Actor and director Sam Wanamaker was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Molly (Babell) and Maurice Wattenmaker, a tailor. He studied at Drake University, IA, then trained at Goodman Theatre, Chicago, worked with summer stock companies in Chicago as an actor and director, and made his London debut in 1952. In 1957, he was appointed director of the New Shakespeare Theatre, Liverpool, and in 1959 joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre company at Stratford-upon-Avon. He produced or directed several works at Covent Garden and elsewhere in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations in 1974. He worked both as director and actor in films and television, his appearances included The Spiral Staircase (1975), Private Benjamin (1980), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), and Baby Boom (1987).
Married to Charlotte Holland, his daughter is actress Zoë Wanamaker.