Vera Farmiga

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Vera Farmiga
Vera Farmiga 2, 2011.jpg
Farmiga in November 2011
Born Vera Ann Farmiga
(1973-08-06) August 6, 1973 (age 43)
Clifton, New Jersey, U.S.
Alma mater Syracuse University
  • Actress
  • director
  • producer
Years active 1996–present
Children 2

Vera Ann Farmiga (/fɑːrˈmɡə/; born August 6, 1973) is an American actress, director and producer. She began her career on Broadway in the play Taking Sides (1996). She made her television debut in the Fox fantasy series Roar (1997), and her film debut in the drama-thriller Return to Paradise (1998).

Farmiga's breakout role came in 2004, when she portrayed a mother harboring a secret drug habit in the drama film Down to the Bone. She then co-starred in The Manchurian Candidate (2004), The Departed (2006), The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008), and Nothing But the Truth (2008). She gained more critical acclaim for her role as Alex Goran in the 2009 comedy-drama Up in the Air, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress.

She then had starring roles in Orphan (2009), Source Code (2011), and Safe House (2012). Farmiga made her directorial debut with the drama film Higher Ground (2011), in which she also starred in the lead role. In 2013, she portrayed paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren in the horror film The Conjuring, and reprised the role in the 2016 sequel The Conjuring 2.

Since 2013, Farmiga has starred as Norma Louise Bates in the A&E drama-thriller series Bates Motel, for which she received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. This role, along with her roles in Joshua, Orphan, and the two Conjuring films, has dubbed her as a contemporary scream queen.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

Farmiga was born in Clifton, New Jersey, to Ukrainian-born parents Lubomyra (née Spas), a schoolteacher, and Michael Farmiga, a systems analyst.[2][3] She was raised in an insular Ukrainian American community in Irvington, New Jersey, with Ukrainian as her native language.[2] She did not learn English until she started kindergarten at age 6.[4] As a child, Farmiga converted with her family from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to Pentecostalism.[5] When she was 12, the family moved from Irvington to Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.[6] She attended St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic School in Newark, New Jersey, and toured with a Ukrainian folk-dancing ensemble, Syzokryli, during her teen years.[7][8] In addition to being a semi-professional folk dancer, she is also a classically trained pianist.[9][10] Farmiga was a member of Plast, the Ukrainian Girl Scouts organization.[11] In 1991, she graduated from Hunterdon Central Regional High School.[12] During her junior year there, she found acting after being benched during a varsity soccer game; her friend then convinced her to try out for the school play, and she won the lead role.[3][13] Farmiga went on to study performing arts at Syracuse University, graduating in 1995.[14]

Farmiga has one older brother, Victor,[15] and five younger siblings, Stephan, Nadia, Alexander, Laryssa (who was born with spina bifida),[16] and Taissa.[17][18] Her cousin is Adriana Farmiga. Her maternal grandparents, Nadia (née Pletenciw; 1925–2014) and Theodor Spas (1921–90), met at a displaced Ukrainian persons camp in Karlsfeld during World War II.[19] At the time, her grandfather was working as a mechanic for the United States Army. Theodor and Nadia married in Munich in 1946 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1950 when Farmiga's mother was an infant, first living in Davidsonville, Maryland before settling in Harrison, New Jersey.[19] Farmiga's father was born in Ukraine and raised in Argentina. A soccer player, Michael was scouted for the Argentine national team,[20] and also played professionally for the Newark Ukrainian Sitch.[21]


1996–2001: Beginnings[edit]

