When writing The Exorcist (1973), William Peter Blatty based the character of "Chris O'Neil" on Shirley MacLaine, who was a friend of his.
I'm very interested in how insane everybody is. That's why I write.
~ Shirley MacLaine
Shirley MacLean Beaty
24 April 1934, Richmond, Virginia
Shirley MacLaine (born April 24, 1934) is an American film and theater actress, singer, dancer, activist and author. She has won the "Best Actress" Golden Globe 4 times, first for The Apartment. She was nominated for an Academy Award five times before winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1983 for her role in Terms of Endearment. Her younger brother is Warren Beatty.
She is well known for her beliefs in New Age spirituality and reincarnation. She has written a large number of autobiographical works, many dealing with her spiritual beliefs as well as her Hollywood career.
Named after Shirley Temple, Shirley MacLean Beaty was born in Richmond, Virginia. Her father, Ira Owens Beaty, was a professor of psychology, public school administrator, and real estate agent, and her mother, Kathlyn Corinne (née MacLean), was a drama teacher originally from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada; MacLaine's grandparents were also teachers.The family was devoutly Baptist. Her uncle (her mother's brother-in-law) was A.A. MacLeod, a Communist member of the Ontario legislature in the 1940s. While she was still a child, Ira Beaty moved his family from Richmond to Norfolk, and then to Arlington, Virginia and Waverly, eventually taking a position at Arlington's Thomas Jefferson Junior High School.
She had very weak ankles as a child, so her mother decided to enroll her in ballet class. Strongly motivated by ballet, she never missed a class. In classical romantic pieces like "Romeo & Juliet" and "Sleeping Beauty," she always played the boys' roles, being the tallest in the class, due to the absence of males in the class. She got to play a substantial female role as the fairy godmother in "Cinderella." While warming up backstage, she broke her ankle, but proceeded to dance the role all the way through. MacLaine ultimately decided that professional ballet wasn't for her because she had grown too tall, was not good enough to make it a career, and didn't have the requisite "beautifully constructed feet" (high arches, high insteps). She also found ballet too limiting. After leaving ballet, she pursued dancing and acting.
She attended Washington-Lee High School, where she was on the cheerleading squad and acted in the school's productions. The summer before her senior year, she was in New York to try acting on Broadway with some success. After she graduated, she returned and within a year she became an understudy to actress Carol Haney in The Pajama Game; Haney broke her ankle, and MacLaine replaced her. A few months after, with Haney still out of commission, film producer Hal B. Wallis was in the audience, took note of MacLaine, and signed her to work for Paramount Pictures. She later sued Wallis over a contractual dispute, a suit that has been credited with ending the old-style studio star system of actor management.
MacLaine made her film debut in Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry (1955), for which she won the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year - Actress. In 1956, she had roles in Hot Spell and Around the World in 80 Days. At the same time she starred in Some Came Running, the film that gave her first Academy Award nomination - one of five that the film received - and a Golden Globe nomination.
Her second nomination came two years later for The Apartment, starring with Jack Lemmon. The film won five Oscars, including Best Director for Billy Wilder. She later said, "I thought I would win for The Apartment, but then Elizabeth Taylor had a tracheotomy". She starred in The Children's Hour (1961) also starring Audrey Hepburn and James Garner, based on the play by Lillian Hellman and directed by William Wyler (Ben-Hur (1959 film)). She was again nominated, this time for Irma la Douce (1963), which reunited her with Wilder and Lemmon. Don Siegel, her director on Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970) said of her: "It's hard to feel any great warmth to her. She's too unfeminine and has too much balls. She's very, very hard."
In 1975, she received a nomination for Best Documentary Feature for her documentary film The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir. Two years later, she was once again nominated for The Turning Point co-starring Anne Bancroft, in which she portrayed a retired ballerina much like herself. In 1978, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. In 1980, she starred in A Change of Seasons alongside Anthony Hopkins. The pair famously didn't get along and Hopkins said “she was the most obnoxious actress I have ever worked with." In 1983, she won an Oscar for Terms of Endearment. The film won another four Oscars; one for Jack Nicholson and three for director James L. Brooks. In 1988, MacLaine won a Golden Globe for Best Actress (Drama) for Madame Sousatzka.
