“I think I knew acting was what I wanted to do. But I was from this small town and there was no place for an adult to recognize it. I think the cheerleading thing was a way of performing. There was the boy element, but more important was the performance element. Once I got to high school and auditioned for a play and got in, I thought this was really what I was looking for. Once that had got cleared up, from 13 on, that was it.” Joan Allen
American actress Joan Allen rose to prominence as sightless girl Reba McClane in Manhunter and Maddy Nagle, one of Kathleen Turner’s high school friends, in Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married (both in 1986). She received further recognition and appreciation for her Oscar-nominated turn as Pat Nixon in Oliver Stone’s biopic Nixon (1995), where she netted numerous awards like a Los Angeles Film Critics Circle award, a Boston Society of Film Critics award, a National Society of Film Critics award and a Chicago Film Critics award. She cemented her position as a successful performer with her second Academy Award-nominated performance as the wife of Daniel Day-Lewis in The Crucible (1996), where she took home a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award and an Empire Award, and her brilliant scene-stealing role as Tobey Maguire’s mother in Garry Ross’ Pleasantville (1998). For her role in the latter, Allen was handed a Boston Society of Film Critics award, a Saturn award, a Golden Satellite award and a Broadcast Film Critics Association award. In a more recent movie, the Illinois native was widely praised for her role as a politician who becomes the object of scandal in Rod Lurie’s The Contender (2000). Due to her magnificent starring turn, Allen was garnered a Broadcast Film Critics Association award and received Academy Award and Golden Globes nominations.
Fans should not miss her impressive acting in the forthcoming Good Sharma (2006), Bonneville (2006) and the installment The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).
As a stage actress, Allen has appeared in a number of plays since joining Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 1978. She won a Drama Desk Award for a 1983 performance in the Off-Broadway play “And a Nightingale Sang” and was launched to stardom when she debuted on Broadway with “Burn This” four years later, where she was honored with a Tony Award. In 1988, she was nominated for a Tony for her starring role in the Broadway play “The Heidi Chronicles.”
Off screen, Joan Allen was named one of John Willis’ Screen World’s “12 Promising New Actors” (1986) and was once listed as one of Entertainment Weekly’s “25 Best Actresses in Hollywood.” As for her private life, Allen, who serves as the volunteer National Spokesperson for The First Book National Book Bank, was married to actor Peter Friedman in 1990, but the couple later separated in 2002. Allen and Friedman have a daughter named Sadie Friedman (born in 1994).
Childhood and Family:
Joan Allen was born on August 20, 1956, in Rochelle, Illinois, to father Jeff Allen, a gas-station owner who died in 1995, and mother Dorothy Allen, a homemaker. The youngest of four siblings, Joan has two sisters: Mary Allen (born in 1940) and Lynn Allen (born in 1954), and one brother, David Allen (born in 1943). She was educated at Rochelle Township High School, where she was chosen “Most Likely to Succeed.” A shy teenager, Joan found the courage to come out of her shell on stage. When she failed to join the school’s cheerleader team, Joan tried out for a play and soon found a connection to acting. After graduation, she enrolled as a theater major at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, and later relocated to Chicago where she became one of the founding members of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, alongside John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, John Mahoney, Terry Kinney and Laurie Metcalf.
On January 1, 1990, Joan married actor Peter Friedman. Their daughter, Sadie Friedman, was born four years later in 1994. In 2002, Joan divorced his husband of 12 years, but the couple lives close to one another in order to share time with their daughter.
An Eastern Illinois University graduate, Joan Allen began her acting career on stage and television. Having encountered John Malkovich while still in college, this Midwestern girl accepted Malkovich’s invitation to join Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company after receiving her degree. In 1983, after working her way through plays of Caryl Churchill, Wallace Shawn, Athol Fugard and Anton Chekhov, at Steppenwolf’s home office in Chicago, Allen went to New York City to make her Off-Broadway debut in a Steppenwolf production of C.P Taylor’s “And a Nightingale Sang,” where she was cast opposite her future husband, actor Peter Friedman. Her performance was critically applauded and Allen took home her first award, the Drama Desk award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, in 1984. She continued to act in theater and, in 1985, she appeared in the Public Theatre presentation of Christopher Durang’s “The Marriage of Bette and Boo.” She also made her first TV appearance in the 1983 television film Say Goodnight, Gracie and had her miniseries debut as Iris Friedman in the NBC “Evergreen,” two years later. Allen’s first film exposure arrived that same year when director Frank Perry handed her a small role in his drama-comedy Compromising Positions (1985), which starred Susan Sarandon.
