Marcia Gay Harden Movies
Often noted for her striking feature debut as a gun-toting seductress in the Coen brothers' noirish gangster crime thriller Miller's Crossing (1990), Marcia Gay Harden has since bounced between disparaging disappointment and critical prosperity, and is commonly praised for her chameleon-like ability to immerse herself in characters that are often the polar opposite of the cheerfully optimistic actress.
Born in La Jolla, CA, on August 14, 1959, as the third of five children in a military family, Harden's clan moved constantly. Her passion for drama sparked by a period that the family spent in Greece (when she attended Athenian plays), Harden studied drama in college, earning a B.A. in theater from the University of Texas, and an M.F.A. in theater from New York University. After graduation, Harden continued to hone her acting talents on stage in Washington, D.C. Immediately evincing an innate ability to portray a wide range of characterizations, Harden earned two Helen Hayes Award nominations - one for her role in Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart and one for her role in The Miss Firecracker Contest. Angels in America brought Harden to Broadway, where she found further success in earning both Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations, as well as winning the Theater World Award for Best Actress. Though she had made an impressive screen debut in Miller's Crossing, disappointment soon followed with a slew of critically shunned successes mixed with a series of creative misfires. Though discouraged in the critics' failure to recognize what Harden considered to be some of her best work, Harden began to focus less on Hollywood validation for happiness, and instead shifted her attention to refining her acting abilities. Moving from quirky dramatic roles, such as her manipulative character in Crush (1992), to quiet dramas like 1996's The Spitfire Grill, and such mainstream efforts as The First Wives Club (also 1996) and Meet Joe Black (1998), Harden felt comfortable in a wide variety of roles. She also occasionally compromised on her choice of material during this period (perhaps out of necessity) - such as the dumb-dumb comedy Spy Hard, with Leslie Nielsen, and the 1997 Absent Minded Professor rehash Flubber (starring Robin Williams).
But her fortunes began to turn with a supporting role in Ed Harris' long-anticipated Jackson Pollock biopic Pollock (2000) that finally brought the actress much-deserved, mainstream critical recognition for her work. Reunited with Harris from their pairing in an earlier stage production of Sam Shepard's Simpatico, Harden's role as Pollock's dysfunctional muse earned her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the 2000 Academy Awards.
The dawning years of the new millennium were undeniably kind to the tireless actress, and after a trio of made-for-television movies in the year 2000 Harden essayed the role of a stylish but enigmatic catalyst to a mystery with decidedly comic undertones in Susan Seidelman's Gaudi Afternoon, and portrayed the NASA engineer love interest of Tommy Lee Jones's crop duster, Hawk, in Clint Eastwood's Space Cowboys; Harden and Eastwood forged a strong professional bond and would work together again, several years later.
A brief foray into sitcom territory followed soon thereafter, when Harden co-starred with Richard Dreyfuss in shortlived television series The Education of Max Bickford (2001), and the following year, she stuck to the small screen for the mini-series Guilty Hearts and the made-for-television feature King of Texas (the latter earning her a a Golden Sattelite nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Made for Television). An adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear set in the Old West, King of Texas found Harden essaying the role of cattle-baron John Lear's (Patrick Stewart) eldest daughter. Equally busy in 2003, Harden abandoned the small screen to work with some of the most acclaimed filmmakers in Hollywood. Following her second onscreen assignment for Clint Eastwood - in his deeply flawed but commendable ensemble piece Mystic River -
Harden essayed the role of a mother attempting to adopt a South American girl in longtime indie filmmaker John Sayles' Casa de Los Babys and provided a key supporting performance in Mike Newell's Mona Lisa Smile. She contributed to the disappointing (and eminently forgettable) Gene Hackman/Ray Romano onscreen pairing Welcome to Mooseport (as president Hackman's campaign manager) but fared better by joining the cast of Richard Linklater's remake The Bad News Bears, starring Billy Bob Thornton (Harden plays the mom who brings Thornton's slovenly Morris Buttermaker in to coach the team).
After relatively limited work throughout 2005 - including a small-scale voiceover assignment as Willa Cather in Joel Geyer's Willa Cather: the Road is All and Mrs. Merriman in the heartwarming family drama Felicity: An American Girl Adventure - Harden's activity crescendoed over the course of 2006, with appearances in no less than three A-list features. These entailed work in multiple genres, and suggested a broad array of fun and challenging characterizations. In Lasse Hallstrom's late 2006 docudrama The Hoax, Harden plays Edith Irving, the wife of scam artist Clifford Irving (portrayed by Richard Gere) during his notorious early-1970s scheme to forge an autobiography of the late Howard Hughes. In Paul Weitz's American Dreams, she plays yet another matron - this time the wife of American president Dennis Quaid, as the generally clueless fellow (!) is sent on a nationally-broadcast talent program. And Harden joins the celebrity-studded ensemble of the more conventional Dead Girl - a murder mystery directed by Karen Moncrieff, whose cast members include Harden, Giovanni Ribisi, Brittany Murphy, Piper Laurie, Josh Brolin, and Mary Steenburgen. The plot recalls Ray Lawrence's Lantana, in its investigation of several seemingly-unrelated lives that intersect in unforeseen ways as the mystery surrounding a woman's death is gradually disclosed to the characters and audience.
In 2007 she acted in both The Hoax and Sean Penn's Into the Wild. She joined the cast of the hit show Damages in the second season. In 2009 she played a concerned mother in the roller derby comedy Whip It, and played a harried school administrator in Detachment for director Tony Kaye in 2011.
