Karen Allen Poster


Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (20) | Personal Quotes (21)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 5 October 1951Carrollton, Illinois, USA
Birth NameKaren Jane Allen
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Karen Jane Allen was born in Carrollton, rural southern Illinois, to Patricia (Howell), a teacher, and Carroll Thompson Allen, an FBI agent. Karen spent her first 10 years traveling around the country with her parents and two sisters. She was always "the new girl in school". Acting did not really cross Karen's mind until her early 20s when she saw a 'Jerry Grotowski' theater production that impressed her so much she instantly decided to give it a shot. She trained as a classical actress and enrolled at the Actors Studio and with Lee Strasberg in New York. During this period she made several student films and directed and acted in several plays. In 1976 she made her first film appearance in the award-winning small film, The Whidjitmaker (1976).

Her first major film role came as "Katy" in 1978's National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) which became one of the biggest hits of the year, obtained "classic" status and launched a whole host of young "hot" stars. However, shortly after Animal House (1978) opened Karen was struck by a rare and dangerous eyesight condition called Kerato Conjunctivitis. Luckily, the condition subsided and Karen could continue her dramatic rise to the top. Lead roles in cult favorites like The Wanderers (1979) and the controversial thriller Cruising (1980) followed, as did smaller parts as in Woody Allen's Manhattan (1979). However, it was her performance in Rob Cohen's A Small Circle of Friends (1980), as well as her previously mentioned turn in Animal House (1978), that caught the eye of a certain Steven Spielberg. He then cast her as the feisty heroine and Harrison Ford's co-star in his big budget blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), which became a huge hit in 1981-82 and is regarded by many as the greatest action adventure film ever made.

Strangely, following the huge success of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Karen chose to spend over two years out of the limelight - concentrating on smaller, more personal projects. She won a major award for her performances on Broadway, won critical acclaim for her creation of "Abra" in the hugely successful ABC production of East of Eden (1981) and had parts in two smaller films: Alan Parker's Shoot the Moon (1982) and Split Image (1982) co-starring James Woods and Peter Fonda. She returned to the mainstream in 1984 with Until September (1984) and the hugely successful Starman (1984) co-starring Jeff Bridges and directed by John Carpenter (of Halloween (1978) fame), but once again decided to leave the limelight for a couple of years doing more stage-work and some troubled 'indie' films. While Karen has worked almost constantly since then giving notable performances in Paul Newman's screen adaptation of The Glass Menagerie (1987), the Christmas hit Scrooged (1988)and Steven Soderbergh's underrated King of the Hill (1993), she has not been able to scale the same dizzy heights as the early 1980's hits. Most of her lead roles in feature films since Starman (1984) have not been that well received (Animal Behavior (1989), Ghost in the Machine (1993) and The Turning (1992) among them). However, she has been seen to good effect on TV in films like Challenger (1990) in which she portrayed tragic schoolteacher "Christa McAuliffe" and All the Winters That Have Been (1997), co-starring Richard Chamberlain.

She has also made 'special guest star appearances' on such shows as Law & Order (1990), Knots Landing (1979), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985), and several TV movies including Hostile Advances: The Kerry Ellison Story (1996) and Secret Weapon (1990). She also played the lead in the CBS series The Road Home (1994). Karen Allen was married to soap star Kale Browne (with whom she co-starred in 'Til There Was You (1997)) in 1988 and they have a son Nicholas. Apart from acting Karen Allen is also an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician (she played in a band with Kathleen Turner, and recorded a duet with Jeff Bridges for the Starman (1984) soundtrack album).

She also writes plays, screenplays and poetry, owns her own Astranga Yoga enterprise and spends time at her Berkshire Mountains farm or Upper Westside Manhattan townhouse. The classically trained actress also has a screenplay called "Second Coming, The", which is about to be made into a movie. Most recently she stars opposite Peter Coyote in The Basket (1999) and the blockbuster The Perfect Storm (2000) in which she co-stars with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Diane Lane. In addition to these, she is working on Shaka Zulu: The Citadel (2001) and recently made an independent film, In the Bedroom (2001). Karen Allen is undoubtedly one of the most talented, ambitious and versatile actresses of the last 20 years. In many ways her own choices to "go back to theater and smaller projects" are the only things that have really stopped her being a major, major star. Karen was voted one of the most beautiful women in the world in 1983, and is a naturally attractive lady - who often plays characters significantly younger than herself. She also often plays unglamorous types - and there is no one better at portraying real, human, and wholly believable people.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com> and Anonymous

Spouse (1)

Kale Browne (1 May 1988 - 1997) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (20)

Graduated from DuVal High School in Glenndale Maryland in 1969.
Son, Nicholas, born on September 14th 1990.
Lived with musician Stephen Bishop.
Overcame temporary blindness caused by Kerato Conjunctivitis in 1978. She later won major theatre awards for playing a blind woman in "Monday Before the Miracle" and "Miracle Worker, The".
Voted one of the most beautiful women in the world by the readers of Harpers Bazaar Magazine in 1983.
Considered for the role of Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), later cast in the George Lucas-produced Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
Parents: Carroll Thompson Allen (F.B.I. Agent) and Patricia A. Howell (school teacher).
Has two sisters.
Graduated in 1969 from the DuVal High School in Glenndale Maryland.
Studied in the Washington Theater Laboratory.
Studied at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute.
Has a major in Design by New York's Fashion Institute of Technology.
In 1995 she founded the Berkshire Mountain Yoga in Massachussets.
She designs clothes for her own clothing label Image.
She inaugurated her own knitwear design studio in 2004 in Massachussets: Karen Allen - Fiber Arts.
An accomplished hand knitting fanatic, Karen runs her own knitwear design studio, "Karen Allen Fibre Arts". [November 2004]
She teaches yoga.
She auditioned for the role of Elvira Hancock in Scarface (1983).
She was considered for the role of Dorothy Valance in Blue Velvet (1986).

