Ellen Burstyn

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Ellen Burstyn
Ellen Burstyn at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.jpg
Burstyn at the May 1, 2009 Tribeca Film Festival première of Poliwood
Born
Edna Rae Gillooly

(1932-12-07) December 7, 1932 (age 87)
NationalityAmerican
Other namesEllen McRae
EducationCass Technical High School
OccupationActress
Years active1955–present
Spouse(s)
William Alexander
(m. 1950; div. 1957)

Paul Roberts
(m. 1958; div. 1961)

Neil Burstyn
(m. 1964; div. 1972)
Children1
10th President of the Actors' Equity Association
In office
1982–1985
Preceded byTheodore Bikel
Succeeded byColleen Dewhurst

Ellen Burstyn (born Edna Rae Gillooly; December 7, 1932) is an American actress. Known for her portrayal of complicated women in dramas, Burstyn is the recipient of various accolades, and is among the few performers to have won the Triple Crown of Acting.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Burstyn left school and worked as a dancer and model. She made her stage debut on Broadway in 1957 and soon started to make appearances in television shows. Stardom followed several years later with her acclaimed role in The Last Picture Show (1971), which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her next appearance in The Exorcist (1973), earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film has remained popular and several publications have regarded it as one of the greatest horror films of all time. She followed this with Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

She appeared in numerous television movies and gained further recognition from her performances in Same Time, Next Year (1978), which won her a Golden Globe Award, and Resurrection (1980), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), and Requiem For a Dream (2000). For playing a lonely drug-addicted woman in the last one of these, she was again nominated for an Academy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. In the 2010s, she made appearances in television series including the political dramas, Political Animals and House of Cards, which have earned her Emmy Award nominations. Since 2000, she has been co-president of the Actors Studio, a drama school in New York City. In 2013, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame for her work on stage.

Early life[edit]

Burstyn was born Edna Rae Gillooly in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Correine Marie (née Hamel) and John Austin Gillooly.[1] She has described her ancestry as "Irish, French, Pennsylvania Dutch, a little Canadian Indian".[2][3] Burstyn has an older brother, Jack, and a younger brother, Steve.[1][4] Her parents divorced when she was young, and she and her brothers lived with their mother and stepfather.[1]

Burstyn attended Cass Technical High School, a university-preparatory school which allowed students to choose a specific field of study. Burstyn majored in fashion illustration.[5] In high school, she was a cheerleader, a member of the student council, and president of her drama club. She dropped out of high school during her senior year after failing her classes.[6][7] Soon afterwards, Burstyn worked as a dancer, and then a model until the age of 23.[8] She later relocated to Dallas, where she continued modeling and worked in other fashion jobs before moving to New York City.[9]

From 1955 to 1956, Burstyn appeared as an "away we go" dancing girl on The Jackie Gleason Show under the name Erica Dean.[10] Burstyn then decided to become an actress and chose the name "Ellen McRae" as her professional name; she later changed her surname after her 1964 marriage to Neil Burstyn.[11]

Career[edit]

1958–1970: Early work[edit]

Burstyn debuted on Broadway in 1957 and joined Lee Strasberg's The Actors Studio in New York City in 1967. In 1975, she won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her performance in the comedy Same Time, Next Year, a role in which she would reprise in a film adaptation in 1978. Starting in the late 1950s, and throughout the 1960s, Burstyn frequently played guest roles on a number of primetime television shows, including Dr. Kildare, 77 Sunset Strip, Ben Casey, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Wagon Train, The Big Valley, and The Virginian. During 1964–1965, she had a recurring role as Dr. Kate Bartok on the NBC daytime television soap opera The Doctors. Between 1967 and 1968, she co-starred as Julie Parsons opposite Dale Robertson in the ABC western The Iron Horse.[12] She was credited as Ellen McRae until 1967, when she and her then-husband Neil Nephew both changed their surname to Burstyn, and she began to be credited as Ellen Burstyn.[13]