Although she originally intended to become an ophthalmologist, Farmiga attended Syracuse University's School of Visual and Performing Arts.[22] In February 1996, she starred as Miranda in the American Conservatory Theater's production of The Tempest.[23] She also performed in several productions as a member of The Barrow Group, a prestigious theater company in New York City, where her credits included Nina Zarechnaya in The Seagull (1996) and Anne in Good (1996).[24] Farmiga made her Broadway debut alongside Ed Harris and Daniel Massey on October 17, 1996, as an understudy for Emmi Straube, in the Ronald Harwood play Taking Sides.[25] Following these stage roles, Farmiga co-starred in the Hallmark Hall of Fame television Western film Rose Hill as Emily Elliot. The film, which aired on the CBS network on April 20, 1997, also featured Jennifer Garner and Justin Chambers.[26]

Farmiga next played the role of beautiful former slave Catlin in the Fox fantasy adventure series Roar, alongside Heath Ledger and Sebastian Roché.[22] Farmiga said that the series "wanted to be Braveheart but turned out more Xena: Warrior Princess."[22] The show premiered on July 14, 1997, and was cancelled by the network after only one season. The following year, Farmiga guest starred in an episode of NBC's procedural drama series Law & Order, portraying the daughter of a convicted murderer who goes on her own killing spree.[27] Throughout the late 1990s, she continued appearing in stage, television and film roles. She had a supporting role alongside Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix in the drama-thriller Return to Paradise, which was released to theaters on August 14, 1998. Two years later, Farmiga had a supporting role as Lisa Tyler in the romantic drama Autumn in New York, opposite Richard Gere (who played her character's biological father) and Winona Ryder.[28] The film, released on August 11, 2000, grossed a total of $90,726,668 worldwide, becoming a financial success.[29]

Also on August 11, 2000, the crime drama film The Opportunists, in which she co-starred as Christopher Walken's daughter Miriam Kelly, was released in the United States.[30] The following year, Farmiga had a major supporting role as Czech immigrant Daphne Handlova in the action thriller 15 Minutes, alongside Robert De Niro.[31] The film, released on March 9, 2001, was a box office success, making a total of $56,359,980 worldwide against a budget of $42 million.[32] She next starred in the British-Macedonian Western drama film Dust, opposite Joseph Fiennes, which opened at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2001.[31] Farmiga subsequently joined the main cast of NBC's short-lived procedural drama UC: Undercover as Alex Cross. The series premiered on September 30, 2001, and was cancelled after one season.[33] She then portrayed Queen Josephine in the Hallmark fantasy television film Snow White: The Fairest of Them All, which aired on October 28, 2001.[34]

2002–08: Breakthrough[edit]

Farmiga at the Toronto International Film Festival, September 8, 2008

Farmiga had her first starring role in the romantic drama film Love in the Time of Money, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 11, 2002. The film later received a limited release in the United States on November 1, 2002.[35] In June 2002, she portrayed Helen in the John Erman-directed stage production of Under the Blue Sky at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Ralph Hamman wrote of Farmiga's performance in the play: "Most compelling is Vera Farmiga, who dances a fragile yet dangerous duet with Tate Donovan. Reams of subtext sweep across her face and stimulate her entire presence into being a sort of supersensitive seismograph to Donovan's every word and action."[36] Farmiga next appeared as Lorena Fanchetti, alongside Adrien Brody, in the comedy-drama Dummy, which was released to theaters on September 13, 2003.[37] The following year, Farmiga had her breakout role in the independent drama film Down to the Bone, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 15, 2004.[38] Her performance as the drug addicted mother of two Irene Morrison earned her the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress and a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead.[39]

In the HBO drama film Iron Jawed Angels, which was released on February 15, 2004, she portrayed Polish-American suffragette Ruza Wenclawska, alongside Hilary Swank and Anjelica Huston.[40] Farmiga then starred in the American adaptation of the British crime drama television series Touching Evil as Detective Susan Branca.[41] The series premiered on the USA Network on March 12, 2004 and was well received by critics; however, the network did not renew the series for a second season.[42] Later that year, she had a supporting role as Jocelyne Jordan in the political thriller remake The Manchurian Candidate, starring Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep. The film, released on July 30, 2004, was well received by critics[43] and grossed $96,105,964 at the worldwide box office.[44] The following year, she played the role of Eleanna in the fantasy drama Neverwas, with Aaron Eckhart and Ian McKellen. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2005 and went straight to DVD two years later.[45]

