McDormand, Frances 1957– (Francis McDorman, Fran McDormand)

views updated May 29 2018

McDORMAND, Frances 1957
(Francis McDorman, Fran McDormand)


Born June 23, 1957, in Illinois; raised in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania; daughter of Vernon (a Disciples of Christ minister) and Noreen McDormand; married Joel Coen (a director and writer), 1984; children: Pedro. Education: Bethany College, undergraduate degree in theatre; Yale University School of Drama, M.F.A, 1982. Avocational Interests: Cooking, reading.

Addresses: Agent Endeavor, 9701 Wilshire Blvd., 10th Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Manager Artist Independent Network, 270 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012. Publicist PMK/HBH, 8500 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

Career: Actress. Performer in a theatrical troupe in Trinidad, beginning in 1982; appeared in commercials. Also worked as a cashier.

Awards, Honors: Carol Dye Award for Excellence, 1982; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best actress in a play, 1988, for A Streetcar Named Desire; National Board of Review Award, best supporting actress, 1988, and Academy Award nomination, best supporting actress, 1989, both for Mississippi Burning; Volpi Cup (with others), Venice International Film Festival, best ensemble cast, 1993, and Golden Globe Special Award (with others), best ensemble cast, 1994, both for Short Cuts; Lone Star Film and Television Award, best supporting actress, 1996, for Lone Star; San Diego Film Critics Society Award and National Board of Review Award, both 1996, Academy Award, New York Film Critics Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Award, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, Chicago Film Critics Award, Southeastern Film Critics Association Award, and Empire Award, all best actress, Screen Actors Guild Award, outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role, Independent Spirit Award, best female lead, Golden Satellite Award, best actress in a motion picturedrama, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a motion picturecomedy/musical, British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a leading role, ALFS Award, London Critics Circle Award, actress of the year, and American Comedy Award, funniest actress in a motion picture, all 1997, all for Fargo; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or special, 1997, for Hidden in America; Gotham Actor Award, 1998; Tribute to Independent Vision Award, Sundance Film Festival, 1998; Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, Sierra Award nomination, and Boston Society of Film Critics Award, all 2000, and Florida Film Critics Award and Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, both 2001, all best supporting actress, all for Almost Famous and Wonder Boys; San Diego Film Critics Society Award, best supporting actress, 2000, Academy Award nomination, best actress in a supporting role, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture, British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best supporting actress, Southeastern Film Critics Award, best supporting actress, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by the cast of a theatrical motion picture, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting rolecomedy or musical, Chicago Film Critics Association Award, best supporting actress, Blockbuster Entertainment Award, favorite supporting actressdrama/romance, and American Comedy Award nomination, funniest supporting actress in a motion picture, all 2001, all for Almost Famous; Saturn Award nomination, best supporting actress, 2002, for The Man Who Wasn't There; Independent Spirit Award nomination, best supporting female, 2004, for Laurel Canyon.


Film Appearances:

Abby, Blood Simple, Circle Films, 1984.

(As Fran McDormand) Nun, Crimewave (also known as Broken Hearts and Noses and The XYZ Murders ), Columbia, 1986.

Dot, Raising Arizona, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1987.

Mrs. Pell, Mississippi Burning, Orion, 1988.

Julie Hastings, Darkman, Universal, 1990.

Ingrid Jessner, Hidden Agenda, Hemdale, 1990.

Mae Foley, Chattahoochee, Hemdale, 1990.

(Uncredited) Secretary, Miller's Crossing, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1990.

Grace, The Butcher's Wife, Paramount, 1991.

Nora Scanlan, Passed Away, Buena Vista, 1992.

(English version; as Francis McDorman) Voice of pool girl, Sosei kishi Gaiarth (also known as Genesis Survivor Gaiarth ), 1992.

Betty Weathers, Short Cuts, Fine Line Features, 1993.

Woman on television, Bleeding Hearts (also known as Fatal Destiny ), 1994.

Andy Bowman, Beyond Rangoon, Castle Rock Entertainment, 1995.

Plain Pleasures, 1996.

Dr. Molly Arrington, Primal Fear, Paramount, 1996.

June, Palookaville, Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1996.

Bunny, Lone Star, Columbia, 1996.

Marge Gunderson, Fargo, Gramercy Pictures, 1996.

Dr. Verstak, Paradise Road, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 1997.

Conlon, Talk of Angels, Miramax, 1998.

Miss Clavel, Madeline, Columbia/TriStar, 1998.

Sara Gaskell, Wonder Boys (also known as Die Wonder Boys ), Paramount, Paramount, 1999.

Herself, Wonder Boys: A Look between the Pages (documentary short), Paramount, 2000.

Voice, Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, Social Media Productions, 2000.

Elaine Miller, Almost Famous (also known as Untitled: Almost Famous the Bootleg Cut ), DreamWorks, 2000.

Doris Crane, The Man Who Wasn't There, USA Films, 2001.

Anne, Upheaval (short), 2001.

Jane, Laurel Canyon, Sony Pictures Classics, 2002.