The actress’ status grew gradually with such notable turns as blind girl Reba McClane in Michael Mann’s underrated Manhunter and Maddy Nagle, one of Kathleen Turner’s high school buddies, in the Francis Ford Coppola-helmed Peggy Sue Got Married (both in 1986). She also offered attractive TV performances in the movies All My Sons (1986) and The Room Upstairs (1987), but it was the 1987 Broadway play “Burn This” that garnered the actress real attention. Costarring with Malkovich, Allen netted a Tony for Best Actress in 1988. She scored another success in the following year with her Tony-nominated performance as Heidi Holland in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Heidi Chronicles,” rejoining Peter Friedman. Still in 1988, Allen played a wife, opposite Jeff Bridges, in Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream. She rounded out the decade with the Norman Jewison-directed film In Country, playing Emily Lloyd’s mother.
Next up for Allen, she portrayed Beau Bridges’ wife in the HBO film Without Warning: The James Brady Story (1991), Liam Neeson’s sphere and chain, the acid and withered Zeena Frome, in Ethan Frome (1993), Joe Mantegna’s sympathetic wife and mother of a juvenile chess prodigy in Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993), and costarred in Josh and S.A.M. (1993) and Mad Love (1995).
Allen’s breakthrough screen role arrived in 1995 when director Oliver Stone cast her opposite Anthony Hopkins in the biopic Nixon, playing the long-suffering Pat Nixon. For her outstanding performance, Allen was handed such awards as a Los Angeles Film Critics Circle, a Boston Society of Film Critics, a National Society of Film Critics and a Chicago Film Critics for Best Supporting Actress. Moreover, the role garnered the actress a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, as well as a BAFTA nomination. She received additional recognition the following year with her second Academy Award-nominated performance as Elizabeth Proctor, Daniel Day-Lewis’ wife, in the movie The Crucible (1996), a drama by Nicholas Hytner. Allen won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award and the Empire Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as received a nomination at the Golden Globes.
Allen went on to impress many with her fine portrayal of Tobey Maguire’s mother, Elena Hood, in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm (1997). Among her costars were Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver and Christina Ricci. After playing John Travolta’s wife in the John Woo-directed action thriller Face/Off (1997), Allen once again attracted public attention when she portrayed yet another self-conscious housewife in the charming Pleasantville (1998), for director Garry Ross. As Betty Parker, the mother of Tobey Maguire, Allen was so imposing that she picked up several awards, including a Boston Society of Film Critics, a Saturn, a Golden Satellite and a Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Supporting Actress.
At the end of decade, she was paired with Jeff Daniels in the Toronto-screened film All the Rage (1999) and starred as a slain Irish journalist in the fictionalized biopic When the Sky Falls (2000), directed by John Mackenzie.
In 2000, Allen delivered her next breakthrough as Sen. Laine Hanson, a prospective U.S. Vice President spoiled by sexual scandal, in director Rod Lurie’s The Contender, where she nabbed a Broadcast Film Critics Association and earned nominations at the Oscars and Golden Globes for Best Actress. The drama/thriller also starred Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges and Christian Slater. 2001 saw Allen star as Morgause, opposite Anjelica Huston and Samantha Mathis, in the TNT movie The Mists of Avalon, wherein she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
After two years away from filmmaking, Allen returned in 2003 with a supporting role in the Campbell Scott-helmed drama Off the Map. She was next seen in the effectively emotional adaptation of the best-selling novel, The Notebook (2004) directed by Nick Cassavetes, and The Bourne Supremacy (2004), which starred Matt Damon and Franka Potente. Also in 2004, Allen costarred with Sam Neill and Simon Abkarian in Sally Potter’s Yes. In the romantic drama film, she played an Irish-American scientist who begins an obsessive love affair with a Middle-Eastern man. In 2005’s The Upside of Anger, Allen offered a convincing turn as an alcoholic single mother of four, Terry Ann Wolfmeyer, opposite Kevin Costner, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, Evan Rachel Wood and Mike Binder.
Allen will soon star as Veronica in Suri Krishnamma’s drama Good Sharma (2006) and is currently filming with Robert N. Anderson, Kathy Bates, Kari Hawker and Jessica Lange in the Christopher N. Rowley-helmed Bonneville (2006). Additionally, she is scheduled to reprise her Pamela Landy role for the sequel The Bourne Ultimatum, which is slated for a 2007 release.
Broadcast Film Critics Association: Alan J. Pakula Award, The Contender, 2001
Golden Apple: Female Star of the Year, 2000
Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actress, Pleasantville, 1999
Golden Satellite: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, Pleasantville, 1999
Saturn: Best Supporting Actress, Pleasantville, 1998
Boston Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actress, Pleasantville, 1998
Empire: Best Actress, The Crucible, 1998
Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actress, The Crucible, 1996
Los Angeles Film Critics Circle: Best Supporting Actress, Nixon, 1995
Boston Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actress, Nixon, 1995
National Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actress, Nixon, 1995
Chicago Film Critics: Best Supporting Actress, Nixon, 1995
Tony: Best Actress in a Play, Burn This, 1988
Drama Desk: Best Featured Actress in a Play, And a Nightingale Sang, 1984