PROFILE
Name:
Christine Lahti
Birth Date:
April 4, 1950
Birth Place:
Birmingham, Michigan, USA
Height:
5' 10" (1.78 m)
Nationality:
American
Famous for:
Her role as Dr. Kate Austin on TV series Chicago Hope
BIOGRAPHY
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Christine Lahti
Chicago Hope


Background:

“I'm more proud of quitting smoking than of anything else I've done in my life, including winning an Oscar. I was so hooked on cigarettes that I allowed them to control my life. I had started smoking when I was 14 and after 20 years was up to 2 1/2 packs a day. I stay disciplined about eating right and working out now because once you get rid of something that self-destructive, you don't want unhealthy behavior anywhere in your life.” Christine Lahti

American actress and director Christine Lahti is well recognized as Dr. Kate Austin on the television series “Chicago Hope,” a role she played from 1995 to 1999. Delivering a bright acting, she was handed both an Emmy and Golden Globe Awards, among other nominations. She played Grace McCallister on the WB series “Jack and Bobby” (2004-2005), from which she picked up a Prism Award,  a Golden Globe nomination and a Screen Actors Guild nomination. Lahti has also given notable performances in other television projects such as “Amerika” (1987, earned nominations at the Emmy and Golden Globe Awards), “No Place Like Home” (1989, received both an Emmy and Golden Globe nominations), “Crazy from the Heart” (1991, won a CableACE Award), “Hope” (1997, won a  Lone Star Film & Television Award),  “An American Daughter” (2000, netted a Golden Globe nomination) and  “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (7 episodes, 2009-2011). On the big screen, Lahti received an Oscar and a Golden Globe nomination for her scene stealing role as Goldie Hawn's best friend in  “Swing Shift” (1984). Other films she has acted in include “Housekeeping” (1987),  “Running on Empty” (1988), “The Doctor” (1991), “Hideaway” (1995) and “Smart People” (2008). As director, Lahti won an Academy Award for the short film “ Lieberman in Love” (1995).  

Lahti has been married to  TV director Thomas Schlamme since 1983. She is the mother of 3.


Delta Gamma

Childhood and Family:

One of six children, Christine Lahti was born on April 4, 1950, in Birmingham, Michigan. Her father, Paul Theodore Lahti, was a surgeon, while her mother, Elizabeth M Lahti, was a painter, homemaker and nurse. She received a degree in speech and drama from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While in college, in addition to becoming a member of Delta Gamma sorority, she actively participated in theater and performed with a mime troupe that toured internationally. She originally wanted to take a Masters degree at Florida State University, but quit after only a year and then moved to New York. There she trained at the noted Herbert Berghof Studio and the Neighborhood Studio.

On September 4, 1983, Christine was married to Thomas Schlamme. The couple welcomed their first child, son Wilson Schlamm, on July 5, 1988. On August 3, 1993, she gave birth to twins, daughter Emma Schlamme and son Joseph Schlamme.    

On December 23, 1995,  Christine's mother passed away at age 75 of unreported causes.


Swing Shift

Career:

While in college, Christine Lahti traveled to Scotland as part of the Ann Arbor Mime Troupe, and then went to London where she performed in a mime version of Shakespeare's “The Tempest.” After relocating to New York, she took a waitressing job by day and performed off-off Broadway by night, and also worked as a mime for a while in Central Park before starting appearing in television commercials. Her first ads was for rug shampoo Spray n Vac, followed by several other products, including Sominex and Joy dishwashing liquid. Lahti eventually got her first break on stage when she plyed the female lead opposite Chris Sarandon in David Mamet's “The Woods” at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theater in 1978. She was handed a Theater World Award for her performance on the play. The same year, she also made her television debut as Tania Reston in live action, comic book adventure “Dr Scorpion,” opposite Nick Mancuso. It was also in 1978 when Lahti landed her first regular role as the daughter of Harvey Korman on the short lived ABC sitcom “The Harvey Korman Show.”

