Best Supporting Actresses From 1988 to 2014

by theshepherdess88 | created - 26 Nov 2014 | updated - 26 Nov 2014 | Public

1. Olympia Dukakis

Actress | Moonstruck

Long a vital, respected lady of the classic and contemporary stage this grand lady did not become a household name and sought-after film actress until age 56 when she turned in a glorious, Oscar-winning perf as Cher's sardonic mother in the romantic comedy Moonstruck (1987). Since then movie (and ...

Long a vital, respected lady of the classic and contemporary stage this grand lady did not become a household name and sought-after film actress until age 56 when she turned in a glorious, Oscar-winning perf as Cher's sardonic mother in the romantic comedy Moonstruck (1987). Since then movie (and TV) fans have discovered what the East coast theater-going audiences had uncovered decades before -- an acting treasure. Her adaptability to various ethnicities (Greek, Italian, Jewish, Eastern European, etc.), as well her chameleon-like versatility in everything from cutting edge comedy to stark tragedy, has kept her in high demand for the past 30 years as of one of Hollywood's topnotch character players.

Olympia Dukakis was born on June 20, 1931, in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Greek immigrants, Alexandra (Christos), from the Peloponnese, and Constantine S. Dukakis, from Anatolia. She majored in physical therapy at Boston University, where she graduated with a BA. She practiced as a physical therapist during the polio epidemic. She later returned to her alma mater and entered the graduate program in performing arts and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Olympia found early success by distinguishing herself first on stage performing in summer stock and with several repertory and Shakespearean companies throughout the county. She made her Broadway debut as an understudy in "The Aspern Papers" at age 30, followed by very short runs in the plays "Abraham Cochrane" (1964) and "Who's Who in Hell" (1974). In 1999, she premiered a one-woman play "Rose", at the National Theatre in London and subsequently on Broadway in 2000. The play earned her an Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Award nomination and she continues to tour the country with it. Most recently she was seen on the New York stage in the Roundabout Theatre's production of "The Milktrain Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" (2011), in San Francisco in A.C.T.'s production of "Vigil" (2011) and as "Prospera" in "The Tempest" (2012) at Shakespeare & Co. She has performed in over 130 productions Off-Broadway and regionally at theatres including the Public Theatre, A.C.T., Shakespeare in the Park, Shakespeare & Co., and the Williamstown Summer Theatre Festival, where she also served as Associate Director. She will be seen again at Shakespeare & Co. in the summer of 2013 as the title role in "Mother Courage and Her Children."

Olympia married Yugoslav-American actor Louis Zorich in 1962. The New York-based couple went on to co-found The Whole Theatre Company in Montclair, New Jersey, and ran the company for 19 years (1971-1990). As actress, director, producer and teacher, she still found the time to raise their three young children. She also became a master instructor at New York University for fourteen years. She scored theater triumphs in "A Man's a Man," for which she won an Off-Broadway Obie Award in 1962; several productions of "The Cherry Orchard" and "Mother Courage"; "Six Characters in Search of an Author"; "The Rose Tattoo"; "The Seagull"; "The Marriage of Bette and Boo" (another Obie Award); and, more notably, her many performances as the title role in "Hecuba." A good portion of her successes was launched within the walls of her own theater company, which encouraged the birth of new and untried plays. Her prolific directing credits include many of the classics: "Orpheus Descending," "The House of Bernarda Alba," "Uncle Vanya," and "A Touch of the Poet," as well as the more contemporary ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Kennedy's Children"). She also adapted such plays as "Mother Courage" and "The Trojan Women" for the theater company. Over the duration of their marriage, she and her husband have experienced shared successes, appearing together in "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "Camino Real, "The Three Sisters" and "The Seagull," among many others. Both are master interpreters of Chekhovian plays -- one of their more recent acting collaborations was in "The Chekhov Cycle" in 2003.