Offscreen, Harden married property master and occasional location scout Thaddaeus Scheel (Boys on the Side, Houseguest, The Spitfire Grill) in 1996. The couple has three children. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
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Produced with the help of the Sundance Institute, Alison Maclean's first feature, Crush, is a clever, gynocentric neo-noir. Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock) stars as Lane, the film's conflicted femme fatale. The film opens with Lane speeding along a winding road. She's driving her best friend and lover, Christina (Donogh Rees), a literary critic, to meet with an author, Colin (William Zappa), at his home in the New Zealand countryside. In the midst of a snarky conversation, Lane is momentarily distracted and drives her car off the road. The car flips over, and Christina is badly injured, while Lane walks away with barely a scratch. She goes to Colin's house, where she meets Angela (Caitlin Bossley), his shy, tomboyish teenage daughter. Lane doesn't immediately identify herself, and Angela -- thinking that Lane is actually Christina -- takes her for a walk. The charmingly aggressive Lane begins flirting with the impressionable girl, and it's clear that Angela is smitten with the brash American woman. Later, Colin arrives home, and he agrees to let Lane stay in their home for a few days. Before long, Lane has seduced him. Angela is jealous and begins going to the hospital to visit Christina, who is recovering from a severe head injury. As she recovers, regaining control of her movements and the ability to speak, Angela tells her again and again that one horrible person is to blame for her condition -- Lane. But Angela is not prepared for the harrowing results when she brings Christina home for a visit. Crush is an amusingly twisted thriller from down under, rooted in well-drawn characters, along the same lines as Jocelyn Moorehouse's wickedly clever Proof. Maclean demonstrates great skill with actors and with complex material, which is also evident in her second feature, Jesus' Son. ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi
- Marcia Gay Harden, William Zappa, (more)
W.D. Richter directed this comedy-drama in the spirit of Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married. The film opens in Santa Fe in 1962, where Willie (Brian Wimmer) and Joy Husband (Marcia Gay Harden) are a cute couple living in familial bliss with their five-year-old daughter. When evil land-developer Bob Freeman (Peter Gallagher) tries to turn their bliss into blight, a gun goes off and Willie flees to Los Angeles with his dim-witted brother-in-law Frank (Peter Berg), convinced he has committed murder. They run into crazed scientist Dr. Chilblains (Bo Brundin), who cryogenically freezes the fugitives. Twenty-nine years later they are defrosted, and Willie, who has only aged a day, goes back to Santa Fe with Frank to seek out his wife and daughter, discovering they have aged and gone on with their lives without him. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
- Brian Wimmer, Peter Berg, (more)
In this drama, based on a true story, desperate townsfolk take up arms to defeat the sociopathic town bully who has been terrorizing them for years. They then swear themselves to silence. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi
- Brian Dennehy, Cloris Leachman, (more)
A rich businessman, his wife and son are involved in illegal transactions as Kojak investigates. ~ Rovi
- Telly Savalas
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Joel and Ethan Coen's third collaboration, the gangster film Miller's Crossing, stars Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan, the right-hand man of big-city Irish mob boss Leo (Albert Finney). The film opens with Italian mobster Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) and his second in command Eddie Dane (J.E. Freeman) informing Leo and Tom that they are going to kill bookie Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) because he has been revealing Caspar's fixed fights to other gamblers. Leo informs Caspar that Bernie pays for protection and is not to be touched. After the Italians leave in a huff, Tom informs Leo that he should give up Bernie. Tom and Leo are both involved with Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), Bernie's sister. After a failed hit on Leo starts a full-scale mob war, Tom reveals to Leo the truth about his relationship with Verna. This leads to a falling-out between the pair. Tom goes to work for Caspar, but in truth, he is still loyal to Leo. Tom figures out how to manipulate all of the situations so that Leo survives, but this may cost Tom his relationship with Verna. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi
- Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, (more)
This TV film was the 2-hour pilot for the Gideon Oliver series. Louis Gossett Jr. stars as Oliver, an anthropology professor who uses his knowledge of other cultures to solve mysteries. In the opener, Professor Oliver tackles the murder of an ex-lover, who'd been investigating a cult of satanists. The storyline takes side trips into the porn industry and "snuff" films, but Gossett emerges with his dignity and reputation unsullied. Gideon Oliver was one of three rotating series telecast in 1988-89 under the umbrella title The ABC Monday Mystery Movie; the other components were B.L. Stryker and old reliable Columbo. When Mystery Movie was picked up for a second season, Gideon Oliver was not retained. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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In a convoluted story of one man's obsession, widower Roger Blackwell (Michael Nouri) has been a media advisor to countless politicians, probably one too many as it turns out. Blackwell is set on using his experience to make a film about the manipulation of the media by unscrupulous politicos. His video obsession is apparent when he has an actress dress up as his deceased wife (a suicide he could have prevented) and films her for playback on monitors around the house. Blackwell hypes an incriminating tape in his possession that implicates the President of the U.S. in some dirty (not sexual!) dealings. Then he cons an old enemy, Molly Grainger (Anne Twomey) into covering his public unveiling of the tape which he plans to do on a talk show. What happens next is a series of events that lead to a surprise ending -- and more questions about whether or not the media is shafting the politicians as well. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi
- Michael Nouri, Anne Twomey, (more)