"Until people get to know me they think I'm a dark, sensuous bitch." Marcia Gay Harden
Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (sometimes credited as Gay Harden or Marsha Gay Harden) received critical acclaim while portraying artist Lee Krasner in Ed Harris' biographical drama Pollock (2000). First catching attention while playing Verna in the Coen brothers' gangster crime thriller Miller's Crossing (1990), Harden received another Oscar nomination for portraying Tim Robbins' wife in Clint Eastwood's adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel, Mystic River (2003). Her credited films include Alison Maclean's Crush (1992), Hugh Wilson's version of Olivia Goldsmith's novel The First Wives Club (1996), Flubber (1997) and Martin Brest's Meet Joe Black (1998). She was also remembered for reprising her role of Susan Silverman in the TV movies Robert B. Parker's Small Vices (1999), Thin Air (2000) and Walking Shadow (2001).
On stage, 5' 4" tall Harden was nominated for a Tony after performing in Tony Kushner's "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches" (1993).
As for her big screen works, she recently appeared in Welcome to Mooseport, P.S. and Bad News Bears, and will play roles in the upcoming films American Gun, The Hoax and American Dreamz.
Childhood and Family:
Raised in a military family, California born Marcia Gay Harden spent her childhood in Greece, Japan, Germany and various places in the United States. She was born on August 14, 1959, to US Navy Captain Thaddeus Harden and housewife Beverly Bushfield Harden. The middle child of five, Marcia has three sisters: Leslie Jernigan, Sheryl Peyton and Stephanie O'Brien. She also has one brother, Thaddeus Harden Jr., who works as a photographer.
While her father served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, Marcia attended Surrattsville Senior High School in Maryland and graduated in 1976. She briefly attended the University of Maryland in Baltimore and transferred to Deree Pierce, in Athens, Greece, where her father was appointed Commanding Officer of a communications station. After studying there for only one year, Marcia moved to Germany and attended the University of Maryland in Munich. She eventually flew back to America and graduated from the University of Texas in Austin with a B.A. degree in Theatre (1980). Subsequently, she won a full scholarship to study theater at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts graduate program (under Ron Van Lieu) and graduated in 1988 with a MFA degree.
On a set of the film The Spitfire Grill (1996), Marcia met Thaddeus Scheel and they decided to tie the knot in that same year. They have three children: Eulala Grace Scheel (born in September 1998) and twins Hudson Harden Scheel (born on 22 April 2004) and Julitta Dee Harden Scheel (born on 22 April 2004).
Developing her interest in theater while watching plays at the Herodus Atticus Theater in Greece, Marcia Gay Harden began acting in regional theater. She was noticed while performing in "The Miss Firecracker Contest" and "Crimes of the Heart" at the Olney Theatre in Maryland, where she received two nominations for Helen Hayes Awards.
In 1986, she landed a small appearance as Stage Manager in the obscure The Imagemaker. She then appeared in "In the Lion's Den," an unsold pilot presented on "CBS Summer Playhouse" and played a role in the TV movie Kojak: None So Blind (1990). Harden also played the titular role of an empathetic woman who develops amnesia, Florence (1990), in Rebecca Miller's short film with the same name.
The portrayal of gun-toting seductress Verna in the Coen brothers' gangster crime thriller Miller's Crossing (1990, co-starring Albert Finney and Gabriel Byrne) was Harden's debut film role. She followed it up with the television movies In Broad Daylight and Fever, as well as the independent comedy film Late for Dinner. The next year saw her starring as a rowdy woman who has relationships with a famous novelist and his daughter in Alison Maclean's Crush (premiered at the Cannes Film Festival), as screen siren Ava Gardner in the CBS life-story miniseries Sinatra and as a pop culture freak in the comedy Used People (with Shirley MacLaine, Kathy Bates and Marcello Mastroianni).
Harden did not leave theater completely. After playing Sabina in a Chicago stage production of "The Skin of Our Teeth" (1992), she performed with Frank Whaley and Paul McCrane in the Off-Broadway play "The Years" (1993). On Broadway, she was featured as Valium-loving Mormon wife Harper Pitt in Tony Kushner's "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches." Her bright performance received applause, gave her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) and she won the Theatre World Award. She later reprised her role in the epic's second half "Angels in America: Perestroika." With actors Ed Harris and Beverly D'Angelo, Harden also starred in Sam Shepard's "Simpatico" at the Public Theatre in New York City.
