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Lesley Ann Warren Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (30) | Personal Quotes (13)

Overview (2)

Date of Birth 16 August 1946New York City, New York, USA
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Lithe and lovely Lesley Ann Warren started gearing towards a life in show business right off the bat as a child ballerina; little did she know that Hollywood stardom would arrive on her doorstep in the form of a "Cinderella" story -- literally!

The New York-born actress (born in 1946) was the daughter of a realtor and a night club singer, Margot Warren, who gave up her own entertainment career for marriage and family. Lesley attended New York's Professional Children's School and eventually studied under Lee Strasberg at his Actors Studio, the youngest student to be accepted at the time (age 17). The freckled, talented hopeful gathered musical stage experience in such shows as "Bye Bye Birdie" playing swooning teen Kim McAfee. She made her illustrious Broadway debut in "110 in the Shade", the 1963 musical version of "The Rainmaker," and subsequently received the Theatre World Award for her work in the 1965 tunefest "Drat! The Cat!"

The attention she received immediately led to her capturing the beguiling title role in the Rodgers and Hammerstein TV musical production of Cinderella (1965). Although sweet-voiced stardom was certainly hers on a silver platter, she didn't necessarily carry the sweet tooth for it. Her impact as Cinderella led to her signing with the Walt Disney Studio as their principal ingénue. Co-starring in the rather blah musical showcases The Happiest Millionaire (1967) and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968) further convinced her that she needed to nip the saccharine stereotype in the bud if she was to grow as an actress and sustain some type of career longevity.

Rebelling against her studio-imposed image, she left Disney determined to pursue roles with more depth, drama and character. Changing her name temporarily to "Lesley Warren" to reinforce her goal, she replaced Barbara Bain in the long-running espionage series Mission: Impossible (1966) in 1970, but the audiences were quite cool in their reception to the "new and improved" Lesley and didn't buy her as a femme-fatale replacement for the cool and aloof Ms. Bain. After only one season, she left the show and sought greener pastures in the TV mini-movie market playing a wide range of vulnerable neurotics as well as sexy, worldly ladies. She made her mark in such sudsy 1970s material as Love Hate Love (1971) co-starring 'Ryan O'Neal (I)'; The Legend of Valentino (1975); the rags-to-riches story Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue (1977), for which she won a Golden Globe award; the epic WWII story Pearl (1978); Betrayal (1978); and Portrait of a Stripper (1979).

In the early 1980s, Lesley's movie career resurrected itself with a priceless performance as kingpin James Garner's whiny-voiced, peroxide-blonde spitfire Norma Cassady in the musical film slapstick Victor Victoria (1982). This scene-stealing turn led to a couple of other quality offbeat films: Choose Me (1984) and Songwriter (1984), along with the usual quota of TV projects. She also matured into a steamy, sexier "older woman" type and earned some worldly roles opposite various gorgeous young guns, including Christopher Atkins in the critically-drubbed A Night in Heaven (1983). Her riotous "dumb blonde" act, however, had Hollywood discovering her potential as a scatter-brained comedienne, an image she has reinforced over the years with recurring TV guest parts on such popular shows as Will & Grace (1998) and Desperate Housewives (2004) Lesley has a son, Christopher Peters, from her 1967-1977 union to makeup artist/hair stylist-cum-film producer Jon Peters. Since 2000, she has been married to advertising exec Ronald Taft, a former v.p. at Columbia and sometime actor. From Cinderella to sexy mamas, the effervescent Lesley is still going strong in a career now hitting four-and-a-half decades.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (2)

Ronald Taft (16 January 2000 - present)
Jon Peters (13 May 1967 - 1974) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (30)

