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Robin Wright Biography


Home > Actresses > W > Wright, Robin > Biography


Birth Name: Robin Wright
Born: 04/08/1966
Birth Place: Dallas, Texas, USA


The daughter of a pharmaceutical executive and a sales director for the Mary Kay cosmetics firm, Wright was born Robin Gayle Wright in Dallas, TX on April 8, 1966. Her parents divorced when she was only two, leading the family to relocate to San Diego, CA with her mother Gayle and brother Richard. Tall, willowy, and blonde, she was a natural for teen modeling, and began working abroad while only 14. After graduating high school, Wright's manager encouraged her to explore acting, and she made her debut on the primetime drama, "The Yellow Rose" (NBC, 1983-84). She was soon snapped up for the role of Kelly Capwell, the lead ingénue on "Santa Barbara," where she was nominated for three Daytime Emmys and won a 1986 Soap Opera Digest award. While on the soap, she made her film debut in the low-budget thriller "Hollywood Vice Squad" (1986), where she began a relationship with her co-star, Dane Witherspoon, which led to a 1986 marriage.

In 1987, Wright was tapped by director Rob Reiner to play Princess Buttercup in "The Princess Bride," a charming romantic comedy-fantasy which developed a considerable fan base on home video and DVD. The film's release coincided with the end of her contract on "Santa Barbara," so she departed the show to explore her options in film and television. A role in experimental film director Peter Greenaway's "A TV Dante" (1989), based on Dante's "Inferno" preceded her third film, "Denial" (1990) with Jason Patric. Wright and Patric were a brief off-screen item before she met actor Sean Penn on Phil Joanou's Irish mobster drama, "State of Grace" (1990). Though the film was overwrought in terms of direction and script, it showed off the grittier side of Wright's talent, and foreshadowed many of her future film roles. The picture also marked the beginning of her relationship with Penn. She was thankfully forced to turn down the role of Maid Marian in Kevin Costner's ill-fated "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991) due to the birth of her daughter with Penn, Dylan Francis, but she returned to movies the following year with a spirited supporting role as the object of both Aidan Quinn and Albert Finney's affections in "The Playboys" (1992). She then returned to the Hollywood side of filmmaking for Barry Levinson's comedy "Toys" (1992), but the end result was muddled and obscured her abilities behind a flurry of special effects and mugging by star Robin Williams. Wright was pregnant with her second child following the Levinson film, and gave birth to a son, Jack Hopper (so named for Penn's friend, actor Dennis Hopper) in 1993.

Wright returned to acting in a major way as Jenny, the object of Tom Hanks' unrequited affections in Robert Zemeckis' blockbuster "Forrest Gump" (1994). The massive project gave Wright a substantial role which required her to age several decades over the course of the film. For her efforts, she was nominated for several awards, including a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award. Wright later offset the massive pop culture crush that surrounded "Gump" by her first role as an actress in a film directed by her significant other; "The Crossing Guard" (1995), in which she played an artist who becomes entangled with Jack Nicholson's revenge-seeking main character. Wright followed this with the title role in Pen Densham's unconventional take on Daniel Defoe's "Moll Flanders" (1996) opposite Morgan Freeman and Stockard Channing. That same year, after a brief separation from Penn, she married him and added his surname to her professional name for a number of years. The year 1997 saw Wright shift her focus to a string of independent features, starting with the largely unseen "Loved," about a woman traumatized by an abusive relationship, which earned her an Independent Spirit Award nod. It marked the first of three onscreen pairings with her husband, and was soon followed by "She's So Lovely," a character study of a headstrong woman (Wright) and the men who vie for her hand (Penn and John Travolta). The film, directed by Nick Cassavetes and penned by his late father, indie film saint John Cassavetes, earned the actress Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Actress. The couple followed this with the disappointing film version of David Rabe's "Hurlyburly" (1998).