Back on screen, Harden appeared in the 1994 film Safe Passage and delivered a monologue about the death of her character's mother in PBS' "Talking With," directed by Kathy Bates. She also appeared in the television's Convict Cowboy (1995) and the 1996 films The Daytrippers, the highly praised The Spitfire Grill (as an abused wife), Spy Hard and Far Harbor. Moreover, her portrayal of Dr. Leslie Rosen in Hugh Wilson's Oscar nominated film based on the best-selling novel by Olivia Goldsmith, The First Wives Club (1996, starring Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton), netted her National Board of Review Awards for Best Acting by an Ensemble.
In the HBO documentary drama Path to Paradise: The Untold Story of the World Trade Center Bombing (1997), Harden was featured as an FBI agent. She then costarred with Robin Williams in Flubber and starred in a pilot for the CBS sitcom "By Anne Nivel." She also played Dr. Samantha Hawkins in Desperate Measures and was cast as Annie Pines, a single woman who decides to have a child with her gay best friend, in Lifetime's movie Labor of Love (both in 1998).
The rest of the 1990s watched Marcia acting as one of Anthony Hopkins' daughters in Meet Joe Black (1998) and Joe Mantegna's girlfriend, Susan Silverman, in A&E's Spenser: Small Vices (1999).
Harden later reprised her character Susan Silverman in Thin Air (2000) and Walking Shadow (2001).
After playing Sara Holland, a NASA engineer who is also Tommy Lee Jones' love interest, in Space Cowboys (2000), Harden got her big break in actor-director Ed Haris' Pollock (2000). In the film about the life and career of American painter Jackson Pollock, Harden portrayed Lee Krasner, an influential artist in the modern movement who also became Pollock's wife. The brilliant acting gained critical acclaim at the prestigious Academy Awards and eventually handed her Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
"When she was first married, Lee's main concern was pleasing Jackson. She was the kind of woman who hung her hat on another man's peg to find herself, in spite of how brilliant she was in her own right.
Their marriage was wonderful, fabulous, and hideous. They fed off each other in ways that weren't always healthy, but, if they hadn't been together, Pollock never would have become world famous and Lee wouldn't have pushed herself to the artistic limits she did. As soon as they split apart, one of them was bound to destruct." Marcia Gay Harden (on character Lee Krasner in Pollock).
Harden added to her acting resume such films as the comedy feature Gaudi Afternoon (as Judy Davis' friend), the fall CBS drama "The Education of Max Bickford" (with Richard Dreyfuss), CBS true-story miniseries "Guilty Hearts," King of Texas (TV), TNT's Boss Lear (opposite Patrick Stewart) and Just Like Mona. She was also seen in the New York Shakespeare Festival summer production of "The Seagull" in Central Park.
Another Academy Award nomination arrived in 2003 when Harden played Celeste Boyle, Tim Robbins' wife who is consumed by suspicion and fear, in Clint Eastwood's adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel, Mystic River (2003). She continued to act in the subsequent films Casa de los babys, Mona Lisa Smile (both in 2003), She's Too Young (TV), Welcome to Mooseport (as Gene Hackman's ex girlfriend) and P.S. (all three in 2004).
In 2005, Harden could be seen in In From the Night (TV) and Bad News Bears. As for her forthcoming films, Harden will team up with Donald Sutherland and Forest Whitaker in Aric Avelino's American Gun and will join Shailene Woodley in the family drama Felicity: An American Girl Adventure. Filmmaker Lasse Hallström also paired her with Richard Gere in Disney's Howard Hughes-related film The Hoax and Paul Weitz cast her in his ensemble political satire film American Dreamz, in which she will play the first lady (Dennis Quaid played President).
"Vegas had me at 12 to 1 odds. I sure do wish I had bet on myself and made a little money." Marcia Gay Harden (on winning the Oscar).
- Boston Society of Film Critics: Best Ensemble Cast, Mystic River, 2003
- Seattle Film Critics: Best Supporting Actress, Mystic River, 2003
- Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Pollock, 2001
- New York Film Critics Circle: Best Supporting Actress, Pollock, 2000
- National Board of Review: Best Acting by an Ensemble, The First Wives Club, 1996
- Theatre World Award: "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches," 1993