She continued to star in major films, such as Steel Magnolias with Julia Roberts and many other stars. She made her feature-film directorial debut in Bruno, MacLaine starred as Helen in this film, which was released to video as The Dress Code. In 2007, she completed Closing the Ring, directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Christopher Plummer. Other notable films in which MacLaine has starred include Sweet Charity (1968), Being There (1979) with Peter Sellers, Postcards from the Edge (1990) with actress Meryl Streep, playing a fictionalized version of Debbie Reynolds with a screenplay by Reynolds's daughter, Carrie Fisher, Used People with Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates, Guarding Tess (1994) with Nicolas Cage, Mrs. Winterbourne (1996), with actress and talk show host, Ricki Lake and actor Brendan Fraser, Rumor Has It… (2005) with Kevin Costner and Jennifer Aniston and In Her Shoes with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette.
MacLaine has also appeared in numerous television projects including an autobiographical miniseries based upon the book Out on a Limb, The Salem Witch Trials, These Old Broads written by Carrie Fisher and co-starring Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, and Joan Collins, and Coco, a Lifetime production based on the life of Coco Chanel. She also had a short-lived sitcom called Shirley's World. She will be appearing in the third series of the British drama Downton Abbey as Martha Levinson, mother to Cora, Countess of Grantham.
MacLaine has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1165 Vine Street and in 1999 was awarded the Honorary Golden Bear at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival.
MacLaine was married to businessman Steve Parker until they divorced in 1982. In April 2011 while promoting her new book, “I'm Over All That”, she told Oprah Winfrey that she had an open relationship with her husband. They had a daughter, Sachi Parker (born 1956). Shirley shares a birthday (April 24) with her good friend, Barbra Streisand, and they traditionally spend it together each year.
MacLaine has a strong and enduring interest in spirituality and metaphysics. Many of her best-selling books, such as Out on a Limb and Dancing in the Light, have it as their central theme. Her interests have led her to such forms of spiritual exploration as walking El Camino de Santiago, working with Chris Griscom, and practicing Transcendental Meditation.
Her well-known interest in New Age spirituality has made its way into several of her films. In Albert Brooks' 1991 romantic comedy Defending Your Life, the recently deceased lead characters, played by Brooks and Meryl Streep, are astonished to find MacLaine introducing their past lives in the "Past Lives Pavilion." In 1990's Postcards from the Edge (with a screenplay by Carrie Fisher), MacLaine, playing a character loosely based on Debbie Reynolds, sings a special version of "I'm Still Here", with customized lyrics created especially for her by composer Stephen Sondheim. One of the lyrics was changed to "I'm feeling transcendental--am I here?" In the 2001 made-for-television movie These Old Broads - written by Reynolds's daughter - starring MacLaine, Debbie Reynolds, Joan Collins, Elizabeth Taylor and Carrie Fisher, MacLaine's character is a devotee of New Age spirituality.
MacLaine has such a serious interest in UFOs that she has given numerous interviews on CNN, NBC and Fox news channels on the subject through 2007-2008. In her 2007 released book "Sage-ing While Age-ing" she mentioned her alien encounters and witnessing of Washington DC UFO incidents in 1950s.
MacLaine found her way into the law books when she sued Twentieth Century-Fox for breach of contract. She was to play a role in a film titled Bloomer Girl, but the production was canceled. Twentieth Century-Fox offered her a role in another film, Big Country, Big Man, to avoid its contractual obligation to pay her for the canceled film. MacLaine's refusal led to a suit appealed by Twentieth Century-Fox to the Supreme Court of California in 1970, where the Court ruled against Fox, calling the studio's alternate role offer "different or inferior" employment. Parker v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 474 P.2d 689 (Cal. 1970).
MacLaine is godmother to the daughter of U.S. Representative, Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat and former mayor of Cleveland, Ohio.
With her younger brother, Warren Beatty, MacLaine used her celebrity status in instrumental roles as a fundraiser and organizer for George McGovern's campaign for president in 1972. That year, she authored the book McGovern: The Man and His Beliefs.
Led a series of weekend-long higher-self seminars in the late 1980s teaching people about her views on many aspects of New Age practices and techniques.
Attended Washington-Lee H.S. in Arlington, VA.
Older sister of Warren Beatty.
Mother of Sachi Parker.
A frequent visitor to Houston, Texas, where she starred in Terms of Endearment (1983) and The Evening Star (1996). At each visit, she goes to Tony's Restaurant, where she orders a complete soufflé just for herself.
Born at 3:57 PM EST.
Sister-in-law of actress Annette Bening.
Is a horse lover.
Turned down the role of Diane Freeling in Poltergeist (1982) to play the Oscar-winning role of Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment (1983).
Her childhood dinner for many years consisted of tabasco and saltine crackers (which often resulted in bad dreams--her missing the bus to ballet class).
Took ballet as a child and always played the boy's role due to being the tallest in her class.