Making an inauspicious debut in a bit role as a mental patient in Lilith (1964), she tended to gravitate toward off-the-wall films with various offshoots of the ethnic mother. She played mom to such leads as Dustin Hoffman in John and Mary (1969), Joseph Bologna in the cult comedy Made for Each Other (1971) and Ray Sharkey in The Idolmaker (1980). Interestingly, it was her scene-stealing work on Broadway in the comedy "Social Security" (1986) that caught director Norman Jewison's eye and earned her the Moonstruck (1987) movie role. The Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actress was the last of a stream of awards she earned for that part, including the American Comedy Award, Los Angeles Film Critics, and Golden Globe Award. From then on, silver-haired Olympia was first in line for a number of cream-of-the-crop matron roles: Steel Magnolias (1989), Dad (1989), Look Who's Talking (1989), The Cemetery Club (1993), Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) and Mother (1995). Her most recent film, Cloudburst (2011), has been a critical and audience darling, winning her several Best Actress awards and over 40 awards for Best Film at various Film Festivals around the world.

On TV, she received high praise for her work especially for her sympathetic trans-gendered landlady in the acclaimed miniseries Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (1993) and its sequels Armistead Maupin's More Tales of the City (1998) (Emmy Nominee) and Further Tales of the City (2001). She was additionally seen in episodes of Bored to Death (2009), and TV movies The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2000) (Judi Dench), Sinatra (1992) (Golden Globe Nominee), and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) (Emmy Nominee). This work is among more than 40 other series, mini-series and guest starring roles she has accumulated over her long career.

An ardent liberal and Democrat, she is the cousin of one-time presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. Moreover, she is a strong advocate of women's rights and environmental causes. Olympia published her best-selling autobiography "Ask Me Again Tomorrow: A Life in Progress" in 2003, an introspective chronicle full of her trademark candor and wry humor. She is also a figure on the lecture circuit covering topics as widespread as life in the theater to feminism, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and osteoporosis. A hardcore New Yorker, she still resides there with her husband. She has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greek America Foundation and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor and is set to receive her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame later this year.

2. Geena Davis

Actress | Thelma & Louise

As a child, Geena dreamed of being an actress. While in high school, she felt left out and had low self-esteem because, at 6 feet, she was the tallest girl in school. After high school graduation, Geena entered New England College in New Hampshire and then transferred the next year to Boston ...

Geena Davis was born in Wareham, Massachusetts, to Lucille (Cook), a teacher's assistant, and William F. Davis, a church deacon and civil engineer. Her parents, originally from small towns in Vermont, were both from families with deep roots in New England.

As a child, Geena dreamed of being an actress. While in high school, she felt left out and had low self-esteem because, at 6 feet, she was the tallest girl in school. After high school graduation, Geena entered New England College in New Hampshire and then transferred the next year to Boston University, where she majored in drama. In 1979, she graduated and moved to New York to start her career. Her career consisted of sales clerk and waitress. She worked at Ann Taylor, where she eventually rose to Saturday window mannequin while trying to get a job with a modeling agency. Eventually signed by the Zoli Agency, she wound up as a model in the Victoria Secret's Catalogue. Ever vigilant, Sydney Pollack was looking for new talent in the catalogue when he spotted Geena and cast her in Tootsie (1982). With good reviews, Geena moved to Los Angeles where she was cast as Wendy in the short-lived but critically acclaimed television series Buffalo Bill (1983). Her next appearance on television was in her own series Sara (1985), which was also good, but soon canceled.

Geena then returned to the big screen in the below-average Transylvania 6-5000 (1985) followed by the successful Chevy Chase movie Fletch (1985). From there on, she was on a roll with second husband Jeff Goldblum in the horror remake The Fly (1986). More successful were Tim Burton's dark comedy Beetlejuice (1988) and The Accidental Tourist (1988). For the last film, she was the surprise winner of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. More fun movies followed with the flying-saucer-in-the-pool Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) and everyone-loves-a-clown Quick Change (1990) with Bill Murray. The very successful Thelma & Louise (1991), directed by Ridley Scott, again garnered nominations for the Academy Award and Golden Globe. A League of Their Own (1992), with Tom Hanks and directed by Penny Marshall, was the turning point as her next film, Hero (1992), was only average. Then she married director Renny Harlin and they set up a production and development company called "The Forge". Their first film was Speechless (1994), which flopped at the box office.

