Jessica Lange Spoke About Longtime Partner Sam Shepard and Their Children Shortly Before His DeathJessica Lange Can Finally Relax
ACTRESS AND PHOTOGRAPHER
Versatile leading lady whose beauty, intensity, and professionalism have made her one of the most important actresses in Hollywood. Most recently, she debuted also as a protographer. Lange published in 2008 her own collection of black-and-white pictures, simply entitled 50 Photographs.
Jessica Phyllis Lange, the third of four children, was born in Cloquet, Minnesota, on April 20, 1949, the daughter of Dorothy Florence and Albert John Lange, who was a teacher and salesman. Her maternal grandparents were of Finnish descent, while her paternal grandparents were German and Dutch. Lange's early years had a nomadic quality; by her own count, her traveling salesman father moved the family some 18 times while she was growing up. She studied art briefly at the University of Minnesota before going to Paris, France, where she studied mime with Étienne Decroux. She returned to New York in 1973 and took acting lessons while working as a waitress and a fashion model for the Wilhelmina Models agency. She was discovered by the fashion illustrator Antonio in 1974.
In her highly publicized first film, the ghastly 1976 remake of King Kong Lange gamely (and futilely) tackled the Fay Wray role. The ensuing debacle nearly ended her career before it started; both the picture and her performance were trashed by critics, and she languished in obscurity for three years before making another picture.
In the interim she took acting lessons and made connections; in 1979 her friend Bob Fosse cast her as the angel of death in his autobiographical All That Jazz. As a result of that movie's critical and popular acclaim (and her ideal casting), Lange's stock rose considerably.
Lange took on a supporting role in How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980) before being cast as Cora, the lusty waitress in Bob Rafelson's sexually charged remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981, opposite Jack Nicholson), in which she shocked moviegoers not only with her raw, animal sensuality, but also with an electric performance. She reached her career high-water mark in 1982, first with a tour de force as the tragic actress Frances Farmer in Frances (for which she was Oscar-nominated), then as an engaging leading lady in the smash hit Tootsie (for which she won an Oscar). By this time established as one of the screen's premier actresses, Lange copped subsequent Oscar nominations, for her work in Country (1984), Sweet Dreams (1985, as Patsy Cline), and Music Box (1989). She was also memorable in Crimes of the Heart (1986), Everybody's All-American (1988, outstanding in that underrated film), Far North (1988), Men Don't Leave (1990), and Martin Scorsese's powerhouse Cape Fear (1991).
Lange and Fear costar Robert De Niro reteamed for a 1992 remake of Night and the City a Scorseselike urban melodrama that just missed. That same year she made her TV movie debut in the well-received O Pioneers! and her Broadway bow opposite Alec Baldwin in "A Streetcar Named Desire," which she recreated for a 1995 television production. Lange earned a Best Actress Oscar for her powerful, complex performance as an Army officer's troubled wife in Blue Sky (1994, filmed in 1990); she followed with the child custody drama Losing Isaiah and Rob Roy (both 1995).
Adamantly clinging to her single status, Lange has a daughter by dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and two children by playwright Sam Shepard, with whom she's costarred several times, and who directed her in Far North. Lange was married to photographer Paco Grande from 1970–1981. Since 1982, she has lived with Sam Shepard.
All That Jazz
How to Beat the High Cost of Living
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Crimes of the Heart
Babs Rogers Grey
Men Don’t Leave
Night and the City
A Thousand Acres
Ginny Cook Smith
Masked and Anonymous
Sandra K. Bloom
Dr Carmen Markowski
Don’t Come Knoking
Joshua Michael Stern
Christopher N. Rowley
The Big Valley (en post-producció)
The Vow (en post-producción)
In 1992, Lange made her Broadway-theatre début in New York City opposite Alec Baldwin in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. She appeared in the West End in London, United Kingdom, in 2000, as Mary Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. In 2005, she returned to Broadway in another Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie with Christian Slater.
After three decades in front of the camera, Lange has realized her dream of being on the other side of the lens, and published in 2008 her own collection of black-and-white pictures, simply entitled 50 Photographs (powerHouse Books). Their exhibition, along with series of her films, was presented at the oldest international museum of photography and film George Eastman House, to be awarded by the first GEH Honors Award in 2009.