Michael Berryman became an actor despite his rare congenital disability – now he's an inspiration for millions
michael berryman

Michael Berryman became an actor despite his rare congenital disability – now he’s an inspiration for millions

Michael Berryman has been working in Hollywood for decades, though his path to the big screen was far from easy. Michael was born with a rare congenital disability known as hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, making his life quite challenging. 

A testament to his inspiring attitude, nothing would stop Berryman from pursuing his dreams. Today, one can safely say that he has succeeded. 

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Being comfortable in your skin is vitally important. Whether that means being bigger, skinnier, taller, shorter, bald, covered in hair, or anything related to one’s appearance, self-confidence is key.

Sure, we all have things we’re perhaps not one-hundred percent happy with, but in the end, feeling comfortable and accepted for who you are is crucial in life. The trick is to accept yourself, not chase acceptance from others, though that’s obviously easier said than done.

While some deal with their perceived flaws by changing hairstyles, going to the gym, or even having surgery, others feel that change at a more fundamental level is needed.

Now, we want to reiterate that you should always do whatever makes you happy and comfortable. That said, we’d advise seeing a legitimate specialist if you’re ever considering surgery – no matter what it’s for. Your body is on the line, so do your research well.

Michael Berryman

As stated, certain individuals alter their bodies or appearance because they are uncomfortable, while others accept who they are without caring what people think. 

Michael Berryman, the actor who grew up with a rare congenital disability known as hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, is in the latter category. As a result of his condition, he had no fingernails, hair, or teeth, and his head had a unique shape. Most people would likely have been afraid of pursuing their dreams in such circumstances, but Berryman isn’t most people. Instead, the actor went on to become very successful and has, throughout his entire life, served as a massive inspiration for people worldwide.

So how did Berryman become a phenomenal actor in the first place? Let’s look at his inspirational story, and remember, if you like what you read, to share the article with your friends and family.

Michael Berryman was born in Santa Monica, California, on September 4, 1948. His life was to be full of challenges from the off. Or at least that’s what many predicted.

Berryman was born with hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia. He doesn’t have hair, fingernails, or sweat glands. Growing up in sunny California, it was difficult for him to even be in the sun. 

Michael Berryman

Although congenital disabilities can affect pretty much anyone, there was a traceable reason in Berryman’s case.

Michael Berryman – hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia

His father was a US navy surgeon back in the day, and during World War II, he was sent to Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the US had dropped their atomic bombs. Michael’s father was there to monitor the effects of the radiation – shortly after returning home, his wife fell pregnant with Michael.

“I was the second born and I had a whole bunch of birth defects which is, obviously, from the radiation damage to my father from being at ground zero for an atom and hydrogen bomb,” Berryman told Lacomba Express.

He added: “I learned a lot about reality, humanity and medical situations growing up as a child. I dealt with bullying and learned what makes  someone a decent person and what makes someone a tool.”

But Michael Berryman wouldn’t let anything stand in his way of living exactly how he wanted. His first passion in life was not acting at all; it wasn’t even a career he dreamed about.

Berryman moved out from his parent’s house and went on to study at the university. 

At UC San Obispo, Berryman took veterinary science for two years. However, the program was eventually discontinued due to funding issues. Instead, he took a minor in art history and continued studying theoretical physics. After some years, he returned to Santa Monica but didn’t quite know what he wanted to do.

Michael Berryman
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Michael opened a small gift shop in Venice, and that decision would be crucial. If he hadn’t, his life would most likely have been quite different from today.

Caught the attention of famous director George Pal 

So what happened?

“We didn’t have flowers, we had house plants, and some local artists would bring in their paintings and sculptures, and we would display them,” Berryman recalled.

“It wasn’t a booming business in ’73 or ’74. There was an antique store across the street, however, that catered to the wealthy of Beverly Hills, really upscale people, and they had Ming Dynasty and egg urns, and this and that. We were friendly with our neighbors in business, and there was a big sale going on at the Gala Mofrey, which was this antique store across the street in Venice near our store, so we put in some palms.

“We made the place look nice. So we were waiting for the sale to finish that evening and when it was finished we took our plants that didn’t sell back over to shop, and that’s how I met Producer George Pal.”

George Pal was a legendary film director and had heard of Berryman’s appearance via his son, who ran the antique shop next to Michael’s. Pal approached him to inquire over the possibility of Michael taking a particular role in his upcoming film Doc Savage. It was an easy decision for Michael, who agreed to star as Juan Lopez Morales, the chief coroner in the film. 