Rather than attending auditions for films in which she is interested, Farmiga makes short films which she submits for casting. She stated: "To fade in and fade out, have intimacy with the [microphones], the lighting, and have the luxury of takes – you could make yourself as ugly or as beautiful as you wanted."[22] One of these audition tapes led to Martin Scorsese inviting her for a "chemistry read" with Leonardo DiCaprio, which led to her role as the police psychiatrist Dr. Madolyn Madden in The Departed.[46] The film, which was released on October 6, 2006 and grossed $289,847,354 worldwide,[47] was lauded by critics, winning four Academy Awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture.[48] For her performance in the role of Madolyn, Farmiga was nominated for the Empire Award for Best Newcomer,[49] and shared with her co-stars the nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.[50]

Farmiga at a screening of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, November 6, 2008

Farmiga next starred as Teresa Gazelle in Wayne Kramer's crime thriller Running Scared, released on February 24, 2006,[51] and as an Eastern European prostitute named Oana in Anthony Minghella's romantic crime drama Breaking and Entering, released on November 9, 2006.[52] She then landed the lead role of Sophie Lee in Gina Kim's Korean-American romantic drama Never Forever, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2007. The film follows a New York woman who arranges to pay an illegal Korean immigrant to have sex with her, so that she might get pregnant and save her marriage.[53] Her performance was praised by film critic G. Allen Johnson, who described her as "the best American actress you've never heard of."[54] Farmiga next co-led the psychological thriller film Joshua with Sam Rockwell, released in the United States on July 6, 2007.[55] She subsequently appeared as Fiona Ankany in the drama film Quid Pro Quo,[56] which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival on January 20 to favorable reviews; David Edelstein of New York Magazine stated that Farmiga's performance was "scarily good" and added: "She's always visibly calculating, thinking better of something reckless she's about to do – then doing it anyway."[57]

On September 12, 2008, the British historical drama The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, in which she portrayed Mother Elsa Hoess, was released worldwide.[58] Based on the novel of the same name, it tells the story of a friendly relationship between two 8-year-old boys, one the son of a concentration camp's commandant and the other a Jewish inmate. The film was well received by critics, making a total of $44,083,403 against a budget of $12.5 million,[59] and Farmiga won the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress for her performance.[60] She then starred in the British-Russian war drama In Transit alongside John Malkovich, which was released in Russia (where the film was shot) on March 4, 2008.[61] Her next role was that of CIA operative Erica Van Doren in the political thriller Nothing But the Truth, which also starred Matt Dillon and Kate Beckinsale.[62] The role earned Farmiga a Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination.[63]

2009–12: Up in the Air and directorial debut[edit]

Farmiga at the Academy Awards, March 7, 2010

In 2009, Farmiga had the lead role in Jaume Collet-Serra's psychological thriller film Orphan.[64] She and Peter Sarsgaard portrayed Kate and John Coleman, a couple who, after experiencing a stillbirth, adopt a mysterious 9-year-old girl. Orphan was released theatrically in the United States on July 24, 2009 and, despite the film receiving mixed reviews from critics,[65] it became a box office success, grossing $78,337,373 worldwide.[66] Farmiga's performance was praised, with Toby Young of The Times writing that she "becomes more convincing as the story unfolds. By the end, she has you in the palm of her hand."[67] She then appeared in Niki Caro's romantic drama A Heavenly Vintage, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2009.[68]

Farmiga next co-starred opposite George Clooney in the comedy-drama Up in the Air, which was released on December 4, 2009.[69] The film received universal acclaim[70] and was a box office success, with a worldwide gross of $166,842,739.[71] Roger Ebert praised Farmiga's performance in the film, stating that she "is one of the warmest and most attractive women in the movies, or at least she plays one."[72] She received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress,[73] Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role,[74] BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role,[75] Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress,[76] and her second nomination for the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress. On June 25, 2010, she was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[77]

