Catherine Keener is an American actress who, after a decade of small roles on the big and small screen, earned rave reviews and an Academy Award nomination, for her star-making performance in the breakout independent hit, Being John Malkovich (1999). The film's success brought her more and better opportunities. In 2005, she starred in The 40-Year Old Virgin and Capote.
Actress Catherine Keener was born on March 23, 1959, in Miami, Florida. One of five children, Keener grew up in the Little Havana section of Miami; she attended Wheaton College, an all-women's school in Norton, Massachusetts, where she majored in English and history.
After graduation, Keener moved first to New York City and then to Los Angeles to accommodate her work as an assistant to Gail Eisenstadt, a casting agent. It was Eisenstadt who encouraged Keener to pursue acting, arranging for her to be cast in the 1986 film About Last Night in a bit role as a cocktail waitress. Her one line - "Go! Go! Go! Chug it! Chug it!" - uttered during a drinking contest between Rob Lowe and Jim Belushi, was enough to get her a Screen Actor's Guild card.
Keener made her network television debut in a failed sitcom pilot, The Alan King Show (CBS), in 1986. She also had a regular role as a policewoman on a short-lived ABC series, O'Hara (1987-'88), appeared in a TV movie, Curse of the Corn People (1989), and played one of Jerry's girlfriends on a 1992 episode of the hit NBC sitcom Seinfeld.
On the big screen, Keener had bit parts in major studio releases like Backtrack (1989), starring Dennis Hopper and Jodie Foster, and Switch (1991), directed by Blake Edwards, before landing her first starring role, in the little-seen independent feature Johnny Suede (1991), written and directed by Tom DiCillo. Her co-star in the film was a pre-superstardom Brad Pitt, who played a struggling pop star, while Keener played his long-suffering girlfriend. DiCillo went on to cast Keener in starring roles in his next three movies, including the well-reviewed Living in Oblivion (1995), Box of Moonlight (1996) and The Real Blonde (1997).
Keener rose in the ranks of the independent film world with acclaimed turns in the understated romantic comedy Walking and Talking (1996), co-starring Anne Heche and Liev Schrieber, and the dark ensemble comedy Your Friends and Neighbors (1998), co-starring Ben Stiller and Jason Patric and written and directed by Neil LaBute.
She had relatively small roles in the well-reviewed Out of Sight (1998), starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, and the poorly received action film 8MM (1999), starring Nicolas Cage; also in 1999, she appeared alongside Sharon Stone, Nick Nolte, and Jeff Bridges in Simpatico, an uneven film version of the Sam Shepard play.
Academy Award Nomination
Keener earned rave reviews, along with an Academy Award nomination for Best Suppporting Actress, for her star-making performance in the breakout independent hit, Being John Malkovich (1999)—a bizarre existential romp directed by Spike Jonze and co-starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and the titular actor.
In 2005, she starred in another indie flick, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, as the new girlfriend of a widowed father played by Daniel Day-Lewis. This was also the year that she starred in the hit comedy The 40-Year Old Virgin opposite Steve Carell, and in Capote with Philip Seymour Hoffman.
In 1991, Keener married fellow actor Dermot Mulroney. The couple divorced in 2007. They have a son named Clyde.
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