One of Hollywood's funniest and most underappreciated actresses, Joan Cusack was for years relegated to playing the buddy sidekicks of her more glamorous co-stars and known primarily as John Cusack's older sister. Thanks to a couple of Oscar nominations and strong roles in a number of movies, Cusack finally began getting her due in the late 1990s, earning both recognition and respect for her singular talent.
Born in New York City on October 11, 1962, Cusack grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. The daughter of actor and filmmaker Richard Cusack, she and her siblings were encouraged to perform from an early age. As a result, Cusack grew up acting on the stage and training with the Piven Theatre Workshop. She broke into film while still in her teens, getting her start - -and often acting alongside her brother -- in such teen comedies as My Bodyguard (1980) and Sixteen Candles (1984). In 1985 she was offered a part on the Saturday Night Live roster, but felt constrained by the lack of quality material offered to women, and left the show after one season. Gradually getting better supporting work in such films as Broadcast News (1987) and Married to the Mob (1988), Cusack had her screen breakthrough in Working Girl (1988), earning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as Melanie Griffith's street-smart best friend. More strong notices followed in 1989 for Cusack's work in the drama Men Don't Leave, in which she played a nurse who helps get Jessica Lange's life back on track after her husband's death.
Following a negative experience during the making of the Steve Martin comedy My Blue Heaven (1990), Cusack decided to abandon Hollywood in favor of Chicago, where she spent the next few years concentrating more on her family than on her acting career. Her film appearances were sporadic (1993's Addams Family Values, 1994's Corrina, Corrina, 1995's Nine Months), but when she finally did make a comeback in 1997, it was a remarkable one. For her role as a would-be bride who gets left at the altar when her fianc? (Kevin Kline) realizes he's gay in In & Out, Cusack earned her second Best Supporting Actress nomination, and the widespread opinion that her hilarious performance was one of the film's highlights. That same year, she gave a brief but memorable portrayal of the unhinged secretary of a hit man (brother John) in Grosse Point Blank.
Cusack spent the rest of the decade doing steady work in a variety of films. 1999 was a particularly busy year for the actress: after playing a deceptively bland suburban wife in Arlington Road and Julia Roberts' best friend in the romantic comedy Runaway Bride, Cusack could be seen acting alongside her brother in Tim Robbins' historical drama Cradle Will Rock and heard voicing Jessie the Cowgirl in Toy Story 2.
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