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Although she was a stage-trained actress with an impressive theatrical résumé, audiences embraced Calista Flockhart as charming, vulnerable lawyer "Ally McBeal" (FOX, 1997-2002). She and her character became cultural touchstones, both loved and despised for many reasons: her revealing clothing, her rail-thin physique, her self-absorption, her fitness as feminist poster girl, etc. The Golden Globe-winning actress focused more on the work than on celebrity, earning good reviews in "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999) and "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" (2001) as well as more well regarded stage work. After adopting a son, she resurfaced as the Republican daughter of Sally Field on the hit drama "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 2006- ) and made headlines by marrying movie star Harrison Ford. A quiet success, Flockhart seemed less interested in Hollywood ambition than in enjoying her work and her real life.Born Nov. 11, 1964 in Freeport, IL to Kay, an English teacher, and Ronald Flockhart, an executive for Kraft Foods, Calista Kay Flockhart and her family moved often for her father's job. She ended up residing in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York and New Jersey. After high...
Although she was a stage-trained actress with an impressive theatrical résumé, audiences embraced Calista Flockhart as charming, vulnerable lawyer "Ally McBeal" (FOX, 1997-2002). She and her character became cultural touchstones, both loved and despised for many reasons: her revealing clothing, her rail-thin physique, her self-absorption, her fitness as feminist poster girl, etc. The Golden Globe-winning actress focused more on the work than on celebrity, earning good reviews in "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999) and "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" (2001) as well as more well regarded stage work. After adopting a son, she resurfaced as the Republican daughter of Sally Field on the hit drama "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 2006- ) and made headlines by marrying movie star Harrison Ford. A quiet success, Flockhart seemed less interested in Hollywood ambition than in enjoying her work and her real life.
Born Nov. 11, 1964 in Freeport, IL to Kay, an English teacher, and Ronald Flockhart, an executive for Kraft Foods, Calista Kay Flockhart and her family moved often for her father's job. She ended up residing in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York and New Jersey. After high school, she attended the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Jersey, determined to become an actress. After graduation, she balanced work in regional theater with Manhattan stage performances and the occasional TV or film role. She acted in several off-Broadway plays - including "All for One," "Sophistry," "Wrong Turn at Lungfish" - before triumphing on Broadway in the role of Laura opposite Julie Harris in a 1994 revival of "The Glass Menagerie." Her feature debut was in the tiny part of a college student in Robert Redford's "Quiz Show" (1994). While appearing to great praise in the stage production of "The Loop," she came to the attention of Mike Nichols, who gave the actress her breakthrough screen role as a conservative politician's (Gene Hackman) daughter engaged to the son of two gay men (Robin Williams and Nathan Lane) in the hit comedy "The Birdcage" (1996), a loose remake of "La cage aux Folles" (1978).
Although she already had several TV credits - including the title role in "The Secret Life of Mary-Margaret: Portrait of a Bulimic" (HBO, 1992) - it was the David E. Kelley-created "Ally McBeal" (FOX, 1997-2002) which vaulted her to stardom. As a fantasy-prone Boston lawyer coping with being a single working woman, Flockhart delivered a performance balanced between comedy and pathos: either you loved Ally or hated her; either you found her an example of a modern woman or a frustratingly regressive caricature. Every detail about the character - from her ultra-short skirts to her self-obsession to her constant search for Mr. Right - was scrutinized in the media and around watercoolers; even an image of her character appeared on the cover of Time magazine as part of the think piece, "Is Feminism Dead?" That was also a position in which the actress found herself with constant speculation over her love life and, more controversially, her weight. Impossibly slender, the actress denied reports that she had an eating disorder or a drug problem, but that did little to quell rumors. She became, in fact, the poster child of "lollipop head" actresses who may or may not have had eating disorders. Half the cast of "McBeal" was accused of the same the same disorder and berated for their affect on young girls' idea of beauty (Years later, Flockhart would admit that she had over-exercised and under-eaten during this period.) Despite the controversies, for her role as McBeal, the actress earned three Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe and a People's Choice Award among other honors.
Capitalizing on Flockhart's newfound fame, earlier projects that had been languishing in distributor limbo began turning up on screens, notably "Jane Doe" (filmed in 1996; screened at festivals in 1999) where she played a charismatic drug addict who falls for a shy writer. On the more mainstream front, Flockhart impressed as the headstrong Helena in Michael Hoffman's screen adaptation of "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999) opposite David E. Kelley's wife, Michelle Pfeiffer. She returned to her theatrical roots in the summer of 1999, headlining two-thirds of an evening of typically controversial one-acts written by filmmaker Neil LaBute that were collectively titled "Bash: Latter-Day Plays." She earned raves for her two characterizations - one an intense portrayal of a woman recounting an affair with a teacher and its tragic aftermath; the other as a Mormon woman visiting NYC with her boyfriend - and her mere presence guaranteed that the limited off-Broadway production sold out.
