Bates, Kathy 1948–
BATES, Kathy 1948–
(Bobo Bates, Kathy D. Bates)
Full name, Kathleen Doyle Bates; born June 28, 1948, in Memphis, TN; daughter of Langdon Doyle (a mechanical engineer) and Bertye Kathleen (maiden name, Talbot) Bates; married Anthony Campisi (an actor), April 1991 (divorced, 1997). Education: Southern Methodist University, B.F.A., theatre, 1969.
Addresses: Agent—Susan Smith & Associates, 121 North San Vincente Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211–2303; ICM, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
Career: Actress, director, and producer. Actors Theatre of Louisville, Louisville, KY, member of company, 1978–79, 1980–81, and 1984–85; member of Circle Repertory Company, Playwrights Horizons, City Center Young People's Company, and Lion Theatre Company, all New York City. Actors Fund of America, life member.
Member: Women in Film, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (vice president), American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.
Awards, Honors: Antoinette Perry Award nomination, outstanding performance by an actress in a play, Outer Critics Circle Award, both 1983, Los Angeles Drama Critics Award and Dramalogue Award, both 1986, all for 'night, Mother; Obie Award, Village Voice, Dramalogue Award, and Drama Desk Award nomination, 1988, all for Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune; Academy Award, best performance by an actress in a leading role, Golden Globe Award, best actress in a dramatic film, 1990, Chicago Film Critics Association Award, best actress, 1991, all for Misery; Film Award, best actress in a supporting role, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Distinguished Artists Award, Club 100 of the Music Center, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best actress in a film comedy, 1991, all for Fried Green Tomatoes; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or a special, 1996, Golden Globe Award, Emmy Award nomination, American Comedy Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award, all best supporting actress in a miniseries or special, 1996, Golden Satellite Award, best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a series, miniseries or motion picture made for television, 1997, all for The Late Shift; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by a cast, and Blockbuster Entertainment Award, best supporting actress in a drama, 1997, both for Titanic; Blockbuster Entertainment Award, best supporting actress in a comedy, 1998, for The Waterboy; Academy Award and Film Award nomination, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, both best supporting actress, Golden Globe Award nomination, best supporting actress in a motion picture, Screen Actors Guild Award, best supporting actress, American Comedy Award, funniest supporting actress in a motion picture, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award and Chicago Film Critics Association Award, both best supporting actress, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best supporting actress in a comedy or musical motion picture, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best supporting actress, San Diego Film Society Award, best supporting actress, Blockbuster Entertainment Award, favorite supporting actress in a drama, Sierra Award, best supporting actress, Las Vegas Film Critics Society, 1998, Chicago Film Critics Association Award, best supporting actress, 1999, all for Primary Colors; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding guest actress in a comedy series, 1999, for Third Rock from the Sun; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding directing for a miniseries or a movie, 1999, for Dash and Lilly; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or a movie, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a series, miniseries, or motion picture made for TV, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or miniseries, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or a motion picture made for television, American Comedy Award, funniest female performer in a TV special (leading or supporting) network, cable, or syndication, 2000, all for Annie; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or miniseries, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or a motion picture made for television, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best supporting actress, 2003, all for My Sister's Keeper; 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, National Board of Review Award, best supporting actress, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best supporting actress, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role, drama, Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award, best supporting actress, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award nomination, best supporting actress, 2003, all for About Schmidt; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding guest actress in a drama series, 2003, Directors Guild of America Award nomination, outstanding directorial achievement in dramatic series—night, 2004, for Six Feet Under.
Duck and others, Virginia Folk Tales, Wayside Children's Theatre, Middletown, VA, 1973.
Casserole, Playwrights Horizons Theatre, New York City, 1975.
A Quality of Mercy, Playwrights Horizons Theatre, 1975.
Joanne, Vanities, Chelsea Westside Theater, New York City, 1976, then Westwood Theatre, Los Angeles, and Drury Lane Theatre, Chicago, IL, both 1977.
Semmelweiss, Studio Arena Theatre, Buffalo, NY, 1977, then Hartman Theatre, Stamford, CT, 1981.
Colette, Music–Hall Sidelights, Lion Theatre, New York City, 1978.
Lenny MaGrath, Crimes of the Heart, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Louisville, KY, 1978.
