skip navigation
Christine Lahti

Christine Lahti

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

...And Justice For All... " and Justice for All" (1979) is a searing indictment of the justice system. Al... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

Obsessed DVD Sexual harassment takes a bizarre and deadly turn when an infatuated office temp... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

Smart People DVD From the producer of Sideways - get to know a lovable yet dysfunctional family... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

The Good Fight DVD Is there anyone left who is willing to fight "The Good Fight" (2010)? Christine... more info $6.99was $6.99 Buy Now

The Executioner's Song: Director's Cut... Based on the 1979 Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Norman Mailer, Tommy Lee... more info $19.99was $19.99 Buy Now

The Pilot's Wife DVD Everything Christine Lahti knows might actually be a lie. As "The Pilot's Wife"... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now



Also Known As: Died:
Born: April 4, 1950 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Birmingham, Michigan, USA Profession: actor, director, mime, waitress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Beginning in the late 1970s, acclaimed film, television and stage actress Christine Lahti carved out a niche for herself in an emerging field for Hollywood actresses - roles as professional, independent career women. Uninterested in wasting her dedication to acting on thinly-written supporting roles as girlfriends and wives, Lahti was in the right place at the right time and gave strong showings in character-driven films like "Whose Life is it Anyway?" (1981), "Swing Shift" (1984) and "Running on Empty" (1988), for which she earned an Academy Award nomination. In between film roles as smart, compassionate doctors, lawyers, and educators, Lahti was a constant television presence with her Golden Globe-winning run on the medical drama "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and award-winning telepics like the homeless family chronicle "No Place Like Home" (CBS, 1989). Throughout her career, Lahti regularly revisited her roots as a theater actress, notably in several plays by Wendy Wasserstein, and also branched out to direct episodic TV and films, making her one of the most respected women in Hollywood and one with a palpable commitment to quality storytelling. Born April 4, 1949, Lahti was raised in...

Beginning in the late 1970s, acclaimed film, television and stage actress Christine Lahti carved out a niche for herself in an emerging field for Hollywood actresses - roles as professional, independent career women. Uninterested in wasting her dedication to acting on thinly-written supporting roles as girlfriends and wives, Lahti was in the right place at the right time and gave strong showings in character-driven films like "Whose Life is it Anyway?" (1981), "Swing Shift" (1984) and "Running on Empty" (1988), for which she earned an Academy Award nomination. In between film roles as smart, compassionate doctors, lawyers, and educators, Lahti was a constant television presence with her Golden Globe-winning run on the medical drama "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and award-winning telepics like the homeless family chronicle "No Place Like Home" (CBS, 1989). Throughout her career, Lahti regularly revisited her roots as a theater actress, notably in several plays by Wendy Wasserstein, and also branched out to direct episodic TV and films, making her one of the most respected women in Hollywood and one with a palpable commitment to quality storytelling.

Born April 4, 1949, Lahti was raised in Birmingham, MI where she was the daughter of a surgeon father and a nurse-turned-painter mother. At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Lahti was active in theater and performed with a mime troupe that toured internationally, including an appearance in a mime version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" on the London stage. After graduating with a degree in speech and drama, Lahti intended to earn a Masters from Florida State University, but after only a year, she moved to New York where she studied drama at the renowned HB Studio and The Neighborhood Studio. Waitress work and street mime performing finally gave way to a steady career in television commercials and a breakthrough stage role in David Mamet's "The Woods" in 1978, for which she earned a Theater World Award. The same year, she made her TV debut as a co-star of the ABC movie-pilot "Dr. Scorpion," which led to a stint as a series regular on the short-lived "The Harvey Korman Show" (ABC, 1978), where she played the comedian's daughter.