Youngest actor ever to have attended NY's Actors Studio, when she was 17.
Was student at School of American Ballet when she switched to acting.
Lives in LA with her companion Ronald Taft, an ad executive.
Auditioned for the role of Liesl in The Sound of Music (1965).
Tried out for the role of Lois Lane in Superman (1978), but lost to Margot Kidder.
Is a vegetarian.
Her father was a World War II vet and realtor while her mother was a nightclub singer who stopped working when Lesley Ann was born.
At age 13, she won a scholarship to study with ballet legend George Balanchine.
She once enrolled in an acting class with drama coach Stella Adler.
Warren says she won the highly-coveted part of Susan's high-maintenance mom "Sophie" on Desperate Housewives (2004) because of her son, Christopher Peters.
Was supposed to play the role of Brenda in Goodbye, Columbus (1969), but she got pregnant and had to be replaced. Ali MacGraw then got the part.
Was very proud of her work in Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story (1992), and was disappointed that it got clobbered by an HBO movie on the same story (The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993)) that came out at about the same time, starring Holly Hunter.
Started working on her first Broadway show (110 in the Shade) at sixteen and a half years old.
When she first auditioned for Cinderella, she was so nervous that the audition tanked. She had to audition a second time, and then was hired.
Of all her television experiences, Warren said she had an especially great time on Will & Grace (1998) and Dr. Kildare (1961), and that her favorite television experience was the making of Cinderella (1965).
Says her favorite genre is the Musical.
Starred in an early 1970s busted TV pilot as "Cat Ballou," the role Jane Fonda made famous on film.
Walt Disney hand-picked Lesley for the ingénue role in the film The Happiest Millionaire (1967) after her "Cinderella" success. This film was the last live-action movie Disney supervised before his death.
Was extremely upset at first about her performance as the gangster's moll in Victor Victoria (1982) prior to its release, having thought she went horribly over the top. She did go over the top and the audiences loved her for it. Lesley was nominated for a "Supporting Actress" Academy Award, her only nod so far.
Lesley was to co-star in the beautician comedy series Snip (1976), a TV takeoff of the Warren Beatty movie Shampoo (1975) starring David Brenner as a divorced hairdresser. Just before its scheduled September 30, 1976, debut, NBC abruptly canceled the show, so fast in fact that TV Guide did not even have time to remove a special feature on the show in its Fall Preview of September 18-24, 1976. Why? One of the show's supporting characters, a fellow hairdresser named "Michael", was openly gay and NBC got cold feet at the last minute. Had Snip (1976) premiered, it would have been a first on American series TV. Instead, Billy Crystal went on to receive that honor with his gay character a year later on the popular series Soap (1977). Seven episodes of Snip (1976) were completed when it got the ax. The only place the series ended up airing was in Australia, and it became the highest rated show in Australian history up until that time.
Played Lois Lane in a television production of the musical It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman! (1975), and later screen tested for the role in Superman (1978).
Friend of Marianne Williamson.
Was fired after only the second day of filming for The Devil You Know (2013) due to reported unreasonable 'diva' demands and tantrums. Similar reports were made back in 1997 when Warren wasn't getting star treatment for her Broadway show: 'Dream: the Johnny Mercer Musical Revue'.
Appeared as one of the celebrity models in a charity fashion show staged by Thierry Mugler to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles. [April 1992]
Was in a relationship with choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday (1980-1987).
Was originally offered Jean Seberg's role in Paint Your Wagon (1969).
Won the most promising newcomer on Broadway for her work in 110 in the shade in 1963.
Suffered from Anorexia nervosa in her teen years and into her twenties.
Offered the stage role of Norma Cassidy (her Oscar-nominated role) in the stage version of "Victor/Victor" starring Julie Andrews, but had to turn it down due to other movie commitments.
Gave birth to her 1st child at age 22, a son Christopher Peters on September 23, 1968. Child's father is her now ex-1st husband, Jon Peters.

Personal Quotes (13)

