Catherine O'Hara

Active - 1980 - Present  |   Born - Mar 4, 1954 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada  |   Genres - Comedy, Family & Personal Relationships, Drama

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Biography by AllMovie

Catherine O'Hara was born on March 4, 1954, in Toronto, Ontario, though her heritage may or may not be a contributing factor to the strange quality she brings to her dry comedic style on the Hollywood screen. While the inspiration for O'Hara's forthright straight-faced demeanor is unknown, she is arguably a one-of-a-kind presence in many American films.

O'Hara began acting in her hometown in 1974, when she first appeared on Second City Television, where she distinguished herself through impersonations. She performed on the program regularly during the mid-'70s, and also wrote for it beginning in 1976. Later that decade, she continued her television experience with voice-overs for cartoons, an endeavor she would revisit throughout her career in some notable roles.

In 1980, she played Audrey in Nothing Personal, and in the mid-'80s played several small roles in feature films, including Martin Scorsese's After Hours (1985). In 1988, she made a parental splash as Delia Deetz in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, with Winona Ryder playing her morose young goth daughter. Mainstream Hollywood featured O'Hara again two years later in Dick Tracy with Warren Beatty and Madonna. Also in 1990, she returned to big-screen motherhood, this time as mother to Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone (and she would also later appear in the sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York in 1992).

By this point, O'Hara was well established in American popular culture, and she continued to take on creative roles. Revisiting the bizarre darkness of Tim Burton's imaginative projects, she performed the character voices of both Sally and Shock in his animated feature The Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993. Two years later, her voice-over credentials increased when she played Calamity Jane in Walt Disney's Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill. Her voice work continued throughout the 1990s, and in 1996, O'Hara expanded her appeal to include the indie-film world when she starred in what became a revered independent feature, Christopher Guest's satirical mockumentary Waiting for Guffman. In Home Fries (1998) with Drew Barrymore, she played the role of Mrs. Lever.

Satiric and campy, 2000's Best in Show showcased numerous strong performances, allowing for flamboyant and unique characterizations from all cast members, including O'Hara, whose pursed-lipped matter-of-factness instilled personality into Southern dog-owner Cookie Guggelman Fleck. In 2001, O'Hara appeared on the television shows Committed and Speaking of Sex, and she returned to the big screen in 2002 with a role in Orange County. Strong as ever in Guest's subsequent mock-docs A Mighty Wind (2003) and For Your Consideration (2006), she continued to impress with bit parts such features as Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Penelope, and Away We Go while continuing to do impressive voice work in films like Monster House and Spike Jonze's Where the WIld Things Are. 2010 proved to be a good year thanks to an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Mick Jackson's made-for-HBO biopic Temple Grandin. While the award eluded her, O'Hara remained busy as ever thanks to her role in the cult Nickeledeon hit Glenn Martin DDS. Meanwhile, multiple voice roles in Burton's 2012 feature Frankenweenie offered her the opportunity to once again work with the quirky director who previously used her to striking effect in some of his most popular films.

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  • Began acting at age 7 when she played Mary in a nativity play.
  • Waited tables at the Toronto Second City Theatre Company in 1973; joined the troupe in 1974 and quickly replaced Gilda Radner as a regular when Radner left for SNL.
  • Became one of the founding members of the sketch-comedy series SCTV in 1976
  • Won a Genie Award for her work in the film The Life Before This (1999).
  • Earned an American Comedy Award in 2001 for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her role in the 2000 mockumentary Best in Show; has appeared in three other Christopher Guest films (Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration).
  • Was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto in 2007.
  • Spoke at the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
  • Is a singer-songwriter and performed with the group Northern Lights on the song "Tears Are Not Enough" from the 1985 album We Are the World.