American actress Mercedes Ruehl was the daughter of a much-travelled FBI agent, who finally settled in Silver Spring, Maryland. After attending Catholic College in New Rochelle, Ruehl began her career in regional theatre, taking odd jobs during the many dry spells between engagements. For several years, it looked as though she'd be a permanent employee of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company. In the late 1970s, Ruehl began chalking up New York stage successes, notably I'm Not Rappaport. She won an Obie for the off-Broadway The Wedding of Betty and Boo and a Tony for Lost in Yonkers. In films since 1979's The Warriors, Ruehl worked steadily but in relative anonymity until winning the Best Supporting Actress award for The Fisher King (1992). Ruehl wasn't able to fill houses as star of the lukewarm film version of Lost in Yonkers (1993), though she still is a most welcome supporting presence in such films as The Last Action Hero (1993).
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Is of Irish, German and Cuban ancestry.
- Put on operas in her backyard when she was a little girl.
- Once worked as the Sauza Tequila rooster for an event, which required her to wear a rooster costume. Other pre-success jobs included waitress, department-store clerk and milkmaid at an ice-cream shop.
- Studied acting with the legendary Uta Hagen.
- Gave up a baby for adoption during her 20s. Years later she hired a private investigator to locate him; they reconnected and have since formed a good relationship.
- Her 1985 Broadway debut in I'm Not Rappaport came about by chance: the actress originally chosen to play Clara broke her leg, necessitating a last-minute cast substitution.
- Reported to the Married to the Mob set on its first day with a bad case of poison ivy.