1971–1981: Film breakthrough[edit]

After a number of small film roles, Burstyn gained recognition after starring in the 1971's The Last Picture Show, a coming of age story, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and adapted from a semi-autobiographical 1966 novel by Larry McMurtry. The film earned critical acclaim for its nostalgia and visual style that is reminiscent of 1951, the year in which the plot takes place.[14] The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Burstyn and her co-star Cloris Leachman. Leachman won the award.[8] In 1998, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[15] She next appeared in the drama The King of Marvin Gardens in 1972, with Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, and Scatman Crothers. A story about a daydreamer who convinces his brother to help fund a get-rich-quick scheme, the film was well received by critics.[16]

Burstyn and Blair in The Exorcist (1973)
Burstyn and Blair in The Exorcist (1973).

In 1972, Burstyn was keen on playing the lead role as Chris MacNeil in the supernatural horror, The Exorcist (1973). The film studio were initially reluctant to cast her, but when no other actors were put forward, Burstyn was chosen for the part. Her co-stars were Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller and Linda Blair. The Exorcist had a production budget of $12 million and its principal photography was held in various parts of New York City. Filming proved to be challenging for the entire cast, as it took "six day weeks, twelve hour days for nine months" to film and director William Friedkin preferred to get genuine shocked reactions by using a prop gun.[8][17] Burstyn also injured her coccyx, which led to permanent injury to her spine.[18] Film critic Roger Ebert praised Burstyn for her ability to capture MacNeil's "frustration" during her daughter's possession by an evil spirit.[19] Against expectations, The Exorcist was a commercial success at the theaters. Adjusted for inflation, the film is the ninth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S. and Canada and the top-grossing R-rated film of all time. The film won two Academy Awards—Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound Mixing—and gained Burstyn a Best Actress nomination.[20][21]

Burstyn followed up with a small role in the comedy-drama, Harry and Tonto in 1974. Her next major role was in Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1975) where she played a widowed woman, raising a son and yearning to start a new life for herself as a singer. Drawn to the script, Burstyn selected then-newcomer Scorsese as director and recalled the collaboration as "one of the best experiences I've ever had".[8][22] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "Burstyn never misses the eccentric beat that distinguishes it—that makes Alice such a hugely appealing character who is both banal and very rare".[23] The film earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress.[24] In 1975, she became a graduate of the first group of participants in the American Film Institute Directing Workshop for Women. In 1977, she served as a member of the jury at the 27th Berlin International Film Festival.[25]

She had supporting roles in Providence and A Dream of Passion in 1977 and 1978, respectively. Although these were independent dramas and not widely seen, the latter was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film.[26] Also in 1978, Burstyn starred in Same Time, Next Year opposite Alan Alda, a romantic-comedy about two people, married to others, who meet for a romantic tryst once a year for two decades. The film is based on a 1975 play of the same title by Bernard Slade. Upon its release on November 22, the film garnered mixed reviews, with Janet Maslin of The New York Times stating, "Slade's screenplay isn't often funny, and it's full of momentous events that can't be laughed away", but praises Burstyn for giving the role "warmth and grace".[27] Same Time, Next Year was nominated for Academy Awards in Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, and Best Actress for Burstyn.[28] In the Golden Globes Awards, she won Best Actress in a Motion Picture, and the film received two other nominations—Best Actor for Alda and Best Original Song.[29]

Burstyn hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live, a late-night sketch comedy and variety show, in December 1980.[30] That year, Burstyn starred in the drama Resurrection, a story about a woman who possesses strange powers after a surviving an automobile crash. She was nominated again for Best Actress in the Academy Awards and Best Actress in the Golden Globes.[31][32] In 1981, she starred in the biographical television movie The People vs. Jean Harris (1981), based on the real life murder of Herman Tarnower, a well-known cardiologist and author of the best-selling book The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet. Burstyn was nominated for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film in the Golden Globes for her portrayal of the murderer, Jean Harris.[33] She was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie.[34] In 1981, Burstyn recorded "The Ballad of the Nazi Soldier's Wife" for Ben Bagley's album Kurt Weill Revisited, Vol. 2.[35]