Lahti's impressive work alongside drama legend Lee Strasberg in the TV movie "The Last Tenant" (ABC, 1978) caught the eye of producer-director, Norman Jewison. He subsequently cast her as a lawyer and ethics committee member who becomes involved with an ethically questionable lawyer (Al Pacino) in the acclaimed "... And Justice for All" (1979). After a return to the off-Broadway stage to play opposite Kevin Kline in "Loose Ends," Lahti further established her strength for playing professional, independent women with her role as the doctor of an accident victim (Richard Dreyfus) fighting for his right to die in John Badham's film adaptation of the Broadway hit "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" (1981). Lahti finally made it to Broadway herself in "Division Street," Steve Tesich's comedy about grown-up 1960s hippies in the 1980s and had a small supporting role in the punk rock cult film "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains" (1981).

After taking a key role in the TV miniseries based on Norman Mailer's biography of career criminal Gary Gilmore, "The Executioner's Song" (NBC, 1982), Lahti experienced a major film breakthrough in "Swing Shift" (1984), co-starring opposite Goldie Hawn as her aspiring singer best friend and co-worker at a WWII munitions plant. Injecting the character with a much-needed dose of acerbic wit, Lahti earned great reviews and was recognized with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. She portrayed another single career woman; this one befriended by a married woman (Mary Tyler Moore) who learns they share a man in common, in the soapy tearjerker "Just Between Friends" (1986). Her role as a repressed woman who blossoms when she falls in love with an East German operative in the controversial ABC miniseries "Amerika" (1987) earned her an Emmy nomination, and she followed up the pair of dramas by playing a free-spirited aunt who inspires her nieces in the lighthearted comedy, "Housekeeping" (1987).

In one of Lahti's most memorable big screen performances, she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Sidney Lumet's intense "Running on Empty" (1988). The film starred Lahti and Judd Hirsch as former 1960s political activists on the run from the FBI with a family in tow, including a teen son played by River Ph nix. Lahti returned to Broadway in Wendy Wasserstein's "The Heidi Chronicles" and concurrently appeared on movie screens in 1989's "Gross Anatomy," where she was seen as the stern medical professor of class rebel, Matthew Modine. She gave a Golden Globe Award-winning performance as the matriarch of a family forced to live on the streets in "No Place Like Home" (CBS, 1989), and a CableACE Award as a conservative educator who finds unlikely romance with a Hispanic janitor in "Crazy from the Heart" (TNT, 1991), directed by her husband Thomas Schlamme. After an unchallenging role as William Hurt's unhappy wife in "The Doctor" (1991), Lahti was back on stage in the off-Broadway play "Three Hotels."

Following a hiatus, during which the actress gave birth to twins, Lahti returned to work with a string of TV movies and moved behind the camera to nail her directorial debut with "Lieberman in Love" (1995), co-starring as a prostitute opposite Danny Aiello. The film earned an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. In 1995, Lahti joined the second season of the CBS medical drama "Chicago Hope" (1994-2000), playing the complicated, ambitious cardiothoracic surgeon and feminist, Dr. Kathryn Austin. The show also gave Lahti the opportunity to direct, and she helmed a number of episodes throughout her on-screen run, while earning four consecutive Emmy nominations as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and a victory in 1998. She famously won a Golden Globe for her role in 1998, and was forced to rush out of the ladies' room and scurry red-faced onto the stage to collect her trophy. During her off-seasons from "Chicago Hope," Lahti continued to take on new projects, starring in the Goldie Hawn-helmed TV movie about small town secrets, "Hope" (TNT, 1997) and writer-director Stephen Tolkin's biopic about a religious woman who kills a camp counselor who has molested her son in "Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story" (USA, 1999).

Lahti left "Hope" in 1999 and reunited with Wendy Wasserstein, taking the lead in the playwright's tale of a prominent senator's daughter and Surgeon General nominee who comes under a media attack for minor transgressions in "An American Daughter" (Lifetime, 2000). The following year, she stepped behind the camera to direct her first feature film "My First Mister" (2001), a well-reviewed tale of a 17-year-old misfit (Leelee Sobieski) and her relationship with a neurotic middle aged man (Albert Brooks). After strong turns headlining telepics including "The Pilot's Wife," (CBS, 2002) and "Out of the Ashes" (Showtime, 2003), where she played a doctor and Jewish holocaust survivor, Lahti returned to series television in The WB drama, "Jack & Bobby" (2004- ). For the show's short two-season run, Lahti starred as the fiery, strong-willed, pot-smoking college professor mother of two teen sons, one of whom eventually becomes the U.S. President. Despite strong reviews, particularly centering on Lahti's multidimensional portrayal, the show failed to find a fan base and was cancelled in 2005.