Undeterred, Renny decided to film the big-budget Cutthroat Island (1995), starring Geena as pirate leader Morgan, which also flopped. Geena has since starred in the thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) and played Eleanor Little in Stuart Little (1999) and Stuart Little 2 (2002). Since 2001 she has been married to her fourth husband, plastic surgeon Reza Jarrahy, and they have three children. In 2008, after being missed from the big screen for some years, Geena ventured to Sydney, Australia, playing the foul-mouthed mother of Harry Cook and Harrison Gilbertson to shoot the dark comedy Accidents Happen (2009).

3. Brenda Fricker

Actress | My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown

Irish character actress Brenda Fricker was born in Dublin, and gained experience in Irish theatre and with the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Court Theatre Company in Great Britain. Brenda received great acclaim for her Oscar-winning supporting performance as the ...

This frumpy, maternal, Irish character actress gained experience in Irish theater and with the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Court Theatre Company in Great Britain. Brenda Fricker received great acclaim for her Oscar-winning supporting performance as the determined mother of a son afflicted with cerebral palsy in "My Left Foot" (1989). Venturing to Hollywood in the 1990s, she played a homeless woman befriended by kid-on-the-loose Macaulay Culkin in the sequel "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" (1992) and followed up with a more zany mother role in the little-seen "So I Married an Axe Murderer" (1993). Having acted on English TV on the BBC series "Casualty", Fricker began conquering US TV with roles in the "American Playhouse" presentation "Lethal Innocence" (1991) and the miniseries "The Sound and the Silence" (1993). Fricker offered memorable support as Albert Finney's exasperated sister in "A Man of No Importance" (1994) and appeared in support of Robin Wright in Pen Densham's "Moll Flanders" and as Matthew McConaughey's secretary in Joel Schumacher's "A Time to Kill" (both 1996).

4. Whoopi Goldberg

Actress | Ghost

Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in the Chelsea section of Manhattan on November 13, 1955. Her mother, Emma (Harris), was a teacher and a nurse, and her father, Robert James Johnson, Jr., was a clergyman. Whoopi's recent ancestors were from Georgia, Florida, and Virginia. She worked in...

Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in the Chelsea section of Manhattan on November 13, 1955. Her mother, Emma (Harris), was a teacher and a nurse, and her father, Robert James Johnson, Jr., was a clergyman. Whoopi's recent ancestors were from Georgia, Florida, and Virginia. She worked in a funeral parlor and as a bricklayer while taking small parts on Broadway. She moved to California and worked with improv groups, including Spontaneous Combustion, and developed her skills as a stand-up comedienne. She came to prominence doing an HBO special and a one-woman show as Moms Mabley. She has been known in her prosperous career as a unique and socially conscious talent with articulately liberal views. Among her boyfriends were Ted Danson and Frank Langella. She was married three times and was once addicted to drugs.

Goldberg first came to prominence with her starring role in The Color Purple (1985). She received much critical acclaim, and an Oscar nomination for her role and became a major star as a result. Subsequent efforts in the late 1980s were, at best, marginal hits. These movies mostly were off-beat to formulaic comedies like Burglar (1987), The Telephone (1988) and Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986). She made her mark as a household name and a mainstay in Hollywood for her Oscar-winning role in the box office smash Ghost (1990). Whoopi Goldberg was at her most famous in the early 1990s, making regular appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987). She admitted to being a huge fan of the original Star Trek (1966) series and jumped at the opportunity to star in "Star Trek: The Next Generation".

Goldberg received another smash hit role in Sister Act (1992). Her fish-out-of-water with some flash seemed to resonate with audiences and it was a box office smash. Whoopi starred in some highly publicized and moderately successful comedies of this time, including Made in America (1993) and Soapdish (1991). Goldberg followed up to her success with Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), which was well-received but did not seem to match up to the first.

As the late 1990s approached, Goldberg seemed to alternate between lead roles in straight comedies such as Eddie (1996) and The Associate (1996), and took supporting parts in more independent minded movies, such as The Deep End of the Ocean (1999) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998). Goldberg never forgot where she came from, hosting many tributes to other legendary entertainment figures. Her most recent movies include Rat Race (2001) and the quietly received Kingdom Come (2001). Goldberg contributes her voice to many cartoons, including The Pagemaster (1994) and Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990), as Gaia, the voice of the earth. Alternating between big-budget movies, independent movies, tributes, documentaries, and even television movies (including Theodore Rex (1995)).

