Wendie Jo Sperber

Active - 1978 - 2003  |   Born - Sep 15, 1958 in Hollywood, California  |   Died - Nov 29, 2005   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Wendie Jo Sperber was born in Hollywood in 1962 and aimed for a performing-arts career from high school onward. She attended the Summer Drama Workshop at California State University, Northridge, during the '70s, and began her screen career at age 15 when she was cast in the small role of Kuchinsky in Matthew Robbins' teen comedy Corvette Summer (1978), starring Mark Hamill. Her talent for comedy was showcased far better in Robert Zemeckis' period comedy I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), as the irrepressible Beatles fan Rosie Petrofsky, stealing a big chunk of the movie with her performance. Sperber was a large woman (over 200 pounds), yet she was also very pretty and as physically dexterous as any gymnast -- and as funny as any comic actress this side of Lucille Ball.

She played the title role in the made-for-television feature Dinky Hocker (1979) and got to show off her physical comedy in Steven Spielberg's gargantuan 1941 (1979). Zemeckis (who also worked on 1941) brought Sperber back to the big screen in 1980 with a role in his offbeat comedy Used Cars, but it was on television that year when Sperber finally began getting some serious acknowledgement. She was cast in the role of Amy Cassidy -- a character that was funny, romantic, and exuberant -- in the series Bosom Buddies, starring Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari. It was a fair bet that she'd steal almost any scene in which she was featured. Following its cancellation in 1982, Sperber appeared in the offbeat comedy The First Time (1983) and did a year on the series Private Benjamin before resuming her feature work in the Hanks theatrical vehicle Bachelor Party, directed by Neal Israel, who used her again in Moving Violations (1985). That same year, she finally got to appear in a successful movie with her portrayal of Linda McFly in Zemeckis' Back to the Future.

Sperber's roles grew larger in the wake of the goofy sci-fi adventure film, and over the next decade she starred in the series Babes (a comedy about three zoftig women) and had a major supporting part in the series Hearts Afire, as well as numerous big-screen comedies, interspersed with the occasional drama. By her own account, however, she prefers comedy if given the choice. As she told TV Guide in 1990, "I'm an actress who likes to say something funny -- everybody laughs and your job is done." In 1998, Sperber was diagnosed with breast cancer, which seemed to go into remission following treatment. She revealed in April of 2002, though, that the cancer had reappeared and spread throughout her body. She continued to work in television and movies during this period, including episodes of Unhappily Ever After, Home Improvement, Will & Grace, and the movies Desperate but Not Serious (1999) and Sorority Boys (2002).

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