Herrick Simmons, The Art of Dining, Public/Newman Theatre, New York City, 1979, then Eisenhower Theatre, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC, 1979–1980.
Chocolate Cake, Actors Theatre of Louisville, c. 1980.
Final Placement, Actors Theatre of Louisville, c. 1980.
Isabel, Goodbye Fidel, New Ambassador Theatre, New York City, 1980.
Extremities, Actors Theatre of Louisville, 1981, then International Theatre Festival, Baltimore, MD, 1981.
Stella May, Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Martin Beck Theatre, New York City, 1982.
Jessie Cates, 'night, Mother, American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA, then Golden Theatre, New York City, 1983, later Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1983.
Ella, Curse of the Starving Class, INTAR Theatre, 1985, then Promenade Theatre, New York City, 1985.
Two Masters: The Rain of Terror, 1985.
Aunt Dan, Aunt Dan and Lemon, Taper Too Theatre, Los Angeles, c. 1986.
Frankie, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City, 1987, then Mark Taper Forum, 1988.
Elsa Barlow, The Road to Mecca, Promenade Theatre, 1988, then Eisenhower Theatre, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 1989.
Also appeared in 5th of July and The Shadow Box, New York City; appeared with Folger Theatre Group, Washington, DC; spent two summers with O'Neill Playwrights Conference, Waterford, CT; spent three summers with Sundance Playwrights Lab.
(As BoBo Bates) Audition singer, Taking Off, 1971.
Selma Darin, Straight Time, Warner Bros., 1978.
Stella May, Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Viacom, 1982.
Furniture man's wife, Two of a Kind, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1983.
Woman on Mateo Street, The Morning After, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1986.
Ruth Stanton, Summer Heat, Atlantic Releasing, 1987.
Mrs. Canby, Arthur 2 on the Rocks, Warner Bros., 1988.
Jill, High Stakes (also known as Melanie Rose), Vidmark, 1989.
Mary Beth Alder, Signs of Life (also known as One for Sorrow, Two for Joy), Avenue, 1989.
Lisa Coleman, Men Don't Leave, Warner Bros., 1990.
Mrs. Green, Dick Tracy, Touchstone/Buena Vista, 1990.
Rosemary Powers, White Palace, Universal, 1990.
Annie Wilkes, Misery, Columbia, 1990.
Evelyn Couch, Fried Green Tomatoes (also known as Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe), Universal, 1991.
Hazel Quarrier, At Play in the Fields of the Lord (also known as Brincando nos campos do senhor), Universal, 1991.
Elsa Barlow, The Road to Mecca, L & O, 1991.
Bibby Berman, Used People, Largo, 1992.
Prostitute, Shadows and Fog, Orion, 1992.
Leah Blier, Prelude to a Kiss, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1992.
(In archive footage) Herself, Oscar's Greatest Moments, 1992.
Frances Lacey, A Home of Our Own, Gramercy, 1993.
Alaskan Mom, North, Columbia, 1994.
Ella Tate, Curse of the Starving Class, 1994.
Meg Bethune, Angus (also known as Angus Bethune, Angus—Voll Cool, and A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune), New Line Cinema, 1995.
Title role, Dolores Claiborne, Columbia, 1995.
Shirley Vogel, Diabolique, Warner Bros., 1996.
Maurine Collier, The War at Home, Buena Vista, 1996.
Molly Brown, Titanic, Twentieth Century–Fox/Paramount, 1997.
Libby Holden, Primary Colors (also known as Perfect Couple and Mit aller Macht), Universal, 1997.
Amy Foster, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1997.
Miss Swaffer, Swept from the Sea (also known as Balaye par la mer), TriStar, 1997.
(Uncredited) Bankruptcy judge, A Civil Action, Buena Vista, 1998.
Helen "Mama" Boucher, The Waterboy, Buena Vista, 1998.
Voice of Raphaella, the Magic Bunny, The Effects of Magic, 1998.
Mother Superior, Bruno (also known as The Dress Code), New Angel, 1999.
Mrs. Mellon, Baby Steps, 1999.
(Uncredited) The squirrel lady, Rat Race (also known as Course folle), Paramount, 2001.
Ma James, American Outlaws, Warner Bros., 2001.