1985–2005: Television films and continued success[edit]

Burstyn followed up the mid-1980s with a number of roles in television movies, including The Ambassador (1984), Surviving (1985), Twice in a Lifetime (1985), Into Thin Air (1985), Act of Vengeance (1986), Something in Common (1986) and play adaptation, Pack of Lies (1987). For Twice in a Lifetime, she co-starred with Gene Hackman and Ann-Margret. Burstyn portrays Kate, the wife that Hackman's character divorces when he falls in love with another woman. Pack of Lies was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, including another one for Burstyn as Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie.[36]

In 1986, Burstyn starred in an ABC television sitcom, The Ellen Burstyn Show, with co-stars Megan Mullally as her daughter and Elaine Stritch as her mother. Created by David Frankel, it ran only for one season. In 1987, she appeared in Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam and Look Away, both which were television movies. In 1988, she then participated again as a member of the jury for the 38th Berlin International Film Festival.[37] A variety of acting performances followed suit, including in the dramas Hanna's War (1987), When You Remember Me (1990), Dying Young (1991) and Grand Isle (1991). In 1990, Burstyn won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.[38] In addition to television movies, Burstyn appeared in When a Man Loves a Woman (1994) with co-stars Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan.

In 1995, she portrayed Judith in the comedy-drama Roommates (1995). The film received negative reviews and was a commercial failure, but it did receive a nomination for Best Makeup in the Academy Awards.[39][40] Also that year, Burstyn appeared in How to Make an American Quilt (1995), based on the 1991 novel of the same name by Whitney Otto, which tells the stories of several generations of women who are part of the same quilting circle. Despite a mixed critical response, the cast received a nomination for Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.[41][42] In 1998, Burstyn appeared in Playing By Heart, with co-stars including Sean Connery and Angelina Jolie, a story of eleven ordinary people in Los Angeles who are connected in different ways. Some critics such as Roger Ebert viewed the film positively despite the lackluster performance at the box office.[43][44]

Director Darren Aronofsky has worked with Burstyn twice.
Director Darren Aronofsky has worked with Burstyn twice.

Burstyn next found supporting roles in The Spitfire Grill (1996), about a woman starting a new life after being released from prison, and Deceiver (1997), a murder crime drama. Although not box office hits, each film garnered mixed to positive responses, according to film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[45][46] Next, she appeared in James Gray's The Yards (2000) alongside a principal cast of Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron, Faye Dunaway and James Caan. The crime drama was unpopular and a commercial failure, earning less than $1 million worldwide from a budget of $24 million.[47][48]

In 1999, director Darren Aronofsky offered Burstyn the role of Sara Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream (2000). She initially rejected the part, objecting to the depressive nature of the story. However, Burstyn changed her mind after seeing Aronofsky's previous work.[48] The film is based on the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr, which tells the story of four New Yorkers whose lives are affected by drug addictions. To prepare for the role, Burstyn had to research troubled women in Brooklyn, "to get their speech patterns and outlook on life - and how narrow that is ... their life is about getting enough money to put food on the table to feed their children, and that's it".[49] She also had to wear fat suits and lose about 10-pounds (4½ kg) to showcase her character's weight-loss.[49][50] Burstyn and her co-stars, Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto, and Marlon Wayans, found the filming schedule of forty days challenging and intense.[51] Requiem for a Dream premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and was released to theaters on October 6, 2000. The film was well received and praised for its visual style and depiction of drug abuse. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone writes, "Burstyn gives an award-caliber performance that is as raw and riveting as the movie that contains it".[52] Burstyn was nominated for Best Actress in the 2001 Academy Awards.[53]

