Oscar Actors: Harden, Marcia Gay–Background, Career, Awards, Cumulative Advantage

Marcia Gay Harden Career Summary 

Occupational Inheritance: No

Cumulative Advantage: Yes (Oscar, Tony, Emmy nom)

Social Class: father; officer in Navy

Education: high school, 1976; age 17

Training: BA in drama University of Texas, Austin; MFA NYU School of the Arts

Theater Debut:

Broadway Debut, Angels in America, 1993; age 34

Film Debut: The Imagemaker, 1986; age 27

Breakthrough: Miller’s Crossing, 1990, age 31

Oscar Award: Pollock, 2000; age 41

Oscar Nomination: Mystic River, 2003; age 44

Other Awards: Tony nomination; age 34; Tony Award,  ; Emmy nom




Marcia Gay Harden (born August 14, 1959) got her breakthrough in the 1990 Coen brothers-directed “Miller’s Crossing.”

For her performance as artist Lee Krasner in the 2000 film Pollock, she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She earned another Oscar nomination for her performance as Celeste Boyle in Mystic River (2003).

Broadway Debut: Tony Nomination and Award

Harden made her Broadway debut in 1993, starring in Angels in America, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. She returned to Broadway in 2009 as Veronica in God of Carnage. Her performance won her the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.

Emmy Nomination

Harden was nominated for her second Primetime Emmy Award for her performance in the 2009 TV film “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler.”

Harden’s other notable television roles include Dr Leanne Rorish in the CBS medical drama Code Black. and attorney Rebecca Halliday in the HBO Aaron Sorkin series “The Newsroom.”

Harden was born in La Jolla, California, the daughter of Texas natives Beverly Harden (née Bushfield), a housewife, and Thad Harold Harden, an officer in the United States Navy. She is one of five children, having three sisters and one brother. Harden’s brother is named Thaddeus, as are her father and her former husband. Harden’s family frequently moved because of her father’s job, living in Japan, Germany, Greece, California, and Maryland.

In 1976, Harden graduated from Surrattsville High School in Clinton, Maryland.

College Education

In 1980, she received a BA in theatre from the University of Texas at Austin. In 1988, Harden received a Master of Fine Arts from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Harden’s first film role was in a 1979 student-produced movie at the University of Texas.

First Film: Imagemaker

Throughout the 1980s, she appeared in TV programs, including Simon & Simon, Kojak, and CBS Summer Playhouse. She appeared in “The Imagemaker” (1986), her first movie screen role, in which she played a stage manager.

Breakthrough Role: Miller’s Crossing

She appeared in the Coen brothers’ “Miller’s Crossing” (1990), a 1930s mobster drama in which she first gained wide exposure. Even so, at the time, living in New York City, she had to go back to doing catering jobs “because I didn’t have any money.”

In 1992, Harden played actress Ava Gardner alongside Philip Casnoff as Frank Sinatra in the made for TV miniseries “Sinatra.”

Throughout the 1990s, she continued to appear in films and television. Notable film roles include the Disney sci-fi comedy Flubber (1997), a popular hit in which she co-starred with Robin Williams; the supernatural drama Meet Joe Black (1998), playing the under-appreciated daughter of a tycoon (Anthony Hopkins, co-starring Brad Pitt); Labor of Love (1998), a Lifetime TV movie in which she starred with David Marshall Grant; and Space Cowboys (2000), an all-star adventure-drama about aging astronauts.

Supporting Actress Oscar Award and Another Nomination

Harden was awarded the 2000 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of painter Lee Krasner in the biopic “Pollock,” opposite Ed Harris.

In 2003, she was again nominated in the same category for Eastwood’s “Mystic River.”

Emmy Nom

Harden guest-starred as FBI undercover agent Dana Lewis posing as a white-supremacist in “Raw”, an episode of the popular crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2007, this role earned Harden her first Emmy Award nomination for best guest actress in a drama series. She reprised the role in the series’ eighth-season premiere and again in the twelfth-season episode “Penetration” as a rape victim (aired November 10, 2010).

In 2007, Harden appeared in several films, including Sean Penn’s Into the Wild and Frank Darabont’s The Mist, based on the novella by Stephen King. Also in 2007, she shared top billing with Kevin Bacon in Rails & Ties, the directorial debut of Alison Eastwood.

In 2008, Harden appeared in Home playing a woman who has had a mastectomy. (Her character in Rails & Ties also had a mastectomy.) One central scene called for her to bare her breasts, with the missing breast “removed” using computer-generated imagery. In Home, her co-stars include her daughter, Eulala Scheel.