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Anjelica Huston Biography


Home > Actresses > H > Huston, Anjelica > Biography


Birth Name: Anjelica Huston
Born: 07/08/1951
Birth Place: Santa Monica, California, USA


Born on July 8, 1951 in Santa Monica, CA, Huston was the daughter of famed director John Huston, who helmed such Hollywood classics as "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" (1948), "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950) and "The African Queen" (1951). Her mother, Enrica Soma, was a prima ballerina. Though born in America, Huston spent her formative years abroad, growing up in Galway, Ireland, where her father moved the family after falling in love with the country when preparing to film "The African Queen." While in Ireland, she attended Kylemore Abbey, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in Connemara. When she was 10, her mother moved the children to London, where Huston continued her studies at the Holland Park School, where the gangly young woman participated in protest marches and set her sights on acting. She took her first professional steps when her father cast the young actress in "A Walk with Love and Death" (1969), a historical romance set during the Middle Ages that put on painful display Huston's inexperience with her craft. Derided at the time as a vanity project, Huston received the brunt of criticism because of her father's insistence that she perform a role she later revealed that she objected to at the time.

Despite the critical drubbing she received for her first film, Huston had bigger issues to contend with - namely the sudden and shocking death of her 39-year-old mother in an auto accident. Completely unprepared for the tragedy, Huston was dealt the single greatest blow of her lifetime. At the time, she was the understudy to Marianne Faithfull for the role of Ophelia in a London production of "Hamlet" (1969), which moved across the pond to the United States. Wanting to get as far away from where her mother was killed as possible, Huston followed. But once she was through with the play, her acting career was seemingly finished, too. In 1971, Huston was asked by her mother's friend, famed photographer Richard Avedon, to model for a Vogue fashion shoot in Ireland. With nothing else going on in her life, she quickly agreed. Little did she realize at the time that she had launched a modeling career that saw her become a favorite of heavyweight photographers like Avedon and Helmut Newton. Two years later, she met actor Jack Nicholson and soon afterward moved in with him, embarking on a high-profile romantic relationship that ended almost two decades later in heartbreak.

Though she still had her mind set on becoming an actress, Huston spent the first half of the decade finding her footing in the acting world. Eventually, she re-launched her screen career with a small part in "The Last Tycoon" (1976), directed by Elia Kazan, which she followed by appearing as a lion tamer involved with Nicholson in Bob Rafelson's remake of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1981). Thanks to her friendship with Penny Marshall, she landed a couple of guest appearances on "Laverne and Shirley" (ABC, 1976-1983), followed by a role as a swaggering, tough-talking Amazon in the harmless space romp "The Ice Pirates" (1984). But it was her performance opposite Nicholson in "Prizzi's Honor" (1985) that transformed her from being John Huston's daughter into an Academy Award-winning actress. Directed by her father, the film allowed her the opportunity to bring both intense sexual voltage and blissfully coarse tenderness to her role as Maerose Prizzi, the longtime squeeze of a Mafia hit man (Nicholson) who is tossed aside for a paid killer posing as a tax consultant (Kathleen Turner). Her electrifying performance as the vengeance-minded mob daughter earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, making her the first person in Academy history to win the award when a parent and grandparent - Walter Huston for "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" (1948) - previously had as well.

After playing a witch opposite Michael Jackson in Francis Ford Coppola's 3-D fantasy short "Captain Eo" (1986), Huston tackled her first leading role in Coppola's disappointing "Gardens of Stone" (1987), portraying an independent, politically-aware Washington Post reporter who falls in love with a career Army sergeant (James Caan) whose beliefs about the Vietnam War are dramatically opposed to her own. Meanwhile, father and daughter - who had been brought closer together by "Prizzi's Honor" - continued their collaboration on his final directing effort, "The Dead" (1987), a moving coda to the director's distinguished career. Based on the final short story in James Joyce's Dubliners and adapted by brother Tony, the somber period drama starred Huston as a romantic Irish wife trapped in a loveless marriage who recounts her lost love to a young boy who may have died on her behalf. The moving film drew critical raves, though limited box office. Most significantly, however, was John Huston finally succumbing to his long battle with emphysema, which had required him to wear an oxygen mask on the set of "The Dead." The filmmaking maverick died on Aug. 28, 1987.

Now completely on her own career-wise, Huston forged ahead, co-starring in half-brother Danny's directorial debut, "Mr. North" (1988). Co-scripted and produced by the elder Huston, the fantasy comedy traded on her aura of sophisticated authority for her role as a mysterious wealthy widow. Over the next several years, Huston established herself as a terrific character actress, putting glamour on hold to honestly explore a series of visceral parts. In Woody Allen's excellent "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989), she delivered an appropriately shrill turn as the desperate, neglected mistress of a prominent eye surgeon (Martin Landau) who becomes a problem that the good doctor's Mafia-tied brother (Jerry Orbach) helps make go away. Huston next earned another Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination as a delightfully cynical Holocaust survivor whose return complicates the life of her re-married husband (Ron Silver) in Paul Mazursky's "Enemies: A Love Story" (1989). She next joined an all-star cast that included Robert Duvall, Diane Lane, Danny Glover and Tommy Lee Jones in the sprawling miniseries adaptation of "Lonesome Dove" (CBS, 1989), which earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special.