Wright returned to the Hollywood fold for three lackluster features: the romantic fantasy "Message in a Bottle" (1998) with Kevin Costner; the prison drama "The Last Castle" (2001), with an uncredited turn as Robert Redford's daughter; and "Unbreakable" (2001, as Bruce Willis' wife, in M. Night Shymalan's offbeat take on the superhero movie. Her indie effort during this period, including the black comedy "How To Kill Your Neighbor's Dog" (2000), went largely unseen by moviegoers. She took the female lead in her husband's crime drama "The Pledge" (2001), starring as Jack Nicholson's love interest, before teaming with a trio of heavyweight actresses - Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellwegger, and Alison Lohman - for the ponderous film adaptation of Janet Fitch's bestseller, "White Oleander" (2002). Wright played Ingrid, a born-again, alcoholic stripper who takes in the film's narrator (Lohman), only to shuttle her off to another foster mother after her boyfriend (Cole Hauser) becomes romantically intrigued by her. It was followed by several hit-or-miss indies, including the film version of "The Singing Detective" (2003), with Wright in three roles, including that of lead Robert Downey, Jr.'s estranged wife and a shadowy femme fatale; the little-seen "Virgin" (2003), with Wright as the mother who believes her daughter has experienced immaculate conception; and "A Home at the End of the World" (2004), with Wright as Colin Farrell's love interest. "Virgin" also marked Wright's debut as executive producer.

From 2005, Wright was a staple in independent, character-driven fare. She was top-billed in a cast of powerful actresses - including Glenn Close, Sissy Spacek, and Holly Hunter - in Rodrigo Garcia's anthology feature "Nine Lives" (2005), and shared nominations with them from the Gotham Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, and other organizations. She followed this with "Sorry, Haters" (2005), an eclectic drama about a divorceé (Wright) who turns the life of a Syrian cab driver upside down. Wright's intense performance netted her another Independent Spirit nomination. She also enjoyed a choice role as Ed Harris' lovelorn mother (in flashbacks) in the HBO miniseries "Empire Falls," which brought her a Screen Actors Guild nomination. In 2006, she co-starred as Jude Law's girlfriend, as well as the mother of an emotionally unstable child in Anthony Minghella's unusual mystery-drama "Breaking and Entering," which yielded a British Independent Film Award nomination for her.

Wright's onscreen efforts in 2007 could not have been further apart in regard to subject matter or substance. She was the mysterious Strange Lady, who dallies with Dakota Fanning's father in the controversial "Hounddog" (which reunited her with "Virgin" director Deborah Kampmeier), and she provided the voice and physical movements (as well as two songs) for Danish Queen Wealthow in Robert Zemeckis' CGI-animated take on "Beowulf." The latter proved a box office (if not a critical) hit, but it was largely overshadowed by the news at year's end that Wright was ending her long relationship with Sean Penn, citing "irreconcilable differences." Considering their roller-coaster relationship, Wright surprised no one when she withdrew her petition to divorce in April 2008. Meanwhile, she appeared in the same film with her husband, "What Just Happened?" (2008), Barry Levinson's Hollywood satire about an aging producer struggling to maintain his career while battling his ex-wife (Wright) and his suddenly grown-up daughter (Kristen Stewart).

Wright took on the title role in the indie drama "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" (2009), as a woman whose outwardly perfect marriage to a much older man (Alan Arkin) reveals itself to be anything but. In an exceptionally busy year, she also played the wife of a U.S. congressman (Ben Affleck) involved in a deadly cover up in the political thriller "State of Play" (2009), then lent her voice to a computer-animated interpretation of Dickens' holiday staple, "A Christmas Carol" (2009), with Jim Carrey voicing Scrooge. After years of frequent separations, followed by uneasy reconciliations, Wright at last divorced Penn in the summer of 2010 and, in a sign of finality, legally reverted back to her maiden name. In her first post-Penn credit, the actress essayed the role of Mary Surratt, the woman accused of participating in the planning of President Lincoln's assassination in director Robert Redford's historical drama, "The Conspirator" (2010). The following year saw her in a slew of supporting roles opposite several of Hollywood's most popular leading men in the films "Moneyball" (2011), "Rampart" (2011) and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2011). Becoming a series regular for the first time since her "Santa Barbara" days, Wright had a major role on "House of Cards" (Netflix, 2013- ), a political drama adapted from the 1990 BBC miniseries of the same name, only set in the world of Washington, D.C. She played the Lady Macbeth-like wife of political operator Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), the Democratic House Majority Whip out for revenge after being passed over as the Secretary of Defense.