Jim Beaver spent his childhood in Texas, where his father worked as a preacher. At the time, he showed an interest in writing - he wrote several short stories during his high school years - and film history. He joined the US Marine Corps after graduating from high school, and was deployed to Vietnam during the war there. When he was released from active duty in 1971, he entered Oklahoma Christian University, where he made a few stage performances, but mostly focused on writing plays and a book on actor John Garfield.
He made his professional stage debut in 1972, and was later a rising star in the Dallas stage circuit. However, he continued pursuing a writing career, penning an autobiography of actor George Reeves. He moved to Los Angeles and supported himself by writing for television, but the 1988 WGH strike forced him to work as an actor.
From his first major break on the film In Country, Beaver went on to appear in Sister Act, Adaptation and Magnolia, among others. He also had several regular roles on TV, including the sitcom Thunder Alley and the cop drama Reasonable Doubts. His biggest break came in 2002, when he was cast in HBO's Deadwood, as gold miner Whitney Ellsworth. This led to roles in HBO's John in Cincinnati, the CW's Supernatural, and CBS' Harper's Island.
Beaver still became an accomplished writer: his memoir Life's That Way, about his wife's battle with lung cancer, was published in 2009.
- He followed several of his close friends into the United States Marine Corps.
- He worked briefly for Frito-Lay as a corn-chip dough mixer.
- He worked as a newscaster and hosted jazz and classical music programs on radio station KCSC.
- He married a fellow student, Debbie Young, in August, 1973, but the couple separated four months later.
- Warnings (1979)
- File 8022 (1985)
- Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
- Two Idiots in Hollywood (1988)
- Defense Play (1988)
- Mergers & Acquisitions (1989)
- Turner & Hooch (1989)
- The Cherry (1989)
- In Country (1989)
- Sister Act (1992)
- Sliver (1993)
- Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)
- Twogether (1994)
- Blue Chips (1994)
- Bad Girls (1994)
- Wounded (1997)
- At Sachem Farm (1998)
- Impala (1999)
- Ah! Silenciosa (1999)
- Magnolia (1999)
- Joy Ride (2001)
- Wheelmen (2002)
- Adaptation (2002)
- The Life of David Gale (2003)
- The Commission (2003)
- Next (2007)
- Cooties (2007)
- Reflections (2008)
- The Silence of Bees (2008)
- The Legend of Hell's Gate: An American Conspiracy (2010)
- Dallas (guest, 1978-1979)
- The Young and the Restless (guest, 1985, 1999-2000)
- Santa Barbara (guest, 1991-1992)
- Reasonable Doubts (recurring, 1991-1993)
- Thunder Alley (regular, 1994-1995)
- Days of our Lives (regular, 1996-2004)
- 3rd Rock from the Sun (recurring, 1998-1999)
- The Trouble with Normal (recurring, 2000-2001)
- Deadwood (regular, 2004-2006)
- CSI (recurring, 2006)
- Supernatural (recurring, 2006-present)
- Day Break (recurring, 2007)
- Big Love (recurring, 2007)
- John from Cincinnati (regular, 2007)