Calista Flockhart

Active - 1991 - 2005  |   Born - Nov 1, 1964 in Freeport, Illinois, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

Stage and screen actress, TV star, and the object of endless eating disorder rumors, Calista Flockhart earned fame, fortune, and post-feminist icon status as the eponymous heroine of David E. Kelley's acclaimed TV series Ally McBeal. Since becoming known for her role as the famously neurotic, mini-skirt-clad lawyer, Flockhart has been appearing in an increasing number of films, including Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her.

Born on November 11, 1964, in Freeport, Illinois, Flockhart -- whose first name means "most beautiful" in Greek -- was raised as the daughter of a schoolteacher mother and a Krafts Food executive father. Because of her father's job, the family moved frequently, spending time in Iowa, Minnesota, and New York before settling in New Jersey. Flockhart, whose mother sparked her interest in theatre by taking her to theatre productions during high school, studied drama as a student at Rutgers University. After graduating, she headed to Manhattan to begin her professional stage career.

After enduring years of relative poverty and sustained obscurity, the actress got her big break when she was chosen to play Laura in the 1994 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. Her portrayal won her both a Theatre World Award and the attention of Hollywood casting agents, and that same year she made her film debut with a bit part in Quiz Show -- and had a more substantial role in Getting In, a black comedy directed by a then-unknown Doug Liman. In 1996, Flockhart moved into slightly more mainstream territory when she appeared as the fiancée of Robin Williams' son in The Birdcage; more recognition came her way the following year when she earned strong reviews for her performance as Natasha in a production of Chekov's The Three Sisters.

1997 proved to be a watershed year for Flockhart; in addition to rave stage reviews and a substantial role in the Kevin Bacon vehicle Telling Lies in America, she was cast as the star of Ally McBeal. The show turned out to be a sleeper hit, and Flockhart's titular Boston lawyer became an instantly recognizable name in the pop cultural lexicon. The actress' heightened exposure was reflected both in numerous magazine articles about her and in her star billing in Michael Hoffman's 1998 adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which included Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, and Christian Bale amongst its other illustrious cast members.

Two years later, still immersed in Ally McBeal popularity and endless media scrutiny about her weight (Flockhart's thinness has stirred rumors in an industry infamous for its emphasis on being thin), the actress headlined the ensemble cast of Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her. A film composed of four vignettes, it featured Flockhart as the lover of a terminally ill woman (Valeria Golino), and included Holly Hunter, Amy Brenneman, Cameron Diaz, Glenn Close, and Gregory Hines amongst its accomplished players.

Flockhart worked alongside Matthew Broderick in the role of a psychotic girlfriend in The Last Shot (2004), and played a nurse in the psychological thriller Fragile (2005). While the actress declined a role in Desperate Housewives (the part went to Teri Hatcher), she co-starred with Sally Field, Rachel Griffiths, and Matthew Rhys in ABC's primetime series Brothers & Sisters (2006-2011).

Flockhart married actor Harrison Ford in 2010, and continues to participate in a variety of political and social causes.

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  • First name means "most beautiful" in Greek.
  • Played the flute in her high school band; was also a cheerleader and a member of the student council.
  • Was part of the Manhattan-based theater company Malaparte, whose members included actors Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Frank Whaley and Josh Hamilton.
  • First on-screen appearance was in a 1989 episode of the soap Guiding Light.
  • While working on Broadway, helped support herself by teaching aerobics part-time.
  • In 2003, became the national spokesperson for the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (later renamed Peace Over Violence); was honored with the organization's Humanitarian Award in 2005.
  • Series-regular roles have included the title character on Ally McBeal and Kitty Walker on Brothers & Sisters.