Mary Ann Bankhead, Love Liza, Sony Pictures Classics, 2002.
Mrs. Belmont, Dragonfly (also known as Im Ziechen der Libelle), MCA/Universal, 2002.
Roberta Hertzel, About Schmidt, New Line Cinema, 2002.
Grace Beasley, Unconditional Love, New Line Cinema, 2002.
Herself, Declaration of Independence (documentary short film), 2003.
The Judge, The Ingrate, 2004.
Queen Victoria, Around the World in 80 Days, Buena Vista, 2004.
Kippie Kann, Little Black Book, Sony Picture Entertainment, 2004.
The Marquesa, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Senator International, 2004.
Executive producer, The Ingrate, 2004.
Television Appearances; Series:
Belle Bodelle, All My Children, ABC, 1984.
Bettina, a recurring role, Six Feet Under, HBO, 2003–2004.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Bobbi Burk, Murder Ordained (also known as Broken Commandments and Kansas Gothic), CBS, 1987.
(Uncredited) Rae Flowers, Stephen King's "The Stand" (also known as The Stand), ABC, 1994.
Television Appearances; Movies:
(Uncredited) Romanian judge, Nadia, 1984.
Katrine Kovacs, Johnny Bull, ABC, 1986.
(As Kathy D. Bates) Helen Blake, My Best Friend Is a Vampire (also known as I Was a Teenage Vampire), HBO, 1988.
Jessie, Roe vs. Wade, NBC, 1989.
Bonnie Cooper, No Place Like Home (also known as Homeless), CBS, 1989.
Peggy Say, "Hostages," HBO Showcase, HBO, 1993.
Mrs. Goo, "The West Side Waltz," CBS Playhouse 90s, CBS, 1995.
Helen Kushnick, The Late Shift, HBO, 1996.
Miss Agatha "Aggie" Hannigan, Annie, 1999.
Christine Chapman, My Sister's Keeper, CBS, 2002.
Voice, Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy (animated), 2004.
Television Appearances; Specials:
In a New Light, ABC, 1992.
Laughing Back: Comedy Takes a Stand, Lifetime, 1992.
Narrator, "Amelia Earhart," The American Experience, PBS, 1993.
Lunar mom, Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun, PBS, 1993.
The National Memorial Day Concert, PBS, 1993.
The American Film Institute Salute to Elizabeth Taylor, ABC, 1993.
Together for Our Children—M.U.S.I.C., syndicated, 1993.
Inside the Academy Awards, TNT, 1995.
Big Eight, "Rodeo," Talking With (also known as Great Performances), PBS, 1995.
The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful (also known as Popcorn Venus; documentary), TBS, 1996.
Happy Birthday Elizabeth—A Celebration of Life, ABC, 1997.
To Life! America Celebrates Israel's 50th, CBS, 1998.
Mrs. Margaret Brown, Titanic: Breaking New Ground (documentary), Fox, 1998.
Herself, Stephen King: Shining in the Dark (documentary), 1999.
Intimate Portrait: Jessica Tandy, Lifetime, 1999.
Stephen King: Master of the Macabre (documentary), The Learning Channel, 1999.
Voice of Frances Marion, Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Power of Women in Hollywood (documentary) TCM, 2000.
Independence Day 2001, ABC, 2001.
(In archive footage) Celebrity Naked Ambition (documentary), Channel 5, 2003.
Herself, AFI's 100 Years … 100 Heroes & Villains (also known as AFI's 100 Years, 100 Heroes & Villains: America's Greatest Screen Characters), CBS, 2003.
Narrator, Tupperware! (documentary), PBS, 2004.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
Winner, The 63rd Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1991.
Presenter, The 49th Annual Golden Globe Awards, TBS, 1992.
Presenter, The 64th Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1992.
Presenter, The 50th Annual Golden Globe Awards, TBS, 1993.
Presenter, The 65th Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1993.
Presenter, The 53rd Annual Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 1996.
Presenter, The 55th Annual Golden Globe Awards, 1998.
The 70th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1998.
The 5th Annual Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, 1999.
Presenter, The 5th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, 1999.
Herself, The 51st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Fox, 1999.
Presenter, The 6th Annual Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, Fox, 2000.
Presenter, TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV
(also known as The 1st Annual TV Land Awards), TV Land, 2003.
