A well-regarded actress of stage, screen, and television, Glenne Headly spent much her film career playing supporting roles, but occasionally got to shine in leading roles such as that of the naive-seeming American "soap" heiress who gets the best of con artists Michael Caine and Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988). With her delicate but dramatic features, she was reminiscent of such actresses as Katherine Hepburn. Headly's training was firmly rooted in theater. She graduated from New York's High School of the Performing Arts and attended the Herman Berghof Studios and the American College of Switzerland before joining the prestigious Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago, where she worked opposite such respected actors as Gary Sinise, Laurie Metcalf, and John Malkovich (whom she married and later divorced). While with the troupe, Headly received four Jefferson Awards. Headly has directed two plays, one off-Broadway (Arms and the Man) and the other on Broadway (Extremities). Headly made her film debut in Four Friends (1981). Notable '80s films in which she played supporting roles include Eleni, which starred her then-husband Malkovich, and Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo (both 1985). Following her performance in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Headly landed more leading roles such as that of Tess Trueheart in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy (1990) and Mortal Thoughts (1991) in which she gave one of her best performances as an abused wife whose hard-drinking husband is murdered by her best friend. Headly also did well as Richard Dreyfuss' long-suffering wife in Mr. Holland's Opus (1995). Over the coming decades, Headly would enjoy a vibrant, ongoing presence on screen, appearing on shows like ER, Monk, Grey's Anatomy and Parks and Recreation, as well as in several films like 2 Days in the Valley, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and The Joneses. Headly died in 2017, at age 63.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Attended the American College of Switzerland on a scholarship and then returned to the U.S., where she joined Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company.
- At Steppenwolf, she worked alongside a number of soon-to-be stars including Gary Sinise, Laurie Metcalf and John Malkovich, whom she would later marry and divorce.
- Breakout film role was in Arthur Penn's Four Friends (1981), a drama about a young immigrant growing up in the '60s.
- Mastered American Sign Language for her role in the 1995 film Mr. Holland's Opus.
- Debuted on the London stage opposite Miranda Richardson in 1999's Aunt Dan and Lemon.