She rebounded with a recurring role on NBC's Hollywood dramedy "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (NBC, 2006-07), as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist writing a Vanity Fair piece on the show-within-the-show. Lahti went on to make strong showings in a pair of little-seen indies, beginning with the academia-set comedy "Smart People" (2008), and "Yonkers J " (2009), a character drama about a professional gambler's (Chazz Palminteri) estranged relationship with his mentally disabled son. Later in the year, Lahti enjoyed a supporting role in the high profile thriller "Obsessed" starring Beyonce Knowles.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  My First Mister (2001) Director
2.
  Lieberman in Love (1995) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Truck Stop (2013)
2.
3.
 Flying Lessons (2010)
4.
 Obsessed (2009)
5.
 Smart People (2008)
6.
 Yonkers Joe (2008)
7.
 Book of Ruth, The (2004) Maylene Grey
8.
9.
 Open House (2003) Samantha Morrow
10.
 Out of the Ashes (2003) Dr. Gisella Perl
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Worked as a singing waitress one summer during college; travelled to Scotland as a member of the Ann Arbor Mime Troupe, then went to London, appearing in a mime production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest"
1973:
Moved to New York City; supported herself as a waitress by day and performed off-off Broadway by night; even worked as a mime for a while in Central Park, battling an imaginary wind as her roommate honked inexpertly on a clarinet
:
Appeared in commercials first for rug shampoo Spray 'n Vac, then for eight other products including Sominex and Joy dishwashing liquid
1977:
First Off-Broadway appearance as the female lead opposite Chris Sarandon in David Mamet's "The Woods" at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theater
1978:
TV debut as Tania Reston in live-action, comic book adventure (movie-series pilot) "Dr Scorpion"
1978:
Had regular role as Harvey Korman's daughter in short-lived ABC sitcom "The Harvey Korman Show"
1979:
Feature film acting debut in "... And Justice For All"
1979:
Succeeded Roxane Hart opposite Kevin Kline in Michael Weller's Off-Broadway play, "Loose Ends"
1980:
Made Broadway debut in Steve Tesich's "Division Street"
1981:
Turned in excellent portrayal of a doctor in John Badham's feature "Whose Life Is It Anyway?"
1982:
Played Brenda Nicol in NBC miniseries "The Executioner's Song", based on the Norman Mailer book
1984:
Breakthrough film role in "Swing Shift" earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination
1987:
Her Emmy nomination (Best Supporting Actress) was perhaps the lone high point of the ABC miniseries "Amerika", a ponderous 14-hour epic which incurred the wrath of the UN and USSR before airing
1987:
Delivered a wonderful performance as the free-spirited aunt in the underrated Housekeeping"
1988:
Starred with River Phoenix and Judd Hirsch in Sidney Lumet's "Running on Empty"
1989:
Appeared on Broadway (replacing Joan Allen) in Wendy Wasserstein's "The Heidi Chronicles"
1991:
Won a CableACE Award for Best Actress for her performance in the TNT movie "Crazy from the Heart", directed by husband Thomas Schlamme
1991:
Acted opposite William Hurt in "The Doctor"
1992:
Was atypically insufferable in the female buddy flick "Leaving Normal"
1992:
Starred with Ron Rifkin in the Off-Broadway production of Jon Robin Baitz's "Three Hotels"
1995:
Replaced Mandy Patinkin as a star of CBS drama "Chicago Hope", playing ambitious cardio-thoracic surgeon Dr Kathryn Austin; left series in spring of 1999
1995:
Directorial debut, "Lieberman in Love", earned her an Oscar for Best Live-Action Short Film; also starred opposite Danny Aiello; film aired on Showtime cable network
1997:
Starred in TNT movie "Hope", directed by "Swing Shift" co-star Goldie Hawn
1999:
Signed to make feature directorial debut with "My First Mister"
2000:
Had leading role of a US Senator's daughter nominated to be Surgeon General in the Lifetime adaptation of "An American Daughter" based on Wendy Wasserstein's play
2001:
Feature directorial debut, "My First Mister", screened at Sundance
2003:
Cast in lead role of a female Jewish doctor who survived the Holocaust in the Showtime biopic "Out of the Ashes"
2004:
Cast as Grace McCallister in the WB drama "Jack and Bobby"; received Golden Globe (2004) and SAG (2005) nominations for Best Actress in a Drama Series
2006:
Cast as a minister and bible scholar in the Playwrights Horizons production of Keith Bunin's "The Busy World is Hushed"
2009:
Will play a recurring role on "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC) as assistant district attorney
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Florida State University: Tallahassee , Florida -
Herbert Berghof Studio: New York , New York -
Neighborhood Studio: New York , New York -
University of Michigan: Ann Arbor , Michigan - 1972
University of Michigan: Ann Arbor , Michigan - 1972