Michelle, City by the Sea (also known as The Suspect ), Warner Bros., 2002.

Herself, Minnesota Nice (short), MetroGoldwynMayer/United Artists Home Entertainment, Inc., 2003.

Zoe Barry, Something's Gotta Give, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2003.

Catwoman, Warner Bros., 2004.

Television Appearances; Series:

Connie Chapman, a recurring role, Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1985.

Willie Pipal, Leg Work, CBS, 1987.

Voice of narrator/Adult Hannah, State of Grace, Fox Family Channel, 2001.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Scandal Sheet (also known as The Devil's Bed ), ABC, 1985.

Brigette, Vengeance: The Story of Tony Cimo (also known as Vengeance ), CBS, 1986.

Clare, Crazy in Love, TNT, 1992.

Eve Calloway, The Good Old Boys, TNT, 1995.

Alice, Johnny Skidmarks, HBO, 1998.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Luck, Trust and Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country, syndicated, 1994.

Caro, "Handler," Talking With, 1995.

Gus, Hidden in America, Showtime, 1996.

Inside the Academy Awards, TNT, 1997.

Herself, Searching for Debra Winger, Showtime, 2003.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, 1997.

The 69th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1997.

Presenter, The 70th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1998.

Herself, 2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, Fox, 2000.

The 7th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, TNT, 2001.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

(As Fran McDormand) "The Garbage Man," Hunter, 1985.

Amanda Strickland, "Need to Know," The Twilight Zone, CBS, 1986.

Jessie Moore, The Equalizer, CBS, 1986.

Narrator, "The Edge of Hollywood," American Cinema, PBS, 1995.

Also appeared in Spenser: For Hire, ABC.

Stage Appearances:

"Rococo," Winterset: Four New American Plays, Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, CT, 1980.

Vivie, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Yale Repertory Theatre, 1981.

Twelfth Night, Alliance Theatre Company, Atlanta, GA, 1982.

Painting Churches, Lamb's Theatre, New York City, 1984.

Hennie Berger, Awake and Sing!, Circle in the Square Theatre, New York City, 1984.

The Three Sisters, Tyrone Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, MN, 1985.

Ann Deever, All My Sons, Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT, 1986.

Stella Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire, Circle in the Square Theatre, 1988.

A Moon for the Misbegotten, Yale Repertory Theatre, 19901991.

Pfeni, The Sisters Rosenweig, Lincoln Center, New York City, 1992.

The Swan, Public Theatre, New York City, 1993.

Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire, Gate Theatre, Dublin, Ireland, 1998.

Merope, Oedipus, CSC Theatre, New York City, 1998.

Harper, Far Away, New York Theater Workshop, New York City, 20022003.

Oenone, To You, the Birdie!, St. Ann's Warehouse, New York City, 2002.

Arden of Faversham (staged reading), Classic Stage Company, New York City, 2003.

Also appeared in King of Connecticut; appeared in productions in Trinidad, beginning in 1982.


Taped Readings:

Missing May, Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, 1996.

"People Like That Are the Only People Here," The New Yorker Out Loud, 1998.



Newsmakers 1997, Issue 4, Gale, 1997.


Entertainment Weekly, April 12, 1996, p. 36.

Variety, May 4, 1998, p. 89.

McDormand, Frances

views updated May 18 2018

McDORMAND, Frances

Nationality: American. Born: Illinois, 23 June 1957. Education: Attended Bethany College, West Virginia, and Yale University School of Drama. Family: Married film director Joel Coen, 1984; one adopted son: Pedro McDormand Coen. Career: First acting job was with poet Derek Walcott in Trinidad in the West Indies; successful New York stage career including Tony nomination for the role of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, 1988. Awards: National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress, for Mississippi Burning, 1988; Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup for Best Ensemble Cast, for Short Cuts, 1993; Lone Star Film and Television Award for Best Supporting Actress, for Lone Star, 1996; Academy Award for Best Actress, NBR Award for Best Actress, American Comedy Award, Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, Golden Satellite Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture—Drama, Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead, London Critics Circle ALFS Award for Actress of the Year, Screen Actors Guild SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, and Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, all for Fargo, 1997; Gotham Acting Award, 1998. Agent: William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 1009–6026, USA.

Films as Actor:


Blood Simple (Coen) (as Abby)


Scandal Sheet (Rich—for TV); Crimewave (Broken hearts and Noses, The XYZ Murders) (Raimi) (as Nun)


Vengeance: The Story of Tony Cimo (Vengeance) (Daniels—for TV) (as Brigette)


Raising Arizona (Coen) (as Dot)


Mississippi Burning (Parker) (as Mrs. Pell)


Miller's Crossing (Coen) (as Secretary [uncredited]); Hidden Agenda (Loach) (as Ingrid); Chattahoochee (Jackson) (as Mae Foley); Darkman (Raimi) (as Julie Hastings)


The Butcher's Wife (Hughes) (as Grace)


Passed Away (1992) (as Nora Scanlan); Crazy in Love (Coolidge—for TV) (as Clare)