Following her awesome turn as Carol in the Emmy Award winning television movie “ The Last Tenant” (ABC, 1978), along with Tony Lo Bianco and Lee Strasberg, Lahti was cast by director Norman Jewison in the acclaimed movie “... And Justice for All” (1979), in which she portrayed Gail Packer, a legal ethics committee member who begins a romance with an ethically questionable attorney, Arthur Kirkland (played by Al Pacino). She returned to stage in that same year by succeeding Roxane Hart in Michael Weller's Off-Broadway play, “Loose Ends,” opposite Kevin Kline. In 1980, she made her Broadway debut in Steve Tesich's “Division Street,” a comedy about grown up 1960s hippies in the 1980s. The same year, she also co-starred with Stephen Collins and Larry Gates in the made for television film “The Henderson Monster.”

Lahti finely portrayed Dr. Clare Scott in the film adaptation of the Broadway hit “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” (1981), directed by John Badham, and had a supporting role as Aunt Linda in the punk rock cult film “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains” (1982), starring Diane Lane, Laura Dern and Marin Kanter. She also appeared in the television miniseries thriller “Wolcott” (1981), with George Harris, Warren Clarke and Martin Dempsey, and played  Brenda Nicol in television film adaptation of Norman Mailer's book, “The Executioner's Song” (NBC, 1982), helmed by Lawrence Schiller.

Lahti's breakthrough film role came when she was cast as Kay Walsh's close friend, Hazel on the Jonathan Demme drama “Swing Shift” (1984), starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. For her tragic portrayal of the heart broken former singer, Lahti was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, as well as won a New York Film Critics Circle Award. In 1984, she also appeared with Tony Danza, Paul Michael Glaser and Keith Gordon in the made for television film “Single Bars, Single Women.”

After starring in “Love Lives On” (TV, 1985), with Mary Stuart Masterson and Sam Waterston,  and Allan Burns' “Just Between Friends” (1986), opposite     Mary Tyler Moore and Ted Danson, Lahti offered a marvelous performance as the free spirited aunt in the film adaptation of Marilynne Robinson's book, “Housekeeping” (1987), which won the Special Jury Prize and the Best Screenplay Award at the 1987 Tokyo International Film Festival. She won  the 2nd place for Best Actress at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for her performance. Lahti enjoyed further success on the small screen with her role as Alethea Milford, Kris Kristofferson's sister, on the ABC television miniseries “Amerika” (1987), depicting life in the United States after a bloodless takeover by the Soviet Union. The role brought her nominations at both the Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Supporting Actress.  

In 1988, Lahti played Judd Hirsch's wife and River Phoenix's mom, Annie Pope on the Sidney Lumet directed film “Running on Empty.”  She was nominated for a 1989 Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and won a  Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for her performance. In the following year, she portrayed  Clara Archer in Thomas Schlamme's comedy, “Miss Firecracker” and Dr. Rachel Woodruff in Thom Eberhardt's drama “Gross Anatomy” (1989), opposite Matthew Modine and Daphne Zuniga.  For her bright turn as Zan Cooper, the matriarch of a family forced to live on the streets in the CBS TV film “No Place Like Home” (1989), she was handed a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special. The same year, she could also be seen on stage in Wendy Wasserstein's “The Heidi Chronicles” on Broadway, for which she replaced Joan Allen.    

In early 1990s, Lahti could be seen in films and televisions movies like “Three Hotels” (PBS, 1990), “Funny About Love” (1990, as Meg Lloyd Bergman), “The Doctor” (1991, with William Hurt),  “Crazy from the Heart” (TNT,1991), in which she picked up a CableACE Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of a conservative educator who finds improbable romance with a Hispanic janitor,  “Leaving Normal” (1992, opposite Meg Tilly and Patrika Darbo), “The Fear Inside” (1992, with Dylan McDermott and Jennifer Rubin) and “The Good Fight” (Lifetime, 1992). She also co-starred with  Ron Rifkin in the Off-Broadway production of Jon Robin Baitz's “Three Hotels” (1992). Lahti then took some time off for maternity reasons, and returned in 1995 when she made her directing debut with a 39 minute length film called “Lieberman in Love,” which she also starred. The film brought her an Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action, an honor she shared with Jana Sue Memel.  The same year, she also starred along with Jeff Goldblum, Alicia Silverstone and Jeremy Sisto in the horror film “Hideaway,” which was adapted from the novel of the same name by Dean Koontz, and portrayed Dr. Burke  in the made for television film “The Four Diamonds,” opposite Tom Guiry and Kevin Dunn.

