Academy Award-winner actress Holly Hunter was launched to stardom for her fantastic portrayal of repressed, speechless immigrant mother Ada McGrath in Jane Campion's The Piano (1993), for which she was highly praised with an Oscar, as well as took home such awards as a Golden Globe Award, a Chicago Film Critics Association Award, a BAFTA Award, a London Film Critics Circle Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, an Australian Film Institute Award, a National Board of Review Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, a New York Film Critics Circle Award and a National Society of Film Critics Award. Also in 1993, she won critical praise for her brave role of Gary Busey's sexy secretary Tammy Hemphill in The Firm (1993, starring Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise), where she nabbed an Oscar and BAFTA nominations.
Turning the heads of film critics for the first time in the Coen brothers' 1987 hit Raising Arizona, Hunter continued with her multi-award winning performance as lonely, bad-tempered TV news producer Jane Craig in Broadcast News (1987). Helmed by James L. Brooks, she netted a New York Film Critics Circle Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and a National Board of Review Award for her performance. Additionally, she earned an Academy Award nomination. In a more recent film, the American actress again drew accolades with her applauded performance as the uptight mother of an adolescent daughter in the critically acclaimed drama Thirteen (2003). Because of her extraordinary acting, Hunter netted a Locarno International Film Festival Award, a Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award, and earned a 2004 Oscar nomination.
On the small screen, Hunter made a name for herself as a television star when she garnered an Emmy Award after playing fictionalized Jane Roe in 1989’s television film Roe vs. Wade. Moreover, she was widely recognized for her memorable performance in the made-for-television movie The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993), in which she picked up a second Emmy Award and a Cable ACE Award.
Off screen, Holly Hunter would rather keep a lower public profile than her many awards would normally allow. She also prefers to keep her private life private. As a result, the failure of her first marriage with renowned Polish cinematographer Janusz Kaminski stayed quite low-key. As for her romantic life, the 5' 2" inch tall beauty formerly was linked to actor Arliss Howard (dated in the 1990s), before marrying Janusz Kaminski in 1995. The couple divorced in 2001, and she then began a new relationship with England-born actor Gordon MacDonald three years later. The duo is still together now, and they are reportedly expecting twins, due late 2005 or early 2006.
Childhood and Family:
The youngest of seven, Holly Hunter was born on March 20, 1958, in Conyers, Georgia. Her father is Charles Edwin Hunter, a sporting goods manufacturer representative and proletarian cultivator with 250 acres, while her mother is Opal Marguerite Hunter, a homemaker. Since childhood, Holly’s parents wanted their daughter to become an actress. As a result of their encouragement, young Holly won the starring role of Helen Keller for her first play when she was in fifth grade. Holly then furthered her studies at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, where she underwent some serious acting training with Jorge Guerra. After receiving a degree in drama in 1980, she relocated to New York to give acting a try. Two years later, Holly headed for Hollywood to pursue acting more professionally.
Holly Hunter met and fell for celebrated director of photography Janusz Kaminski (born on June 27, 1959), and the 37-year-old Southerner decided to tie the knot with the Polish-born cinematographer on May 20, 1995. On December 21, 2001, however, the couple officially ended their six-year marriage.
Encouraged by her parents to pursue a career in acting, Holly Hunter made her debut performance as Helen Keller in a fifth-grade play. Later, with a theater degree in her pocket, Hunter moved to New York to fulfill her childhood dream. Fortune was on her side as Hunter was spotted by playwright Beth Henley while being trapped in a stalled elevator. Collaborating with Henley, Hunter subsequently was handed her Broadway debut in the 1982 production of "Crimes of the Heart." A year before, she appeared in the failed slasher flick The Burning (1981).
Arriving in Los Angeles in 1982, the fledgling actress landed several television gigs, including Svengali (1983), An Uncommon Love (1983), With Intent to Kill (1984), and got her first film exposure with the supporting role of Jeannie in Jonathan Demme's Swing Shift (1984). Unfortunately, her part ended on the cutting room floor before the film's release. The same year, Hunter rejoined Henley for an Off-Broadway production of "The Miss Firecracker Contest," in which she originated the role of Carnelle. 1984 also marked her first collaboration with the Coen brothers when she provided the voice for Helene Trend in the animated film Blood Simple (1984) and she next starred in the Coen’s next project, Raising Arizona, three years later. The film was a hit and Hunter herself won praise from film critics for her fine performance as the lovesick, maternal police officer Ed.
Her big breakthrough arrived in the same year when Hunter was cast in the starring role of lonesome, uptight, but highly competent TV news producer Jane Craig in James L. Brooks' Broadcast News (1987). Her acclaimed performance was garnered with a New York Film Critics Circle, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and a National Board of Review for Best Actress award, as well as receiving an Oscar nomination.
Her success led to more acclaimed work in 1989. She first garnered praise for portraying Carnelle Scott in the wide screen version of Miss Firecracker (1989), and then received critical rave for her starring role opposite Richard Dreyfuss in Steven Spielberg's Always (1989). On the small screen, Hunter won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special for her bright performance as fictionalized Jane Roe in the NBC’s drama film Roe vs. Wade (1989).