From 2000 to 2002, Burstyn starred in the CBS television series That's Life. The series, set in suburban New Jersey, ran for two seasons. Burstyn appeared in several more films, including Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), Brush with Fate (2003) and The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2004). Burstyn starred in the Broadway production of Martin Tahse's Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, based upon the novel of the same title by Allan Gurganus. The show played 19 previews and officially opened November 17, 2003. Due to unfavorable reviews, all performances after the opening night were cancelled.[54]

2006–2015: Steady work in film and television[edit]

She provided a supporting role as the mother of two sons in the 2006 romantic drama The Elephant King. The film originally premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, and opened in U.S. theaters October 2008.[55] In January 2006, she starred as an Episcopal bishop in the NBC comedy-drama series The Book of Daniel. The series, which also starred Aidan Quinn as a drug-addicted Episcopal priest married to an alcoholic wife, was met with controversy from religious and spiritual leaders due to its unconventional portrayals of religious figures.[56] Conservative groups including American Family Association and Focus on the Family urged supporters to complain to NBC affiliates that carried the show. Subsequently, NBC removed the series from its line-up after four episodes, but did not publicly give a reason for doing so.[57]

In 2006, Burstyn appeared in the epic drama The Fountain, her second collaboration with Darren Aronofsky. Portraying Dr. Lillian Guzetti, the film is about a scientist (played by Hugh Jackman) struggling with mortality and is seeking a medical breakthrough to save his wife (Rachel Weisz) from cancer. Budgeted at $35 million, the screenplay is a blend of fantasy, history, spirituality, and science fiction. The Fountain premiered on November 22, 2006 to mixed reviews and under-performance at the box office.[58][59] Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, "The movie is overloaded with imagery. At times, it's stunning to look at, but gradually becomes too much", but praises Burstyn for her character's "impressive depth".[60] Since its release, the film managed to gain a cult following causing media to revisit the film.[61]

In 2006, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie for the role of Former Tarnower Steady in HBO's Mrs. Harris, another biopic about Jean Harris.[62] Soon after the nominations were announced, questions were raised regarding the worthiness of the nomination due to her minor role in the film, consisting of 14 seconds of screen time and 38 words of dialogue. The nominating committee were accused of approving a "familiar" name without actually seeing their performance.[63] The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, administrator of the Emmy Awards, insisted it was a legitimate nomination.[64] Burstyn reacted, "I thought it was fabulous. My next ambition is to get nominated for seven seconds, and ultimately, I want to be nominated for a picture in which I don't even appear", adding, "This doesn't have anything to do with me ... work it out yourself".[65] Ultimately, Kelly Macdonald, who starred in The Girl in the Cafe, won the award.[66] In March 2007, the Academy adjusted the eligibility criteria.[67]

She also appeared in the thriller The Wicker Man (2006), a remake of the 1973 British film of the same name, which was a commercial flop and negatively received by critics.[68][69] Slant magazine was critical of the cast performances, writing that Burstyn "feigns arrogant malevolence".[70] A year later, Burstyn starred in The Stone Angel, based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Margaret Laurence. Like its predecessor, the film also garnered negative reviews, with Stephen Holden of The New York Times writing, "a film of tightly assembled bits and pieces that don’t fit comfortably together despite clever dashes of magical realism connecting past and present ... it leaves you frustrated by its failure to braid subplots and characters into a gripping narrative".[71]

Burstyn at the 2009 Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
Burstyn at the 2009 Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

A succession of films including Lovely, Still (2008), The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (2008) and The Mighty Macs (2011), were released in the late 2000s which found success to niche audiences. She then appeared in Main Street (2010) and Another Happy Day (2011), small-scale features with mixed reviews. In addition to film roles, between 2007 and 2011, she had an occasional recurring role on the HBO television drama series Big Love, playing the mother of polygamist wife Barbara Henrickson. Burstyn returned to the stage in March 2008, in the off-Broadway production of Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Little Flower of East Orange, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in a co-production by LAByrinth Theater Company and The Public Theater.[72] In addition to her stage work, Burstyn portrayed former First Lady Barbara Bush in Oliver Stone's biographical film W. in 2008.[73]

