Joan Allen

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Joan Allen
Allen in 2000
Born (1956-08-20) August 20, 1956 (age 67)
Alma materEastern Illinois University
Northern Illinois University
Years active1977–present
(m. 1990; div. 2002)

Joan Allen (born August 20, 1956) is an American actress. Known for her work on stage and screen, she has received a Tony Award as well as nominations for three Academy Awards, a BAFTA Award, three Primetime Emmy Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards.

She 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. In the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, Allen received international recognition for a string of critically acclaimed performances. She is also a three-time Academy 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), Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993), 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).

Early life and education


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.[1][2] She has an older brother, David, and two older sisters, Mary and Lynn.[3] 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.



1977–1994: early work and Broadway roles


Allen began her performing career as a stage actress and on television before making her film debut in the movie, Compromising Positions (1985). She became a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble in 1977 when John Malkovich asked her to join.[4] 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. In 1989, Allen won a Tony Award for her Broadway debut performance in Burn This opposite Malkovich.[5][6] She also starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Heidi Chronicles, with Boyd Gaines at the Plymouth Theatre.[7] 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 performance.[6]

1995–2003: established actor


In 1995 she portrayed Former First Lady Pat Nixon acting opposite Anthony Hopkins playing the title role in the Oliver Stone biographical drama Nixon (1995). Critic Roger Ebert praised Allen's performance writing, "The key supporting performance in the movie is by Joan Allen as Pat Nixon. She emerges as strong-willed and clear-eyed, a truth-teller who sees through Nixon's masks and evasions."[8] She received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. That same year Allen acted teen romantic drama Mad Love (1995).

The following year Allen played Elizabeth Proctor, a woman accused of witchcraft, in The Crucible (1996). Allen acted opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in the Nicholas Hytner directed film based on the Arthur Miller 1953 play of the same name. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly hailed Allen's performance writing, "It's Joan Allen who carries the weight of the film's sorrow, eyes glistening with woe as she delivers the heartbreaking confession to her husband".[9] She received the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The following year she starred in the drama The Ice Storm directed by Ang Lee, playing an unsatisfied woman who discovers her husband is having an affair with a neighbor. Allen acted opposite Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood, Christina Ricci, and Tobey Maguire. The Hollywood Reporter named it her best film performance writing, "Allen is exquisitely contained, embodying the awkward grace and indefinable ache."[10] She also had a supporting role in the science fiction action film Face/Off (1997).

In 1998 Allen starred in the Gary Ross directed fantasy comedy-drama Pleasantville (1998). Allen acted alongside Jeff Daniels, Reese Witherspoon, and Tobey Maguire. For her performance she won the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film was compared favorably to The Truman Show also released in 1998. Joe Leydon of Variety wrote, "Allen is equally effective in her subtle transformation from docile Stepford Wife to yearning free spirit".[11] The following year she acted in It's the Rage (1999) based on the Keith Reddin play of the same name and When the Sky Falls (2000). Both film received negative reviews with some praise for Allen's performance.

She was also nominated for Best Actress, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for her role in the political drama The Contender (2000). In the film she portrayed a politician who becomes the object of scandal. She starred opposite Jeff Bridges and Gary Oldman. In 2001, Allen starred in the mini-series The Mists of Avalon on TNT and earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie nomination for the role.[12] In 2003 she starred in Off the Map which premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.

Since 2004: return to Broadway


She also starred as Rachel McAdams mother in the 2004 movie The Notebook. In 2005, she received many positive notices for her leading role in the comedy/drama The Upside of Anger, in which she played an alcoholic housewife. Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter writing, "Allen turns the character into a tour de force that unleashes an unexpected comedy about compassion and self-loathing."[13] She received a Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress nomination for her performance. She played CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy in The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy. Allen appeared in Death Race, playing a prison warden.[14]

In 2009, Allen starred as Georgia O'Keeffe in Lifetime Television's 2009 biopic chronicling the artist's life. Allen returned to Broadway after a twenty-year absence in March 2009, when she played the role of Katherine Keenan in Michael Jacobs' play Impressionism opposite Jeremy Irons at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.[15][6] The play was met with mixed reviews from critics. The New Yorker wrote the play "is as awkward as it is sublime", noting its "brazen sweetness" and "openhearted humor". Allen voiced the character Delphine in Bethesda Softworks' 2011 video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. She also voiced Deborah in the Thomas Nelson audio Bible production known as The Word of Promise. The project also featured a large ensemble of well known Hollywood actors including Jim Caviezel, Lou Gossett Jr., John Rhys-Davies, Jon Voight, Gary Sinise, Christopher McDonald, Marisa Tomei and John Schneider.[16][17] 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.[18]

After a nine-year absence from Broadway, Allen played Ellen Fine in the critically acclaimed Broadway premiere production of the Kenneth Lonergan play The Waverly Gallery in 2018, alongside Elaine May, Lucas Hedges, and Michael Cera at the John Golden Theatre.[6] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter praised Allen's performance writing, "Allen in a standout performance of tremendous raw feeling and sorrow".[19] After a five-year break from acting in movies and television, she co-starred with Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Lisey's Story, the 2021 Apple TV miniseries adapted by Stephen King from his own novel.[20] It was Allen's second King adaptation after playing the lead role in the 2014 movie, A Good Marriage.[21] She will next appear alongside Robert De Niro and Lizzy Caplan in Netflix's conspiracy thriller limited series Zero Day.[22]

Personal life


In 1990, Allen married actor Peter Friedman. They divorced in 2002 and have one daughter, Sadie, born in February 1994.[23]




