Though best known for her intense, sensitive dramatic portrayals, Melinda Dillon first attracted attention as an improvisational comedienne. Her Broadway break came about when she played the hypertense Honey in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1962). Making her film debut playing a small role in The April Fools (1969). Since then Dillon has been Oscar-nominated for her portrayal of a mother whose young child is abducted by aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and her performance as a suicidal grade-school teacher in Absence of Malice (1981). After seeing Melinda Dillon so often afflicted with trembling lip and moistened eyes, it was somewhat a relief to watch her return to comedy full-force on the 1971 TV revue series Story Theatre and as Peter Billingsley's overbearing mother ("You'll put your eye out!") in A Christmas Story (1983). Dillon continues working in a wide variety of feature films like How to Make an American Quilt (1995); she also occasionally appears in television movies such as Shattered Innocence (1984).
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Stepfather was a U.S. Army colonel; spent her childhood traveling around to Army bases with her family.
- Studied with famed acting coach Lee Strasberg and at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago.
- Got her start in acting as an improvisational comedian and stage actor.
- Nominated for a Tony Award for her stage debut as Honey in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway in 1962.
- After shooting to stardom in Woolf and having problems handling the pressure, quit the show and took a month off to recuperate in a mental institution.