In 2009, she won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of the bipolar estranged mother of Detective Elliot Stabler on NBC's police procedural Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.[74] In 2012, she joined the cast of Political Animals, a television series about the life of a divorced former First Lady, serving as Secretary of State. Political Animals received generally favorable reviews from critics according to Metacritic.[75] At the 2013 Golden Globe Awards, the series was nominated for Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television.[76] Burstyn won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series.[77]

She portrayed the grandmother of Lou (played by Mackenzie Foy) in Wish You Well (2013). A year later, Burstyn and Foy worked together again in Christopher Nolan's epic science fiction Interstellar.[78] Set in a dystopian future where humanity is struggling to survive, the film follows a group of astronauts who travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for humanity. The film grossed over $677 million in the worldwide box office, making it the tenth-highest-grossing film of 2014. She made a guest appearance in five episodes of Louie in 2014, and starred in a thriller, The Calling, in the same year. Burstyn played Flemming, the daughter of Blake Lively's immortal character, in the film The Age of Adaline (2015). Production started in March 2014, and the film was released in April 2015.[79]

2016–present[edit]

In 2016, she guest starred in five episodes of the critically acclaimed political thriller House of Cards. The New York Times praised Burstyn's character for adding "vitality and heart" which was likely to earn her an Emmy nomination.[80] Burstyn was credited on a succession of low-budget films, including Custody (2016), The House of Tomorrow (2017), All I Wish (2017) and Nostalgia (2018). Burstyn also starred in The Tale, a mystery drama which premiered on HBO on May 26, 2018. Director Jennifer Fox was praised for her direction and bringing the "complex, haunting work" to life.[81] Burstyn served as an executive producer for Peter Livolsi's film, The House of Tomorrow (2017), about her friend R. Buckminster Fuller, in which she also stars in.[82] As of 2014, Burstyn is working on directing her first feature film, Bathing Flo.[83][84] In 2019, Burstyn played musicologist Katherine Brandt in an acclaimed Australian production of Moisés Kaufman's play, 33 Variations at Melbourne's Comedy Theatre.[85]

Personal life[edit]

Burstyn married Bill Alexander in 1950 and divorced in 1957. The following year, she married Paul Roberts, with whom she adopted a son named Jefferson in 1961. The couple divorced that same year.[86] In 1964, she married actor Neil Nephew, who later changed his name to Neil Burstyn. She described Neil Burstyn as "charming and funny and bright and talented and eccentric", but schizophrenia made him violent and he eventually left her.[87] He attempted to reconcile but they divorced in 1972. In her autobiography, Lessons in Becoming Myself, Burstyn revealed that he stalked her for six years after their divorce, and that he broke into her house and raped her. No charges were filed, as spousal rape was not yet a crime. He committed suicide in 1978.[88]

Burstyn was raised Catholic, but now affiliates herself with all religious faiths.[89] She follows a form of Sufism, explaining, "I am a spirit opening to the truth that lives in all of these religions... I always pray to Spirit, but sometimes, it's to the Goddess. Sometimes, it's to Jesus... Sometimes, I pray to Ganesha if I need an obstacle removed. Guan Yin is one of my favorite manifestations of the divine, the embodiment of compassion... So, I have Guan Yin with me all the time."[90] In her late 30s, she began to learn about spirituality, under the instruction of Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, who gave her the spiritual name Hadiya, which means "she who is guided" in Arabic.[90]

