-oriented, 1980s comedy films parodied by the movie. A brief shot of the sign over the door of a high school cafeteria reveals that the facility is named the Anthony Michael Dining Hall. In 2006, Hall was ranked #4 in VH1's list of the "100 Greatest Teen Stars" and #41 in "100 Greatest Kid Stars."
Hall began his first regular series role in 2002, starring as Johnny Smith in USA Network's supernatural drama The Dead Zone, a TV series adapted from Stephen King's best-selling novel. He was cast in the show after executive Producer Michael Piller saw his performance in Pirates of Silicon Valley. The show debuted on June 16, 2002, and drew higher ratings for a premiere than any other cable series in television history with 6.4 million viewers. The Dead Zone quickly developed a loyal audience, with the show and Hall receiving strong reviews. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote that "Hall's Johnny flashes the qualities - comic timing, great facial expressions - that made him a star in the 1980s movies Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club." The Dead Zone, Hall said, "has transformed my career." The show proved to be one of USA Network's top shows and one of the highest-rated programs on basic cable.
In June 2005, The Breakfast Club was rewarded with the Silver Bucket of Excellence Award at the MTV Movie Awards, in honor of the film's twentieth anniversary. For the show, MTV attempted to reunite the original cast. Sheedy, Ringwald, and Hall appeared together on stage, and Paul Gleason gave the award to his former castmates. Estevez could not attend because of family commitments, and Nelson appeared earlier on the red carpet, but left before the on-stage reunion, for reasons unknown. Hall joked that the two were "in Africa with Dave Chappelle."
The Dead Zone opening credits list Hall as co-producer (seasons 1-3), Producer (seasons 5) and co-executive Producer (season 6). Hall also directed an episode from season three, "The Cold Hard Truth," guest starring standup comic Richard Lewis. "[The Cold Hard Truth], I feel, is my best work as a Director, because I had this great crew that knows me well and has been working with me," said Hall. "I also had the best script that I've had an opportunity to direct." The show's sixth and final season premiered on June 17, 2007. USA Network officially canceled The Dead Zone in December 2007.
In 2010, Hall made a guest appearance in NBC season one of Community as a former nerd turned bully. During 2011, he played the main antagonist in Season 3 of Warehouse 13, Walter Sykes.
Hall reprised his role as Rusty Griswold in 2012 in a series of Old Navy holiday commercials featuring the Griswold family. From 2011-12, he guest starred in Warehouse 13 in the role of Walter Sykes, a man who once benefited from the use of an artifact but harboured a deep-seated anger towards the Warehouse and its agents when the artifact was taken from him (episodes 3.09, 3.11, 3.12). He also guest starred in Z Nation in the role of Gideon, a former communications manager leading a group of zombie apocalypse survivors (only episode 2.11).
On November 17, 2016, the Los Angeles District Attorney charged Hall with felony assault with serious bodily injury following a September 13 confrontation with a neighbor at Hall’s Playa del Rey, California, condominium complex.