Personal Quotes (21)

I don't know if I've ever played a character who's close to me. There have been some elements of myself in different roles. Sometimes, I show one side of myself and then completely conceal the other.
It's a very instinctual relationship, a reaction to something in the script. I read a script and ask myself, "Is this a story I want to tell?" An actor is really a storyteller and sometimes the story being told is as important as the character in the story. Sometimes, I look at a character and say, "I don't know the first thing about this person, who she is and where she's coming from." That fascinates me. I know in order to get there I have to do my work, to think through in psychological terms who this person is and examine her whole thinking process. Sometimes you recognize certain elements of yourself that you didn't know were there. I also write biographies of my characters ever since Animal House (1978). I even do some research into the background if it's important. I create the character's history, who's her family and other things. It really does help.
As far as acting in films, there is not much out there that is very interesting to do. The ones that are interesting to me are independent films and they have trouble raising money. With people putting their money into blockbusters, there is not much left for the independents.
[on the difference between Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)] Crystal Skull was more low tech than you might think, although we did do some green screen on it, but not that much. I guess that is the difference, there wasn't that type of special effects in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). CGI [Computer Generated Imagery] didn't exist.
I've always done things the hard way. I was born like a piece of tangled yarn. The job is trying to untangle it, and I'll probably go on doing it for the rest of my life.
When one film is enormously successful, you get so identified with that film until you're in another film that is equally successful or more successful. Well, it's pretty difficult to make a film that's going to be more successful than Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
(On Donald Sutherland and her nude scene in Animal House (1978)) I thought he was so sweet to do that, so I sort of let go of my objections and said, 'Okay, if Donald Sutherland is going to bare his bottom, by golly, I'll bare mine too!'
(On whether she was considered for Princess Leia in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)) I think that's not true. I don't know where that ever came from. Because when Star Wars was being made I had never done a film in my life. I was either still living in Washington, D.C., working in the theater or had just moved to New York and working in theater there, too. I had heard that rumour but I just can't imagine anybody knew who I was.
(On Animal House (1978)) I think I auditioned five times for that role. And nobody but John Landis and the casting directors wanted me. Well, I think Harold Ramis liked me, too. But nobody at Universal wanted me because they wanted someone with more experience, someone who had more credits. Someone they could point to as more of a star.
(On her diagnosis with EKC) I didn't know whether I was going to get my eyesight back, and I was pretty frightened.
(On The Wanderers (1979)) I love that picture. It's not my book, and I don't care. The spirit is right, and the way Phil Kaufman directed it showed me another way of looking at my own book.
(On Steven Spielberg') I didn't quite get all the time what he was going for in certain ways, and he didn't quite get me, how I worked. I was kind of a much more internally oriented actor, and at times he wanted me to be much more external than I was being.
(On Steven Spielberg) He thought, 'She's such a nice person, I have to toughen her up." And I think he often, from my perspective, was not very nice to me, and I think there was a method in his madness.
I get recognized for Animal House (1978) a lot. That film is huge, too. That film has aged very well. People are still watching that film. I saw it not that long ago. It's just one of those films that seems as much fun now as when we made it. There's a whole huge Starman (1984) contingent as well. Believe it or not, there are people who have a little obsession with Starman (1984).
(How she got Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)) I was working on a television miniseries of East of Eden, and we were up somewhere in Napa. And he sent a courier to my hotel room, who had to sit in my room the whole time I read the script, and then took the script away.
(On John Carpenter) John is a really nice guy. The people working with him have a really nice thing going. They've developed this strong support system. He has chosen a good group of people. They stay with him film after film. They can bounce things off of each other in order to get the film made. I had a good time making Starman (1984).
(On working with Steven Spielberg on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)) We're both older, and I've done other films like this. So I kind of come into it just so much more relaxed and open-minded. I already know what kind of film we're making.
(Asked if she had any disagreements with Richard Donner on Scrooged (1988)) Only a few. Every single minute of the day. That could have been a really, really great movie. The script was so good. There's maybe one take in the final cut movie that is mine. We made it so fast, it was like doing a movie live. He kept telling me to do things louder, louder, louder. I think he was deaf.
(On ageing) I was in that kind of real weird transitional period there. I was in my late 40s, early 50s, and it's a strange little place that you can fall into. These days all somebody has to do is Google you and they know how old you are. I would show up for roles that were written for somebody in their early 50s, and people would say, 'You can't do that, you look too young,' but if I showed up for a role for somebody in their early 40s then the people would say, 'Well, but she's 50.'
I'm from a generation of fantastic actresses. It's a big pool of really wonderful actresses, and so many of them we never even get to see on the screen anymore.
I just felt like I had to create a life for myself where I was more independent. Where what I was doing in my life was so interesting I could literally put my whole acting life on the back burner because I was so fascinated by what was right in front of me. And that was the only thing that felt healthy to me. Short of that, I felt like somebody who was waiting for the phone to ring.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page