Ellen Barkin is one of the most respected, versatile actresses on the screen; she is equally at home playing supporting roles, character roles, and leads -- even as true stardom eluded her. Prior to becoming an actress, Barkin attended the renowned High School for the Performing Arts in New York, studied history and Drama at Hunter College, and attended workshops at The Actors Studio. Barkin debuted on-stage in 1980's Irish Coffee and continued her theater work while appearing the following year in the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. She had roles in various TV movies before making her critically acclaimed film debut as the neglected wife of an obsessive record collector in Barry Levinson's Diner (1982), and subsequently went on to play supporting roles ranging from unhappy wives to white-hot sexpots to a small but vital part as Robert Duvall's troubled daughter in Tender Mercies (1983). Following her appearance in the romantic thriller The Big Easy in 1987, Barkin gained a small but devoted following. While filming the experimental supernatural thriller Siesta (1987), she met her husband, Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, with whom she had two children. (The couple divorced in 1993.) Remaining involved with The Actors Studio when not working, Barkin worked steadily during the late '80s and throughout the '90s -- most notably in Sea of Love (1989) -- and appeared (with Oprah Winfrey) in 1997's Before Women Had Wings, her first TV movie in 13 years. She appeared in Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as well as the 1999 black comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous. She made a move into indie fare at the beginning of the next decade with parts in Todd Solondz's Palindromes, and Spike Lee's micro-budget drama She Hate Me. She had her most high-profile role in quite some time in 2007 when she was cast in Ocean's Thirteen. Two years later she was in the cop drama Brooklyn's Finest, and two years after that she was the lead in the ensemble dysfunctional family drama Another Happy Day.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Worked as a waitress to pay for her education at Hunter College.
- Studied acting for seven years before she had the courage to audition for a role.
- Brother George Barkin is the former editor-in-chief of National Lampoon and High Times.
- Met her second husband, Revlon mogul Ronald Perelman, at Vanity Fair's 1999 Oscar after party.
- Made her Broadway debut in The Normal Heart in April 2011.