14 September 1933
|Spouse(s)||Robert Whitehead (m. 1968–2002)|
She was born as Ada Caldwell in Melbourne, Australia and was raised in the suburb of Balwyn. Her father, Edgar, was a plumber. Caldwell's mother often took some of the neighbourhood kids to the Elizabethan Theatre in Richmond where they could go backstage and watch rehearsals and performances.
A life member of the Actors Studio, Caldwell has won four Tony Awards for her performances on Broadway in Tennessee Williams' Slapstick Tragedy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Medea and Master Class. In the last she portrayed opera diva Maria Callas. In Stratford, Ontario she has worked often, including her role as Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra opposite Christopher Plummer's Mark Antony in 1967. She emigrated to England upon being invited to join the RSC at a time when Charles Laughton was attempting Lear, and Vanessa Redgrave, Eileen Atkins, Albert Finney were among the other newcomers in the company. She played Bianca in the 1959 production of Othello, starring Paul Robeson. Later she played the indomitable Helena, opposite Dame Edith Evans in a production of "All's Well That Ends Well". Her career later brought her to America, where she was one of the original company of actors under Guthrie's direction at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. At the Guthrie, she played parts such as Ophelia in Hamlet and Natasha in Three Sisters.
Other credits on Broadway include Arthur Miller's The Creation of the World and Other Business in which she played Eve, a one-woman play by William Luce based on the life of Lillian Hellman and a production of Macbeth with Christopher Plummer as Macbeth and Glenda Jackson as Lady Macbeth under Caldwell's direction. Caldwell directed, off-Broadway, a two-woman play, created by Eileen Atkins, Vita and Virginia, based on the letters between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Atkins played Virginia and Vanessa Redgrave played Vita. Caldwell's directed the Broadway production of Othello in the late 1970s with James Earl Jones, Christopher Plummer, and Dianne Wiest. She helmed the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut for two limited-run seasons as its Artistic Director in the mid-1980s.
She has also appeared on film, most notably as an imperious dowager in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo. In 2002 she starred in the film Just a Kiss. She appeared in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in 2011. She voiced the character of the Grand Councilwoman in Disney's Lilo & Stitch. She originated the role in the 2002 theatrical feature and continued it through the subsequent TV series and direct-to-video releases, as well as in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.
Caldwell graduated from the Methodist Ladies College and, much later, received an honorary degree from the University of Melbourne. She was married in 1968 to Canadian-born Broadway producer Robert Whitehead, a cousin of actor Hume Cronyn. They had two sons and were married until Whitehead's death in June 2002.
- Caldwell, Zoe (2001). I will be Cleopatra: An Actress's Journey. Melbourne: Text Publishing. ISBN 1-877008-03-6.
- Nightingale, Benedict. Her Infinite Variety, New York Times, 21 October 2001; accessed 27 May 2008.
- "Zoe Caldwell's honorary degree". University of Melbourne. Archived from the original on 30 August 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
- "New York State Writers Institute on Caldwell". State University of New York. Archived from the original on 31 October 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2006-11-13.
- David Garfield (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of the Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 277. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- Gussow, Mel. "Robert Whitehead, Who Brought Top Playwrights to Broadway, Dies at 86" The New York Times, 17 June 2002; accessed 27 January 2014.
- Zoe Caldwell at the Internet Broadway Database
- Zoe Caldwell at the Internet Movie Database
- Zoe Caldwell at the Internet Off-Broadway Database