“I said, ‘Maybe this’ll be fun,'” Berryman recalled. “So I worked for two days at the estate of Herald Lloyd, and I had enjoyed it so much.”

Michael Berryman
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George Pal was impressed with Michael Berryman’s performance, and after the film had aired, he decided to write a letter of introduction to the Screen Actors Guild. That meant Michael could become an official member and, at least on paper, a professional actor. However, even though Berryman suddenly had the means through which to chase acting as a full-time career, he wasn’t sure if it was his calling in life. 

Breakthrough role in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’

In fact, he planned on moving to Alaska – but those plans were canceled when another unexpected thing happened. One day, Michael got a call.

As he explained: “That phone call was from George Pal’s casting directors, Micheal Fenton and Jane Feinberg. And they were casting for a very famous movie that won seven Oscars, and that movie was called One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring Jack Nicholson, became Berryman’s significant breakthrough role. His appearance made him stand out and in this case, it turned out that was all that was needed. 

Michael explained how he was welcomed into a meeting by Joel Douglas, Kirk Douglas’ son and Michael Douglas’ brother.

“They said,’ we saw your picture from George Pal. You have a look we need for a lobotomy patient called Ellis,'” he recalled in a 1995 interview.

“We got to talking; I told them I’d had a medical history. My father was a brain surgeon, my mother was a nurse. So I had a lot of intuitive feelings about hospitals and institutionalization.”

He added: “They said, ‘we’re basically hiring you just for your looks, but now that we’ve talked to you, we realize that you’re intelligent and sensitive enough to do the role.’ So I didn’t have to audition at all.”

Michael Berryman

From being a relative nobody to a certified star overnight, Michael Berryman’s career was looking extremely promising after just two acting credits. He credited Michael Landon and Bandon Lee as the main influences on his acting style. 

Michael Berryman in ‘The Hills Have Eyes’

Yet though One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a hit, it was nothing compared to what was coming. 

In 1977, Berryman was cast in the horror film The Hills Have Eyes. Director Wes Craven had seen his performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and was impressed. Just as with his role in the previous films, it was his appearance that attracted Wes. 

“My agent sent me to meet the producers and Wes, and he told me the back story of the Bean family and how that was somewhat factual, and they said, ‘We saw you in Cuckoo’s Nest, and the family perhaps has mutations from living on a bomb range,’ which is kind of ironic,” Berryman said.

“I was born with some defects that were the direct cause of being irradiated, so it sort of dovetailed with the Hills story.”

He added: “They said, ‘We’re hiring you because of your looks,’ and I said, “Okay, perhaps the performance will meet your expectations,’ and I believe it did.”

The Hills Have Eyes became an instant cult classic, and Michael developed a huge fan base within the horror genre.

The role of the terrifying Pluto is still talked about today – and when it comes to cult stars starring as mutants, monsters, or other frightening characters, no one is more of a genuine fan favorite than Michael Berryman.

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Even so, the success of The Hills Have Eyes was more than he ever expected.

Still to this day, the film is spoken about – and Michael Berryman’s performance always comes up.

“It has just been a blessing”

He said: “It feels great, especially because of the friendships that we made. We had a cult following come about, and it just reflects on Wes’s brilliance in writing, directing, and how he put the film together. It’s just very well executed, and it holds its own,” he explained. “A lot of the more recent horror films go in and out with the fascination with splatter, special effects, etc., but Hills was just so well put together. It has just been a blessing to have met Wes and worked with him on numerous occasions.”

Berryman landed plenty of jobs after his success in The Hills Have Eyes. He appeared in several science fiction and fantasy films, such as My Science Project and Evil Spirit. In 1984, he reprised his role of Pluto in The Hills Have Eyes Part II.

Moreover, Berryman gained attention through his performances on television shows such as The X-Files and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He has even appeared in two of Motley Crue’s music videos. Today, Michael has more than 100 credits to his name. 

On the side, he is a passionate organic gardener and chef who loves Rachel Ray. However, his appearance never stopped him from following his dreams – and his inspirational story hopefully can reach others facing difficulties or discrimination.

“Don’t take yourself too seriously and make sure that you laugh at least once a day, “Michael Berryman said.

“I want you to be lazy because it takes 27 muscles in your face to frown, and it only takes three to smile.”

Michael Berryman is a true inspiration for many. Please, share this article on Facebook with friends and family to honor him!