“I've been a character actress right from the beginning. I was no more like 'Cinderella' in my real life than I was like the neurotic poet in 'Cop' (1988). Age has nothing to do with being the kind of actress who relies not on magnetic personality, but on disappearing into the person you're playing instead. For my money, Michelle Pfeiffer's a character actress. It's got nothing to do with looks, or age, or whether it's the leading role.” Lesley Ann Warren
Golden Globe award-winning, Academy Award and Emmy Award nominated American actress of film, television and stage Lesley Ann Warren first came to the attention of the public for playing the title role on the now classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical TV special “Cinderella” (1965). Before her TV break, the stage-trained actress received critical acclaim for her work in “Drat! The Cat!” a disappointing Broadway play debuting in 1965. Warren went on to collect TV and film credits, most notably her Golden Globe nominated performance in the popular series “Mission: Impossible” (1970). It was not until 1978 that she enjoyed true success by taking home the trophy after portraying the high class doll on the miniseries “Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue” (1977). The beautiful performer further boosted her profile by nabbing an Oscar nomination and her next Golden Globe nomination for the musical film “Victor/Victoria” (1982). She also gave impressive performances in big screen movies like Alan Rudolph's “Songwriter” (1984, earned a Golden Globe nomination), “Going All the Way” (1997) and the made-for-TV films “Baja Oklahoma” (1988), “Family of Spies” (1990, received both a Golden Globe nomination and an Emmy nomination) and “Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story” (1992), among others. More recently, Warren is known for having recurring roles on well-liked TV series like “Will & Grace” (2001-2006), “The Practice” (2003) and “Desperate Housewives” (2005) and for playing roles in such motion pictures as Alan Rudolph's “Trixie” (2001), the Steven Shainberg directed “Secretary” (2002), “When Do We Eat” (2005), “The Shore” (2005) and “Stiffs” (2006). On working with Alan Rudolph, she said, “The truth is I would do anything for Alan Rudolph. If he asked me to stand on my head and spit wooden nickels, I would. I love him. I loved working with him. I did two movies before with him, 'Choose Me' (1984) and 'Songwriter' (1984), and they were some of the highlights of my working life. He's just an inspired guy and a great person to work with.”
The graceful performer has been married twice. Now the wife of advertising exec Ronald Taft, she has one son, Christopher Peters (actor), with her ex-husband, producer Jon Peters (together from 1967 to 1977). Warren has also been linked to choreographer/director Jeffrey Hornaday (dated from 1980 to 1987) and actor Scott Baio (born in 1961).
Childhood and Family:
Born on August 16, 1946, in New York, New York, to William Warren, a realtor, and Carol Warren, a retired night club singer, Lesley Ann Warren gained early training from New York's Professional Children's School and attended high school at the New York High School of Music and Art. She went on to study under Lee Strasberg at the renowned Actors Studio. At the time, the 17 year old girl became the youngest student of the academy. Lesley once also trained as a ballerina at the School of American Ballet before switching her interest to acting.
On May 13, 1967, Lesley married Jon Peters, a hairdresser-turned-producer. They welcomed a son, Christopher Peters, the following year and Lesley took some time off to raise her family. However, the marriage ended in divorce in 1977. Over two decades later, she married ad executive Ronald Taft on January 16, 2000. The couple currently resides in Los Angeles.
79 Park Avenue
Starting out as a ballet dancer, Lesley Ann Warren kicked off her stage career in the musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” where she was cast as light-headed teen Kim McAfee, and moved on to Broadway in 1963 to star in “110 in the Shade,” the musical version of “The Rainmaker.” For her fine performance in the musical dud “Drat! The Cat!” (1965), Warren took home a Theatre World Award. However, it was her first TV gig in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical TV special “Cinderella” (1965), where she was cast in the title role that garnered Lesley her first real taste of stardom. Before long, she was signed by Walt Disney Studios.
Warren made guest appearances in TV series like “Run Your Life” and had a recurring role in the drama series “Dr. Kildare” (both 1966) before breaking into the big screen in the costarring role of Miss Cordelia (Cordy) Biddle on the Disney musical “The Happiest Millionaire” (1967), opposite Fred MacMurray. She was then cast as Alice, the eldest daughter of the Bower musical family and love interest of Joe Carder (played by John Davidson), in the studio's musical, “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band” (1968). The film also starred Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen and Kurt Russell. She closed out the decade with a supporting part in the adventure/drama “Seven in Darkness” (1969), an ABC Movie of the Week.