As of 2009, she is only one of six performers who won a Golden Globe Award as Best Lead Actor/Actress in a Motion Picture Drama without being nominated for an Oscar for that same role (hers for Madame Sousatzka (1988)). The others are Spencer Tracy in The Actress (1953), Anthony Franciosa in Career (1959), Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago (1965), Jim Carrey in The Truman Show (1998) and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road (2008).
Right before a performance of "Cinderella" with the Washington School of Ballet (she was dancing the role of the Fairy Godmother), she was warming up backstage when she broke her ankle. Instead of bowing out, she simply tied the ribbon on her toe shoes tighter and danced the role through. After the show was over, she called for an ambulance.
Was close friends with the members of the Rat Pack. She starred with all of them in Ocean's Eleven (1960). Other works with Rat Pack members include: Some Came Running (1958), Cannonball Run II (1984) and Can-Can (1960).
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1967.
Close friends with actress Julie Christie, who lived with Shirley's brother Warren Beatty for over a decade.
Columbia originally wanted to cast her as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (1968). However, producer Ray Stark--who produced the Broadway show and was Brice's son-in-law--insisted on Barbra Streisand repeating her Broadway role.
Her performance as Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment (1983) is ranked #81 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Grandmother to Francis Murray (b. September 1996); the son of her daughter Sachi Parker.
In her book, "My Lucky Stars", MacLaine wrote that before production on My Geisha (1962) began, Yves Montand bet her husband, Steve Parker, that he could seduce her. Parker, whom MacLaine learned later, was having an affair at the time, took Montand up on the bet; Montand won.
Will receive the American Film Institute's Life Achievement award on June 7, 2012, in Los Angeles [October 9, 2011].
In her memoir "I'm Over That And Other Confessions", she claims to have been intimate with Danny Kaye, and Robert Mitchum, among others. She told Oprah Winfrey in an April 2011 TV appearance that she was not attracted to Jack Lemmon because he was not "dangerous" and "complicated".
About 1975, while starring in a special musical show that played at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, VA, she walked out on the show because of the poor acoustics and sound system. Chrysler Hall was well known for this problem at the time, and Miss MacLaine was not the only performer to complain about it. Years later, the theatre closed for a while and underwent extensive renovations to improve the acoustics, thanks in part to the star's vigorously vocal objections.
Some people think I look like a sweet potato, I consider myself a spud with a heart of gold.
It is useless to hold a person to anything he says while he's in love, drunk, or running for office.
I had a video made of my recent knee operation. The doctor said it was the best movie I ever starred in.
I think in my 40s, right around the time of The Turning Point (1977), that I began to address myself more to the future. See, I wasn't afraid of getting old, because I never had the problems the other actresses my age had. I was never a great beauty. I was never a sex symbol. I did, however, have great legs, because I was a dancer. But I didn't have that baggage. I wasn't interested in my stature as a star. Ever. I was just interested in good parts.
[about her considering ballet as a profession) I was never good enough to be a soloist. Quatre ballet was about all I could handle. I didn't have those beautifully constructed feet [high arches, high insteps]. My extension on my left leg was pretty good, but I didn't point my foot with that grace that suggests true beauty.
An actor has many lives and many people within him. I know there are lots of people inside me. No one ever said I'm dull.
I can't define longevity. I don't know what it means.
[New York Times interview, Oct. 16, 2005]: I regret turning down the lead role in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) which Ellen Burstyn deservedly won an Oscar for. I said to myself: "Who is this Martin Scorsese person?".
[on Oscars] I love to win those things. Love it. The only part about it I don't like is the red carpet and getting a dress and walking around in high heels and holding in my stomach. I hate that.
[on accepting her Oscar, 1983] I am going to cry because this show has been as long as my career! I have wondered for 26 years what this would feel like! Thank you for terminating the suspense.
I'm not unaware of how I'm perceived, I just don't care about it. Unless I really hurt someone's feelings. I care about that.
...I was always a character actress and never a sex symbol. Even when I was the leading lady, I was a character actor.
I've made so many movies playing a hooker that they don't pay me in the regular way anymore. They leave it on the dresser.
My first few weeks in New York were an initiation into the kingdom of guts.
[after being offended by David Letterman on his show] Cher was right! You are an asshole!
On personal power: You are the architect of your personal experience.
[on Warren Beatty] The difference between us is sex. I can take it or leave it. But my kid brother ... well, now, he enjoys his reputation. Sex is the most important thing in his life. It's his hobby, you could say.
[on Mia Farrow] All turned in and vulnerable, a child with a highly energetic brain. From the neck up she's eighty.
On mothering: If we can genuinely honor our mother and father we are not only at peace with ourselves but we can give them birth to our future.