Oscar Actors: Ruehl, Mercedes–Background, Career, Awards, Cumulative Advantage

Mercedes J. Ruehl  is the recipient of many accolades, including an Oscar Award, a Golden Globe, a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards.

Ruehl is known for her leading performance in the play Lost in Yonkers (1990) and supporting performance in the film The Fisher King (1991). Her other film credits include Big (1988), Married to the Mob (1988), Last Action Hero (1993), Roseanna’s Grave (1997) and Hustlers (2019).

Mercedes Ruehl was born February 28, 1948 in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, the daughter of Mercedes J. Ruehl, a schoolteacher, and Vincent Ruehl, an FBI agent. She was raised Catholic. Her father was of German and Irish descent and her mother was of Cuban and Irish ancestry.

Ruehl attended College of New Rochelle and graduated in 1969.

She is married to painter David Geiser, with whom she adopted a son, Jake (born 1995). She had another son, Christopher, whom she gave up for adoption in 1976 when she was 28. She reunited in the late 1990s with Christopher when he turned 21, and he later became Jake’s godfather.

Ruehl began her career in regional theatre with the Denver Center Theatre Company, taking odd jobs between engagements. Her first starring role on Broadway came in 1984’s I’m Not Rappaport. She then went on to win the 1984 Obie Award for her performance in The Marriage of Bette and Boo and 20 years later, an Obie for Woman Before a Glass.

Tony Awards and Nominations

She also received a 1991 Tony Award as Best Actress (Play) for Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers and continued her role in the show during its tour with co-star Mercedes McCambridge. Her performances in two other plays earned her two other Tony nominations: in 1995, as Best Actress (Featured Role – Play) for a revival of The Shadow Box; and in 2002, as Best Actress (Play) for Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

Her most acclaimed film role was in “The Fisher King,” which earned her the 1991 Best Supporting Actress Oscar as well as a Boston Society of Film Critics Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and a Golden Globe.

Earlier she had won the 1989 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “Married to the Mob.”

She played KACL station manager Kate Costas in five episodes of Frasier, and had a major role in the made-for-TV film All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story. In 2005, she (along with Esai Morales) received the Rita Moreno HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors.

She later played the mother of main character Vincent Chase in HBO’s Entourage.

In 2009, Ruehl returned to the Broadway stage in Manhattan Theater Club’s production of Richard Greenberg’s The American Plan playing the role of Eva Adler.

She appeared in the horror film “What Ever Happened to Barker Daniels?” in 2009.

In January 2012, Ruehl starred in Sarah Treem’s play “The How and The Why,” directed by Emily Mann at McCarter Theatre of Princeton University.

Ruehl is on the faculty of HB Studio in New York City.