Wanting to escape from being typecast as a Disney star, Warren decided to leave the studio. In 1970, she joined the cast of the CBS long-running spy series “Mission: Impossible,” replacing Barbara Bain. As the new female lead Dana Lambert, she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress - Television in 1971, but the response of the audience was quite cool. As a result, she was let go after only one year. Warren went on to find employment in a series of television films, including “Love Hate Love” (1971, with Ryan O'Neal), “Cat Ballou” (1971, starred in the title role), “The Daughters of Joshua Cabe” (1972), “Saga of Sonora” (1973), the ABC-TV adaptation of the Broadway musical, “It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman” (1975, starred as Lois Lane) and “The Legend of Valentino” (1975).
Warren made her TV miniseries debut in “Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue” (1977) and scored success by picking up a Golden Globe for Best TV Actress-Drama for her portrayal of a feisty girl who becomes a high class madam. She next teamed up with Angie Dickinson, Dennis Weaver and Robert Wagner for the epic WWII miniseries “Pearl” (1978), costarred with Rip Torn in the based-on-book television movie “Betrayal” (1978) and portrayed a struggling young widow and mother in the drama made-for-TV film “Portrait of a Stripper” (1979).
A starring role as the employer of a plantation who becomes involved with a Yankee in the NBC miniseries “Beaulah Land” (1980) was Warren's opening work in the 1980s before her movie career enjoyed a revival with her scene-stealing role in the Blake Edwards-directed comedy/musical “Victor/Victoria” (1982), starring Julie Andrews. Playing Norma Cassady, she was handed both an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nomination. After the success, she acted in movies like “A Night in Heaven” (1983, opposite Christopher Atkins), Alan Rudolph's “Choose Me” (1984), Jonathan Lynn's “Clue” (1985, as Miss Scarlet) and the Mark Harmon comedy vehicle “Worth Winning” (1989). The appreciated actress netted her next Golden Globe nomination for her supporting role as Gilda in “Songwriter” (1984), also directed by Alan Rudolph. Meanwhile on the small screen, Warren had roles in NBC’s “Evergreen” (1985), where she was cast as a Jewish immigrant, the TV film “Fight for Jenny” (1986) and the HBO film “Baja Oklahoma” (1988), from which she was nominated for an ACE for Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries.
Warren maintained her hectic schedule throughout the 1990s. In the Stephen Gyllenhaal-helmed “Family of Spies” (1990), a made for TV film based on the true story of U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Walker, she was handed an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV. She was then cast as the female lead in Mel Brooks' “Life Stinks” (1991) and the manager of a C&W singer in Christopher Cain's “Pure Country” (1992), opposite George Strait. Two years after having a notable starring role as Wanda Holloway in the ABC television film “Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story” (1992), the character actress' wide screen career again suffered a setback when she was handed a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress for her work in “Color of Night” (1994), starring Bruce Willis. She bounced back three years later as the mother of Ben Affleck in the Sundance film “Going All the Way” (1997) and followed it up with various parts in the movies “The Limey,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, the remarkable drama “Twin Falls, Idaho” and the Helen Mirren/Katie Holmes vehicle “Teaching Mrs. Tingle” (all 1999). Warren revisited Broadway in 1997 to costar in the musical “Dream: The Johnny Mercer Musical” and made a guest appearance as the mother of Christina Applegate in an episode of the NBC sitcom “Jessie” (1999).
Entering the new millennium, Warren was reunited with Alan Rudolph for the Sundance screened “Trixie” (2000), in which she was cast as Dawn Sloane, opposite Emily Watson as Trixie Zurbo, and then appeared in such movies as director Sergei Bodrov's “The Quickie” (2001), “Delivering Milo” (2001, with Bridget Fonda and Albert Finney), the indie-drama “The Meyersons” (2001) and Steven Shainberg's “Secretary” (2002, opposite James Spader). Still a strong presence on the small screen, Warren played Tina, the lover of Will's father, in a 2001 episode of the high-profile comedy series “Will & Grace,” a role she reprised later in three more episodes, appeared as Sylvia Bakey in two episodes of the David E. Kelley-created show “The Practice” (2003) and had different roles in two episodes of NBC's crime/drama “Crossing Jordan” (2002, 2005).
Warren returned to film in 2004 when she landed a supporting role in the comedy “My Tiny Universe,” alongside Debi Mazar. She supported Ever Carradine and David Clennon in the drama film “Constellation” (2005), starred as Peggy Stuckman in the Jewish comedy “When Do We Eat” (2005), worked with director David S. Marfield for the great mystery thriller “Deepwater” (2005) and costarred with Izabella Miko in “The Shore” (2005). It was also in 2005 that Warren played the recurring role of Sophie, the mother of Susan Meyer (played by Teri Hatcher), on the highly successful “Desperate Housewives.” Her more recent films include “Stiffs” (2006), starring Danny Aiello, and “10th & Wolf” (2006), which was directed by Robert Moresco and starred James Marsden. In 2007, she made a guest appearance in the drama series “In Plain Sight,” as Jinx Shannon.
Golden Globe: Best TV Actress – Drama, “Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue,” 1978