The daughter of respected off-Broadway playwright Romulus Linney, Laura Linney was born in New York City on February 5, 1964. Her parents divorced when she was six months old. Thanks to her father's job, Linney grew up working in the theater, both behind the scenes and, in her late teens, on the stage. Following prep school in Massachusetts, she attended both Brown University and Juilliard, and she was soon appearing in a number of Broadway productions. She garnered notice for her roles in plays like The Seagull and Six Degrees of Separation, and won particular acclaim for her performance in Hedda Gabler.
Linney made her onscreen debut in 1992 with a small role as a teacher in Lorenzo's Oil. The following year, she had a brief but pivotal role as Kevin Kline's presidential mistress in Dave, appeared in Searching for Bobby Fischer, and landed a lead as one of the protagonists of Armistead Maupin's acclaimed Tales of the City, which aired on PBS. Linney later reprised her role as Mary Ann Singleton for More Tales of the City in 1998. Following leads in two box-office failures, A Simple Twist of Fate (1994) and Congo (1995), Linney had a supporting role as Richard Gere's lawyer/ex in Primal Fear (1996). Based on the strength of her performance, Clint Eastwood chose her to play his daughter -- another lawyer -- in Absolute Power the following year. In 1998, Linney sent up her wholesome, fresh-scrubbed appearance to great effect as Truman Burbank's wife in Peter Weir's highly acclaimed The Truman Show.
The actress finally came into her own in 2000, thanks to two very different parts in two highly acclaimed independent features. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count on Me featured Linney as Sammy, a small-town single mother whose placid life takes some interesting turns when she's visited by her errant brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo). Aided by Lonergan's precise script and her own copious note-taking, Linney turned in her most nuanced, accomplished performance to date. Critics paid attention: after its much-heralded debut at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, the film went on to garner a slew of recognition for its lead actress, including Best Actress of the Year awards from the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle, and an eventual Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Linney further polished her reputation with a supporting turn as the icy Bertha Dorset in director Terence Davies' adaptation of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, released in late 2000.
She continued working steadily and garnered great critical respect throughout the next decade. In addition to returning for Further Tales of the City, she was one of the many talented actors who appeared in the controversial The Laramie Project. She had a few big-budget films that missed their mark in The Mothman Prophecies and The Life of David Gale, but those came around the same time as her superb turn as Sean Penn's wife in Mystic River, and as one of the few Americans in the very British romantic comedy Love Actually. She continued to earn strong reviews as the headstrong wife to Liam Neeson's Kinsey, and in 2005 offered a subtle but penetrating portrayal of a selfish mother and divorcee opposite Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale. The next year she acted opposite Robin Williams in Barry Levinson's political and social satire Man of the Year.
In 2007 Linney offered a spot-on portrayal of a dissatisfied Manhattan wife and mother in The Nanny Diaries, and earned a wealth of strong reviews for her work in Tamara Jenkins' The Savages. Playing a neurotic woman opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman as her brother, Linney scored her third Academy Award nomination.
2008 brought Linney her fourth Golden Globe nomination, and first win, for the portrayl of first lady Abigail Adams in the acclaimed HBO miniseries John Adams. In the following years, Linney would continue to appear in several projects, including movies like Morning and The Details, and the acclaimed Showtime series The C Word.