Year Title Role Notes
1985 Compromising Positions Mary Alice Mahoney
1986 Manhunter Reba McClane
1986 Zeisters Lala
1986 Peggy Sue Got Married Maddy Nagle
1988 Tucker: The Man and His Dream Vera Tucker
1989 In Country Irene
1993 Ethan Frome Zeena Frome
1993 Searching for Bobby Fischer Bonnie Waitzkin
1993 Josh and S.A.M. Caroline Whitney
1995 Mad Love Margaret Roberts
1995 Nixon Pat Nixon
1996 The Crucible Elizabeth Proctor
1997 The Ice Storm Elena Hood
1997 Face/Off Dr. Eve Archer
1998 Pleasantville Betty Parker
1999 All The Rage Helen
2000 When the Sky Falls Sinead Hamilton
2000 The Contender Senator Laine Billings Hanson
2003 Off the Map Arlene Groden
2004 The Notebook Ann Hamilton
2004 The Bourne Supremacy CIA Dep. Dir. Pamela Landy
2004 Yes She
2005 The Upside of Anger Terry Ann Wolfmeyer
2006 Bonneville Carol
2007 The Bourne Ultimatum CIA Dep. Dir. Pamela Landy
2008 Death Race Prison Warden Claire Hennessey
2009 Hachi: A Dog's Tale Kate Wilson
2012 The Bourne Legacy CIA Dep. Dir. Pamela Landy Cameo
2014 A Good Marriage Darcy Anderson
2015 Room Nancy Newsome


Year Title Role Notes
1983 Say Goodnight, Gracie Ginny Television movie
1985 Evergreen Iris Friedman Miniseries; 2 episodes
1987 All My Sons Ann Deever Television movie
1987 The Room Upstairs Ellie Television movie
1987 The Twilight Zone Sally Dobbs Episode: "Joy Ride/Shelter Skelter/Private Channel"
1991 Without Warning: The James Brady Story Sarah Brady Television movie
1996 Frasier Lydia (voice) Episode: "High Crane Drifter"
1998 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) Episode: "Joan Allen/Jewel"
2001 The Mists of Avalon Morgause Miniseries; 2 episodes
2009 Georgia O'Keeffe Georgia O'Keeffe Television movie
2012 Luck Claire Lachay 6 episodes
2014 The Killing Colonel Margaret Rayne 6 episodes; credited as special guest star
2016 The Family Claire Warren 12 episodes
2021 Lisey's Story Amanda Debusher Miniseries; 8 episodes
2024 Zero Day Sheila Mullen Miniseries; 6 episodes


Year Title Role Playwright Venue
1987 Burn This Anna Mann Lanford Wilson Plymouth Theatre, Broadway
1989 The Heidi Chronicles Heidi Holland Wendy Wasserstein
2009 Impressionism Katharine Keenan Michael Jacobs Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, Broadway
2018 The Waverly Gallery Ellen Fine Kenneth Lonergan John Golden Theatre, Broadway


Year Title Role Notes
2008 The Almost Moon Audio book; By Alice Sebold
2009 The Word of Promise Audio Bible Deborah (voice) Audio play

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2011 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim[24] Delphine (voice)




  1. ^ Kolson, Ann (19 March 1989). "Two Bright Lights On Broadway Pauline Collins And Joan Allen Took Roundabout Routes To The N.Y. Stage. Their Reviews Have Made The Journeys Worthwhile". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  2. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (27 December 1995). "Finding Warmth In a Shy First Lady". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  3. ^ "Joan Allen". Yahoo! Movies. 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2007.
  4. ^ "In Step With: Joan Allen". Parade Magazine. June 19, 2005.
  5. ^ "Member Profiles: Joan Allen". Steppenwolf Ensemble. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
  6. ^ a b c d "Joan Allen Theatre Credits, News, Bio and Photos". Broadway World.
  7. ^ "1989 Tony Awards". Broadway World. Archived from the original on 2017-07-02. Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  8. ^ "Nixon". Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  9. ^ "Movie Review: 'The Crucible'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  10. ^ "Critic's Picks: 'The Family' Star Joan Allen's Top 5 Performances". September 18, 2023. 3 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Pleasantville review". Variety. 17 September 1998. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  12. ^ Joan Allen Emmy Nominated
  13. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk. "The Upside of Anger". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2005-04-08. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  14. ^ Rickey, Joe (10 August 2007). "Joan Allen in 'Death Race'". World of KJ. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2007.
  15. ^ Sontag, Deborah (4 March 2009). "Enter the Anti-Diva, Stage Right". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
  16. ^ "The Word of Promise: Cast". Archived from the original on October 29, 2014.
  17. ^ Groves, Martha (November 16, 2009). "BELIEFS : Stars lined up for elaborate audio Bible : Michael York, Jason Alexander and many others gave voice to a 79-CD reading of Old and New Testaments". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ Lesley Goldberg (26 February 2015). "Oscar Nominee Joan Allen to Star in ABC's Jenna Bans Drama – The Hollywood Reporter". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  19. ^ "'The Waverly Gallery': Theater Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 25 October 2018. Retrieved September 19, 2023.
  20. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2019-11-20). "Joan Allen Joins Julianne Moore & Clive Owen In Apple Limited Series 'Lisey's Story'". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  21. ^ "'Stephen King's A Good Marriage': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 2014-10-02. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  22. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2023-04-24). "Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Plemons, Joan Allen & Connie Britton Join Robert De Niro In 'Zero Day' Netflix Series". Deadline. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  23. ^ Hegberg, Carol (11 April 2005). "With three new movies Rochelle native Joan Allen is making her mark". The Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 10 August 2007.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^[failed verification]