The product of a profoundly unhappy home life, Andie MacDowell was compelled to make her own way from an early age. The Gaffney, SC, native spent her teenage years working a number of minimum-wage jobs before dropping out of Winthrop College when she was a sophomore in order to become an Elite model. Her innocent, well-scrubbed good looks were not only suited to her job as a cosmetics model, but, in 1984, they won her the role of Jane Porter in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. Unable to overcome her natural Carolina cadence, MacDowell's lines were dubbed by Glenn Close in the film -- the first and last time that audiences were denied the actress' warm, relaxing vocal shadings. Joining the Brat Pack brigade with St. Elmo's Fire (1985), MacDowell just as quickly broke away from it with her riveting performance in sex, lies and videotape (1989); her role as a dissatisfied housewife earned her a number of accolades, and helped to establish her as a "serious" actress.
MacDowell's likability enabled her to weather such disasters as Hudson Hawk (1991) and Bad Girls (1994), and allowed her to shine in a number of other films, including Groundhog Day (1993), Short Cuts (1993), and the hit romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). Although she starred in a series of disappointing films during the late '90s, she remained highly visible, popping up in such movies as Unstrung Heroes (1995), The Muse (1999), and Town and Country (2000). She earned good reviews playing a middle-age woman infatuated with a younger man in Crush, but the film was poorly distributed and little seen. She appeared in a string of direct-to-video efforts including the supernatural thriller The Last Sign opposite Tim Roth. She returned to the multiplexes after landing a major part in the Queen Latifah film Beauty Shop in 2005. The next year she lent her distinct vocal qualities to the 2006 animated film Barnyard, twenty years after having her voice dubbed out of her film debut.
In 2010 MacDowell surpised her fans with a villainous turn in the tense low-budget thriller As Good As Dead, which was quickly followed by an appearance as Vi Moore (a role originally played by Diane Wiest) in Craig Brewer's remake of Footloose.