Whoopi Goldberg is accredited as a truly unique and visible talent in Hollywood. Perhaps she will always be remembered as well for Comic Relief, playing an integral part in almost every benefit concert they had. Currently, Whoopi Goldberg is the center square in Hollywood Squares (1998) and frequently hosts the Academy Awards. She also is an author, with the book "Book".

5. Mercedes Ruehl

Actress | The Fisher King

Ruehl received her first Academy Award nomination and win for her performance as Anne Napolitano, the emotionally driven girlfriend to fallen radio personality, (played by Jeff Bridges), in Terry Gilliam's masterpiece, The Fisher King (1991). In addition to an Oscar, and a Golden Globe, Ruehl's ...

Mercedes Ruehl was born February 28, 1948 in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City to Mercedes Ruehl, a school teacher, and Vincent Ruehl, an FBI agent. She made several film and television appearance before coming to her most successfully received role in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King (1991). She played the part of Jeff Bridges's on-screen supportive yet neurotic girlfriend, Anne. Her performance in the film earned her an Oscar, a Golden Globe, Saturn Award, American Comedy Award, BSFC Award, CFCA Award, LAFCA Award and a Pasinetti Award. While Mercedes is first and foremost an actress of the stage, we should acknowledge her spellbinding performances as the mentally deranged and overbearing Connie Russo in Married to the Mob (1988), the mentally challenged, protective, loving, and adventurous Bella in Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers (1993), and the dying and determined title-character in Roseanna's Grave (1997).

6. Emma Thompson

Actress | Sense and Sensibility

Emma Thompson was born on April 15, 1959 in Paddington, London, into a family of actors - father Eric Thompson and mother Phyllida Law, who has co-starred with Thompson in several films. Her sister, Sophie Thompson, is an actor as well. Her father was English-born and her mother is Scottish-born. ...

Emma Thompson was born in London on April 15, 1959, into a family of actors - her father was Eric Thompson, who has passed away, and her mother, Phyllida Law, has co-starred with Thompson in several films (her sister, Sophie Thompson, is an actor as well). Her father was English-born and her mother is Scottish-born. Thompson's wit was cultivated by a cheerful, clever, creative family atmosphere, and she was a popular and successful student. She attended Cambridge University, studying English Literature, and was part of the university's Footlights Group, the famous group where, previously, many of the Monty Python members had first met.

Thompson graduated in 1980 and embarked on her career in entertainment, beginning with stints on BBC radio and touring with comedy shows. She soon got her first major break in television, on the comedy skit program Alfresco (1983), writing and performing along with her fellow Footlights Group alums Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. She also worked on other TV comedy review programs in the mid-1980s, occasionally with some of her fellow Footlights alums, and often with actor Robbie Coltrane.

Thompson found herself collaborating again with Fry in 1985, this time in his stage adaptation of the play "Me and My Girl" in London's West End, in which she had a leading role, playing Sally Smith. The show was a success and she received favorable reviews, and the strength of her performance led to her casting as the lead in the BBC television miniseries Fortunes of War (1987), in which Thompson and her co-star, Kenneth Branagh, play an English ex-patriate couple living in Eastern Europe as the Second World War erupts. Thompson won a BAFTA award for her work on the program. She married Branagh in 1989, continued to work with him professionally, and formed a production company with him. In the late 80s and early 90s, she starred in a string of well-received and successful television and film productions, most notably her lead role in the Merchant-Ivory production of Howards End (1992), which confirmed her ability to carry a movie on both sides of the Atlantic and appropriately showered her with trans-Atlantic honors - both an Oscar and a BAFTA award.

Since then, Thompson has continued to move effortlessly between the art film world and mainstream Hollywood, though even her Hollywood roles tend to be in more up-market productions. She continues to work on television as well, but is generally very selective about which roles she takes. She writes for the screen as well, such as the screenplay for Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility (1995), in which she also starred as Elinor Dashwood, and the teleplay adaptation of Margaret Edson's acclaimed play Wit (2001), in which she also starred.

