Holly Hunter

Holly Hunter


Also Known As
Holly P Hunter
Birth Place
Conyers, Georgia, USA
March 20, 1958


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 Brothers' comedy "Raising Arizona" (1987), and that same year, she also earn...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Arliss Howard
Actor. Together in the early 1990s.
Janusz Kaminski
Director of photography. Married on May 20, 1995; separated on October 31, 2001; Kaminski filed for divorce on December 19, 2001.


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.


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 Brothers' 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 - as well as a Best Actress Oscar - 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 "Jesus' 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 - 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 - 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.



Cast (Feature Film)

The Incredibles 2 (2018)
The Big Sick (2017)
Lawless (2017)
Breakable You (2017)
Strange Weather (2016)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Manglehorn (2014)
Romeo and Juliet (2013)
Paradise (2013)
Jackie (2013)
Bonnie & Clyde (2013)
Won't Back Down (2012)
The Big White (2005)
Nine Lives (2005)
The Incredibles (2004)
Helen Parr/Elastigirl
Little Black Book (2004)
Barb Campbell-Dunn
Searching for Debra Winger (2003)
Thirteen (2003)
Levity (2003)
Adele Easely
Moonlight Mile (2002)
When Billie Beat Bobby (2001)
Billie Jean King
Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her (2000)
Rebecca ("Fantasies About Rebecca")
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Timecode (2000)
Harlan County War (2000)
Jesus' Son (1999)
Woman Wanted (1999)
Living out Loud (1998)
A Life Less Ordinary (1997)
Crash (1996)
Dr Helen Remington
Sangre (1996)
Copycat (1995)
Home for the Holidays (1995)
The Piano (1993)
Ada Mcgrath
The Firm (1993)
The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993)
Crazy In Love (1992)
Georgie Symonds
Once Around (1991)
Roe vs. Wade (1989)
Animal Behavior (1989)
Coral Grable
Always (1989)
A Gathering of Old Men (1987)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Broadcast News (1987)
End of the Line (1987)
Swing Shift (1984)
With Intent to Kill (1984)
Wynn Nolen
An Uncommon Love (1983)
Svengali (1983)
The Burning (1981)

Producer (Feature Film)

Thirteen (2003)
Executive Producer
When Billie Beat Bobby (2001)
Co-Executive Producer

Special Thanks (Feature Film)

Lost Souls (2000)
Special Thanks To
Festival in Cannes (1999)
Special Thanks To

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Searching for Debra Winger (2003)
Festival in Cannes (1999)

Cast (Special)

The 9th Annual Critics' Choice Awards (2004)
Down From the Mountain (2001)
Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln: A House Divided (2001)
16th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards (2001)
Intimate Portrait: Holly Hunter (2000)
Game For Anything: The Strength of Women in Sports (2000)
The 56th Annual Golden Globe Awards (1999)
Nicolas Cage: Wild at Heart (1999)
The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998)
Intimate Portrait: Jessica Lange (1998)
The 54th Annual Golden Globe Awards (1997)
The Screen Actors Guild Awards (1997)
Cheetahs With Holly Hunter (1997)
The 53rd Annual Golden Globe Awards (1996)
The 67th Annual Academy Awards (1995)
The 21st Annual People's Choice Awards (1995)
The Way West (1995)
Celebrate Storytelling With Tracey Ullman (1994)
46th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (1994)
The 14th Annual CableACE Awards (1993)
The 41st Annual Emmy Awards (1989)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Three Billy Goats Gruff and the Three Little Pigs (1989)

Life Events


At age 15, Hunter was invited to a summer apprenticeship at a repertory theater in upstate New York


Off-Broadway debut, "Battery"


Made film-acting debut in "The Burning"


Made her Broadway debut in Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart"


Made TV-movie debut in "Svengali" (CBS)


Originated role of Carnelle in Henley's off-Broadway play "The Miss Firecracker Contest"


Had supporting part in Jonathan Demme's "Swing Shift"; role was substantially cut before the film's release


Earned first Best Actress Academy Award nomination playing a highly competent TV news producer in "Broadcast News"


Landed first starring role in the Coen brothers' "Raising Arizona"


Won Emmy for playing a fictionalized Jane Roe in the drama "Roe v. Wade" (NBC)


Reprised off-Broadway role of Carnelle Scott for the feature film adaption of Henley's "Miss Firecracker"


Starred opposite Richard Dreyfuss in Steven Spielberg's "Always"


Reteamed with Dreyfuss for the romance "Once Around"


Earned Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her role as a secretary in "The Firm"


Offered Emmy Award-winning turn as the title character in HBO's "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom"


Won numerous accolades, including a Best Actress Oscar, as the mute Ada in Jane Campion's "The Piano"


Co-starred in the ensemble "Home for the Holidays," directed by Jodie Foster


Portrayed an angel in Danny Boyle's unsuccessful "A Life Less Ordinary"


Cast in leading role opposite Danny DeVito and Queen Latifah in "Livin' Out Loud"


Returned to the NYC stage in Beth Henley's "Impossible Marriage"