Around this time, Huston's long on-again, off-again relationship with Jack Nicholson came to a permanent close when it was revealed in the media that he had impregnated actress and model Rebecca Broussard. Mortified by what her longtime boyfriend had been up to, the ever-classy Huston ended the relationship and refused to discuss it. Meanwhile, she had one of the best roles of her career when she delivered a tour de force performance in Stephen Frears' neo-noir, "The Grifters" (1990), playing a hardened con-artist who runs afoul of her ruthless bookmaker boss (Pat Hingle) when she visits her two-bit hustler son (John Cusack) in the hospital instead of lowering the odds at the track. Earlier the same year, she was superb as an evil witch with an over-the-top performance that complemented the wizardry of Jim Henson's creature shop in "The Witches" (1990), adapted from the book by Roald Dahl. Landing her most high-profile role to date, Huston moved into lighter territory as the elegantly ghoulish Morticia Addams in "The Addams Family" (1991) and "Addams Family Values" (1993). Reuniting with Woody Allen, she helped inflame Diane Keaton's Nancy Drew streak in a more comic second venture with the director, "Manhattan Murder Mystery" (1993). That year she also had a small role in the acclaimed AIDS chronicle, "And the Band Played On" (HBO, 1993), as well as playing the mother of an autistic son in the made-for-television movie, "Family Pictures" (ABC, 1993).

Despite her romantic split from Nicholson, Huston starred opposite him in Sean Penn's "The Crossing Guard" (1995), a somber drama in which the two played a married couple torn apart when their daughter is killed by a drunk driver (David Morse). She brought some of the same conflicting passion from "Prizzi's Honor" to her role as a Cuban wife separated from her husband (Alfred Molina) for 20 years in "The Perez Family" (1995). Transporting back to the West as envisioned by novelist Larry McMurtry, Huston earned her second Emmy Award nomination for her starring turns as the cantankerous Calamity Jane in the two-part miniseries "Buffalo Girls" (CBS, 1995). Following in the family tradition, Huston stepped behind the camera to direct the film adaptation of "Bastard Out of Carolina" (TNT, 1996), originally shot as a made-for-television movie. Although the picture revealed her almost maternalistic talent for coaxing performances from children, network head Ted Turner refused to air it, deeming its harsh subject matter - rape and child abuse - inappropriate for television. When he did allow Huston to shop the film around for another distributor, several other basic cable channels passed, echoing his concerns. After its debut at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival elicited a mixture of shock and admiration, Showtime, which had developed the project prior to TNT's involvement, reacquired the project, hyping the drama as " the movie no other network would show you." She ultimately earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries or Special.

Huston was back in front of the camera, playing Vincent Gallo's Buffalo Bills-obsessed mother in the actor-director's "Buffalo 66" (1998). She followed up as the evil stepmother in Andy Tennant's take on the Cinderella story, "Ever After" (1998), after which she the love interest of Ray Liotta in the mediocre crime pic "Phoenix" (HBO, 1998). Huston returned to the director's chair for "Agnes Browne" (1999), an old-fashioned melodrama about a young Dublin widow struggling to support her large family in 1967, which again showcased her remarkable facility for working with children. She upped the ante this time, starring as the titular widowed mother of seven - the kind of role an actress of her generation seldom found in feature films. Co-adapted by Brendan O'Carroll from his best-selling Irish novel The Mammy, the picture provided a perfect showcase for an accent born of the actress' Irish upbringing, while the realization of Agnes' simple dream to buy a ticket to an upcoming Tom Jones concert unfolded like a warm-hearted, whimsical fable. Huston's best moments opposite Marion O'Dwyer as her best friend were full of affection and unexpressed emotions, while her feisty, likable performance made up for the over-sentimentality of the story.

Satisfying her taste for literate scripts, Huston appeared in the Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala production, "The Golden Bowl" (2000), a period drama about love and infidelity based on the novel by Henry James. After earning praise for her supporting role in the much-admired indie "The Man From Elysian Fields (2001), Huston was memorable as the mother of an eccentric family in director Wes Anderson's acclaimed seriocomic take on dysfunctional families, "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001). Huston next gave a luminous performance as Viviene, the Lady of the Lake, in the two-part fantasy miniseries, "The Mists of Avalon" (TNT, 2001), which earned her an Emmy nod for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. Following lesser roles in the crime drama "Blood Work" (2002) and the hit comedy "Daddy Day Care" (2003), Huston was again seen at the top of her game with another Emmy-nominated turn in the telepic "Iron Jawed Angels" (HBO, 2004), in which she played Carrie Chapman Catt, one of the leaders in the women's suffrage movement of the early 20th century. Huston reunited with Wes Anderson for "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (2004), delivering an alternately brittle and warm turn as the estranged wife of an eccentric oceanographer (Bill Murray).

In 2005, Huston won her first Golden Globe Award in eight tries for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her performance in "Iron Jawed Angels." Turning to series television, she had a short recurring guest starring role as an unorthodox psychiatrist in the cable comedy, "Huff" (Showtime, 2004-06). After supporting turns in "Material Girls" (2006) and "Seraphim Falls" (2007), she had a six-episode stint on "Medium" (NBC/CBS, 2005-2011) as a missing persons investigator, a role that earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2008. Following her third go-round with director Wes Anderson in his uninspired dramedy, "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007), she was the mentally ill mother of a sex addict (Sam Rockwell) who scams money at restaurants by pretending to be a choking victim in "Choke" (2008). Huston lent her imperious voice to the character of Queen Clarion for Disney's animated spin-off "Tinker Bell" (2008) and its direct-to-DVD sequel "Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure" (2009), followed by a turn as the curator of the prestigious Guggenheim museum in the Kristen Bell-Josh Duhamel romantic-comedy "When in Rome" (2010). The following year, Huston wowed critics with a bravura performance as the caring but overwhelmed mother of a young man diagnosed with cancer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in the comedy-drama "50/50" (2011), for which she earned a Best Supporting Female nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards. Far less successful was the box-office bomb "The Big Year" (2011), a comedy about competitive bird-watching, starring Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin.




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