In 1991, Hunter rejoined Dreyfuss for the romance Once Around and reappeared on television for Crazy in Love a year later. However, it was in 1993 that the actress was launched to become one of Hollywood acclaimed stars. She began with the television movie The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993), where her brilliant performance as the title character Wanda Holloway nabbed a second Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special and a Cable ACE for Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries. Hunter again received a wealth of critical appreciation for portraying Gary Busey's sexy secretary Tammy Hemphill in The Firm (1993), starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman. Delivering a fine acting job, she earned nominations for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards and BAFTA Awards.
The same year, Hunter gained even more recognition when she was cast as the introverted, mute Scottish woman, Ada McGrath, knotted in a deceitful affair with Harvey Keitel, in Jane Campion's The Piano (1993). Due to her spectacular acting, she won numerous awards like an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Chicago Film Critics Association, a BAFTA, a London Film Critics Circle, a Cannes Film Festival, an Australian Film Institute, a National Board of Review, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association, a New York Film Critics Circle, as well as a National Society of Film Critics for Best Actress.
Unlikely, the triumph was followed by a string of uneven films, including Copycat (1995), Home for the Holidays (1995), Crash (1996) and Danny Boyle's unsuccessful A Life Less Ordinary (1997). In 1998, however, Hunter was put in the spotlight again for her convincing portrayal of divorced New Yorker Judith Moore in Living Out Loud (1998), in which she received rave reviews from film critics. The comedy/drama film also starred Danny DeVito, Queen Latifah and Martin Donovan. She finished the decade with the small role of a recovering alcoholic in the independent drama Jesus' Son (1999).
In the new millennium, Hunter kept busy with her work in films. She earned an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of pregnant bank teller Rebecca in the female-driven Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000). Hunter next starred as housekeeper Emma Riley, torn between a brokenhearted widower and Kiefer Sutherland's little-seen character, in Woman Wanted (2000), was featured as executive Renee Fishbine in the drama Timecode (2000, starring Xander Berkeley and Golden Brooks) and once again drew favorable reviews for her performance in the Coen brothers' 2000 hit O Brother, Where Art Thou? A series of television projects followed, including Harlan County War (2000), When Billie Beat Bobby (2001), Eco Challenge New Zealand (2002, as narrator), before returning to film with a supporting part in the 2002 Moonlight Mile. She then gave a memorable performance as Adele Easley in the otherwise critically maligned redemption drama Levity (2003), also starring Billy Bob Thornton and Morgan Freeman.
Hunter’s next big breakthrough arrived in 2003 when she was cast in the supporting role of Melanie, the frantic mother trying hard to understand her downward-spiraling adolescent daughter (played by Evan Rachel Wood) in Catherine Hardwicke's critically acclaimed drama Thirteen (2003). Hunter’s outstanding performance handed her a Locarno International Film Festival award for Best Actress and a Las Vegas Film Critics Society for Best Supporting Actress, as well as earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 2004. Also in 2003, she was honored with a Tribute to Independent Vision Award at the Sundance Film Festival for her contribution to independent films.
From 2004-2005, Hunter had four wide screen projects and two films in production. She shared the top billing spot with Brittany Murphy and Kathy Bates in the romantic comedy Little Black Book (2004), teamed up with Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee and Dominique Louis for writer/director Brad Bird’s animated hit film, The Incredibles (2004), had a minor role in the drama Nine Lives (2005) and appeared in the comedy film The Big White (2005, starring Robin Williams). She will soon play Nancy in the thriller Downloading Nancy (2005) and portray Philomena Lynott in the drama My Boy (2005). Hunter recently was also seen on stage when she starred in the Irish play “In the Bog of Cats” (March 2005), in London's West End.
- Costume Designers Guild: Distinguished Actor Award, 2004
- Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Sierra Award, Best Supporting Actress, Thirteen, 2004
- Locarno International Film Festival: Bronze Leopard, Best Actress, Thirteen, 2003
- Sundance Film Festival: Tribute to Independent Vision Award, 2003
- Boston Film Festival: Film Excellence Award, 1998
- Golden Globe: Best Actress in a Leading Role-Drama, The Piano, 1994
- Academy Awards: Best Actress, The Piano, 1994
- Chicago Film Critics Association: Best Actress, The Piano, 1994
- BAFTA: Best Actress, The Piano, 1993
- London Film Critics Circle: Best Actress, The Piano, 1993
- Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress, The Piano, 1993
- Australian Film Institute: Best Actress, The Piano, 1993
- National Board of Review: Best Actress, The Piano, 1993
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Actress, The Piano, 1993
- New York Film Critics Circle: Best Actress, The Piano, 1993
- National Society of Film Critics: Best Actress, The Piano, 1993
- Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, 1993
- Cable ACE: Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom; broadcast on HBO, 1993
- Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special, Roe vs. Wade, 1989
- National Board of Review: Best Actress, Broadcast News; award shared with Lillian Gish, The Wales of August, 1987
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Actress, Broadcast News; award shared with Sally Kirkland, Anna, 1987
- New York Film Critics Circle: Best Actress, Broadcast News, 1987