Presenter, The 75th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2003.
The 9th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, TNT, 2003.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
(Television debut) Doreen Allison, "Family Reunion/Too Hot to Handle/Cinderella Story," The Love Boat, ABC, 1977.
Polly, "Up and Down," St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1986.
Brenda Harris, "Revenge," Cagney & Lacey, CBS, 1986.
Polly, "Visiting Daze," St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1987.
Nurse Jan Wyatt, "The World: Parts 1 & 2," China Beach, ABC, 1988.
Charlotte Haley, "One Rat, One Ranger," L.A. Law, NBC, 1989.
Herself, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, 1990, 1991.
Narrator, "Aunt Ippy's Museum of Junk," Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories, 1992.
Charlotte Everly, "Alien Hunter," Third Rock from the Sun, NBC, 1998.
Herself, Dennis Miller Live, HBO, 1999.
Stuart's grandma, Mad TV, Fox, 2000, 2002.
Voice of Motorcycle Officer, "Lupe's Revenge," King of the Hill (animated), Fox, 2001.
The View, ABC, 2003.
Herself, Connie Chung Tonight, 2003.
Coming Attractions, 2004.
Also appeared as herself, Inside the Actors Studio.
Television Director; Movies:
Dash and Lilly, Arts and Entertainment, 1999.
Television Director; Specials:
"Rodeo," Talking With (also known as Great Performances), PBS, 1995.
Television Director; Episodic:
"Scene of the Crime," Homicide: Life on the Street (also known as H:LOTS and Homicide), NBC, 1993.
"I Love Lucy," NYPD Blue, ABC, 1997.
"Family Bizness," Oz, HBO, 1997.
"An Open Book," Six Feet Under, HBO, 2001.
"The New Person," Six Feet Under, HBO, 2001.
"Out, Out, Brief Candle," Six Feet Under, HBO, 2002.
"The Great Doctor Brown," Everwood, The WB, 2002.
"Making Love Work," Six Feet Under, HBO, 2003.
"Twilight," Six Feet Under, HBO, 2003.
(Uncredited) Voice of Margaret Brown, Titanic Explorer, 1997.
"Chattery Teeth," Stephen King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Volume #2, 1993.
(As Bobo Bates) "And Even the Horses Had Wings," Taking Off, 1971.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, St. James Press, 2000.
Los Angeles Magazine, March, 2003, p. 33.
Newsweek, August 2, 2004, p. 68.
People Weekly, February 23, 1998, p. 52.
Nationality: American. Born: Kathleen Doyle Bates in Memphis, Tennessee, 28 June 1948. Family: Married the actor Tom Campisi. Education: B.F.A., Southern Methodist University. Career: Worked in regional theater in Washington, D.C., and at the Actors Theater in Louisville, late 1960s; moved to New York to pursue acting career, 1970; worked as a singing waitress in a Catskill Mountain resort, early 1970s; made screen debut in a bit role in Taking Off, 1971; had first off-Broadway role in Vanities, 1976; began appearing in roles on TV series, and had recurring role on daytime soap All My Children, 1977; made Broadway debut in Goodbye Fidel, 1980; had first important screen role in Misery, 1990; directed episodes of the TV series NYPD Blue and Homicide: Life on the Street, 1993; made feature directorial debut with the TV movie Dash and Lilly, 1999. Awards: Best Actress Academy Award, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture—Drama Golden Globe, and Chicago Film Critics Award, for Misery, 1990; Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Golden Globe, for 3rd Rock from the Sun, 1996; Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a TV Movie or Mini-Series Screen Actors Guild Award, for The Late Shift, 1996; Best Supporting Actress Chicago Film Critics Association, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Screen Actors Guild Award, for Primary Colors, 1998. Agent: Ssan Smith and Associates, 121 North Vicente Boulevard., Beverly Hills, CA 90211, U.S.A.
