“Charismatic” is not a word that is frequently used to describe female film actors. Holly Hunter is someone who very much fulfills this characterization. Born in Conyers, Georgia, this daughter of a part-time farmer and sporting goods company representative began her unlikely acting career first by playing Helen Keller in the fifth grade. After attending Carnegie Mellon University where she received formal theatrical training, Hunter relocated to New York City where she met and shared rooms in the Bronx with fellow actress Frances McDormand. A serendipitous encounter with playwright Beth Henley in the confines of a malfunctioning elevator resulted in Hunter winning a part in one of Henley’s plays ‘Crimes of the Heart’ formerly played by the Tony award winning actress Mary Beth Hurt.
In 1981, Holly Hunter made her onscreen debut in ‘The Burning’, a horror film within the ‘slasher’ movies genre. After moving west to Hollywood in 1982, Hunter was cast in some made-for-television movies before landing a supporting role in the 1984 film ‘Swing Shift’ which starred Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. That year she became acquainted with the Coen brothers who used her voice for an answering machine recording in their directorial debut, 1984’s ‘Blood Simple.’ Today, Holly Hunter is regarded as one of Hollywood’s most gifted and adaptable actresses. She is best known for her powerful portrayals of strong, independent female characters that are intelligent if a bit eccentric. Up until 1987, she appeared in a scattering of minor roles within the film and television arts. That year, Hunter garnered a starring role in the Coens brothers comedy ‘Raising Arizona’ before gaining critical praise for playing Jane Craig, a brainy news executive in ‘Broadcast News’, an Academy Award-nominated romantic comedy-drama starring Hunter, William Hurt and Albert Brooks.
Praise for her work in ‘Broadcast News’ led to further meaningful film roles for Holly Hunter. In 1989, she appeared along with Mary Steenburgen in the big screen adaption of ‘Miss Firecracker’, as well as Steven Spielberg’s ‘Always’ — a romantic drama featuring Richard Dreyfuss, and a made-for-TV political project ‘Roe vs. Wade.’ A second collaboration with actor Dreyfuss was offered to her in 1991 with ‘Once Around’, a film directed by Lasse Hallström. Hunter was awarded much critical praise for her efforts in gracing three films released in 1993. Two of these parts got her nominated for Academy Awards as Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress that year. Her performance in ‘The Firm’ secured for her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and her portrayal of a mute woman in ‘The Piano’ won for her an Oscar for Best Actress.
In the 1996 David Cronenberg film ‘Crash’, Ms. Hunter played the part of Helen Remington a bisexual physician and car crash fetishist who has frequent sex in cars involved in near collisions. Her work in the film gained for her a great deal of industry attention, but controversies involving the content of the movie saw to it that she would not leverage that performance to further her career. In 1997, Hunter appeared as a snarky angel in the romantic comedy ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ starring Ewan McGregor. In 1998, she played a recently divorced woman in ‘Living Out Loud’, a film in which she worked alongside actors Danny DeVito and Queen Latifah.
The talented actress continued to impress film audiences with performances such as those seen in the Coen Brothers ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ from 2000. In 2004, Holly Hunter performed voice over work for the critically acclaimed animated feature ‘The Incredibles’ a story about a family of super heroes. Shortly thereafter she had a respectable run as a television star on ‘Saving Grace’ — a cop show whose central character has a guardian angel watching over her. In 2012, Hunter made a return to film contributing a leading performance in ‘Jackie’ — a Dutch comedy. In 2012, Hunter appeared in ‘Paradise’ (also known as ‘Lamb of God’), a film about 21-year-old ‘Lamb Mannerhelm’ a girl who survives a plane crash and travels to Las Vegas to meet new friends and discover a life she has up until then missed out on.
Holly Hunter is deaf in one ear — a condition that sometimes creates complications for her while at work. Certain scenes in scripts are rewritten to accommodate her. Ms. Hunter was married to cinematographer Janusz Kamiński from 1995 until 2001. At present, she is in a relationship with British actor Gordon MacDonald. The two met while engaged in the San Jose Repertory Theater’s production of ‘By the Bog of Cats’ in which Hunter played a woman left behind by her lover (played by MacDonald). In January 2006, Holly Hunter gave birth to the couple’s twin boys, Claude and Press.