Mary Steenburgen is an American actress, singer and songwriter. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for playing the role of Lynda Dummar in Jonathan Demme’s 1980 film Melvin and Howard.
Steenburgen, who studied at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse in the 1970s, also received a Golden Globe nomination for the 1981 film Ragtime, a BAFTA TV Award nomination for the 1985 miniseries Tender Is the Night and an Emmy Award nomination for the 1988 TV film The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank. Her other film appearances include Cross Creek (1983), Parenthood (1989), Back to the Future Part III (1990), Philadelphia (1993), What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), Elf (2003), The Brave One (2007), Step Brothers (2008), The Proposal (2009), The Help (2011) and Book Club (2018).
Steenburgen was born in Newport, Arkansas, to Nellie Mae (née Wall; 1923–2010), a school-board secretary, and Maurice Hoffman Steenburgen (since 1914–1989), a freight-train conductor who worked at the Missouri Pacific Railroad. She has a sister, Nancy (Steenburgen) Kelly, a teacher. Her ancestry includes Dutch, English, Scottish, and Welsh.
In 1971, she enrolled at Hendrix College to study drama. She subsequently traveled to Dallas at the suggestion of her drama teacher where she successfully auditioned for New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse.
Steenburgen moved to Manhattan in 1972 after being selected by the Neighborhood Playhouse to study acting. She worked as a server at The Magic Pan and for Doubleday while studying under William Esper.
Steenburgen’s break came when she was discovered by Jack Nicholson in the reception room of Paramount’s New York office, and was cast as the female lead in his second directorial work, the 1978 Western Goin’ South. Moreover, Steenburgen had a leading role in the 1979 film Time After Time as a modern woman who falls in love with author H. G. Wells, played by her future first husband, Malcolm McDowell.
In her third film, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the 1980 film Melvin and Howard, playing Lynda Dummar, the wife of Melvin Dummar, then a trucker and aspiring singer, who claimed to have befriended reclusive eccentric Howard Hughes. Another notable film appearance came in the well-received 1983 film Cross Creek, in which she played Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling. Since 1985, she also starred in the movie One Magic Christmas as a mother and wife who falls on devastating times at Christmas only to rely on a Christmas miracle to save her family.
In television, Steenburgen appeared as Kate Montgomery in Ink (1996) and co-starred as Mary Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels (since 1996). She has a recurring role as herself in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Steenburgen co-starred as Helen Girardi, the mother of Amber Tamblyn’s title character in Joan of Arcadia. In 2011, she had a recurring role as Josephine in the HBO sitcom Bored to Death. Steenburgen starred as Anastasia Lee in the 2011 FX pilot, Outlaw Country. But it was passed by the network. Moreover, she appeared in the dark sitcom Wilfred since 2011 to 2013 as Catherine Newman. The title character’s eccentric and mentally ill mother. Steenburgen had a recurring role on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock from 2012 to 2013 where she played Diana Jessup.
Further, in 2014, she began a recurring role as former Dixie Mafia boss Katherine Hale in the fifth and sixth seasons of Justified. Since 2015 to 2018, she starred as Gail Klosterman on the comedy series The Last Man on Earth.
In 2007, Steenburgen underwent minor surgery on her arm, which required a general anesthetic; shortly thereafter, she began experiencing “music (…) playing in her head day and night”. She subsequently took music lessons so that she could write down what she was hearing, and by 2013 had almost 50 songwriting credits. She has collaborated with musicians from Nashville and was also signed to Universal Music as a songwriter. In Last Vegas, Steenburgen plays a lounge singer and even performs one of her original compositions on screen. Since 2018, her composition “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)” as performed by Jessie Buckley featured as the climactic musical moment in the film Wild Rose.
In 1978, Steenburgen met and began dating actor Malcolm McDowell while both were co-starring in Time After Time. They married and had two children together, including son Charlie McDowell, but the marriage ended in divorce. Likewise, in 1995, Steenburgen married actor Ted Danson, whom she had met on the set of the film Pontiac Moon, and became the stepmother to Danson’s two daughters from his previous marriage to producer Cassandra Coates.
- Full Name: Mary Nell Steenburgen
- Date of Birth: February 8, 1953
- Age: 67 years
- Birth Place: Newport, Arkansas, United States
- Height: 1.73 m
- TV shows: The Last Man on Earth, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc.
- Spouse: Ted Danson (m 1995), Malcolm McDowell (m since 1980–1990)
- Children: Charlie McDowell, Lilly McDowell
- Alma mater: Hendrix College
- Occupation: actress, singer
- Years active: since 1978–present
- Net Worth: $12 million
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Reference Net Worth of Mary Steenburgen