In October 2009, Farmiga joined the cast of the surrealist romantic comedy film Henry's Crime as theater actress Julie Ivanova. Keanu Reeves and James Caan co-starred.[78] The film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 2010, and though it received mixed reviews, Farmiga's comedic performance as Julie was praised.[79] Farmiga then played Capt. Colleen Goodwin in the science fiction action thriller film Source Code,[80] which premiered at South by Southwest in March 2011 and was released in theaters on April 1, 2011.[81] The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing $147,332,697 worldwide.[82] Farmiga was offered lead roles in both Madonna's romantic drama W.E. (2011) and Marc Forster's action biopic Machine Gun Preacher (2011), but declined both roles due to her falling pregnant with her second child.[83][84] The same year, Farmiga appeared in a short art film, titled Suite for Pong, for her cousin's exhibit.[85]

Farmiga at the Metropolitan Opera, September 27, 2010

During her second pregnancy, Farmiga shot her directorial debut, the religious drama film Higher Ground, in which she also starred as the adult Corinne Walker.[86] The film received acclaim from critics following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2011.[87] It was given a limited release in the United States on August 26, 2011.[5] Many of her family members where involved in the production; her younger sister Taissa Farmiga portrayed Corinne as a teenager, her husband Renn Hawkey served as a producer and musical director, and her cousin Adriana Farmiga served as an art curator. Farmiga received award nominations in both acting and directing for the feature, including the Gotham Award for Best Breakthrough Director[88] and the Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture.[89] In his review of the film, critic Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter noted: "Directing debuts by actors don't come any better than this."[90]

Her next role was as flaky New Age mother Wendy Whitman in the independent comedy-drama film Goats, with David Duchovny and Ty Burrell.[91] The film opened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2012, and was given a limited release in the United States on August 10, 2012.[92] That same year, she portrayed CIA operative Catherine Linklater in Daniel Espinosa's action thriller Safe House, starring opposite Ryan Reynolds and, for the second time, Denzel Washington.[93] The film had its premiere in New York City on February 7, 2012, and was released in United States theaters three days later. Safe House received mixed reviews from critics but was a financial success, grossing $208,076,205 worldwide from a budget of $85 million.[94]

2013–present: Bates Motel and The Conjuring films[edit]

Farmiga at the Paley Center for Media for Bates Motel, May 10, 2013

Since March 18, 2013, Farmiga has portrayed the lead role of Norma Louise Bates, the mother of Norman Bates, in the A&E drama-thriller series Bates Motel.[95] The series is both a prequel to and a story reboot of Alfred Hitchcock's horror film Psycho.[96] For her performance in the role, Farmiga won the 2013 Saturn Award for Best Actress on Television,[97] and has received three nominations for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series (2013–15),[98][99] as well as nominations for the 2013 Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama,[100] the 2013 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series,[101] and the 2013 TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama.[102] In addition to starring in the series, Farmiga has served as a producer since its second season.

Farmiga next appeared in James Wan's horror film The Conjuring, which was released on July 19, 2013 to critical and commercial success.[103] The film became one of the highest grossing horror films of all time, grossing $318 million worldwide from a budget of $20 million.[104] Farmiga portrayed paranormal investigator and professed clairvoyant Lorraine Warren, alongside Patrick Wilson as her husband and partner Ed.[105] Set in 1971, The Conjuring follows the Warrens as they investigate demonic activity occurring at a farmhouse in Rhode Island. Farmiga was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best Scared-As-Shit Performance.[106] She reprised her role in the sequel, The Conjuring 2, which focuses on the Enfield Poltergeist case in London England in 1977. The film, also directed by Wan, was released on June 10, 2016.[107][108] Like its predecessor, The Conjuring 2 was met with a positive critical reception and commercial success, grossing $320.1 million worldwide from a budget of $40 million.[109]

