“I learned from Francis Ford Coppola to treat the company like your family and I learned from my father, although I didn't let him even see this movie before we locked. He's so smart I just wanted his opinion afterward. He had some good criticism, like he said we needed more shooting, which I agreed with.” Mary Stuart Masterson
American actress, director and producer Mary Stuart Masterson, daughter of screenwriter/director/actor Peter Masterson, is recognized by moviegoers for her roles in “Some Kind of Wonderful” (1987), “Fried Green Tomatoes” (1991), “Benny & Joon” (1993) and “Bed of Roses” (1996). She picked up a National Board of Review Award for her supporting role of a pregnant young woman in “Immediate Family” (1989) and a Lone Star Film & Television Award for the Showtime movie adaptation “Lily Dale” (1996). Other notable work includes Francis Ford Coppola's “Gardens of Stone” (1987), “Black and Blue” (1999, TV) and “Something the Lord Made” (2004, TV). She is probably known by TV fans for guest starring in “Law & Order SVU” (2004-2007) and headlining the short-lived drama “Kate Brasher” (CBS, 2001).
“I love film sets, but I don't necessarily love being the center of attention. As a director, I get to have a much broader creative expression than as an actress. I'm not just blond and 5 ft. 4 in.” Mary Stuart Masterson (on why she stepped behind the camera)
More recently, the Tony-nominated actress appeared in the revival of the Broadway musical “Nine” (2003) and enjoyed success as the director of “Cake Eaters” (2007). The festival-screened movie won honors at the Ashland Independent Film Festival and the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival.
Masterson has been married three times. She married present husband Jeremy Davidson in 2006 after divorcing Damon Santostefano (together from 2000 to 2004) and George Carl Francisco (together from 1990 to 1992.
Childhood and Family:
Daughter of Peter Masterson, a screenwriter, director and actor, and Carlin Glynn, a Tony award-winning actress, Mary Stuart Masterson was born on June 28, 1966, in New York, New York. She has an older sister named Carlin Alexandra Masterson and a younger brother named Peter Carlos Masterson. They are both also actors. Growing up in a showbiz family she said, “When you grow up with people who do this, you have no illusions about it. I don't see it as a glamorous kind of thing. I feel very privileged that I get to spend my life telling stories that mean something to people. They taught me that the greatest benefit is going on the journey and that's really rubbed off on me.”
Raised in New York, Mary was educated at Dalton School where she participated in a few productions and took drama classes at Estelle Parsons. She also attended Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center where some of her classmates included Jon Cryer and Robert Downey, Jr., and New York University where she studied anthropology for eight months. Outside New York, Mary spent two summers at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah.
On May 25, 1990, Mary married George Carl Francisco. The couple divorced in 1992. She married movie director Damon Santostefano on May 20, 2000. They divorced in 2004. Currently, Mary is the wife of actor/director Jeremy Davidson. They have been married since 2006.
Fried Green Tomatoes
8-year-old Mary Stuart Masterson made her film debut in Bryan Forbes' “The Stepford Wives” (1975), in which she acted alongside her father and Katharine Ross, but soon left the industry to focus on her studies. During this period, she worked on her craft by taking part in several school productions and in 1980 she could be seen in “City of Fear,” a TV movie executive produced by her father. She went on to appear in the Broadway production of “Alice in Wonderland” (1981), in which she understudied the lead role of Alice (played by Kate Burton) in addition to playing two parts, the Small White Rabbit and the Four of Hearts. It was at age 18 that Masterson made her return to movies with “Heaven Help Us” (1985), a Catholic school comedy starring Donald Sutherland, John Heard and Andrew McCarthy. She portrayed Danni, the rebellious daughter of a candy store owner. Also that year, she starred as a cancer victim-turned-drug addict who gives birth to a drug addicted baby in the ABC TV film “Love Lives On,” opposite Sam Waterston and Christine Lahti.
After appearing in such off-Broadway productions as “Been Taken” and “Lily Dale” and playing the girlfriend of Sean Penn in the drama film “At Close Range” (all 1986), Masterson offered one of her best performances playing the tomboyish drumming Watts in the John Hughes-written “Some Kind of Wonderful” (1987), where she starred opposite Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson. After another tomboy role in 1985's “Heaven Help Us,” she said, “For awhile there, I was in danger of being typecast as the tomboy. Now, I don't mind playing the tomboy, it is a real part of my personality, but I don't want to be typecast as any ONE thing. Those molds are almost impossible to break, once set. I breathed a sigh of relief when ‘At Close Range’ came around and I got to show a feminine side.”
