TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (1)
|Also Known As:||Holly P Hunter||Died:|
|Born:||March 20, 1958||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Conyers, Georgia, USA||Profession:||actress, waitress|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
Petite, fiery, and altogether confident, Holly Hunter was an Academy Award-winning actress and producer who rose to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a string of roles in challenging and critically acclaimed films. After a series of supporting roles, Hunter had her first starring role in the Coen Brothersâ¿¿ comedy "Raising Arizona" (1987), and that same year, she also earned an Oscar nod for her performance in "Broadcast News" (1987). Following an Emmy-winning turn as a fictionalized Jane Roe in "Roe v. Wade" (NBC, 1989), Hunter earned the biggest accolades of her career â¿¿ as well as a Best Actress Oscar â¿¿ for her renowned performance as a mute pianist in "The Piano" (1993). From there, she delivered quality supporting and leading turns in "The Firm" (1993), "A Life Less Ordinary" (1997), "Crash" (1997) and "Jesusâ¿¿ Son" (1999). In the new millennium, Hunter was exemplary as a frustrated mother in "thirteen" (2003) and enjoyed voicing Elastigirl in the Pixar hit "The Incredibles" (2004). She stepped away from the big screen to star in the short-lived, but critically acclaimed cable series "Saving Grace" (TNT, 2007-2010), proving that her extraordinary talents could make the...
Petite, fiery, and altogether confident, Holly Hunter was an Academy Award-winning actress and producer who rose to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a string of roles in challenging and critically acclaimed films. After a series of supporting roles, Hunter had her first starring role in the Coen Brothersâ¿¿ comedy "Raising Arizona" (1987), and that same year, she also earned an Oscar nod for her performance in "Broadcast News" (1987). Following an Emmy-winning turn as a fictionalized Jane Roe in "Roe v. Wade" (NBC, 1989), Hunter earned the biggest accolades of her career â¿¿ as well as a Best Actress Oscar â¿¿ for her renowned performance as a mute pianist in "The Piano" (1993). From there, she delivered quality supporting and leading turns in "The Firm" (1993), "A Life Less Ordinary" (1997), "Crash" (1997) and "Jesusâ¿¿ Son" (1999). In the new millennium, Hunter was exemplary as a frustrated mother in "thirteen" (2003) and enjoyed voicing Elastigirl in the Pixar hit "The Incredibles" (2004). She stepped away from the big screen to star in the short-lived, but critically acclaimed cable series "Saving Grace" (TNT, 2007-2010), proving that her extraordinary talents could make the successful transition to the small screen.
Born in Conyers, GA on March 20, 1958, Hunter was one of seven children raised on a 250-acre farm by her parents. After she first shone onstage as Helen Keller in a fifth grade production of "The Miracle Worker," her family encouraged her to pursue performing as a career. In 1976, she went to Carnegie Mellon to pursue a degree in drama, and after graduating in 1980, she moved to New York to put her schooling to the test. A chance encounter with playwright Beth Henley (in a stalled elevator) led to Hunter becoming Henley's muse in several acclaimed productions, including "Crimes of the Heart" and "The Miss Firecracker Contest." Aspiring filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen saw her in the former play and wrote a part for her in their upcoming debut, a modern noir called "Blood Simple" (1984), but due to commitments with another play, she was forced to turn them down. Hunter then recommended her roommate, Frances McDormand, to the brothers, who cast her as the female lead, tapping Hunter to provide a voice on an answering machine in the film. McDormand later married Joel Coen in 1984, and the new couple, along with Ethan Coen and Sam Raimi of "Spider-Man" (2002) fame, all lived together in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles when Hunter moved there in 1981.
That same year, Hunter landed her first onscreen role in a particularly violent slasher film produced by Harvey and Bob Weinstein called "The Burning." She marked time in a string of unremarkable TV movies until her star-making role in the Coen Brothers' "Raising Arizona" arrived in 1987. As a tender-hearted police officer whose inability to have a child forces her and her jailbird husband (Nicolas Cage) to kidnap a baby from a wealthy furniture salesmen, Hunter showed an uncommon knack for verbal and physical comedy. Hunter charmed audiences and critics alike, leaving directors queued up to tap her apparently unlimited talent. Hunter next wowed audiences in "Broadcast News" (1987), director James L. Brooks' tribute to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. Hunter brought smarts and sensuality to her turn as an overachieving news reporter, and critics responded by nominating her for an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
Hunter essayed more take-charge women with romantic flaws in her next projects, which included "Always" (1989), Steven Spielberg's treacle-heavy remake of "A Guy Named Joe" (1943); and 1993's "Once Around." She also returned to Henley's "Miss Firecracker" in a little-seen film adaptation in 1989, and took a serious turn in "Roe vs. Wade," a 1989 TV movie that earned her an Emmy nomination for her performance as the woman whose inability to have an abortion due to state law created the landmark legal case. The year 1993 proved a high mark for Hunter's career with the release of "The Piano." Aside from the challenges of playing a mute, Hunter also performed all of her own musical pieces in the film (she began studying piano at the age of nine) and had to stand on her own amidst two powerhouse performers, Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill. Alternately delicate, defiant, and sexually confident, Hunter's Ada McGrath won her an Academy Award and countless other nods from critics and organizations around the globe, solidifying the opinion that Hunter was among the best actresses working in film at the time.
Unfortunately, the movies that followed "The Piano" did not quite measure up to her talents. Television brought her the best post-"Piano" character â¿¿ an overachieving suburban mother whose desire to see her daughter succeed leads to an unbelievable murder plot in the cable comedy-drama, "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom" (1993), for which she won the Emmy. But aside from an Oscar-nominated and scene-stealing turn as Gary Busey's secretary in Sydney Pollack's "The Firm" (1993), Hunter's next few film projects were as middle-of-the-road as Hollywood could get. "Copycat" (1995) and "Home for the Holidays" (1996) were unremarkable thrillers and comedies, respectively, and "A Life Less Ordinary" (1997) and "Living Out Loud" (1998) were filled with star talent but offered their casts little to do. The sole standout among this sea of unremarkable projects was David Cronenberg's controversial "Crash" (1996), in which Hunter and James Spader play disaffected urbanites that develop a passionate sexual relationship built around the violence of car accidents. The project won a special prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996, and reinforced Hunter's willingness to appear in challenging fare. During this period, she also married cinematographer and frequent Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski; the couple split in 2001.
After "Crash," Hunter associated herself with more independent-minded work. Her films of the late 1990s included "Jesus' Son" (1999), about a drug addict's stream of consciousness adventures; Rodrigo Garcia's intimate character piece "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her" (2000), which eventually aired on the Showtime network and earned Hunter an Emmy nomination; and Mike Figgis' "Timecode" (2000), which presented multiple storylines occurring at the same time on screen. She also returned to the Coen Brothers' fold during this time for a small but pivotal part as George Clooney's beloved in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (2000), which blossomed into a runaway cult hit. Hunter also found exceptional projects on the small screen during this time. Her starring roles in "Harlan County War" (2000), about the United Coal Miners' union strike in the early 1970s, and "When Billie Beat Bobby" (2001), both brought her Emmy nominations. She also ventured behind the scenes with the latter project, for which she served as co-executive producer, and did so again in 2003 for Catherine Hardwicke's gripping drama "thirteen." As a former alcoholic and mother struggling to understand her rebellious daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), Hunter gave another riveting performance and earned another Academy Award nomination.
The following year, Hunter found a new legion of fans as the voice of Helen Parr, a.k.a. Elastigirl, in Brad Bird's charming and wildly successful animated film, "The Incredibles" (2004), about a family of superheroes who must shrug off the complacency of suburban life to once again save the world. However, her next projects â¿¿ a reunion with Rodrigo Garcia in another vignette-styled picture called "Nine Lives" (2005) and a comedy with Robin Williams called "The Big White" (2005), went largely unseen by mainstream audiences. In 2007, Hunter made her first venture into a network television series with "Saving Grace" (TNT, 2007-2010), for which she played a jaded police detective who encounters an angel with the power to redeem her past and present. The show earned Hunter renewed critical acclaim and accolades, leading to a numerous award nominations over the series' run.
Filmographyclose complete filmography
CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
When she was a struggling actress living in NYC, Hunter shared an apartment with fellow aspiring performer Frances McDormand.
Hunter served as a juror at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.
"I've always been attracted to very different characters. Early in my career I could have done a television sitcom, 'Designing Women' or something. I could have done that and made a comfortable living. I don't want to put that down, it's just not what I wanted."---Holly Hunter quoted in US, November 1995.
"I actually think the more personal information you have about an actor, the more you have to carve out for yourself when you go to a movie and see them in it. More and more movies have been pressured to allow reporters and TV cameras to come onto the set while you're working, and I find that a real violation. Acting, for me, is the last vestige of doing something that I would like to feel really naive about, and I like to feel very protected when I'm doing it. It's an arena where you may not know what the answers are, may not know what a scene is about when you're doing it. It's a creative place and it's too private, too personal to be violated."---Hunter to Jodie Foster in Interview, November 1995.
"She has a relentless drive to find the truth in whatever part she's undertaking... There's no character, no matter how demented, that Holly couldn't play and make her sympathetic"---director Michael Ritchie on Hunter's abilities as an actress, from USA Today, November 12, 1993.
"With Holly, there's no bulls---. Period. You know where you stand. If you spend three minutes with her, you get to see who she is."---Albert Brooks, Hunter's co-star in "Broadcast News" quoted to New York, December 14, 1987.
"I want to change how I approach acting as I get older. I want there to be a reason I'm playing certain characters at certain times. I think characters come to me when I'm ready to play them."---Hunter quoted in The New York Times, October 11, 1998.
"I like to take chances professionally because it helps me personally. Because I'm taking them, too, I'm not separated from my professional self. They're just in different context from my own life."---Holly Hunter to Stephen Schaefer quoted in USA Today, November 11, 1998.
"Good scripts are very rare for an actor and particularly an actress. It is a crap shoot as to whether you will read any good material. Good material is an 'almost never' situation. I have actually read a hundred scripts without reading a good one."---Holly Hunter quoted in The Daily Telegraph, May 8, 2000.
"I have a natural intensity that is just a part of who I am. And I think my intensity comes from somewhere else. I think that my intensity comes from being profoundly deaf. I have no hearing at all in my left ear."
Before there is time to ask more, she says quickly, "I was nine, the mumps." Then she adds, "I think that has made me an acute listener and acutely tuned in to what people are saying ... "
---From The Daily Telegraph, May 8, 2000.
"She's a thoroughbred. When you ride a thoroughbred you know you're on a great horse, you're not just getting from A to B."---Tony Bill, director of "Harlan County War", to Us Weekly, June 12, 2000.
"Having that sense of entitlement is something that most actors actually lack. Entitlement is a very, very fragile area for artists, actors in movies especially, who have tremendous amounts of money, status and trappings can begin to feel that that's what entitles you. Whereas, training really enhances and supports the more fragile side: your imagination and approach, your desire to explore, all of those things I think are enhanced by going to a school like Carnegie, or Yale, or any of the top schools."---Hunter on how training gives actors a sense of entitlement, to Venice Magazine, 2003.
Companions close complete companion listing
Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.Click here to contribute