Flockhart hosted an episode of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) and appeared elsewhere in the David E. Kelley universe as McBeal on "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004). She took a dramatic turn in her next feature, "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" (2001), playing a remarkably accurate tarot card reader who nurses her cancer-ridden lover (Valeria Golino) while finding solace in recounting the memories of their relationship. Off-screen, the actress made headlines by adopting a son, Liam, as a single mom in 2001, and onscreen, Robert Downey, Jr. was added to the cast of "Ally McBeal" in the fourth season. His romance with Flockhart fueled a revival of both the ratings and Downey's career. When the series ended, Flockhart joined Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin and Toni Collette to make the FBI-sting-operation comedy, "The Last Shot" (2004), which bombed. In her real life, Flockhart began dating mega-star, Harrison Ford, who had recently separated from his second wife, Melissa Mathison. In a typical "meet cute," Flockhart accidentally spilled a drink on him at the Golden Globes due to her nervousness in meeting him. After that evening, the couple became inseparable.
Flockhart disappeared from cultural radars until her return to regular television work starring on the soapy drama, "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 2006- ), a family saga about five siblings who take over the family's lucrative business after the sudden death of their father (Tom Skerritt). Flockhart played a New York-based, right-wing radio talk show host who returns to her Los Angeles origins to start a television talk show, but must deal with her troubled family - particularly her estranged mother (Sally Field) - while helping to run the business. Despite a wobbly start, the show became an Emmy-winning hit, and Flockhart displayed considerable adult dramatic chops, a welcome evolution from the flightiness of Ally McBeal. Off-camera, the quiet, over-seven-year-long relationship between Flockhart and movie star Harrison Ford became official with their June 15, 2010 wedding in New Mexico.
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Flockhart was a member of the now defunct Malaparte., a theater company whose members included Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Frank Whaley, Josh Hamilton and playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman.
"To get to Broadway, I thought, was the most beautiful experience imaginable." --Calista Flockhart to Patrick Pacheco in InTheater, July 5, 1999.
". . . according to the press I'm dating somebody new every other day. I get around! And I live vicariously through my rumors." --Flockhart to TV Guide, May 1, 1999.
"I've always been called fragile, a waif. What do they mean? Fragile in my soul? . . . I'm fierce. . . . I don't believe my weight is a problem. It's society's obssesion with my weight that's the problem." --Calista Flockhart to TV Guide, May 1, 1999.
"I cast her because she's a very gifted actress who has a remarkable facility with the language. I didn't even understand that she meant anything at the box office." --director Michael Hoffman ("William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream") to Los Angeles, June 1999.
On receiving the offer to audition for "Ally McBeal", Flockhart told Steve Pond in Los Angeles (June 1999): "I was busy rehearsing for 'Three Sisters' but every time I turned around, they had called back. And finally I sat down and read it, and I saw this opportunity. It's about a woman--she's the protagonist--and her inner thoughts, and it's emotional, and it can be pretty much whatever I want it to be. It's this huge playing field full of contradictions and complexities. But then there was the reality of, What if it goes? So the entire cast of 'Three Sisters' spent a weekend deciding whether I was going to fly out to L.A. to audition.
". . . I was really tired of being poor. It's very difficult to make a living in the theater, and I was so sick to death of living hand to mouth. I thought, What do you have to lose?"
"There's this idea that if you're on television, you must not be a very good actress. That's a stigma that's going to take time to go away." --Flockhart quoted in The New York Times, May 2, 1999.
"One of the reasons it's been said that I'm so hard on myself is because coming from the theater, the pace on television is so different, so incredibly fast.
"You do these 14-hour days, then you go home and memorize lines for the next day. You've never had a rehearsal, so the lines are sitting precariously in your head, and you're never fully on top of them. It can take a toll on your self-esteem, because you're not doing the best work that you know you can do." --Calista Flockhart quoted in Daily News, May 2, 1999.
"I refuse to be put on the defensive. I'm an actress playing a fictional character. It's important to accept the character in the spirit in which it's given. The show's purpose is entertainment, not to provide a representation of all women. Ally is an individual. She doesn't necessarily behave the way all women behave." --Flockhart on her TV alter ego, quoted in Newsday, April 25, 1999.
"Onstage, I feel at home, comfortable, accepted, whole. It's like a drug for me." [She laughed.] "It doesn't sound too healthy, does it?" --From "The Risks She Takes" by Dotson Rader in Parade Magazine, January 13, 1999.
"She's getting torn apart for her body. I can show you pictures of her when she was my age and she was skinny-skinny then. The best thing I can think of, saying it in a nice way, is that she's neurotic. Her mind works really fast. I really vaue her friendship--she was like a sister to me--especially because it's harder to make friends with girls than with guys. Girls can be so catty and back-stabbing." --former stage co-star Melissa Joan Hart on Flockhart, quoted in Movieline, August 1999.
"She's just gifted. There's never a day when I'm writing when I ask myself, 'Can Calista do this?' It never gives me pause. There's nothing she can't do." --"Ally McBeal" creator David E Kelley quoted in the Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1998.
". . . this society is so voyeuristic and intrusive. And when you're the object of that, it can be . . . hurtful. People love to stir things up. Even before I was in the tabloids, I didn't really believe them. . . .
"You know what? Gossip has been around since the beginning of time. It gives people a common ground. So there must be some value in it, right? But it kills me, this fascination with celebrities' personal lives. When I started reading the press about this couple who broke up and were on the cover of every newspaper as if they were the royal family [Flockhart mouths the names Brad and Gwyneth], I just thought the fascination with that was . . . unbelievable." --From US, May 1998.
"I've come to realize that being famous has no other worth than to use that fame for bettering and enriching the lives of others--and by 'enrichment' I don't mean my persona as a TV or movie star!" --Flockhart to syndicated columnist Liz Smith, reported by Smith on June 21, 2000.
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