Played a recovering alcoholic romanced by a recovering drug addict in "Jesus' Son"


Earned an Emmy nomination playing the wife of a union-organizer in Showtime's "Harlan County War"


Reteamed with the Coen brothers for "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"


Played a pregnant bank teller in the female-driven "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her"; received Emmy nomination (aired on Showtime in 2001 in lieu of theatrical release)


Portrayed Billie Jean King in ABC movie "When Billie Beat Bobby"; earned Emmy nomination


Co-starred in and produced coming-of-age drama "Thirteen"; received Golden Globe, SAG and Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress


Voiced Helen Parr / Elastigirl in Brad Bird's Pixar debut, "The Incredibles"


Played the deranged wife of Robin Williams in the dark comedy "The Big White"


Cast in the ensemble "Nine Lives"; Rodrigo GarcĂ­a directed a series of vignettes, offering glimpses into the lives of nine women


Cast in first starring role in a TV series, as a tormented police detective on TNT drama "Saving Grace"; earned Golden Globe (2007), SAG (2007, 2008, 2009) and Emmy (2008, 2009) nominations for Best Actress in a Drama Series


Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (May)


Nominated for the 2009 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in Drama Series


Played the teacher's union president opposite Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal in inner city school drama "Won't Back Down"


Played an ill-fated senator in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"


Appeared in musical drama "Song to Song"


Played Beth, the mother of Zoe Kazan's "Emily," in Kumail Nanjiani/Emily V. Gordon biopic "The Big Sick"


Co-starred with Tim Robbins on the dramedy series "Here and Now"


Re-teamed with Brad Bird, Craig T. Nelson and Pixar for "Incredibles 2"

Photo Collections

The Piano - Movie Poster
The Piano - Movie Poster


Movie Clip

Miss Firecracker (1989) -- (Movie Clip) Scrape Up That Dog! Carnelle (Holly Hunter), apparently dyeing her hair even-more red, takes a call from glamorous cousin Elain (Mary Steenburgen), who won the pageant she’s entering years earlier, then together they introduce Delmount (Tim Robbins), who’s just been “released,” in Miss Firecracker, 1989.
Miss Firecracker (1989) -- (Movie Clip) Funny Looking Creatures Mississippian Carnelle (Holly Hunter), readying herself for the pageant, introduces two allies, Alfre Woodard as Popeye, who’s engaged to create her costume, and Scott Glenn as carnie Mac whom, we learn, is her itinerant boyfriend, early in Miss Firecracker. 1989.
Miss Firecracker (1989) -- (Movie Clip) Open, Do You Believe Her Hair? Director Thomas Schlamme begins the story as credits roll, Holly Hunter as title character Carnelle with gnarly fish processing (on location, Yazoo City, MS), then meeting pageant staff Ann Wedgworth and Trey Wilson, in Miss Firecracker, 1989, from Beth Henley’s play and screenplay.
Always (1989) -- (Movie Clip) I Was Rusty On Panic Sort of a Maguffin opening, highly dramatic, from director Steven Spielberg, in the picture he said was inspired-by, rather than a remake-of A Guy Named Joe, 1944, introducing Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter, John Goodman supporting, in Always, 1989, co-starring Audrey Hepburn.
Broadcast News (1987) -- (Movie Clip) How Do You Say No To That? Rising reporter Tom (William Hurt) growing into his role, with editor Bobby (Christian Clemens), then his story (with date-rape victim Marita Geraghty) watched in the newsroom, Aaron (Albert Brooks), producer Jane (Holly Hunter) and anchor Jack Nicholson reacting, in Broadcast News., 1987.
Broadcast News (1987) -- (Movie Clip) Influenced By The Star System Overwrought TV news producer Jane (Holly Hunter) doesn’t go over well, giving a speech about the decline in news coverage before a professional conference, but is reassured when she meets Tom (William Hurt), a budding anchorman, early in James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News, 1987.
Broadcast News (1987) -- (Movie Clip) Along The Nicaraguan Border Reporter Aaron (Albert Brooks) and producer Jane (Holly Hunter) under fire in Nicaragua, followed by one of her crying fits, then in the control room with exec Ernie (Robert Prosky), assistant Blair (Joan Cusack), new-hire Tom (William Hurt) and anchorman Bill (Jack Nicholson), in Broadcast News, 1987.
Broadcast News (1987) -- (Movie Clip) We're Not Gonna Make It! Newsroom action scene stolen by desperate Joan Cusack's barrelling run with a videotape, producer Jane (Holly Hunter) with editor Bobby (Christian Clemens), reporter Aaron (Albert Brooks) in support and newly-hired Tom (William Hurt) dazzled, in James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News, 1987.



Charles Edwin Hunter
Sporting goods manufacturer's representative. Died in 1982.
Opal Marguerite Hunter


Arliss Howard
Actor. Together in the early 1990s.
Janusz Kaminski
Director of photography. Married on May 20, 1995; separated on October 31, 2001; Kaminski filed for divorce on December 19, 2001.



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.