During the 1970s, Burstyn was active in the movement to free convicted boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter from jail.[91] She is a supporter of the Democratic Party,[92] and appeared in the 2009 documentary PoliWood. Burstyn served as president of the Actors' Equity Association from 1982 to 1985.[93] Burstyn is also on the Board of Selectors of Jefferson Awards for Public Service.[94] In 1997, Burstyn was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.[95] Since 2000, she has been co-president of the Actors Studio, alongside Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin.[96] In 2013, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame for her work on stage.[97]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1964 Goodbye Charlie Franzie Salzman Credited as Ellen McRae
For Those Who Think Young Dr. Pauline Thayer
1969 Pit Stop (original title: The Winner) Ellen McLeod
1970 Alex in Wonderland Beth Morrison
Tropic of Cancer Mona Miller
1971 The Last Picture Show Lois Farrow
1972 The King of Marvin Gardens Sally
1973 The Exorcist Chris MacNeil
1974 Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore Alice Hyatt
Harry and Tonto Shirley Mallard
1977 Providence Sonia Langham
1978 A Dream of Passion Brenda
Same Time, Next Year Doris
1980 Resurrection Edna Mae McCauley
1981 Silence of the North Olive Frederickson
1984 The Ambassador Alex Hacker
Terror in the Aisles Archival footage
1985 Twice in a Lifetime Kate MacKenzie
1987 Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam Mrs. Stocks (voice)
1988 Hanna's War Katalin
1991 Grand Isle Mademoiselle Reisz
Dying Young Mrs. O'Neil
1993 The Cemetery Club Esther Moskowitz
1994 When a Man Loves a Woman Emily
The Color of Evening Kate O'Reilly
1995 How to Make an American Quilt Hy Dodd
The Baby-Sitters Club Emily Haberman
Roommates Judith
1996 The Spitfire Grill Hannah Ferguson
1997 Deceiver Mook
1998 Playing by Heart Mildred
You Can Thank Me Later Shirley Cooperberg
1999 Walking Across Egypt Mattie Rigsbee
2000 Requiem for a Dream Sara Goldfarb
The Yards Val Handler
2001 Dodson's Journey Mother
2002 Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Viviane Joan "Vivi" Abbott Walker
Red Dragon Grandma Dolarhyde (voice only) Uncredited
2005 Down in the Valley Ma
2006 The Fountain Dr. Lilian Guzetti
The Wicker Man Sister Summersisle
The Elephant King Diana Hunt
30 Days Maura
2007 The Stone Angel Hagar Shipley
2008 Lovely, Still Mary
W. Barbara Bush
2009 The Velveteen Rabbit Swan Voice role
According to Greta Katherine
PoliWood Herself Documentary
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond Miss Adie
2010 The Mighty Macs Mother St. John
Main Street Georgiana Carr
2011 Another Happy Day Doris
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You Nanette
2013 Wish You Well Louisa Mae Cardinal
2014 Two Men in Town Garnett's mother
Draft Day Barb Weaver
Flowers in the Attic Olivia Foxworth
Interstellar Old Murph
Petals on the Wind Olivia Foxworth
2015 The Age of Adaline Flemming
Unity Narrator Documentary
About Scout Gram
2016 Wiener-Dog Nana
Custody Beatrice Fisher
2017 The House of Tomorrow Josephine Prendergast Also executive producer
All I Wish Celia Berges
2018 Nostalgia Helen Greer
The Tale Nettie
2019 American Woman Miss Dolly
Lucy in the Sky Nana Holbrook
TBA Welcome to Pine Grove! Helen Wilson Post-production
TBA Pieces of a Woman Post-production

