Son of teachers Todd and Jean Spader. Attended Phillips Academy in Andover with director Peter Sellars; dropped out in eleventh grade. Bused tables, shoveled manure, and taught yoga before landing his first roles. Graduated from TV movies to Brat Pack Films, playing the bad guy. His performance in Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) (Best Actor, Cannes 1989) led to bigger and more varied roles.