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Catherine O'Hara

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Also Known As: Catherine Anne O'Hara Died:
Born: March 4, 1954 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Toronto, Ontario, CA Profession: actor, director, screenwriter, waitress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Known for her offbeat film and television performances, Catherine O'Hara established herself as a talented comedic actor who could ably handle dramatic roles as well. The Canadian actress eschewed college in favor of Toronto's Second City improvisational comedy troupe where she quickly replaced Gilda Radner after the latter jumped ship to "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). O'Hara more than filled Radner's shoes, stealing scenes from such accomplished comedians as Martin Short, Eugene Levy and John Candy. Hot off of "SCTV" fame, she began a long and steady career in film with her debut in the Martin Scorsese feature, "After Hours" (1985), followed by a turn in the Mike Nichols feature, "Heartburn" (1986). In 1987 she played a supporting role in the horror-comedy feature, "Beetlejuice," and three years later she appeared in the blockbuster feature comedy, "Home Alone" (1990). She would later join the cast of Christopher Guest's ensemble feature comedy, "Waiting for Guffman" (1996), beginning an artistic relationship that would result in several more films with the Guest troupe of actors, including many of her former "SCTV" castmates. Though she had once received her big chance as understudy to the...

Known for her offbeat film and television performances, Catherine O'Hara established herself as a talented comedic actor who could ably handle dramatic roles as well. The Canadian actress eschewed college in favor of Toronto's Second City improvisational comedy troupe where she quickly replaced Gilda Radner after the latter jumped ship to "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). O'Hara more than filled Radner's shoes, stealing scenes from such accomplished comedians as Martin Short, Eugene Levy and John Candy. Hot off of "SCTV" fame, she began a long and steady career in film with her debut in the Martin Scorsese feature, "After Hours" (1985), followed by a turn in the Mike Nichols feature, "Heartburn" (1986). In 1987 she played a supporting role in the horror-comedy feature, "Beetlejuice," and three years later she appeared in the blockbuster feature comedy, "Home Alone" (1990). She would later join the cast of Christopher Guest's ensemble feature comedy, "Waiting for Guffman" (1996), beginning an artistic relationship that would result in several more films with the Guest troupe of actors, including many of her former "SCTV" castmates. Though she had once received her big chance as understudy to the legendary Radner, O'Hara's undeniable comedic gifts and a talent for picking consistently solid film and TV projects ensured her career was no joke some 30 years on.

O'Hara was born on March 4, 1954, in Toronto, Canada, and grew up in a large Catholic family of seven children. She graduated from Toronto's Burnhamthorpe Collegiate High School in 1969, and briefly considered attending the city's York University. However, she wanted to become a working actress, rather than study acting in college, so she auditioned for the Second City improvisational comedy troupe and passed the audition. Although she initially served as understudy to Gilda Radner, O'Hara's stint with Second City eventually took her to the main ensemble in Chicago, and when Radner left the troupe for "Saturday Night Live," O'Hara eased into her spot. From 1976 until 1983 she also appeared on the troupe's television shows, "SCTV" (1976-1981) and "SCTV Network 90" (1981-83), during which time she won acclaim for her portrayal of the character Lola Heatherton, an emotionally unstable, variety show singer, as well as for her imitations of actors Katherine Hepburn and Meryl Streep. She and her colleagues - who included John Candy and Martin Short - went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in the early 1980s.

O'Hara struggled to find work after leaving Second City, but a chance encounter with a famous director led to a break. O'Hara met Martin Scorsese at a Toronto tribute to him, and Scorsese confided in her that watching tapes of "SCTV" had helped him keep his cool while making the feature, "Raging Bull" (1980). The meeting eventually led to O'Hara's big screen debut in 1985, when she portrayed an ice cream truck driver in Scorsese's "After Hours." The following year she played an upper crust gossip in the Mike Nichols feature, "Heartburn." The film starred Meryl Streep, whom O'Hara had famously imitated on "SCTV." O'Hara was said to be in awe of the seasoned actress, hoping she had not taken the imitation too seriously.

By this time O'Hara was splitting time between New York and Toronto. In 1987 she appeared in the Tim Burton's horror-comedy, "Beetle Juice," in which she played Delia Deetz, an eccentric yuppie who moves with her husband and stepdaughter into a haunted house. Behind the scenes she met her future husband, Bo Welch, who served as art director for the film. That same year she relocated to Los Angeles and began working consistently, including a supporting role in the 1990 blockbuster John Hughes comedy, "Home Alone," as well as appearing in features like "Dick Tracy" (1990) and "Betsy's Wedding" (1990). She returned to the "Home Alone" franchise in 1992, reprising her role as Kate McCallister in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York." The film could not match the box office of the original, although it still did very well. She continued to work through the mid-1990s, providing voiceover work in Tim Burton's animated feature, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993). She also appeared in a dramatic role in Kevin Costner's "Wyatt Earp" (1994), in which she played Allie Earp, a sister-in-law of the titular character.

In 1996 O'Hara received the opportunity to display her improvisational comedic skill when she was invited to join an ensemble cast in Christopher Guest's feature musical comedy, "Waiting for Guffman," about a small-town theater group of dubious talent who labor under the delusion that they have a shot of making it on Broadway. Guest's approach was to develop an outline and then let the actors improvise the dialogue. Although its box office take was less than stellar, the film fared well with critics and became a cult classic. That same year, O'Hara made her first turn as a leading actress, starring in "The Last of the High Kings" (1996), an Irish coming-of-age story in which she played the family matriarch.

