Illeana Douglas

Active - 1987 - 2020  |   Born - Jul 25, 1965 in Quincy, Massachusetts, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

Saucer-eyed actress Illeana Douglas has been regularly appearing in major films since 1987, when she debuted in the Shelley Long comedy Hello Again. The granddaughter of actor Melvyn Douglas and actress-turned-Congresswoman Helen Gahagan, Douglas was born July 25, 1965, in Massachusetts.

After her film debut, the actress worked for years in relative obscurity, at one point dubbing a chilling scream for The Last Temptation of Christ. She frequently appeared in other Martin Scorsese films, most notably Goodfellas (1990) and 1991's Cape Fear. Her collaboration with the director also took place offscreen, as the two dated for years.

Following roles in a number of films, including Household Saints (1993) and Quiz Show (1994), Douglas was cast in Gus Van Sant's 1995 To Die For. She won some measure of recognition and critical praise for her role as Nicole Kidman's sarcastic sister-in-law, and the following year landed the lead in Allison Anders' Grace of My Heart. Although Douglas was again praised for her work -- here portraying a Carole King-like singer/songwriter -- the film did poorly among critics and at the box office.

The actress went on to do a number of made-for-TV films, including the satirical Weapons of Mass Distraction in 1997. In 1999 she had a full plate, doing both television work (appearing as a prostitute on the Fox series Action) and more film work. She appeared with Kevin Costner in Message in a Bottle before going on to make the independent film Happy, Texas, the supernatural thriller Stir of Echoes with Kevin Bacon, and Can't Stop Dancing, a comedy in which she acted alongside Margaret Cho and Janeane Garofalo.

She had a fine turn in the well-reviewed indie Ghost World, and a small turn in the infamous turkey The Adventures of Pluto Nash. She had major roles in Dummy and Factory Girl, and in 2007 she joined the cast of the hit ABC series Ugly Betty.

In addition to her acting career, she has directed, written, and starred in a number of shorts and web series.

Movie Highlights

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  • Studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the Neighborhood Workshop in New York City.
  • Lives by a quote from her grandfather, actor Melvyn Douglas: "All acting, if it's any good, is character acting."
  • Favorite actor was Peter Sellers.
  • Did stand-up comedy in the 1980s.
  • Produced and starred in her own Web series Illeanarama: Supermarket of the Stars.
  • Dubbed a number of voices for Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ.
  • Shared a dressing room with rock singer Deborah Harry of Blondie on the set of New York Stories.
  • Once dated Martin Scorsese.
  • In his will, her grandfather Melvyn Douglas left her his Best Supporting Oscar for Being There.
  • Plays Aerosmith's manager on the pre-ride video for Walt Disney World's Rock 'n Roller Coaster attraction.