Oscar Actors: Aghdashloo, Shoreh–Supporting Actress in House of Sand and Fog

Research in Progress (Sept 23, 2021)

Shoreh Aghdashloo Career Summary

Shoreh Aghdashloo played the frustrated wife of Ben Kingsley in The House of Sand and Fog, for which she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

It was an history-making nomination to honor an Iranian actress.

In the film, she inhabits a woman with no language on her side, desperately trying to make a peaceful home for her family in America.

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Shohreh Aghdashloo (Persian: born Shohreh Vaziri-Tabar; May 11, 1952) is an Iranian-American actress.

After starring roles on the stage, her first major film role was in The Report (Gozāresh) (1977) directed by Abbas Kiarostami, which won the Critics Award at the Moscow Film Festival. Her next film was Shatranje Bad (The Chess Game of the Wind), directed by Mohammad Reza Aslani, which screened at several film festivals. Both films were banned in her home country; but, in 1978, Aghdashloo won acclaim for her performance in Sooteh Delan (Broken-hearted), directed by Ali Hatami, which established her as one of Iran’s leading actresses.

After establishing a theatre and film career in Iran, Aghdashloo moved to England during the Iranian Revolution in 1979, subsequently becoming a U.S. citizen.

After several years playing small roles in television and film, her performance in House of Sand and Fog (2003) brought her several film critics’ awards and nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Emmy Award

She has continued to play supporting and character roles in film and television, including a starring role as Chrisjen Avasarala on The Expanse (2015–present), and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her work in the HBO original miniseries House of Saddam (2008).

In 2013, she released her autobiography titled The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines.

Aghdashloo was born in Tehran, Iran, as Shohreh Vaziri-Tabar (Persian) the daughter of Effie (née al-Sadat) and Anushiravan Vaziri-Tabar. She has three brothers: Shahram, Shahriar and Shahrokh. Her name is from the family name of her first husband, painter Aydin Aghdashloo.

Always Wanted to be Actress

After their marriage in 1972 when she was 19 and he was 31, she began attending theatre workshops, against the wishes of her family. She had always wanted to be an actress, and soon began playing leading roles in Iranian theatre and film. They did not have children and were divorced in 1979, when she left Iran for England at the start of the Iranian Revolution.

In England, she earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations at Brunel University[4] because of her interest in politics after having to leave her home country. She was already familiar with England, as her parents had taken her to London as a child. She then continued to pursue her acting career, which brought her to Los Angeles. In 1987, Aghdashloo married actor/playwright Houshang Touzie. They have a daughter, Tara Touzie, born in 1989. She has since performed in a number of Touzie’s plays, successfully taking them to national and international stages, primarily in the Iranian diaspora.  Though born to Muslim family, she has stated that she is non-practicing.

Aghdashloo first began working as a theatre actress at the age of 19, when she starred in a theatrical adaptation of the novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North (1973).[7] Aghdashloo made her American film debut in 1989 in a starring role in Guests of Hotel Astoria. Her television debut came on 25 September 1990 in a guest role in the two-hour episode of the NBC television series Matlock, titled “Nowhere to Turn: A Matlock Mystery Movie”.

Aghdashloo appeared on screen sporadically, including in the widely panned Surviving Paradise (2000), the first English-language Iranian American feature film released in the United States,[citation needed] written and directed by Kamshad Kooshan.

Aghdashloo was cast opposite Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly in Vadim Perelman’s House of Sand and Fog (2003)[11] for which she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

After that, Aghdashloo had a prominent recurring role in Season 4 of the Fox television series 24, playing Dina Araz, a terrorist undercover in Los Angeles as a well-to-do housewife and mother. In an interview with Time magazine, Aghdashloo stated that although she had previously resisted reinforcing the stereotype of Muslims as terrorists, the strength and complexity of the role convinced her to accept it. Iranian film scholar Hamid Naficy criticized Aghdashloo’s acting in “the sensationalist film The Stoning of Soraya M.” as “discredit[ing] her vow not to play in films that stereotype Middle Easterners, including Iranians.”

Aghdashloo made guest appearances on several well-known television series, such as Will & Grace, ER and Grey’s Anatomy. She also played supporting roles in films such as X-Men: The Last Stand as Dr. Kavita Rao, The Lake House, The Nativity Story as Elizabeth, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.

In 2008, Aghdashloo served as an official festival judge at the second annual Noor Iranian Film Festival in Los Angeles, while she also played the lead character of Zahra Khanum in the film The Stoning of Soraya M.,[15] marking her first leading role in a feature-length American film. In the same year, she also portrayed Sajida Talfah in the HBO original miniseries House of Saddam for which she received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.

Speaking to a crowd at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on September 12, 2009, Aghdashloo, author Dr. Azar Nafisi, and Dr. Dwight Bashir, Associate Director for Policy at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, added their voices to those concerned about human rights in Iran and the persecution of Baháʼís in Iran.[16] Aghdashloo’s talk in particular was posted to YouTube.

On October 9, 2010, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans awarded Aghdashloo their Career Achievement Award during its first annual gala.

Agdashloo continues to act in films, such as The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Septembers of Shiraz and Star Trek Beyond; and on television, guest starring on series such as House, M.D., The Simpsons, Grimm, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and NCIS. She also voiced characters for the video games Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, Destiny and Destiny 2; starred in the London revival of the play The House of Bernarda Alba at the Almeida Theatre as Bernarda Alba; and narrated the audiobook And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini.

Aghdashloo starred on Amazon Prime’s acclaimed TV series The Expanse, as UN Deputy Undersecretary of Executive Administration Chrisjen Avasarala, a “smart and passionate member of a political family legacy who has risen high in the ranks of Earth’s governing body without once standing for election”. As of the end of Season 3, Avasarala had risen to the rank of UN Secretary General.