Films as Actress:
Taking Off (Forman) (bit role as a singer)
Straight Time (Grosbard) (as Selma Darin)
Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean(Altman) (as Stella Mae)
Two of a Kind (Herzfeld) (as Furniture Man's Wife)
Johnny Bull (Weill—for TV) (as Katrine Kovacs); The Morning After (Lumet) (as woman on Mateo Street)
Summer Heat (Gleason) (as Ruth); Murder Ordained (Mike Robe—for TV) (as Bobbi Bank)
Arthur 2: On the Rocks (Yorkin) (as Mrs. Canby)
Signs of Life (Coles) (as Mary Beth); High Stakes (Melanie Rose) (Kollek) (as Jill); Roe vs. Wade (Hoblit—for TV) (as Jessie); No Place Like Home (Homeless) (Grant—for TV) (as Bonnie Cooper)
Misery (Rob Reiner) (as Annie Wilkes); Men Don't Leave(Brickman) (as Lisa Coleman); Dick Tracy (Beatty) (as Mrs. Green); White Palace (Mandoki) (as Rosemary Powers)
At Play in the Fields of the Lord (Babenco) (as Hazel Quarrier); Fried Green Tomatoes (Avnet) (as Evelyn); The Road to Mecca (Fugard and Goldsmid) (as Elsa Barlow)
Shadows and Fog (Woody Allen) (as prostitute); Prelude to a Kiss (Rene) (as Leah Blier); Used People (Kidron)(as Bibby)
Hostages (Wheatley—for TV) (as Peggy Say); A Home of Our Own (Bill) (as Frances Lacey)
North (Rob Reiner) (as Alaskan Mom); Curse of the Starving Class (McClary) (as Ella)
Dolores Claiborne (Hackford) (title role); Angus (Johnson) (as Meg)
Diabolique (Chechik) (as the Detective); The Late Shift (Betty Thomas—for TV) (as Helen Kushnick); The War at Home(Estevez) (as Maureen Collier)
Titanic (Cameron) (as Molly Brown)
Swept From the Sea (Kidron) (as Miss Swaffer); Primary Colors (Nichols) (as Libby Holden); The Waterboy (Coraci)(as Mama Boucher)
Annie (Marshall—for TV) (as Miss Agatha 'Aggie' Hannigan);A Civil Action (Zaillain) (as Bankruptcy Judge)
Bruno (MacLaine) (as Mother Superior); Il Potere della speranza (Manera) (as Rosy Bindi); Unconditional Love (Hogan)
Rat Race (Zucker) (as Squirrel Lady); Jesse James (Mayfield)(as Ma James)
1999 Dash and Lilly (d—for TV)
By BATES: articles—
Interview with Sonia Taitz, in New York Times, 21 August 1988.
"I Was Never an Ingenue," interview with David Sacks, in New York Times, 22 January 1991.
Interview with Nikki Finke, in New York Newsday (Melville, New York), 28 March 1991.
Interview with Michael Lassell and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, in Interview (New York), August 1991.
Interview with Jean-Luc Vandiste, in Écran Fantastique (Paris), June 1996.
On BATES: articles—
Farrell, Mary, and Craig Thomashoff, "Wallowing in Misery, Kathy Bates Bludgeons Her Way to Stardom," in People Weekly (New York), 24 December 1990.
Current Biography 1991, New York, 1991.
Ferguson, K., "Kathy Bates: The Unlikely Star," in Film Monthly (Berkhamsted, England), June 1992.
Gelman-Waxner, Libby, "She Ain't Heavy," in Premiere (New York), July 1995.
Farber, S., "Kathy Bates in 'Dolores Claiborne," in Movieline (Los Angeles), June 1996.
* * *
Kathy Bates is a fine actress with a natural, straightforward style, who for years had impressed discerning viewers and critics with her stage work. But despite this recognition, she failed to break through the boundaries of regional and New York-based theater into the mainstream of the motion picture industry. Indeed, between 1979 and 1987 she originated roles in three hit stage plays: Crimes of the Heart, 'night, Mother, and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune—the latter a part written especially for her. Yet when it came time to cast each property for the big screen, Bates was replaced by, respectively, Diane Keaton, Sissy Spacek, and Michelle Pfeiffer. The reasons were twofold: Not only was Bates an unknown celluloid commodity, but at 5' 4" with a square build she lacked the inborn glamour of standard Hollywood leading ladies. In the late 1980s, Bates offered an explanation for Hollywood's hesitation to cast her when she declared, "I do lose roles because I'm not slender and glamorous."
