"I'm usually the one they call when they need somebody that's had shock treatments.’ Oh, let's get Swoosie!''' Swoosie Kurtz
Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Swoosie Kurtz garnered rave reviews for her standout performances in the plays "The Fifth of July" (1979; as the flamboyant Gwen) and "The House of Blue Leaves" (1986; as the schizophrenic wife Bananas), as well as for her guest-starring performance on Carol Burnett's comedy series on NBC, "Carol & Company" (1990). The thespian, who has been nominated eight times for an Emmy Award, starred in such shows as "Love, Sydney" (1981-1983), "Sisters" (1991-1996) and "Huff" (2004-2006), as well as the HBO critically acclaimed movie "And the Band Played On" (1993). She now plays the alcoholic, cynical, eye-patch-wearing Aunt Lily on ABC's new series, "Pushing Daisies" (2007).
"You should always want to challenge the gods. What's the point, otherwise?" Swoosie Kurtz (on why she accepts the roles she does)
On the wide screen, the occasional leading lady could be seen in the films "Slap Shot" (1977), "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988), "Cruel Intentions" (1999), "Bubble Boy" (2001) and "The Rules of Attraction" (2002).
More recently, Kurtz received two more Tony nominations (both for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play) for her role as the mother of an abducted child in Doug Hughes' "Frozen" (2004), and as a British upper-class seductress in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's "Heartbreak House" (2006).
The petite fiery redhead has never married.
Half Swan, Half Goose
Childhood and Family:
The only child of Margo and Air Force Colonel Frank Kurtz Jr., Swoosie Kurtz was born on September 6, 1944, in Omaha, Nebraska. Her father was a decorated American bomber pilot during WWII and won an Olympic bronze medal in diving in 1932. In his final years, he underwent a botched up surgery that cost him the sight in one eye. He died in November 1996 at age 85.
"I know what my dad went through. It was so tragic because this guy's life had been flying planes and diving from 30-foot platforms. My mom and I helped him through. It was a very rough time." Swoosie Kurtz
Swoosie got her unusual first name from the plane her father piloted during World War II, the "Swoose," which means half swan, half goose. In turn, the plane was named after a popular Kay Kyser song. She once said, "When I grew up, it finally hit me how apropos that name truly is because I am a hybrid. Sometimes I'm a swan, sometimes I'm a goose. I've got all these different characters inside me."
As a military brat, Swoosie moved 17 times during school and lived in eight different states. She studied drama at the University of Southern California (1962-1964) and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, in London, England (1964-1966).
Swoosie has never married nor had children. In the 1980s, she was linked in the press to Brent Spiner. She maintains an apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
"When I was younger, it was all about work. I've taken off my blinders and am looking at real life, appreciating it more and hopefully, living it more. I've tested the waters and had blind dates with a couple of guys out here, but I'd rather be alone than with somebody I'm not totally comfortable with." Swoosie Kurtz
Fifth of July
At age 18, Swoosie Kurtz made her first television appearance alongside her father on the TV game show "To Tell the Truth." After honing in on her craft at the University of Southern California and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Kurtz moved to New York.
The aspiring actress worked in local theater from the mid through late 1960s before making her TV acting debut in 1971 in the CBS long-running daytime drama "As the World Turns," playing Ellie Bradley. She was cast in her first TV movie in 1976 in an adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's play, "Ah, Wilderness," alongside William Swetland, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Victor Garber and Richard Backus.
In 1977, Kurtz made her large screen acting debut in the offbeat ice hockey comedy film starring Paul Newman, "Slap Shot," directed by George Roy Hill and based on a book written by Nancy Dowd. The following year, she became a regular on the variety show starring Mary Tyler Moore, "Mary," and received a Tony nomination for her performance in a Broadway revival of Molière's comedic play, "Tartuffe."
In the 1980s, Kurtz collected Broadway's "triple crown" (the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards) for her portrayal of the flamboyant Gwen in Lanford Wilson's "The Fifth of July." She then received two Emmy nominations, both for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, for her starring role as an unwed mother in the comedy TV series "Love, Sydney" (1981-1983). She won her second Tony Award (Best Featured Actress in a Play) in 1986 after brilliantly portraying the schizophrenic wife Bananas in the Broadway revival of John Guare's "The House of Blue Leaves."