Thompson is known for her sophisticated, skillful, though her critics say somewhat mannered, performances, and of course for her arch wit, which she is unafraid to point at herself - she is a fearless self-satirist. Thompson and Branagh divorced in 1994, and Thompson is now married to fellow actor Greg Wise, who had played Willoughby in Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility (1995). Thompson and Wise have one child, Gaia, born in 1999.

7. Anna Paquin

Actress | The Piano

Anna Paquin is the first millennial to have received an Academy Award nomination for acting, and the first to win.

She was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in 1982, to Mary (Brophy), an English teacher from Wellington, New Zealand, and Brian Paquin, a Canadian phys-ed teacher. Anna moved to her ...

Anna Paquin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in 1982, to Mary (Brophy), an English teacher from Wellington, New Zealand, and Brian Paquin, a Canadian phys-ed teacher of part French-Canadian descent. Anna moved to her mother's native country when she was four years old. Her first acting job ever was at age nine in the film The Piano (1993), which she ended up being cast in because it was shot in New Zealand. At age 16, she relocated to Los Angeles where she completed her last two years of high school (graduating in 2000). She then moved to New York where she attended Columbia University for one year. Between 2001 and 2004 she worked almost exclusively on stage in both New York and London. In 2007 Anna was cast in HBO's "True Blood", which concluded shooting its 7th and final season in 2014.

8. Dianne Wiest

Actress | Hannah and Her Sisters

One of three children (she has two brothers, Greg and Don), Dianne Wiest was born in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Her mother, Anne Stewart (Keddie), was a nurse from Auchtermuchty, Scotland, and her father, Bernard John Wiest, was a college dean and social worker who was born in Pennsylvania, of ...

One of three children (she has two brothers, Greg and Don), Dianne Wiest was born on March 28, 1948 in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Her mother, Anne Stewart (Keddie), was a nurse born in Auchtermuchty, Scotland, and her father, Bernard John Wiest, was a college dean and social worker, born in Pennsylvania, of German and Austrian descent. Her original ambition was to be a ballerina, but she was bitten by the acting bug after some stage work, most notably playing Desdemona to James Earl Jones' Othello on Broadway. She made her film debut in 1980, but did not make a name for herself until her performance as Emma, a prostitute during the 1930s Depression, in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). Allen was so impressed by Wiest's acting ability that he has directed her on four more occasions since. Under Allen's direction, Wiest won a well deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, for her brilliant performance as the neurotic, wannabe actress Holly in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). She followed her Academy Award success with performances in The Lost Boys (1987) and Bright Lights, Big City (1988) before stealing the show from the likes of Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Keanu Reeves and Martha Plimpton in Ron Howard's Parenthood (1989).

Playing Helen Buckman, the divorced mother of two difficult teenagers, Wiest was both touching and hilarious, and received her second Oscar nomination. Arguably her most beloved role came as Peg Boggs, the kindly Avon Lady who discovers the titular Edward Scissorhands (1990). Wiest returned to Woody Allen for Bullets Over Broadway (1994), a superb comedy film set in 1920s New York, winning her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her magnificent portrayal of Helen Sinclair, a boozy, glamorous and neurotic star of the stage, who could made the words "Don't speak!" the funniest sentence ever captured on film. Recently enjoying great success with witchy roles in the comedy film Practical Magic (1998) and the television miniseries The 10th Kingdom (2000), Dianne Wiest lives in New York City with her two adopted daughters, Emily and Lily.

9. Mira Sorvino

Actress | Mighty Aphrodite

Mira Katherine Sorvino was born on September 28, 1967 in Manhattan. She is the daughter of Lorraine Davis, an actress turned drama therapist, and veteran character actor Paul Sorvino. Her father's family were Italian immigrants. The young Sorvino was intelligent, an avid reader and an exceptional ...