When not appearing on stage, Bates earned a living in guest spots on prime-time television series and made-for-television films. She even had a regular role in the popular daytime soap opera All My Children. Feature film roles were infrequent and, for the most part, forgettable. Bates was past her 40th birthday when Rob Reiner became the first Hollywood director to recognize her screen power. He cast her in what was to be an Academy Award-winning performance in Stephen King's Misery, playing Annie Wilkes, the "Number One Fan" of a famous romance novelist (James Caan), whom she nurses after he is injured in a car accident. Annie is significantly psychotic, and the bedridden writer soon becomes her prisoner. Bates's bravura performance is nothing short of extraordinary. She unveils an astonishingly wide range of emotions as she befriends and then suddenly taunts her captive.
This breakthrough performance was proof that Bates could be a dynamo in character roles. Misery, however, was not her first interesting screen role. In the little-seen The Road to Mecca, based on a play by Athol Fugard, she was cast as a Capetown, South Africa, teacher—a part she earlier had played on the stage, but which was not considered significant enough for her to have lost it to a more well-known performer.
The year following the release of Misery, Bates created the pivotal role of Evelyn in Fried Green Tomatoes, the screen version of Fannie Flagg's offbeat novel. Bates plays a repressed Southern housewife who meets an elderly but spirited woman (Jessica Tandy) who resides in a nursing home. The old woman's intricate yarns of people and events of the 1920s have a decided influence on Evelyn's own lifestyle. Bates's power-packed portrayal of Evelyn works in tandem with Tandy's more delicate but equally forthright performance. The vigor of the pair (who appeared together one more time in Used People) represents a collaboration of the best of two generations of actresses.
Two other pivotal Bates performances came in A Home of Our Own, in which she is cast as a spirited single mother who settles with her children in a small Idaho town; and especially Dolores Claiborne, also based on a Stephen King story and her best role since Misery. In Dolores Claiborne, she offers an award-caliber tour de force as the title character, a Down East Maine woman accused of killing her boss—and who years earlier may have done in her abusive husband—and who is reunited with her long-estranged daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Here, Bates and Leigh, cast as characters who share a deeply complex and involved personal history, play opposite each other just as impressively as Bates and Tandy had in Fried Green Tomatoes.
In the second half of the 1990s, Bates most often found herself playing dominating, larger-than-life characters. Some merely were colorful (Molly Brown in Titanic), while others were pushy and manipulative (Helen Kushnick in The Late Shift). In 1998, Bates had two of her most outstanding character parts in a pair of decidedly different films, one a loosely based-on-fact satire grounded in reality and the other a no-brainer farce. The first is Primary Colors, a sharply-written adaptation (by Elaine May) of the best-selling fictionalized chronicle of the first Bill Clinton Presidential campaign. Here, the full-bodied Bates plays a foul-mouthed, bossy campaign operative, a "dustbuster" whose task is to protect the candidate from accusations of scandal. She is Libby Holden, a "true believer," a woman dedicated to getting good candidates elected. Libby cut her teeth on the McGovern campaign, and then spent the next two decades having mental breakdowns and living in and out of mental hospitals. This role offers Bates a full range of stances and emotions, from tough and ruthless to weakened and despairing. In The Waterboy, Bates is hilarious as Mama Boucher, a buxom bayou widow who controls every aspect of her son's life. Her apron-strings strangle the young man's aspirations as she prevents him from playing football and obtaining an education and a girlfriend. In this film, Bates has the singular challenge of fitting into the same celluloid fantasy world as the star, offbeat comic actor Adam Sandler. She deftly develops her character, as she speaks her bayou lingo and gestures broadly and comically. Without ever competing with Sandler's comic style, Bates builds the character of a weirdly memorable matron who complements and even fills out Sandler's universe.
Then in 1999, Bates made her directorial debut with a made-for-television feature film, Dash and Lilly, about the love affair between the writers Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman. Although the film lacked pacing and a solid viewpoint, it does not seem unlikely that a woman with such a strong command of acting will be able to develop a more controlled skill for directing.
Character actresses traditionally have benefited from age in the film industry. In middle age, Kathy Bates finally and deservedly has been able to attain—and maintain—stardom as a reliable and occasionally riveting motion picture character performer. Her success is proof that there is room in Hollywood for both the slender "glamour girl" and the commanding character actress.
—Audrey E. Kupferberg