Frances McDormand PROFILE
One of the few actresses willing to forgo glamour and ego in favor of presenting realistic, multi-dimensional characterizations, Frances McDormand is capable of lending depth and originality to any number of roles. Whether playing a hugely pregnant sheriff, a dull-minded adulteress, or a struggling lesbian shoe saleswoman, McDormand has displayed a rare versatility that has made her one of the more underrated actresses in Hollywood.
Born the daughter of an Illinois minister on June 23, 1957, McDormand attended West Virginia's Bethany College and the Yale Drama School. She went on to gain professional experience appearing in numerous stage productions across the country. In 1984, McDormand made her film debut in the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple, thus beginning an association with the filmmakers that was further solidified when she married director Joel Coen that same year. Although she received good reviews for her portrayal of an adulterous wife in the film, it would be four years -- save for a cameo in the Coens' Raising Arizona (1987) and various small roles -- before she would be featured in another. In the meantime, McDormand's stage career flourished, and she received a Tony nomination for the 1987 Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. She also did periodic television work, co-starring on the short-lived detective drama Legwork (1987) and appearing in a recurring role on Hill Street Blues.
In 1988, McDormand once again edged into the Hollywood spotlight, winning an Oscar nomination for her role as a Klan wife who testifies against a good ol' boy sheriff in Alan Parker's Mississippi Burning. Subsequently, McDormand's film career picked up, and she appeared in a wide variety of well-wrought dramas, including Darkman (1990), Ken Loach's controversial Hidden Agenda (1990), the Coens' Miller's Crossing (1990), and Robert Altman's Shortcuts (1993). In 1996, the actress won a Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of sheriff Marge Gunderson in Fargo, another Coen Brothers film. The following year, she co-starred as a German doctor in Bruce Beresford's World War II drama Paradise Road, and then tried her hand at children's films with a starring role in Madeline (1998).