Mira Katherine Sorvino was born on September 28, 1967 in Manhattan. She is the daughter of Lorraine Davis, an actress turned drama therapist, and veteran character actor Paul Sorvino. Her father's family were Italian immigrants. The young Sorvino was intelligent, an avid reader and an exceptional scholar. Her father discouraged her from becoming an actor, as he knew how the industry often chews up young stars. She attended Harvard, majoring in Chinese, graduating magna cum laude in 1989, largely on the strength of her thesis, a Hoopes Prize-winning thesis on racial conflict in China, written and researched during the year spent in Beijing, which helped her fluency in Mandarin Chinese.

However, she showed interest in a career in acting from an early age, and moved to New York City to try her hand in the City's film industry, waitressing, auditioning and working at the Tribeca production company of Robert De Niro. She succeeded in getting a little television work in the early 1990s, but got her first film job in the independent gangster movie Amongst Friends (1993), on which she worked her way up the ladder behind the camera to eventually associate-produce the film, and, more importantly, was eventually cast as the female lead. The indie production was well-received, and Sorvino's performance attracted enough buzz to get her cast in two more movies, one a more prominent indie, Barcelona (1994), the other her first Hollywood feature, Quiz Show (1994), and her skillful performances brought her yet more attention.

An exceptionally poised and articulate young woman, she may have seemed inappropriate to play a crazy hooker, but Woody Allen took the chance, and her magnificent performance as the female lead in his Mighty Aphrodite (1995) proved her range as a performer and earned her an Oscar (at the tender age of 29) for Best Supporting Actress. Since winning the Oscar, Sorvino has continued to take a wide range of roles, including another stretch as Marilyn Monroe in Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996), co-starring with another very intelligent and skilled young actress, Ashley Judd. Forays into action and horror, such as Mimic (1997) and The Replacement Killers (1998) show that Sorvino is not above being playful in the film roles she chooses.

However, what forever cemented her role in popular culture was her performance as charmingly silly California beach girl Romy White in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997), in which she and co-star Lisa Kudrow utter one hilarious absurdity after another.

Mira Sorvino married Christopher Backus on June 11, 2004, and the couple have four children.

10. Juliette Binoche

Actress | The English Patient

Juliette Binoche was born in Paris, France, to Monique Yvette Stalens, a director, teacher, and actress, and Jean-Marie Binoche, a sculptor, director, and actor. Her mother was born in Czestochowa, Poland, of French, Walloon Belgian, and Polish descent, while her father is French. Juliette was only...

Juliette Binoche was born in Paris, France, to Monique Yvette Stalens, a director, teacher, and actress, and Jean-Marie Binoche, a sculptor, director, and actor. Her mother was born in Czestochowa, Poland, of French, Walloon Belgian, and Polish descent, while her father is French. Juliette was only 23 when she first attracted the attention of international film critics with The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988). Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times film critic with an international following of his books on film and TV reviews, wrote that she was "almost ethereal in her beauty and innocence". That innocence was gone by the time Binoche completed Louis Malle's Damage (1992) (aka "Fatale"). In an interview after the film was released, Binoche said: "Malle was trying direct and wanted something more sophisticated". A year later, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors: Blue (1993) was added to her film credits. After a sabbatical from film-making to become a mother in 1994, Binoche was selected as the heroine of France's most expensive ($35 million) movie ever: The Horseman on the Roof (1995). More recently, she has made The English Patient (1996), for which she won an Oscar for 'Best supporting actress' and Chocolat (2000).

11. Kim Basinger

Actress | L.A. Confidential

Kim Basinger was born December 8, 1953, in Athens, Georgia, the third of five children. Both her parents had been in entertainment, her dad had played big-band jazz, and her mother had performed water ballet in several Esther Williams movies. Kim was introspective, from her father's side. As a ...

