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Sissy Spacek

Sissy Spacek_movie bannerSissy Spacek (born Mary Elizabeth Spacek; December 25, 1949) is an Academy Award winning American actress and singer. She came to international prominence for her roles as Holly Sargis in Terrence Malick’s 1973 film Badlandsand as Carrie White in Brian De Palma’s 1976 horror film Carrie (based on the first novel by Stephen King) for which she earned her first Academy Award nomination. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as country star Loretta Lynn in the 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter; she also received Oscar nominations for her roles in Missing, The River, Crimes of the Heart and In the Bedroom. 

Sissy Spacek_Carrie_People MagazineSpacek was born on Christmas Day (December 25), 1949, in Quitman, Texas. She is the daughter of Virginia Frances and Edwin Arnold Spacek, Sr., a county agricultural agent. After she graduated from high school she moved to New York City, hoping to become a singer. There, she lived with her first cousin, actor Rip Torn, and his wife, actress Geraldine Page.

Badlands_Sissy Spacek_Martin SheenFor a while, Spacek sang and played guitar in many of the Greenwich Village coffee houses, eventually landing some paying work singing commercial jingles. While singing, Spacek also worked for a time as photographic model, and worked as an extra at Andy Warhol’s Factory, appearing in a non-credited role in his 1970 film Trash. With the help of Rip Torn, she was enrolled in Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio and then the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York. Her first credited role was in the 1972 cult classic Prime Cut, in which she played a girl sold into sexual slavery. Spacek received international attention after starring in Terrence Malick’s classic Badlands, in which she played Holly, the narrator of the film and 15-year old girlfriend of mass-murderer Kit (Martin Sheen). Spacek has described Badlands as the “most incredible” experience of her career. On the set of Badlands, Spacek met art director Jack Fisk, whom she married.

Sissy Spacek_CarrieSpacek was the set dresser for Brian De Palma’s film Phantom of the Paradise before taking on the iconic and career-defining role in 1976 with De Palma’s Carrie, in which she played Carietta “Carrie” White, a shy, troubled high school senior with telekinetic powers. Spacek had to work hard to persuade director de Palma to engage her for the role.  Rubbing Vaseline into her hair, and donning an old sailor dress her mother made for her as a child, Spacek turned up at the audition with the odds against her, but won the part. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in the film (Veteran actress Piper Laurie, who played Carrie’s religious, maniacal mother Margaret White, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress).

Carrie_1976_Sissy Spacek_mirrorAfter Carrie, Spacek played the small role in the ensemble piece Welcome to L.A. (1976), and cemented her reputation in independent cinema with her performance as Pinky Rose in Robert Altman’s 1977 classic 3 Women. Spacek also helped finance then-brother-in-law David Lynch’s directorial debut, Eraserhead (1976) and is thanked in the credits of the film.

In the 1979 film Heart Beat, Spacek played Carolyn Cassady, before starring in Coal Miner’s Daughter, (1980) in which she played country music star Loretta Lynn, who selected her for the role. Performing her own singing, Spacek was also nominated for a Grammy Award for the film’s soundtrack album. She followed this with her own country album, Hangin’ Up My Heart, in 1983; the album spawned one hit single, “Lonely But Only For You”, which reached No. 15 on the Billboard Country chart.

Carrie_Sissy Spacek_btsAlso in the 1980s, Spacek starred alongside Jack Lemmon in the 1982 political thriller Missing (which was based on the book The Execution of Charles Horman); appeared with Mel Gibson in the rural drama The River (1984), and with Diane Keaton and Jessica Lange in 1986’s Crimes of the Heart. She was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for all of these roles. Other performances of the decade included star turns in husband Jack Fisk’s directorial debut Raggedy Man (1981) and in the suicide-themed drama Night Mother (1986). Spacek also showed her lighter side by voicing the brain in the Steve Martin comedy The Man with Two Brains (1983).

The 1990’s saw Spacek slowly come back to Hollywood after her self-imposed hiatus. She had a supporting role in Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991), and as the evil Verena Talbo in the 1995 ensemble piece The Grass Harp, which reunited her with both Laurie and Lemmon, as well as a supporting performance in Paul Schrader’s father-son psychodrama Affliction (1997). She also played Rose Straight in David Lynch’s The Straight Story (1999).

Sissy Spacek_Carrie_1976_Prom_BloodIn 2001, she was again Academy nominated for her work in Todd Field’s In the Bedroom. Her performance as Ruth Fowler, a grieving mother consumed by revenge, won extraordinary praise and garnered the New York and Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress.

Other performances of this decade include unfaithful wife Ruth in Nine Lives (2005) and on the HBO drama Big Love, for a multi-episode arc, as a powerful Washington, D.C. lobbyist.

In 2006, she narrated the audiobook of the classic 1960 Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird. In 2011, she received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. In 2012, Spacek published a memoir, “My Extraordinary Ordinary Life”, written along with Maryanne Voller.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Piper Laurie « socialpsychol

  2. Pingback: Carrie – Trailer #2 | socialpsychol

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