Over the ensuing decade, O'Hara acted in several feature films, including three more Christopher Guest ensemble pieces: the dog show spoof "Best in Show" (2000) and the folk music comedy "A Mighty Wind" (2003) - both of which showcased her singing and songwriting talent - and the Hollywood satire "For Your Consideration" (2006), in which she played a cynical older actress who unexpectedly wins an Oscar. She also appeared in the hit feature, "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004), and provided voiceover work in several other animated feature hits, including "Chicken Little" (2005), "Over the Hedge" (2006), "Monster House" (2006), and "Where the Wild Things Are" (2009). During this period she also appeared in a recurring role on the cable drama, "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2001-05), and lent her voice to the animated kids' show, "Glenn Martin DDS" (Nickelodeon, 2009).

After decades of solid comedic and dramatic work, O'Hara achieved a new level of recognition in 2010 when she received an Emmy nomination for her work in the television biopic, "Temple Grandin" (HBO, 2010). The film tells the true story of the title character, an autistic woman renowned for her work in animal welfare and autism rights. O'Hara played the role of Grandin's aunt in the film, a role that earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Actress in a TV Movie or Miniseries. She also appeared in the feature, "Killers" (2010), co-starring with Tom Selleck as the parents of one of the lead characters, and again did voiceover work in the animated feature, "A Monster in Paris" (2010).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Rememory (2013)
2.
 Fortune (2013)
3.
 A.C.O.D. (2013)
4.
 Frankenweenie (2012)
5.
6.
 In Time (2011)
7.
 Killers (2010)
8.
 Temple Grandin (2010)
9.
 Away We Go (2009)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Appeared in commercials and on TV in Canada
1973:
Hired as a waitress at Second City
1974:
Made professional acting debut as a member of Second City in Toronto
1975:
Appeared on the Canadian children's show "Comining Up Rosie"
1976:
Co-created (also co-wrote and co-starred) "Second City Television"; left in 1981
1979:
Film debut, "Nothing Personal"
1980:
Appeared on NBC's "Steve Allen Comedy Hour"
1985:
First substantial feature supporting role, Martin Scorsese's "After Hours"
1986:
Appeared in "Heartburn" with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson
1988:
Co-starred in Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice"
1988:
Provided character voice on the animated "The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley" (NBC)
1990:
Played supporting roles in "Dick Tracy" and "Betsey's Wedding"
1990:
Played Kevin MacAllister's mother in "Home Alone"
1991:
Directed an episode of HBO's "Dream On" entitled "And Your Little Dog, Too"
1992:
Reprised role of Mrs. MacAllister in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York"
1993:
Voiced characters in "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas"
1994:
Featured in Ron Howard's "The Paper" and Lawrence Kasdan's "Wyatt Earp"
1995:
Played Calamity Jane in "Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill"
1996:
Co-starred with Fred Willard as a husband-wife pair of small town travel agents in Christopher Guest's "Waiting for Guffman"
1996:
Had leading role as Irish matriarch in "Last of the High Kings"
1997:
Portrayed the dance teacher coping with a drinking problem in TNT movie "Hope," directed by Goldie Hawn
1998:
Played a conniving, somewhat delusional woman who gets her two sons (Jake Busey, Luke Wilson) to scare her cheating husband to death in the quirky comedy "Home Fries"
1999:
Featured in the independent comedy "Late Last Night" (aired on Starz! in lieu of theatrical release)
1999:
Acted in the Canadian independent feature "Life Before This"
2000:
Reteamed with Guest, Willard, and fellow "SCTV" veteran Eugene Levy for "Best in Show"
2002:
Cast as a tipsy mom in "Orange County"
2003:
Reteamed with Michael McKean and Eugene Levy in the comedy "A Mighty Wind," written and directed by Christopher Guest
2004:
Cast in the TNT special "The Wool Cap," which starred William H. Macy and Don Rickles
2004:
Cast in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," based on the children's books by Daniel Handler
2005:
Voiced Tina (Alien Mom) in the animated feature "Chicken Little"
2006:
Reunited with Guest in his comedy "For Your Consideration"; earned an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best Female Lead
2008:
Cast opposite Christina Ricci in "Penelope"; produced by and co-starred Reese Witherspoon
2009:
Voiced Judith in Spike Jonze's live-action adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's book classic "Where the Wild Things Are"
2010:
Cast opposite Claire Danes in biographical drama "Temple Grandin" (HBO); earned an Emmy (2010) nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
2010:
Co-starred opposite Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl in the action/comedy "Killers"
2010:
Nominated for the 2010 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie ("Temple Grandin")
2011:
Nominated for the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries ("Temple Grandin")
2012:
Reunited with director Tim Burton to voice Mrs. Frankenstein and other characters in animated film "Frankenweenie"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Burnhamthorpe Collegiate: Etobicoke , Ontario -

Notes

O'Hara displaying her trademark sense of humor, fielding the predictable "Do you have a dog?" question at a press engagement for "Best in Show": "My husband is allergic to airborne saliva, but we do have a lovely painting of a dog." --quoted in the Toronto Sun, September 10, 2000.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Bo Welch. Production designer.

Family close complete family listing

sister:
Mary Margaret O'Hara. Singer.
son:
Matthew Welch.
son:
Luke Welch.

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