Masterson teamed up with director Francis Ford Coppola for “Gardens of Stone” (1987), where she played the daughter of her real-life parents, starred as Franny Bettinger in the independent film “My Little Girl” (also 1987) and supported Anthony Edwards, Lauren Bacall and Anjelica Huston in the based-on-novel “Mr. North” (1988). She then costarred with Cybill Shepherd, Robert Downey Jr. and Ryan O'Neal in “Chances Are” (1989). But, it was her role as a pregnant teenage girl in the drama “Immediate Family” (1989) that won the actress attention. Under the direction of Jonathan Kaplan, she was handed a National Board of Review in the category of Best Supporting Actress.
More works ensued in the 1990s. Following roles in the comedies “Funny About Love” (1990) and “Married to It” (1991), Masterson again became the center of attention thanks to her portrayal of Idgie Threadgoode in the Oscar-nominated “Fried Green Tomatoes” (1991), adapted from the novel “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fannie Flagg. She gave other remarkable performances in the off-beat romance “Benny & Joon” (1993), where she shared a MTV Movie nomination for Best On-Screen Duo with costar Johnny Depp, and the Western “Bad Girls” (1994). Among her costars in the latter film were Madeleine Stowe, Andie MacDowell and Drew Barrymore.
In 1996, Masterson played the workaholic Lisa Walker in the romance “Bed of Roses,” opposite Christian Slater, and worked in a TV project directed by her father, “Lily Dale,” which was based on the play by Horton Foote. For her fine acting in the well-received Showtime film, she took home a Lone Star Film & Television for Best TV Actress. Other film credits in the 1990s include “Dogtown” (1997), “Digging to China” (1998), which marked the first film directed by actor Timothy Hutton, “The Book of Stars” (1999), “The Florentine” (1999) and “Black and Blue” (1999, TV), where she was memorable as a long suffering wife who tries to escape her abusive police detective husband.
Armed by her success in “Lily Dale” and “Black and Blue,” Masterson made a switch to television in 2000. She starred as a single parent in the CBS series “Kate Brasher” (2001), which she also produced. The show, however, was axed by the network after six episodes. The New York native added to her credits roles in the television films “Ed McBain's Three Blind Mice” (2001), “R.U.S.H.” (2002) and “Something the Lord Made” (2004), a HBO biopic from which she won a Golden Satellite nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. She returned to series TV as Dr. Rebecca Hendrix in an episode of NBC's “Law & Order SVU” in 2004, a role she reprised for several episodes in 2005 and 2007, and Heather Centrella in the WB drama “Waterfront” in 2006, opposite Joe Pantoliano and William Baldwin.
Despite her busy TV schedule, Masterson maintained her work in the cinematic industry by acting in “West of Here” (2002, directed by her brother), “Leo” (2002, opposite Joseph Fiennes, Elisabeth Shue, Sam Shepard, Dennis Hopper and Deborah Kara Unger), the based-on-play “The Sisters” (2005, starred Elizabeth Banks, Maria Bello and Erika Christensen), “Whiskey School” (2005, helmed by her father) and “The Insurgents” (2006, with John Shea). She was also seen in several stage productions, including playing the wife of Antonio Banderas in the revival of the Broadway musical “Nine” (2003), from which she received a Theatre World Award, a Tony nomination for Best Actress (Featured Role – Musical), an Outer Critics' Circle nomination and a Drama Desk nomination, and starred opposite Kevin Spacey and Steven Weber in “National Anthems” (2005).
“Since I was a child, I've liked telling stories. Maybe because my father's a director, I grew up loving stories. I'm not good at spinning them at a dinner table because I do go on a bit, but I love writing them and directing is just a way of editing the story.” Mary Stuart Masterson
In addition to acting, Masterson has pursued a career behind the camera. She directed the short “The Other Side” (released in 1999), which she also wrote, and in 2007, she made her feature film directorial debut with “Cake Eaters.” Starring Elizabeth Ashley, Talia Balsam and Jayce Bartok, the Tribeca Film Festival-premiered film won Ashland Independent Film Festival's Audience Award for Best Dramatic Feature and a People's Choice Award for Best American Indie at the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival. Masterson also produced the movie. Other producing credits are 2003's “Last Man Running” and 2008's “Tickling Leo,” directed by husband Jeremy Davidson.
Ashland Independent Film Festival: Audience Award, Dramatic Feature, “The Cake Eaters,” 2008
Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival: People's Choice Award, Best American Indie, “The Cake Eaters,” 2007
Lone Star Film & Television: Best TV Actress, “Lily Dale,” 1997
National Board of Review: Best Supporting Actress, “Immediate Family,” 1989