Lahti, however, did not experience a huge break on television until she joined the cast of the popular CBS medical series “Chicago Hope” in its second season in 1995. As the complicated, ambitious cardiothoracic surgeon and feminist, Dr. Kathryn Austin, she took home a 1997 Golden Satellite for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama, a 1998 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and a 1998 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Drama, not to mention three additional Emmy nominations in 1996, 1997 and 1999, a Golden Globe nomination in 1997, four Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series from 1996 to 1999, and three  Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series from 1996 to 1998. She also had the opportunity to direct an episode called “The Things We Do for Love” (1998). Lahti departed the show in spring 1999.

During her off seasons from “Chicago Hope,” Lahti continued to assume other projects. She worked with Josh Charles, Anne Heche and John Goodman in the Bryan Gordon directed comedy film “Pie in the Sky” (1996),  supported Nick Bakay, Rita Rudner and Jack Lemmon in the TV film “ A Weekend in the Country” (1996) and portrayed Emma Percy in the TNT film “Hope” (1997), for which she netted a Lone Star Film & Television in the category of Best TV Supporting Actress. She also made a guest appearance in an episode of “Ellen” (1998) and starred as Ellie Nesler in the film “Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story” (1999).

Entering the new millennium, Lahti starred as a US Senator's daughter nominated to be Surgeon General in the Lifetime television film adaptation of “An American Daughter,”  based on Wendy Wasserstein's play. The role brought her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV. The following year, she made her feature directorial debut with the comedy “My First Mister,” starring Albert Brooks, Leelee Sobieski and Rutanya Alda. The film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2001. The same year, she could also be seen making a guest appearance in an episode of “ Ally McBeal.” During 2002-2004, she appeared in a series of television films such as “ The Pilot's Wife,” “Women vs. Men,” “Open House,” “Out of the Ashes,” “The Book of Ruth” and “Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman.”

Lahti returned to series television as     a regular when she was cast as Professor Grace McCallister on  the WB drama “Jack and Bobby,” which ran for two seasons from September 12, 2004 to May 11, 2005. For her fine acting, the actress won a Prism Award for Performance in a Drama Series Storyline and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama and a Screen Actors Guild  for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series.  

After the cancellation of “Jack and Bobby,” Lahti appeared as Martha O'Dell in three episodes of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (2006). She also appeared on stage as a minister and bible scholar in the Playwrights Horizons production of Keith Bunin's “The Busy World is Hushed” (2006). She resumed her film career in 2008 by appearing in “Smart People” and “ Yonkers Joe.” In 2009, she began her recurring role as Executive A.D.A. Sonya Paxton on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” a role that later brought her a Prism nomination for Performance in a Drama Series Episode in 2011.  She played Commander Helen Keller in the TV film “ Operating Instructions,” Reese in the film “Obsessed,” and Gail Nathanson in an episode of “The Cleaner” called “The Turtle & The Butterfly” (all 2009). She also had a supporting role in the drama film “Flying Lessons” (2010), starring Maggie Grace, Cary Elwes and Jonathan Tucker.

In 2011, Lahti was cast as Emily Campbell in the CBS television film “The Doctor” and supported Brian Presley, Kurt Russell and Melanie Lynskey in the Don Handfield drama film “Touchback.” She will play Felicia Petunia in the upcoming comedy/drama film “Petunia,” directed and co-written by Ash Christian. The film will also star Thora Birch, Brittany Snow and Eddie Kaye Thomas.                 


Awards:

High Falls Film Festival: Susan B. Anthony 'Failure is Impossible' Award, 2005
Prism: Performance in a Drama Series Storyline, “Jack & Bobby,” 2005
Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, “Chicago Hope,” 1998
Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Drama, “Chicago Hope,” 1998
Lone Star Film & Television: Best TV Supporting Actress, “Hope,” 1998
Golden Satellite: Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama, “Chicago Hope,” 1997
Oscar:     Best Short Film, Live Action, “Lieberman in Love,” 1996
Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, “No Place Like Home,” 1990
Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA): Best Actress, “Running on Empty,” 1988
New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC): 2nd place, Best Actress, “Housekeeping,” 1987
New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC): Best Supporting Actress, “Swing Shift,” 1984
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