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1958 Kraft Television Theatre Linda Episode: "Trick or Treat"; credited as Ellen McRae
1961 Michael Shayne Carol Episode: "Strike Out"; credited as Ellen McRae[98]
1961 The Loretta Young Show Ann Walters Episode: "Woodlot"; credited as Ellen McRae
1961 Dr. Kildare Anne Garner Episode: "Second Chance"; credited as Ellen McRae
1961 Surfside 6 Wandra Drake Episode: "Double Image"; credited as Ellen McRae
1961, 1963 77 Sunset Strip Betty Benson (1961)
Sandra Keene (1963)
2 episodes; credited as Ellen McRae
1961 Cheyenne Emmy Mae Episode: "Day's Pay"; credited as Ellen McRae
1961 The Dick Powell Show Rose Maxon Episode: "Ricochet"; credited as Ellen McRae
1962,
1971
Gunsmoke Polly Mims (1962)
Amy Waters (1971)
3 episodes; credited as Ellen McRae (1962), credited as Ellen Burstyn (1971)
1962 Ben Casey Dr. Leslie Fraser (ep. 1)
Connie (ep. 2)
2 episodes; credited as Ellen McRae
1962 Bus Stop Phyllis Dunning Episode: "Cry to Heaven"; credited as Ellen McRae
1962 Checkmate Margo Episode: "The Bold and the Tough"; credited as Ellen McRae
1962 The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Dr. Donna Whittaker Episode: "A Splinter Off the Old Block"; credited as Ellen McRae
1962 Perry Mason Mona Winthrope White Episode: "The Case of the Dodging Domino"; credited as Ellen McRae
1962 The Real McCoys Dorothy Carter Episode: "The Girl Veterinarian"; credited as Ellen McRae
1962 I'm Dickens, He's Fenster Joan Episode: "Harry, the Father Image"; credited as Ellen McRae
1963 Laramie Amy Episode: "No Place to Run"; credited as Ellen McRae
1963 The Defenders Hilda Wesley Episode: "The Heathen"; credited as Ellen McRae
1963 Going My Way Louise Episode: "Hear No Evil"; credited as Ellen McRae
1963 Wagon Train Margaret Whitlow Episode: "The Jim Whitlow Story"; credited as Ellen McRae
1963 Vacation Playhouse Ellen Episode: "The Big Brain"; credited as Ellen McRae
1964 Suspense Theater Barbara / Lucille Episode: "The Deep End"; credited as Ellen McRae
1964 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Eva Laurelton Episode: "Runaway"; credited as Ellen McRae
1964 The Greatest Show on Earth Susan Mason Episode: "Big Man from Nairobi"; credited as Ellen McRae
1964 Death Valley Days Jenny Episode: "Hastings Cut-off"; credited as Ellen McRae
1964–1965 The Doctors Dr. Kate Bartok Multiple episodes; credited as Ellen McRae
1965 For the People Maria Haviland Episode: "Seized, Confined and Detained"; credited as Ellen McRae
1966 The Time Tunnel Dr. Eve Holland Episode: "Crack of Doom"; credited as Ellen McRae
1967–1968 Iron Horse Julie Parsons 9 episodes; credited as Ellen McRae
1967 The Big Valley Sister Jacob Episode: "Days of Grace"; credited as Ellen McRae
1968 Insight Janet Episode: "All the Things I've Never Liked"; credited as Ellen McRae
1969 The Virginian Kate Bürden Episode: "Last Grave at Socorro Creek"
1972 The Bold Ones: The Lawyers Rachel Lambert Episode: "Lisa, I Hardly Knew You"
1974 Thursday's Game Lynne Evers Television movie
1981 The People vs. Jean Harris Jean Harris Television movie
1985 Into Thin Air Joan Walker Television movie
1985 Surviving: A Family in Crisis Tina Brogan
1986 Act of Vengeance Margaret Yablonski
1986 Something in Common Lynn Hollander
1986–1987 The Ellen Burstyn Show Ellen Brewer 13 episodes
1987 Look Away Mary Todd Lincoln Television movie
1987 Pack of Lies Barbara Jackson Television movie
1990 When You Remember Me Nurse Cooder Television movie
1991 Mrs. Lambert Remembers Love Lillian "Lil" Lambert
1992 Taking Back My Life: The Nancy Ziegenmeyer Story Wilma
1993 Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story Joan Delvecchio
1994 Trick of the Eye Frances Griffin
1994 Getting Gotti Jo Giaclone
1994 Getting Out Arlie's Mother
1995 Follow the River Gretel
1995 My Brother's Keeper Helen
1996 Timepiece Maud Gannon
1996 Our Son, the Matchmaker Iva Mae Longwell
1997 Flash Laura Strong
1997 A Deadly Vision Yvette Watson
1998 A Will of Their Own Veronica Steward Mini-series
1998 The Patron Saint of Liars June Clatterbuck Television movie
1999 Night Ride Home Maggie
2000 Mermaid Trish Gill Television movie
2000–2002 That's Life Dolly DeLucca 34 episodes
2001 Within These Walls Joan Thomas Television movie
2003 Brush with Fate Rika
2004 The Five People You Meet in Heaven Ruby
2004 The Madam's Family: The Truth About the Canal Street Brothel Tommie
2005 Our Fathers Mary Ryan
2005 Mrs. Harris Ex-lover No. 3 (Former Tarnower "Steady") Television movie
2006 The Book of Daniel Bishop Beatrice Congreve 8 episodes
2007 For One More Day Pauline Benetto Television movie
2007–2011 Big Love Nancy Davis Dutton 6 episodes
2008 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Bernie Stabler Episode: "Swing"
2012 Political Animals Margaret Barrish 6 episodes
2012 Coma Mrs. Emerson 2 episodes
2014 Flowers in the Attic Olivia Foxworth Television movie
2014 Petals on the Wind Olivia Foxworth Television movie
2014 Louie Evanka 5 episodes: "Elevator" Parts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6
2015 Mom Shirley Stabler Episode: "Terrorists and Gingerbread"
2016 House of Cards Elizabeth Hale 5 episodes