Luck, Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman In Carver Country (Dorr and Kaplan); Short Cuts (Altman) (as Betty Weathers)


The Good Old Boys (Jones—for TV) (as Eve Calloway); Beyond Rangoon (Boorman) (as Andy)


Plain Pleasures (Kalin); Hidden in America (Bell—for TV) (as Gus); Fargo (Coen) (as Marge Gunderson); Primal Fear (Hoblit) (as Dr. Molly Arrington); Lone Star (Sayles) (as Bunny); Palookaville (Taylor) (as June)


Paradise Road (Beresford) (as Dr. Verstak)


Johnny Skidmarks (Raffo) (as Alice); Madeline (Meyer) (as Miss Clavel); Talk of Angels (Hamm) (as Conlon)


Almost Famous (Crowe) (as Elaine); Wonder Boys (Hanson) (as Chancellor Sara Gaskell); Scottsboro: An American Tragedy (Anker and Goodman—doc) (voice)


By MCDORMAND: articles—

"Now Leaving Fargo," interview with David Kronke in Premiere (New York), April 1997.

"Woman of Substance," interview with Michael Dwyer in The Irish Times (Dublin), 18 April 1998.

On MCDORMAND: articles—

Kohn, Victoria, "Eight Characters in Search of an Offer," in Premiere (New York), 1 March 1990.

McCarthy, Todd, review of Fargo in Premiere, March 1996.

Schwarzbaum, Lisa, "In Very Cold Blood," in Entertainment Weekly (New York), 29 March 1996.

Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca, "Queen Fargo," in Entertainment Weekly (New York), 12 April 1996.

Puig, Claudia, "Character Roles Are Badges of Honor for McDormand," in Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas), 4 No-vember 1996.

* * *

An accomplished leading character actress who has worked mainly on "indie" projects, Frances McDormand has appeared in nearly thirty films in her seventeen-year film career. Her first step into movies came when actress Holly Hunter, a friend from Yale Drama School, suggested she audition for Blood Simple, the first feature produced and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen. When filming finished she and Joel Coen moved in together and later married, but McDormand has deliberately sought to work on films made by other directors, notably Robert Altman, Alan Parker, John Boorman, and Ken Loach. So determined has she been to work on her own terms that Coen is reputed not to have considered McDormand when he was casting Miller's Crossing, even though she wanted a part. Despite her many successful appearances, McDormand has preferred to steer clear of high profile Hollywood projects, seeing herself as a working actor rather than a star.

Blood Simple is a dark variation on the story of The Postman Always Rings Twice, involving a bar owner who hires a hit man to kill his adulterous wife. Taking the plot further in terms of vicious twists than any mere remake, it established Joel and Ethan Coen as exciting new filmmakers. McDormand's role as the duplicitous wife may have overshadowed her early film career, however: the critical success of the film promised a rapid rise to stardom, but other offers were slow in coming. As a result she spent a few years working in theatre and on TV projects before accepting a small character part in the Coen brothers' comedy, Raising Arizona. It was in Alan Parker's Mississippi Burning in 1988 that McDormand made an impact on Hollywood, when her efforts to perfect the accent and mannerisms of the wife of a racist deputy sheriff paid off in the form of an Oscar nomination. Even then, however, she shied away from celebrity, taking parts in a series of small-scale movies such as Ken Loach's Hidden Agenda, and the bizarre Darkman, by the director of the "Evil Dead" films, Sam Raimi. McDormand had more widespread success as Betty Weathers, an adulterous wife in Robert Altman's Short Cuts, a series of connected tales adapted from stories by Raymond Carver.

It is in playing strangely offbeat individuals that McDormand excels, and she was able to show her abilities to the full in the character of Marge Gunderson in Fargo, her best-known role. Marge is a kind, understanding woman with an iron core; she embodies the untroubled, sensible toughness that the film lovingly mocks. Set in the snowfields of Minnesota, where its director Joel Coen grew up, Fargo has a complicated plot involving inept thugs hired to kidnap a car dealer's wife. But its comic strength comes from the contrast between the increasing bloodiness of the thugs' successive failures, and the steady politeness of the residents of the small Minnesotan town. Marge, the pregnant police chief, takes everything in her stride, from dealing with a series of killings to organizing her unworldly husband: it is exactly this calmness, combined with the bleak, snow-covered landscape, that unravels the evil plots and manic activity of the hit men.

Since the mid-1980s McDormand has had no shortage of work, often having to be persuaded to take parts she is offered. Yet despite winning an Oscar for her performance in Fargo, she remains outside of the Hollywood mainstream, and has no interest in being a star. Although she has not always chosen films wisely—The Butcher's Wife and Paradise Road, among others, have vanished almost without trace—her own performances are of a consistently high standard. McDormand continues to work in theatre, playing Blanche in Robin Lefevre's acclaimed 1998 production of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. With a reputation as a consummate professional actor, more interested in doing her best for the part she happens to be working on than looking to her career, she told Rebecca Ascher-Walsh in 1996 that being a movie star is "a different job, and it's not the one I want."

—Chris Routledge

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