Oscar Actors: Allen, Joan–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, Tony Award, Emmy Nom)

Research in Progress:
Joan Allen Career Summary:
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Occupational Inheritance: No


Social Class: Middle; father gas station owner; mother homemaker





Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut: Compromising Positions, 1985; aged 29

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role:

Other Noms: 3 (1 lead and 2 supp)

Other Awards:

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image:

Last Film:

Career Output:

Film Career Span:



Death: NA


Joan Allen (born August 20, 1956) began her career with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1977, won the 1984 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for And a Nightingale Sang, and won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her Broadway debut in Burn This.

She is also a three-time Oscar Award nominee, receiving Best Supporting Actress nominations for Nixon (1995) and The Crucible (1996), and a Best Actress nomination for The Contender (2000).

Allen’s other film roles include Manhunter (1986), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), The Ice Storm (1997), Face/Off (1997), Pleasantville (1998), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Upside of Anger (2005), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), Death Race (2008), and The Bourne Legacy (2012). She won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress for the 2015 film Room. She has also starred in the Broadway plays The Heidi Chronicles (1988), Impressionism (2009), and The Waverly Gallery (2018).

Allen, the youngest of four children, was born in Rochelle, Illinois, the daughter of Dorothea Marie (née Wirth), a homemaker, and James Jefferson Allen, a gas station owner.

She has an older brother, David, and two older sisters, Mary and Lynn. Allen attended Rochelle Township High School, and was voted most likely to succeed.[citation needed] She first attended Eastern Illinois University, performing in a few plays with John Malkovich, who was also a student, and then Northern Illinois University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater.

Allen began her performing career as a stage actress and on TV before making film debut in  Compromising Positions (1985).

She became a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble in 1977 when John Malkovich asked her to join. She’s been a member ever since.

In 1984, she won a Clarence Derwent Award for her portrayal of Hellen Stott in And a Nightingale Sang.[citation needed] Allen’s work with Steppenwolf has included productions of Three Sisters, Waiting For The Parade, Love Letters, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, and The Wheel.

Tony Award and Tony Nomination

In 1989, Allen won Tony Award for her Broadway debut performance in “Burn This,”
opposite Malkovich. She also starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Heidi Chronicles, with Boyd Gaines at the Plymouth Theatre. The show was met with critical praise, receiving six Tony Award nominations and winning Best Play. Allen received her second Tony Award nomination for her role.

She received Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress for her roles as Pat Nixon in Nixon (1995) and as Elizabeth Proctor, a woman accused of witchcraft, in The Crucible (1996). She was also nominated for Best Actress for her role in The Contender (2000), in which she played a politician who becomes the object of scandal.

She had starring roles in The Ice Storm, directed by Ang Lee, and the action thriller Face/Off, directed by John Woo, both in 1997, as well as in the comedy Pleasantville (1998).

In 2001, Allen starred in the mini-series The Mists of Avalon on TNT and earned an Primetime Emmy Award nomination for the role.

In 2005, she received many positive notices[citation needed] for her leading role in the comedy/drama The Upside of Anger, in which she played an alcoholic housewife.

She played CIA Department Director Pamela Landy in The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy. Allen appeared in Death Race, playing a prison warden.[9]

In 2009, Allen starred as Georgia O’Keeffe in Lifetime TV’s 2009 biopic of the artist’s life. Allen returned to Broadway after a twenty year absence in 2009, when she played the role of Katherine Keenan in Michael Jacobs’ play Impressionism opposite Jeremy Irons at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The play was met with mixed reviews from critics.

Allen voiced Delphine in Bethesda Softworks’ 2011 video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. She also lent her voice talents in the Thomas Nelson audio Bible production known as The Word of Promise. In this dramatized audio, Allen played the character of Deborah.

In 2015, Allen signed for the leading role in the ABC drama series “The Family,” playing the role of villainous and manipulative mayor and matriarch of her family.

After 9 year absence from Broadway, Allen played Ellen Fine in the critically acclaimed Broadway  production of the Kenneth Lonergan play The Waverly Gallery in 2018, alongside Elaine May, Lucas Hedges, and Michael Cera at the John Golden Theatre.

In 1990, Allen married actor Peter Friedman. They divorced in 2002; they have one daughter, Sadie, born in 1994.


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