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1972 The Last Picture Show Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated [8]
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture [99]
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress Won [100]
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress [101]
1974 The Exorcist Academy Award for Best Actress Nominated [21]
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama [99]
1975 Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore Academy Award for Best Actress Won [24]
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role [102]
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Nominated [99]
1979 Same Time, Next Year Academy Award for Best Actress Nominated [28]
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Won [99]
1981 Resurrection Academy Award for Best Actress Nominated [31]
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama [99]
Saturn Award for Best Actress
1982 The People vs. Jean Harris Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Mini-Series or a Movie Nominated [33]
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Mini-Series or Television Film [99]
1988 Pack of Lies Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Mini-Series or a Movie Nominated [36]
1996 How To Make An American Quilt Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated [42]
2001 Requiem for a Dream Academy Award for Best Actress Nominated [53]
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama [99]
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role [103]
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress Won [104]
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress [105]
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
Satellite Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress [106]
Saturn Award for Best Actress
2001 Mermaid Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special Nominated
2006 Mrs. Harris Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Mini-Series or a Movie Nominated [107]
2008 The Stone Angel Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Won
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress in a Canadian Film Nominated
2008 For One More Day Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Mini-Series or Television Movie Nominated [108]
Satellite Award for Best Actress – Mini-Series or Television Film
2008 Big Love Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress – Drama Series Nominated [107]
2009 Law & Order Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress – Drama Series Won [107]
2013 Political Animals Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or a Movie Won [107]
Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Movie/Mini-Series Supporting Actress Nominated [109]
2015 Flowers in the Attic Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Mini-Series or a Movie Nominated [107]
Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Movie/Mini-Series Supporting Actress [110]
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Mini-Series or Television Movie [111]
2016 Mom Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series Nominated [112]
2016 House of Cards Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Nominated [107]

Bibliography[edit]

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External links[edit]

Preceded by
Paul Newman
President of the Actors Studio
1994–present
With: Al Pacino
and Harvey Keitel
Succeeded by
Incumbent
Preceded by
Lee Strasberg (1982)
Carlin Glynn (2007)
Lee Grant (2007)
Artistic Director of the Actors Studio
1982–1988
2007–present
With: Al Pacino (1982)
Succeeded by
Frank Corsaro (1988)
Incumbent