"I realized as I got older that I could choose to be an actor to a certain extent, but movie stardom is not something you choose. It chooses you. You have very little control over that so I stopped considering that an option." Martha Plimpton
Model-turned-actress Martha Plimpton, the daughter of actors Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton, has specialized in playing rebellious, eccentric young women, as seen in her films "The River Rat" (1984), "The Goonies" (1985), "The Mosquito Coast" (1986), "Running on Empty" (1988), "Parenthood" (1989), "Samantha" (1992), "I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996), "Eye of God" (1997), "Pecker" (1998) and "200 Cigarettes" (1999).
On the small screen, Plimpton had a recurring role in ''ER'' and had an Emmy-nominated guest role in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." As for her stage work, Plimpton was nominated for a Tony Award and won a Drama Desk Award in 2007 for her role in the Broadway production of "The Coast of Utopia."
More personally, the 5' 5" effervescent, square-jawed blonde performer was romantically linked to John Walker and the late actor River Phoenix.
Childhood and Family:
Conceived while her unmarried actor parents Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton were performing together in a Broadway production of "Hair" in 1970, Martha Campbell Plimpton was born in New York's Upper West Side on November 16, 1970. Her parents were never married and split up before she was born, and her father would not meet Martha until she was four years old. Mother Shelley Plimpton later married and divorced theatre director Daniel Sullivan.
Martha's grandfather is Daytime Emmy Award-winning actor John Carradine and her uncles are actors David Carradine, Michael Bowen and Robert Carradine. Her cousins are actresses Ever Carradine and Kansas Carradine.
Young Martha attended the Professional Children's School in Manhattan. As a teenager, she became a vegetarian after deceased American film actor River Phoenix introduced her to the lifestyle.
"Once when we were fifteen, River (Phoenix) and I went out for this fancy dinner in Manhattan and I ordered soft-shell crabs. He left the restaurant and walked around on Park Avenue crying. I went out and said, 'I love you so much. Why?' He had such a pain that I was eating an animal that he hadn't impressed on me what was right. I loved him for that; for his dramatic desire that we share every belief that I be with him all the way." Martha Plimpton
The Coast of Utopia
“Last night I was reading an old issue of ‘The New Yorker’ that did a review of this movie that stars two actresses and the reviewer had this great line in there that said these two actresses had 'high-powered but expendable careers.' And I just thought that was really astute. It sort of validated me. It made me feel that even though I have no power at all, at least I'm somewhat irreplaceable." Martha Plimpton
Born to a family of actors, Martha Plimpton first appeared on stage when her actress mother brought her on stage in costume for the curtain call of the short-lived Broadway play ''The Leaf People.'' At age 8, she began her career when her mother had a friend of hers, composer Elizabeth Swados, enroll her in an actors' workshop. The aspiring actress subsequently made her official stage debut in the play "The Haggadah" at the New York Public Theater.
At age 10, Plimpton landed a bit part as the older daughter to Macon McCalman's Fewster character in director Alan J. Pakula's political and financial thriller film ''Rollover'' (1981), starring Jane Fonda and Kris Kristofferson. She also did some modeling work in a series of Calvin Klein jeans commercials when she was 11 years old. TV viewers also caught her in "The Hand-Me-Down Kid" episode of the "ABC Afterschool Specials" in 1983.
In 1984, Plimpton got her first substantial film role as the tomboy teenage daughter of Tommy Lee Jones' ex-con character in Thomas Rickman's independent crime/drama ''The River Rat.'' The next year, she received her real breakthrough when she was cast as the smart-mouthed, skeptical Stephanie in the cult classic adventure feature film ''The Goonies'' (1985), which was co-written by Steven Spielberg and directed by Richard Donner. Her performance in the film later earned her a Young Artist Award nomination for Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress - Motion Picture.
When asked if her work in the cult classic film has affected her life in any way, Plimpton admitted, "Yeah, in the sense that it's the only movie people consistently recognize me from, even today."
Following her stunning performance in ''The Goonies'' (1985), Plimpton delivered a good performance as Emily, the daughter of Reverend Spellgood (played by Andre Gregory) and the love interest of River Phoenix's character, in Peter Weir's film adaptation of Paul Theroux's 1982 novel, "The Mosquito Coast" (1986), alongside Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. For her work in the film, Plimpton received another Young Artist Award nomination, this time for Best Young Female Superstar in Motion Pictures.
Afterward, Plimpton co-starred in the critically praised, but commercially unsuccessful, drama feature "Shy People" (1987), in which she portrayed Jill Clayburgh's crack-addicted daughter. She was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female for her performance. She also made her second film with River Phoenix, playing his love interest again, in Sidney Lumet's Academy Award-nominated drama "Running on Empty" (1988), for which she earned a Young Artist Award nomination for Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, and played Dianne Wiest's indignant teenage daughter Julie in Ron Howard's comedy starring Steve Martin, "Parenthood" (1989), appearing alongside River Phoenix's younger brother, Joaquin Phoenix, who was credited as Leaf Phoenix at the time.
Entering the new decade, Plimpton went on stage to co-star with Campbell Scott in Shakespeare's "Pericles, Prince of Tyre" at the Public Theater. She then snagged her first feature starring role playing the titular "Samantha" in a 1992 independent comedy film of the same name.
After portraying the lesbian lover of radical feminist Valerie Solanas in Canadian director Mary Harron's directional debut, the independent biopic "I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996; with Lili Taylor, Jared Harris and Stephen Dorff), Plimpton returned to stage in Stephen Jeffreys' "The Libertine," directed by Terry Johnson. She then appeared on TV as E.G. Marshall's granddaughter and Beau Bridges' daughter in "The Defenders: Payback" (1997), a re-envisioned version of the series that debuted on Showtime. She also won praise for her leading performance as Kevin Anderson's wife, shy waitress Ainsley, in writer/director Tim Blake Nelson's crime drama film "Eye of God" (1997).
Plimpton wrapped up the decade playing Edward Furlong's older sister in writer/director John Waters' drama/comedy "Pecker" (1998), and became the central character Monica, who is throwing a big New Year bash, in "200 Cigarettes" (1999), alongside Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Janeane Garofalo and Kate Hudson. She also had a recurring role in the hit NBC medical drama "ER" as Meg Corwyn.
2001 saw Plimpton making her stage directorial debut with "Absolution," which was performed at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company. She also headlined a Chicago stage production of "Hedda Gabler" (2001) and played Claire in David Mamet's "Boston Marriage" (November 2002) at the Public Theater/Martinson Hall, in New York City and received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her guest appearance as Claire Rinato in episode "Denial" of the third season of the NBC’s cop/crime drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
In 2004, Plimpton made her official Broadway debut in the role of Nora in the drama ''Sixteen Wounded'' (April 15th through Apr 25, 2004). That same year in October, she was spotted as a guest in an episode of the WB family drama "7th Heaven," in which she would also receive her first writing credit for a February 2005 episode called ''Red Socks.''
From May 9, 2006, to July 16, 2006, Plimpton played Neasa in the "Shining City" play by Conor McPherson at the Biltmore Theatre, in New York City. The next year, she earned a Tony award nomination and won a Drama Desk Award for her performance as Natasha Tuchkov Ogarev in the play "The Coast of Utopia" (2006-2007), a trilogy by Tom Stoppard.
More recently, in December 2007, Plimpton played Princess Imogen in a Broadway revival of "Cymbeline" at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, in New York City. In May 2008, theater-goers will be able to see her acting in the Broadway play ''Top Girls.''
Drama Desk: Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play, “The Coast of Utopia,” 2006/2007