[reflecting on her career] I have come far, but not far enough. It is still a man's world.
The truth is, I would do anything for Alan Rudolph. If he asked me to stand on my head and spit wooden nickels, I would. I love him. I loved working with him. I did two movies before with him [ Choose Me (1984) and Songwriter (1984)], and they were some of the highlights of my working life. He's just an inspired guy and a great person to work with.
I've been a character actress right from the beginning. I was no more like Cinderella in my real life than I was like the neurotic poet in Cop (1988). Age has nothing to do with being the kind of actress who relies not on magnetic personality, but on disappearing into the person you're playing instead. For my money, Michelle Pfeiffer's a character actress - it's got nothing to do with looks, or age, or whether it's the leading role.
Trust your own instincts, go inside, follow your heart. Right from the start. go ahead and stand up for what you believe in. As I've learned, that's the path to happiness.
When I was a young girl, I had really long hair and I went to Jon Peters for the first time. He cut my hair within an inch of its life. I was traumatized!
I find that there are more interesting roles for women my age in the independent world, which is not to say that there aren't phenomenal roles in studio films, but 99% of the time they go to Meryl Streep or a very short list of women. Very short. And because they want to work as well as we all do, they take them. So now there's not a lot left over.
When I went to do Joseph in Egypt (1995), it was working with Ben Kingsley that reignited in me my passion for acting. He was so dedicated and so impassioned himself, that it reignited that in me. That was a tremendous blessing.
Good work is good work wherever it is.
Your best is good enough. The only one you have to please is yourself.
(2012, on landing Victor Victoria) I had my hair in braids and a baseball cap on and my agent at the time, Ron Meyer-who's now the head of Universal-called me and said, "You have to go in and meet Blake Edwards," and I said, "I can't! I have no makeup on." He said, "You have to. He's leaving for London tomorrow, you have to go meet him." So I went in, and we sat and talked for about 15 minutes, had a lot of laughs, and then he just said, "Do you want to do this role?" And I had not read the script, but I had seen Breakfast At Tiffany's 11 times, and I had seen Pink Panther, and Days Of Wine And Roses is a genius movie, so I said, "Yes, I want to work with you on whatever." And then I went home and read the script, and in the script, Norma wasn't blonde, didn't have an accent, and didn't have a dance number or a musical number. She was pretty much a classic chorine of the time. So I started to think about what I wanted to do with this role, and I made up this whole history for her. She grew up on the Lower East Side in a family of 14, and she had to yell to be heard. She worked at Woolworth's and read the movie magazines and wanted to look like Jean Harlow. I created this character in my head, and then I called Blake-he was already in London-and he said, "Yes." He sent his hair and makeup people and the costume designer Patricia Norris over to my house, and we created this character. When I walked on the set in hair and makeup for the first time, I thought, "I'm either going to be fired, or he's gonna love it," and luckily for me, he loved it. For me, she was very real. That's why I did that fabricated history, to fool myself, so she was a real person and had a real background and real reasons why she behaved the way she did. It was all for me. I know that some people work differently, but I have to work from the inside out. It doesn't matter how big the character is, there has to be a truthful core. And that's how I was taught; I studied with Lee Strasberg in New York, and he was my teacher for 10 years, so that's how I was trained, and that's what I know. On top of that, if you have comedic sensibilities, you intuitively know how to bring that forward on top of a real person. What Blake would do a lot with me was, he would let the cameras roll and I would improvise, so a lot of what's in the movie is improvised. But I couldn't do that improvisation successfully if I didn't know who she was on the inside, operating from a real core.
(2012, on the The Happiest Millionaire) I was a baby; I think I was 18, or maybe 18 and a half. I had just done Cinderella, and I was touring a Broadway show. I had been asked to come out and do a screen test, which, in those days, was a real screen test. They put me up at the Beverly Hills Hotel for two weeks. I had rehearsals, I had to do costume fittings and hair consultations and makeup, etc. Then at the end, you do this full on-screen test, with dance numbers and musical numbers and acting scenes in costume. Getting that job, that wonderful role and incredible experience, was just a huge accomplishment for me. I got to know Walt Disney; he was very much present. This is a man who knew what hair ribbon I was wearing, as well as what they were serving at the commissary, as well as what the animators were doing. He was a genius, and he had such vision, such a hands-on approach to everything. So to be picked by him was such an unbelievable honor for me.
(2012, on making Songwriter) What happened on Songwriter was that I was doing that movie, but with a different director. Sydney Pollack was producing, and I remember a week into shooting, I got a call from Sydney, and I thought, "Oh no. Oh dear." He said, "I want to tell you that we're replacing the director," and I said, "You're kidding, why?" He said, "They weren't happy with the way things look." I said, "Well, why not replace the cinematographer if you're not happy with how it looks?" He said, "Trust me, just trust me," and I said, "Well, who's directing?" And he said, "You'll see, you'll see..." And he surprised me with Alan Rudolph. It was really interesting, because from the first day of Alan's dailies, they looked extraordinary. So it's interesting how much impact a director will have on a cinematographer and the look of a film. It's definitely a collaborative situation...I was terrified, terrified in Songwriter, because there I was, New York Jewish girl, singing country-western onstage with Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. I mean, forget it. I was so terrified. Alan was amazing. He just kind of hand-held me during that entire experience.
(2012, on Color of Night) That was a real heart-breaker. My participation was mostly in the scenes with the therapy group, and each of us was supposed to have had a relationship with the Jane March character. Our director, Richard Rush, struggled with what went on between Bruce Willis' character and Jane March's character, and how he had envisioned that to go. It was a tough film-it was tense, it was difficult. I think Jane was only 21. Even though she had done The Lover, she was a young, young, young girl, and she had a lot of anxiety about doing all that nudity and all that erotic stuff. Even though she knew what she had signed on to do, it doesn't matter; somehow when you get to the point where you have to do it, it's a different experience. I remember one night when we were shooting our little love scene in somebody's house, and we were upstairs, shooting past the allotted time that the city had allowed us to shoot. I don't remember what that was, maybe 10 or 11. The police were called, and the crew just said, "Keep shooting, keep shooting! Keep kissing her, keep kissing her!" We're half-undressed, with these police officers coming up the stairs. "Keep shooting! Keep shooting!" It was a little crazy-making for sure, but exciting in a way. All the characters were so intense and neurotic in their own issues, and it was fraught with a lot of high anxiety just because of its material.

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