Farmiga at the premiere of The Judge, September 4, 2014

Also in 2013, Farmiga appeared as Edith Martin in the romantic comedy At Middleton, with Andy García and her sister Taissa.[110] The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 17, 2013,[111] and was released in a limited number of theaters on January 31, 2014.[112] She then starred as Alice Bercovich in the Romanian-American comedy-drama Closer to the Moon, based on the events of the Ioanid Gang.[113] The film, directed by Nae Caranfil, was released in Romania on March 7, 2014,[114] and was given a limited release in the United States on April 17, 2015.[115] Farmiga next co-starred in David Dobkin's drama film The Judge. She portrayed Samantha Powell, the love interest and high school girlfriend of Robert Downey Jr.'s character.[116] The film, released on October 10, 2014, was a mild success at the box office, grossing $84,419,388 from a budget of $50 million.[117]

Farmiga then starred as Eleanor Finch in Ricky Gervais' comedy Special Correspondents, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22, 2016, before being released worldwide on April 29, 2016.[118][119] She next appeared alongside Virginia Madsen and Jacob Tremblay in Jordan Roberts' adventure comedy-drama Burn Your Maps,[120] which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2016.[121] Farmiga then co-starred as Dr. Nora Phillips, alongside Dakota Fanning and Clive Owen, in the BMW short film The Escape, directed by Neill Blomkamp. The film was released online on October 23, 2016.[122] She will star opposite Christopher Plummer and Bobby Cannavale in Shana Feste's drama film Boundaries,[123] and with Liam Neeson in the action thriller The Commuter, set for release on October 13, 2017.[124] The latter film reunites Farmiga with her Orphan director Jaume Collet-Serra.[125]

Personal life[edit]

Marriages and family[edit]

Farmiga met French actor Sebastian Roché while co-starring together in the television series Roar; she eloped with him to the Bahamas after the series ended in 1997.[22] After seven years of marriage, Farmiga and Roché separated and subsequently divorced in 2004.[22] She then began dating Deadsy musician Renn Hawkey after being introduced by mutual friend Allen Hughes on the set of Touching Evil.[11] They married in a private ceremony on September 13, 2008,[126] when Farmiga was five months pregnant.[22] Their son, Fynn McDonnell Hawkey, was born on January 13, 2009 in Rhinebeck, New York.[127] Farmiga gave birth to a daughter, Gytta Lubov Hawkey, on November 4, 2010.[128] The family owns homes in New York and Vancouver.[2] Through her marriage to Hawkey, she is the sister-in-law of actress and photographer Molly Hawkey.[129] Farmiga's younger sister is actress Taissa Farmiga, whom she considers her best friend.[130]

Religious beliefs[edit]

Farmiga is a nondenominational Christian.[131] In an August 2011 interview with Christianity Today, Farmiga said: "I grew up in a Ukrainian Catholic-turned-Christian household, and that is my family's faith. My father instilled in me – of utmost importance and innate in me is the yearning to determine for myself – to define God, to define holiness for myself. That was my parents' number one lesson for us."[132] Speaking of her family, she then added: "I have not been home enough [to attend a local church]. We're constantly going, constantly travelling. So for us, God is in temples and in churches, and on park benches. I don't belong to any particular church, but I'm someone who will be able to walk into any place of worship, any house of worship, and have a direct correspondence."[132]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Farmiga has received one Academy Award nomination, one BAFTA Award nomination, one Golden Globe Award nomination, four Critics' Choice Movie Award nominations, two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, three Critics' Choice Television Award nominations, and one Primetime Emmy Award nomination. She won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress for her role in Down to the Bone (2004), the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Up in the Air (2009), and the Saturn Award for Best Actress on Television for her role in Bates Motel (2013).


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External links[edit]