Jessica Phyllis Lange is an American actress who has received worldwide acclaim for her work in film, theater, and television. She has been the recipient of several awards, including one Tony Award, two Academy Awards, three Emmys, five Golden Globes, and one Screen Actors Guild Award.
Lange was born in Cloquet, Minnesota, on April 20, 1949. Her father, Albert John Lange (1913–1989), was a teacher and traveling salesman, and her mother, Dorothy Florence (née Sahlman; 1913–1998), was a housewife. She has two older sisters, Ann and Jane, and a younger brother, George. Due to the nature of her father's professions, her early home life was chaotic. Her family moved over a dozen times to various towns and cities in Minnesota before settling back down in her hometown, where she graduated from Cloquet High School.
In 1967, she received an art scholarship to study art and photography at the University of Minnesota, where she met and began dating Spanish photographer Paco Grande. After the two married in 1971, Lange left college to pursue a more bohemian lifestyle, opting to travel throughout the United States and Mexico in a minivan with Grande. The couple then moved to Paris, where they drifted apart. While in Paris, Lange studied mime theatre under the supervision of Étienne Decroux, and joined the Opéra-Comique as a dancer.
While sharing an apartment with Jerry Hall and Grace Jones, she was discovered by fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez and subsequently became a model for the Wilhelmina modelling agency. In 1973, she returned to the States and began work in New York City as a waitress at the Lion's Head Tavern in Greenwich Village. While modelling, Lange was discovered by Hollywood producer Dino De Laurentiis, who was looking to cast his next leading lady, an ingenue for his remake of King Kong (1976).
Acclaimed as one of the greatest actresses of her generation, Jessica Lange has dazzled the screen with over 30 credits to her name. Making her Hollywood debut in John Guillermin’s King Kong opposite Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin, Lange won a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture.
Throughout her longstanding career, Lange has continued to take on diverse roles in many acclaimed film and television projects. She received dual Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her challenging performances in Frances and in Sydney Pollack’s memorable comedy Tootsie starring opposite Dustin Hoffman, for which she took home the Oscar for Supporting Actress. She won her second Oscar in 1994 for Best Actress in Blue Sky, which she starred opposite Tommy Lee Jones. Lange has also starred in legendary films such as Sweet Dreams, Music Box, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Country, Rob Roy, and Cape Fear.
Lange’s presence on the television screen has been just as prominent. In 1996, she picked up her first Emmy nomination for the made for TV adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire in which Lange played "Blanche DuBois." Since then, she also starred in Normal, Sybil, Grey Gardens, and the critically-acclaimed American Horror Story.
Lead by co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, Lange starred in four seasons of FX's horror anthology series American Horror Story. In 2012, she won a Golden Globe, SAG Award, and Emmy Award for her portrayal as character "Constance Langdon" in the show’s 1st installment, American Horror Story: Murder House.
For the second installment, American Horror Story: Asylum, Lange played "Sister Jude," a no-nonsense nun who runs a mental institution. Yet again, she garnered rave reviews for her character portrayal, earning her 2013 Golden Globe and SAG Awards nominations.
In American Horror Story: Coven, the show’s third installment, Lange starred as "Fiona Goode," Supreme witch of the Salem descendants. Her mesmerizing performance earned her the 2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, as well as 2014 Golden Globe and SAG Awards nominations.
Lange completed her run on the American Horror Story franchise in 2015. She starred as "Elsa Mars," a German expatriate who owned one of the last remaining freak shows in American Horror Story: Freak Show.
Most recently, Lange reprised her role as "Mary Tyrone" in Eugene O'Neil's Long Day's Journey Into Night on Broadway. The performance earned her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play, an Outer Critics Circle Award in the category of Outstanding Actress in a Play, and a Drama League Award nomination for The Distinguished Performance Award.
Lange was married to photographer Francisco "Paco" Grande from 1970 to 1981. Though they separated not long after moving to Europe during the mid-1970s, they did not divorce until the early 1980s, after which Lange paid him an undisclosed sum in alimony. From 1976 to 1982, she was partnered with renowned Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, with whom she had her first child, Aleksandra "Shura" Baryshnikov (born 1981). During that time, she was also sporadically linked with Bob Fosse. The two remained friends until his death. In 1982, she met and entered into a relationship with playwright Sam Shepard. They had two children, Hannah Jane (born 1985) and Samuel Walker (born 1987), and lived together in Virginia, New Mexico, Minnesota, and eventually New York City, before separating in 2009.
Though she does not follow any set religion, she periodically practices Buddhism. She once admitted, "It's been a discipline that makes sense more than anything because it's like a science. I've never been a religious person. I've always looked for some kind of spiritual meaning. I didn't grow up going to church. My mother's family were atheists and my father's side was confused."
Lange has also revealed that she suffers from severe bouts of depression, once admitting, "I have never been a believer in psychoanalysis or therapy or anything like that. I've never done that." She confessed, "Though my dark side is dormant right now, it continues to play a big role in whatever capacity I have to be creative. That's the well I'm able to tap into, where all the anguish, rage and sadness are stored."
Besides her career in acting, she is also a professional photographer with two published works, 50 Photographs and In Mexico, and she was also honored with George Eastman House Honors Award in 2009. She also released a children's picture book called It's About a Little Bird in 2013.
Lange is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), specializing in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in spreading awareness of the disease in Russia.
- Jessica has said that she has only ever had two jobs in her life: as a waitress and an actress. If she had to choose another line of work, she'd love to try falconry.
- In the early 1990s, she fostered a Romanian child with disabilities.
- at the
|Bette and Joan|