Kim Basinger was born December 8, 1953, in Athens, Georgia, the third of five children. She is the daughter of Ann Lee (Cordell) and Donald Wade Basinger, a loan manager. Both her parents had been in entertainment; her father had played big-band jazz, and her mother had performed water ballet in several Esther Williams movies. Kim was introspective, a trait she has credited as having come from her father. As a schoolgirl, she was very shy. To help her overcome this, her parents had Kim study ballet from an early age. By the time she reached sweet sixteen, the once-shy Kim entered the Athens Junior Miss contest. From there, she went on to win the Junior Miss Georgia title and traveled to New York to compete in the national Junior Miss pageant. Kim, who had blossomed to a 5' 7" beauty, was offered a contract on the spot with the Ford Modeling Agency. At the age of 20, Kim was a top model, commanding $1,000 a day. Throughout the early 1970s, she appeared on dozens of magazine covers and in hundreds of ads, most notably as the Breck girl. Kim took acting classes at the Neighborhood Playhouse, performed in various Greenwich Village clubs, and sang under the stage name Chelsea. Kim moved to Los Angeles in 1976, ready to conquer Hollywood. Kim broke into television doing episodes of such hit series as Charlie's Angels (1976). In 1980, she married Ron Snyder (they divorced in 1989). In movies, she had roles like being a Bond girl in Never Say Never Again (1983) and playing a small-town Texas beauty in Nadine (1987). Her biggest success was in the role of photojournalist Vicki Vale in the blockbuster hit Batman (1989). This took her to a career high.

With perhaps too much disposable income, Kim headed up an investment group that purchased the entire town of Braselton, in her native Georgia, for $20 million (she would later have to sell it). In 1993, Kim married Alec Baldwin, and in 1995 they had a daughter, Ireland Eliesse. Kim took some time off to stay at home with her child. Kim, who loves animals and is a strict vegetarian, devoted energy to animal rights issues and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), even posing for some ads. In 1997, Kim gave an Oscar-winning performance in the film noir classic L.A. Confidential (1997). Kim's salary for I Dreamed of Africa (2000) was $5,000,000, putting her firmly in the category of big-name movie star. And no doubt there are still many great things ahead, in the career of cover girl turned Oscar-winning actress Kim Basinger.

12. Judi Dench

Actress | Skyfall

Dame Judi Dench was born Judith Olivia Dench in York, England, to Eleanora Olive (Jones), who was from Dublin, Ireland, and Reginald Arthur Dench, a doctor from Dorset, England. She attended Mount School in York, and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She has performed with the ...

Judi Dench was born in York, England, to Eleanora Olive (Jones), who was from Dublin, Ireland, and Reginald Arthur Dench, a doctor from Dorset, England. She attended Mount School in York, and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She has performed with Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and at Old Vic Theatre. She is a ten-time BAFTA winner including Best Actress in a Comedy Series for A Fine Romance (1981) in which she appeared with her husband, Michael Williams, and Best Supporting Actress in A Handful of Dust (1988) and A Room with a View (1985) . She received an ACE award for her performance in the television series Star Quality: Mr. and Mrs. Edgehill (1985). She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1970, and was created Dame of Order of the British Empire in 1988.

13. Angelina Jolie

Actress | Maleficent

Angelina Jolie is an Academy Award-winning actress who rose to fame after her role in Girl, Interrupted (1999), playing the title role in the "Lara Croft" blockbuster movies, as well as Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Wanted (2008), Salt (2010) and Maleficent (2014). Off-screen, Jolie has become ...

Angelina Jolie is an Oscar-winning actress who has become popular by taking on the title role in the "Lara Croft" series of blockbuster movies. Off-screen, Jolie has become prominently involved in international charity projects, especially those involving refugees. She often appears on many "most beautiful women" lists, and she has a personal life that is avidly covered by the tabloid press. In her earliest years, Angelina began absorbing the acting craft from her parents - her father is the Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight and her mother is Marcheline Bertrand, who had studied with Lee Strasberg. At age 11, Angelina began studying at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where she was seen in several stage productions. She undertook some film studies at New York University and later joined the renowned Met Theatre Group in Los Angeles. At age 16, she took up a career in modeling and appeared in some music videos. Her good looks may derive from her ancestry, which is German and Slovak on her father's side, and French-Canadian, Dutch, German, Czech, and remote Huron, on her mother's side.

In the mid-1990s, Jolie appeared in various small films where she got good notices, including Hackers (1995) and Foxfire (1996). Her critical acclaim increased when she played strong roles in the made-for-TV movies True Women (1997), and in George Wallace (1997) which won her a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy nomination. Jolie's acclaim increased even further when she played the lead role in the HBO production Gia (1998). This was the true life story of supermodel Gia Carangi, a sensitive wild child who was both brazen and needy and who had a difficult time handling professional success and the deaths of people who were close to her. Carangi became involved with drugs and because of her needle-using habits she became, at the tender age of 26, one of the first celebrities to die of AIDS. Jolie's performance in Gia (1998) again garnered a Golden Globe Award and another Emmy nomination, and she additionally earned a SAG Award.

