Family & Companions
The star of a number of politically controversial feature films in her native Iran during the 1970s, actress Shohreh Aghdashloo had to wait another 20 years before she resumed her career momentum with acclaimed screen performances in American films and television. At the age of 51, she emerged onto the international stage with her Oscar-nominated supporting performance as the wife of a former Iranian military officer reduced to working-class status upon the family's immigration to America in "House of Sand and Fog" (2003). From there, the actress was cast in many roles as highly educated, sophisticated professionals on primetime dramas and in films, including "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006). Aghdashloo also maintained a commitment to Iranian social and political issues with productions like "Maryam" (2002) and "The Stoning of Soraya M." (2008), which showcased her powerful screen presence and a versatility that helped break down the Western screen's limited notions about Middle-Eastern life and women.
Aghdashloo was born Pari Vaziri-Tabar on May 11, 1952, and raised in a wealthy family in Tehran, Iran. She began her career with numerous stage roles from the time she was 20. In her screen debut, "Gozaresh" ("The Report," 1977), from acclaimed director Abbass Kiarostami, Aghdashloo played the suicidal wife of a dishonest tax collector. The film won the Critics Award at the Moscow Film Festival, though it was ultimately banned in her native country. Aghdashloo's next film, "Shatranje Bad" (loosely translated as "Chess With the Wind," 1977), was screened at several international festivals across the globe, but also became a victim of Iran's strict censorship laws. Undeterred, Aghdashloo managed to establish herself as one of Iran's leading actresses with her appearance in "Sooteh Delan" ("Broken Hearts," 1978), directed by Ali Hatami.
In 1978, the Islamic Revolution swept Iran into a new era, forcing Aghdashloo to flee to England with her first husband. But when he longed for his native country, her husband returned home, leaving Aghdashloo in London. Braving another setback, Aghdashloo took the opportunity to explore her interest in politics and social justice by attending college and earning a degree in International Relations. Her desire to act remained strong, however, and Aghdashloo continued to perform on stage throughout her education. In 1987, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue the acting career she began a decade earlier. There she met and eventually married actor-playwright Houshang Touzie, with whom she formed a theater company that performed in Farsi for the benefit of the local Iranian community.
Aghdashloo began landing guest roles on television shows, including "Martin" (Fox, 1992-97) and "Matlock" (NBC, ABC, 1986-95), while appearing low-budget indie features like "Twenty Bucks" (1993), which followed a $20 bill through dozens of owners. But the actress remained off the screen for the remainder of the decade, appearing mainly onstage before surfacing again in the independent family film "Surviving Paradise" (2000). Starring in "Maryam" (2002), Aghdashloo played an Iranian immigrant living in America during the Iran hostage crisis of the early 1980s. Around the same time, Aghdashloo read House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III and fell in love with the character Nadereh, the wife of a former Iranian general struggling with his working class status in the United States. When she heard that the book was to be made into a feature film, Aghdashloo jumped at the chance to audition, wowing director Vadim Perelman. Delivering a sterling performance, Aghdashloo finally arrived in Hollywood at the age of 51. She earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actress in a Supporting Role in addition to taking home an Independent Spirit Award and honors from New York and Los Angeles film critic's societies.
Her captivating performance in "House of Sand and Fog" led to new opportunities, including a move into the television lineup with a recurring role on the hit Fox series, "24" (2001-10), on which she played the upscale matriarch of an undercover terrorist family. Though normally reluctant to play cultural stereotypes, especially terrorists, Aghdashloo was attracted to the complexity of the character and the contradiction between her being a ruthless killer and a loving mother. Aghdashloo made a pair of guest appearances on "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006) and "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) before returning to theaters in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" (2005). In the supernatural thriller, she had a supporting role as an anthropologist and expert in demonic possession who testifies in the trial of a priest (Tom Wilkinson) charged with negligent homicide following a failed exorcism attempt on a college student (Jennifer Carpenter).
After a small role as Dr. Kativa Rao in the mega-blockbuster "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006), the third feature adaptation of the comic book series, Aghdashloo landed a major role in the formulaic, but popular romantic drama "The Lake House" (2006), starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves as lovers exchanging romantic letters while living in the same house, though two years apart. In "The Nativity Story" (2006), a drab look at the two year period of Mary and Joseph's life that culminates in going to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus, Aghdashloo played Elizabeth, Mary's older cousin who miraculously gives birth to John the Baptist despite her advanced age. Taking a comic turn, she played the relative of a hapless, would-be terrorist (Sam Golzari) with a penchant for show tunes in "American Dreamz" (2006), a toothless satire on politics, pop culture and terrorism from writer-director Paul Weitz. She was also briefly seen in the cast of the short-lived "Smith" (CBS, 2006), an hour-long action drama about the double-lives of crime syndicate members who maintain a law abiding, professional impression for their families.
The actress was tapped for another pair of roles as educated professionals, appearing as a doctor in a guest spot on "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) and playing another professor in the sequel, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" (2008). In her first leading film role in years, Aghdashloo starred in "The Stoning of Soraya M." (2008), a fact-based drama exploring human rights abuses in Iran. Adapted from the non-fiction book by French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, Aghdashloo starred as a rural Iranian woman who witnesses the capital murder of an innocent woman and approaches the journalist to tell her story. The film was banned in Iran, but was applauded on the international film festival circuit. Aghdashloo maintained her momentum with a leading role in the HBO miniseries "House of Saddam" (2008), playing the first of several wives of the Iraqi dictator in a chronicle of his rise and fall from power. Aghdashloo earned her first-ever Emmy nomination and win for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Sajida Khairallah Talfah, the school teacher who had five children with Hussein following their arranged marriage.
Cast (Feature Film)
Visual Effects (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Acted in "Shatranje Bad" (loosely translated "Chess With the Wind"), directed by Mohammad Reza Aslani; film was banned in her home country
Appeared in the family drama "Gozaresh" ("The Report"), helmed by world renowned director Abbas Kia-Rostami
Emigrated to Britain, where she completed her education and continued acting in the theater
Appeared in "Sootah Delaan (Heart-brokens)"; helmed by legendary Iranian writer/director, Ali Hatami; film was banned in her home country
Acted in Los Angeles stage productions, where she met her future husband
Made her American film debut in "Guests of Hotel Astoria"
Received International acclaim portraying Ben Kingsley's wife in Vadim Perelman's "House of Sand and Fog"; earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination
Co-starred with Tom Wilkinson and Laura Linney in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose"
Joined the fourth season of the Fox drama "24" as a member of a terrorist cell
Cast in Paul Weitz's political satire "American Dreamz"
Joined the short-lived CBS crime drama "Smith"
Cast in Catherine Hardwicke's biblical film "The Nativity Story"
Played Dr. Kavita Rao in the third installment of the "X-Men" series "X-Men: The Last Stand"
Portrayed Saddam's first wife in "House of Saddam," a co-production between BBC and HBO films about the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein
Appeared in the coming-of-age drama "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2"
Portrayed the aunt of the film's title character in "The Stoning of Soraya M."; based on the true story and adapted from French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam's 1994 novel of the same name
Co-starred in the science fiction thriller "The Adjustment Bureau"
Played the recurring part of Stefania Vaduva Popescu on the fantasy series "Grimm"
Appeared in the Jon Stewart-directed "Rosewater"
Nabbed a recurring part on "The Expanse"
Cast as Marta Boghosian in "The Promise"
Voiced a role in the animated film "Window Horses"
Played Commodore Paris in "Star Trek Beyond"
Was cast alongside Candice Bergen on the TV comedy series "Pearl"