"I try to tell myself I'm not schizophrenic. But when I'm not acting, I'm not alive. Everyday is just not heightened enough for me. I'm more focused, more interesting when I'm working." Swoosie Kurtz
The rest of the 1980s saw Kurtz nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for her role opposite Lesley Ann Warren in the HBO movie based on Dan Jenkins' novel, ''Baja Oklahoma'' (1988). She then appeared in Stephen Frears' Oscar-winning film adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play, which is based on the classic eighteenth-century novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, ''Dangerous Liaisons'' (1988), portraying Madame de Volange, alongside John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman. She would later reappear in its modern remake, ''Cruel Intentions'' (1999; starring Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon, and Selma Blair), but this time she played Dr. Regina Greenbaum.
Kurtz took home an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her guest-starring performance on Carol Burnett's comedy series on NBC, "Carol & Company" (1990). The following year, the network offered her the lead role of the divorced Alex on their drama series "Sisters," with Sela Ward, Patricia Kalember and Julianne Phillips. Kurtz stayed with the show during its six-season run (1991-1996) and her performance earned two Emmy nominations (in 1993 and 1994; both for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series) and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (in 1995; for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series).
During her "Sisters" stint, Kurtz returned to stage in 1991 in the first production of Terrence McNally's play, "Lips Together, Teeth Apart," alongside Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, and Anthony Heald. The play was later nominated for a Drama Desk Award as Outstanding New Play.
Next, Kurtz was nominated for another Emmy (for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special) for her role as a woman dying of AIDS in the HBO critically acclaimed movie produced by Aaron Spelling, "And the Band Played On" (1993), based on the 1987 best-selling nonfiction book written by San Francisco Chronicle journalist Randy Shilts. She was also cast as a librarian in the Fox series "Party Girl" (1996) and had the recurring role of Liz Miller Keane (1996-1997), mother to Brooke Shields' title character, on NBC’s hit sitcom "Suddenly Susan."
After her contract with ''Sisters'' ended in 1996, Kurtz signed a development deal for TV-movies and series with Warner Bros. in 1997. The next year, she was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Tina-Marie Chambliss in the episode "Suffer The Little Children" of the fourth season of the NBC popular medical drama "ER." She also co-starred in the CBS short-lived sitcom "Love & Money" (1999) and returned to the New York stage to headline Paula Vogel's "The Mineola Twins" (1999), which earned her an Obie Award.
In 2001, Kurtz became Jake Gyllenhaal's jealous mother in Blair Hayes' comedy movie "Bubble Boy" and appeared in Roger Avary's dark satirical film inspired by Bret Easton Ellis' 1987 novel, "The Rules of Attraction.” In September 2002, she returned to stage to play Lillian Hellman in "Imaginary Friends" by Nora Ephron (Old Globe Theater, in San Diego, California).
Kurtz gathered two more Emmy nominations (in 2005 and 2006; both for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series) for her recurring role as Madeleine Sullivan (2004-2006), the dying mother of Paget Brewster's Beth Huffstodt, on the Showtime drama "Huff." She also received two more Tony nominations (both for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play) for her turn as the mother of an abducted child in Doug Hughes' "Frozen" (2004), and as a British upper-class seductress in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's "Heartbreak House" (2006).
TV viewers can currently catch Kurtz as the alcoholic, cynical, eye-patch wearing Aunt Lily on ABC's new series, "Pushing Daisies," which premiered on October 3, 2007. The show also stars Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride and Ellen Greene. About her character in the show, Kurtz commented, "Lily is the most eccentric character I've ever played. When I read the script, I went bananas. Lily is very isolated but very passionate, lusty and sexual, but she has no way to release that in the life she's living. She's definitely a little dark, because she's harboring a lot of unresolved mental baggage, but I know a couple of big secrets about her that will be revealed later."
Emmy: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, ''Carol & Company,'' 1990
Tony: Best Featured Actress in a Play, ''The House of Blue Leaves,'' 1986
Tony: Best Featured Actress in a Play, ''Fifth of July,'' 1981