Notes

For the 1989 CBS movie "No Place Like Home", directed by Lee Grant, Lahti earned Best Actress honors at the Third Annual FIPA (Festival International da Programmes Audiovisuels) in Cannes, France.

"I love to play these crazy, neurotic and vulnerable women."---Christine Lahti to The New York Post, 1980.

"I think the way my career has gone has been absolutely right. It's been slow and steady. Because I'm not a big star, I've been able to take risks."---Christine Lahti quoted in the "The Baby Boomers" by James Robert Parish and Don Stanke, 1992.

Lahti once turned down a plum national TV commercial, rather than have sex . . . with two directors [the price for her big break]: "I should have done it. It would have saved me a lot of time. When I turned him [the casting agent] down he told me, 'You're not that special. You're not that gorgeous. You don't know anybody in the business. You'll never make it any other way. This is the way women have to do it.' It was such an eye-opener for me. So insulting. And it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be taken seriously for my talent. So that day I became a feminist. Since then my whole determination, my whole career has been to gain respect. It was never about fame. Never. I wanted to be respected as an actor, and now that I am, I could use a little fame and fortune."---Christine Lahti to TV Guide, August 19, 1995.

On taking a lackluster "earnest mom" role in "Hideaway" (1995): "At the time, I needed to get back to work. I had just had the twins. I needed to make some money, so I'm glad I did it. But I thought, 'I'm being wasted and I don't want to do that anymore.' I'm at my prime creatively, and suddenly I'm in an industry where I'm supposed to be invisible. Or less valuable. When I feel I'm at the peak. My peak."---Christine Lahti to The Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1995.

"I know there are things about her that people don't like, but I don't care. I just love her. I think she has a great heart; she just makes mistakes. You know, she's human."---Lahti on her "Chicago Hope" character to The New York Times, February 15, 1998.

In a memorable, show-stopping absence that generated considerable publicity, Lahti ended up in the ladies' room at the exact instant she was to accept her 1997 Golden Globe Award as best actress in a drama series for her role as Dr Kathryn Austin on "Chicago Hope". Enjoying the moment when she eventually hit the stage wearing a black Herve Leger gown and wide-screen grin, she grabbed a dinner napkin from Robin Williams and used it nonchalantly to dry her hands.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Thomas Schlamme. Director. Married on September 4, 1983; father of three children.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Paul Theodore Lahti. Surgeon. Of Finnish ancestry (Lahti means "bay of water" and is also the name of a town north of Helsinki).
mother:
Elizabeth M Lahti. Former nurse, painter. Had six children by Paul Lahti; of Finnish ancestry; died on December 23, 1995 of unreported causes at age 75.
son:
Wilson Schlamme. Born on July 5, 1988 in Jackson MI.
son:
Joseph Schlamme. Born on August 3, 1993; twin of Emma.
daughter:
Emma Schlamme. Born on August 3, 1993; twin of Joseph.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute