Joanna Cassidy


Actor

About

Also Known As
Joanna Virginia Caskey
Birth Place
Camden, New Jersey, USA
Born
August 02, 1945

Biography

With her lusty laugh and penetrating gaze, Joanna Cassidy manifested an innate intelligence that allowed her to avoid the starlet trap of playing bimbos and girlfriends. Equally adept at comedy, drama and the physical rigors of action-adventure, the titian-haired ex-model scored an early starring role opposite George C. Scott in "The Bank Shot" (1974) but her résumé-building credits were...

Biography

With her lusty laugh and penetrating gaze, Joanna Cassidy manifested an innate intelligence that allowed her to avoid the starlet trap of playing bimbos and girlfriends. Equally adept at comedy, drama and the physical rigors of action-adventure, the titian-haired ex-model scored an early starring role opposite George C. Scott in "The Bank Shot" (1974) but her résumé-building credits were largely in television. Rebounding from the cancellation of her weekly air rescue series "240-Robert" (ABC, 1979-1981), Cassidy joined the cast of Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (1982), as an ass-kicking replicant who nearly makes mincemeat of star Harrison Ford. Elevated to the status of leading lady, she was paired with Nick Nolte and Gene Hackman for "Under Fire" (1983), an account of war correspondents swept up in the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution, and with Dabney Coleman for the critically-acclaimed but short-lived NBC sitcom "Buffalo Bill" (1983-84), which netted her a Golden Globe. Key roles in "The Fourth Protocol" (1987), "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1989) and "A Vampire in Brooklyn" (1996) kept the actress in the public eye as she matured to more mature parts, most notably as the sexually adventurous widow Margaret Chenowith on HBO's groundbreaking "Six Feet Under" (2001-04). Cassidy showed no inclination to slow down, keeping busy playing a panoply of lusty professional women and domineering mother types on "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08), "HawthoRNe" (TNT, 2009-11) and "Body of Proof" (ABC, 2011-13) while enjoying a hard-won reputation as one of Hollywood's most beloved character actresses.

Joanna Virginia Caskey was born in Camden, NJ on Aug. 2, 1945. A rambunctious, athletic student at Haddonfield Memorial High School, Cassidy played on the field hockey, basketball and baseball teams while enjoying playing practical jokes on her classmates and mixing with the rowdy crowd. Channeling her energies into painting and sculpture, she enrolled as an art major at Syracuse University following her high school graduation. Married in 1964 to a pre-med student, Cassidy relocated with her new husband to San Francisco, CA. While picking up jobs as a model, she made her feature film debut with a walk-on role in Peter Yates' classic "Bullit" (1968) starring Steve McQueen. She also made brief appearances in such Bay Area productions as Tom Gries' "Fools" (1970), starring Jason Robards, and Stuart Rosenberg's "The Laughing Policeman" (1973), in which she shared a dialogue scene with star Bruce Dern and exhibited a lusty and slightly mocking laugh that would become a career trademark.

Divorced from her psychiatrist husband in 1974, Cassidy packed up her life once more and headed for Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming a professional actress. Her first starring role was an unusual one, as a talking head in a widely-televised public service announcement from the United States Forest Service. Speaking in a low, seductive tone, her face framed by her tousled red hair, Cassidy cautioned viewers about the dangers of careless fires in the great outdoors, smiling slyly at the last minute before tearing from her face a rubber mask and revealing herself to be none other than USFS mascot Smokey the Bear. Her biggest break early in her career came with her casting by director Gower Champion in "The Bank Shot" (1974), opposite George C. Scott, but the comic caper's dismal critical and box office reception did her burgeoning career no lasting good.

Cassidy next traveled to Italy to star in Massimo Dallamano's "The Night Child" (1975), patterned heavily after William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" (1973) and concerning a cursed medallion that afflicts an impressionable young girl. Playing the concerned American producer of the child's British filmmaker father, Cassidy obliged director Dallamano by disrobing for a pair of revealing lovemaking scenes with co-star Richard Johnson. Back in the States, Cassidy was given a key role in "The Stepford Wives" (1975), Bryan Forbes' adaptation of the novel by Ira Levin, but was replaced after two weeks by Paula Prentiss. She also won the title role in the pilot film for "The New Adventures of Wonder Woman" (1975), but director Jack Arnold insisted that the role be given instead to Lynda Carter, who carried the part through to the eventual weekly series. Despite these career disappointments, Cassidy soldiered on with small roles in the bodybuilding comedy "Stay Hungry" (1976), starring Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and muscleman émigré Arnold Schwarzenegger, and in Robert Benton's latter day Los Angeles noir "The Late Show" (1977).

Cassidy had more screen time in Mark Lester's low budget whodunit "Stunts" (1977), as the widow of one of a string of slain stuntmen, but moving forward her biggest gains were on the small screen. A member of the in-house repertory of the primetime comedy revue "Shields and Yarnell" (CBS, 1977-78), Cassidy also starred on the short-lived roller derby sitcom "The Roller Girls" (NBC, 1978) and became a certified SCUBA diver for her role as an air rescue pilot in "240-Robert" (1979-1981), which ran for two limited seasons on ABC. In the revenge-fueled low budget actioner "The Glove" (1979), Cassidy appeared as a love interest for leading man John Saxon while keeping a straight face throughout Roger Vadim's risible erotic thriller "Night Games" (1980).

Despite being known primarily as a TV actress for her vivid guest appearances on such weekly series as "Charlie's Angels" (ABC, 1976-1981), "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991) and "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986), Cassidy won the role of her lifetime when she was cast as the snake-handling replicant Zhora in Ridley Scott's big-budget feature "Blade Runner" (1982), based on the dystopian science fiction classic by Philip K. Dick. So eager was Cassidy to play the role that she offered the use of her own boa constrictor, Lovely. Though the shoot was a difficult one, married by bad blood between director Scott, leading man Harrison Ford and Hollywood newcomer Sean Young, the credit changed the shape of Cassidy's career. Though she played an extended nude scene in the film, "Blade Runner" marked a break for the actress from her days as a Sexy Young Thing to years of purpose as a character actress of gravitas and range.

While continuing to pay rent with television work, Cassidy scored another important feature film role as the journalist love interest of both Nick Nolte and Gene Hackman in "Under Fire" (1983), Roger Spottiswoode's tense account of the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution. Though neglected by the major English-speaking film award-givers, Cassidy's performance did earn her the 1984 Sant Jordi Award from Spain for Best Foreign Actress. Equally adept at drama as well as comedy, Cassidy's seemingly unstructured but disarmingly disciplined acting style won her another shot at a weekly series when she was cast opposite Dabney Coleman on the NBC sitcom "Buffalo Bill" (1983-84). Focused on the daily mishaps of a niche market TV talk show, the series benefited from the spirited bickering of its stars. Cassidy took home a Golden Globe Award for her contributions and was nominated for a primetime Emmy, but much to the chagrin of TV critics everywhere, the series was axed by the network after its second season.

Given a bland love interest role in Harold Ramis' dismal "Club Paradise" (1986) opposite Robin Williams, Cassidy fared better as an icy Soviet hit woman in "The Fourth Protocol" (1987) and brought her trademark sass and sex appeal to a flesh-and-blood role opposite Bob Hoskins in Robert Zemeckis' largely animated "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1989). She reteamed with Hackman for Andrew Davis' espionage thriller "The Package" (1989), as a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who aids her Master Sergeant ex-husband in the hunt for political assassin Tommy Lee Jones. Cassidy again handled heavy ordnance as a small town sheriff in "The Tommyknockers" (1993), an ABC miniseries based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King, and as a New York Police Department captain in Wes Craven's comedic misfire "A Vampire in Brooklyn" (1996), starring Eddie Murphy.

As Cassidy matured, she began to transition from action woman roles to those of aggressive older professionals, with a sideline in lusty "cougars" still in possession of their feminine wiles. The actress perfected this type as the sexually incorrigible Margaret Chenowith on the HBO series "Six Feet Under" (2001-05). She also enjoyed semi-regular status in the second season of "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08), bewitching series regular William Shatner into a spontaneous law office tryst, and as the mother-in-law of widowed chief nurse Jada Pinkett Smith on TNT's "HawthoRNe" (2009-11). In 2007, the 62-year-old Cassidy strapped herself back into her revealing Zhora costume for a digital retake of her famous "Blade Runner" death scene for director Ridley Scott, who had long been unhappy with his original use of an obvious stuntwoman. In 2011, she was back in mother hen mode as coroner Dana Delany's mom on the medical whodunit "Body of Proof" (ABC, 2011-13).

By Richard Harland Smith

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Too Late (2015)
Flying Lessons (2010)
Stolen (2009)
The Human Contract (2008)
Kiss the Bride (2007)
The Virgin of Juarez (2006)
The Grudge 2 (2006)
Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector (2006)
Reading Room (2005)
Found (2005)
Witches of the Caribbean (2005)
Martha Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart (2003)
Wildfire 7: The Inferno (2003)
Superintendent Mclean
Ghosts of Mars (2001)
The Right Temptation (2000)
Maryanne
Circle of Deceit (1998)
Dangerous Beauty (1998)
Loved (1997)
Executive Power (1997)
The Second Civil War (1997)
Chain Reaction (1996)
Sleep, Baby, Sleep (1995)
Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Eye of the Stalker: A Moment of Truth Movie (1995)
Judge Martha Knowlton
The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A. (1994)
Barbarians At the Gate (1993)
All-American Murder (1992)
Erica Darby
Live! From Death Row (1992)
Landslide (1992)
Lucy
Perfect Family (1992)
Taking Back My Life: The Nancy Ziegenmeyer Story (1992)
Lonely Hearts (1991)
Erin
Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead (1991)
Where the Heart Is (1990)
May Wine (1990)
Wheels Of Terror (1990)
Laura Mackenzie
The Package (1989)
1969 (1988)
A Father's Revenge (1988)
Barbara Hobart
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Nightmare At Bittercreek (1988)
Allison
The Fourth Protocol (1987)
Pleasures (1986)
Club Paradise (1986)
The Children Of Times Square (1986)
Invitation to Hell (1984)
Patricia Winslow
Under Fire (1983)
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)
Blade Runner (1982)
Night Games (1980)
Julie Miller
Reunion (1980)
She's Dressed To Kill (1979)
Our Winning Season (1978)
Sheila
Stunts (Do Not Use) (1977)
Patti Johnson
Stunts (1977)
Patti Johnson
The Late Show (1977)
Laura Birdwell
The Glove (1976)
Victor Hale
Stay Hungry (1976)
The Stepford Wives (1975)
Bank Shot (1974)
El
The Outfit (1974)
The Laughing Policeman (1973)

Cast (Special)

Beyond the Human Senses (2000)
Narrator
Dudley Moore: The E! True Hollywood Story (1999)
Other Mothers (1993)
Linda Jurgenson
Sex, Power and the Workplace (1993)
Narration
Bar Girls (1990)
Second Start (1988)
Joanna
Roger Rabbit and the Secrets of Toontown (1988)
Battle of the Network Stars VII (1979)
The Celebrity Football Classic (1979)
Shields and Yarnell (1977)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

To Serve and Protect (1999)
Stephen King's The Tommyknockers (1993)
Grass Roots (1992)
Ann Heath
A Girl of the Limberlost (1990)
Hollywood Wives (1986)

Life Events

1968

First screen role, bit part in Peter Yates' "Bullitt"

1972

Moved to Los Angeles with children; began modeling and acting

1973

Screen acting debut in "The Laughing Policeman"

1977

TV debut as a regular on "Shields and Yarnell" (CBS)

1978

Featured in short-lived "The Rollergirls" (NBC)

1979

Co-starred on the ABC drama series "240 Robert"

1982

Had prominent supporting role in Ridley Scott's sci-fi thriller "Blade Runner"

1983

Appeared in short-lived comedy series "The Family Tree" (NBC)

1983

Cast opposite Dabney Coleman in the superior sitcom "Buffalo Bill" (NBC)

1985

Was featured in the ABC miniseries "Hollywood Wives"

1985

Had leading role of former CIA operative Elizabeth 'Foxire' Towne in the short-lived NBC adventure series "Codename: Foxfire"

1988

Was female live-action lead in the feature "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"

1993

Co-starred in HBO TV-movie "Barbarians at the Gate"

1993

Returned to series TV as the title character's ex-wife in "Dudley", a CBS sitcom starring Dudley Moore that lasted for five episodes

1994

Played leading role in the CBS series "Hotel Malibu"

1994

Played recurring role of a judge on three episode story arc of "L.A. Law"

2001

Cast as Margaret Chenowith, mother of Brenda and Billy Chenowith in the acclaimed HBO series "Six Feet Under"

2001

Returned to regular series work in the ABC fall drama "Philly"

2006

Earned an Emmy nomination for Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series for "Six Feet Under"

2006

Guest stars as Beverly Bridge, wife of lawyer Danny Crane, on ABC's "Boston Legal"

Videos

Movie Clip

Late Show, The (1977) - Act Calm Detective Ira (Art Carney) and looney client Margo (Lily Tomlin) follow their paid-for clue to the apartment where crook Escobar was hiding, and they find her cat, so she considers the case finished, but he notes complications, and meets the armed Joanna Cassidy, in Robert Benton’s acclaimed The Late Show, 1977.
Under Fire (1983) - Smartest Guys In The World Following director Roger Spottiswoode’s action credit sequence, combat cameraman Russell Price (Nick Nolte) in Chad, 1979, hooks up with American mercenary pal Oates (Ed Harris), who updates him on revolutionary happenings around the world, in Under Fire, 1983.
Under Fire (1983) - Third World Elevators Covering the war in Chad, 1979, we meet radio correspondent Claire Stryder (Joanna Cassidy) and TV news veteran Grazier (Gene Hackman), who’s enjoying a sendoff party, which creates issues for them as a couple, photographer pal Price (Nick Nolte) joining, early in Roger Spottiswoode’s Under Fire, 1983.
Under Fire (1983) - I'm Tired Of Nicaragua Radio reporter Claire (Joanna Cassidy) returns to Managua where her significant other Alex (Gene Hackman) informs her that he’s going home for the network anchor gig, not mentioning his correct supposition that she’s become involved with their mutual friend, photographer Price (Nick Nolte), an honorable parting, in Under Fire, 1983.
Stunts (1977) - All Cameras Stand By After credits in which we saw the tie-line to the helicopter tampered with, the first scene finds stunt man Billy (Gary Charles Davis), with Earl (Malachi Throne) directing, undertaking the big stunt, Ray Sharkey the driver, in Stunts, 1977, the first feature from Robert Shaye’s New Line Cinema.
Stunts (1977) - He Was One Of Us We’ve learned that Glen (Robert Forster), who’s taking over as stunt coordinator after his brother was killed on a movie shoot, is giving a lift to writer B.J. (Fiona Lewis), whose car broke down, both greeted by Patti (Joanna Cassidy), Chuck (Bruce Glover) and Paulie (Ray Sharkey), in Stunts, 1977.
Stunts (1977) - I Thought She'd Love It The FX man and director (Richard Lynch, Malachi Throne) set up stunt man Glen (Robert Forster) for the next shot, whereupon he picks up adversarial journalist B.J. (Fiona Lewis), who doesn’t know cameras are rolling, in Stunts, 1977, from New LIne Cinema and director Mark L. Lester.
Outfit, The (1973) -- (Moviie Clip) Think You're Dilllinger At a horse auction, high-roller Mailer (Robert Ryan, in his last movie), with wife Rita (Joanna Cassidy), meets Eddie (Robert Duvall) who's pressing for a payoff, in John Flynn's The Outfit, 1973.

Trailer

Bibliography