Angelina got a major break in 1999 when she won a leading role in the successful feature The Bone Collector (1999), starring alongside Denzel Washington. In that same year, Jolie gave a tour de force performance in Girl, Interrupted (1999) playing opposite Winona Ryder. The movie was a true story of women who spent time in a psychiatric hospital. Jolie's role was reminiscent of Jack Nicholson's character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), the role which won Nicholson his first Oscar. Unlike "Cuckoo", "Girl" was a small film that received mixed reviews and barely made money at the box office. But when it came time to give out awards, Jolie won the triple crown -- "Girl" propelled her to win the Golden Globe Award, the SAG Award and the Academy Award for best leading actress in a supporting role.

With her new-found prominence, Jolie began to get in-depth attention from the press. Numerous aspects of her controversial personal life became news. At her wedding to her Hackers (1995) co-star Jonny Lee Miller, she had displayed her husband's name on the back of her shirt painted in her own blood. Jolie and Miller divorced, and in 2000, she married her Pushing Tin (1999) co-star Billy Bob Thornton. Jolie had become the fifth wife of a man twenty years her senior. During her marriage to Thornton, the spouses each wore a vial of the other's blood around their necks. That marriage came apart in 2002 and ended in divorce. In addition, Jolie was estranged from her famous father, Jon Voight.

In 2000, Jolie was asked to star in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). At first, she expressed disinterest, but then decided that the required training for the athletic role was intriguing. The Croft character was drawn from a popular video game. Lara Croft was a female cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond. When the film was released, critics were unimpressed with the final product, but critical acclaim wasn't the point of the movie. The public paid $275 million for theater tickets to see a buffed up Jolie portray the adventuresome Lara Croft. Jolie's father Jon Voight appeared in "Croft", and during filming there was a brief rapprochement between father and daughter.

One of the Croft movie's filming locations was Cambodia. While there, Jolie witnessed the natural beauty, culture and poverty of that country. She considered this an eye opening experience, and so began the humanitarian chapter of her life. Jolie began visiting refugee camps around the world and came to be formally appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Some of her experiences were written and published in her popular book "Notes from My Travels" whose profits go to UNHCR.

Jolie has stated that she now plans to spend most of her time in humanitarian efforts, to be financed by her actress salary. She devotes one third of her income to savings, one third to living expenses and one third to charity. In 2002, Angelina adopted a Cambodian refugee boy named Maddox, and in 2005, adopted an Ethiopian refugee girl named Zahara. Jolie's dramatic feature film Beyond Borders (2003) parallels some of her real life humanitarian experiences although, despite the inclusion of a romance between two westerners, many of the movie's images were too depressingly realistic -- the film was not popular among critics or at the box office.

In 2004, Jolie began filming Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) with co-star Brad Pitt. The film became a major box office success. There were rumors that Pitt and Jolie had an affair while filming "Smith". Jolie insisted that because her mother had been hurt by adultery, she herself could never participate in an affair with a married man, therefore there had been no affair with Pitt at that time. Nonetheless, Pitt separated from his wife Jennifer Aniston in January 2005 and, in the months that followed, he was frequently seen in public with Jolie, apparently as a couple. Pitt's divorce was finalized later in 2005.

Jolie and Pitt announced in early 2006 that they would have a child together, and Jolie gave birth to daughter Shiloh that May. They also adopted a three-year-old Vietnamese boy named Pax. The couple continues to pursue movie and humanitarian projects.

14. Marcia Gay Harden

Actress | Mystic River

Marcia Gay Harden was born on August 14, 1959, in La Jolla, California, the third of five children. Her mother, Beverly (Bushfield), was a homemaker, and her father, Thad Harold Harden, was in the military. The family relocated often -- she first became interested in the theatre when the family was...

Marcia Gay Harden was born on August 14, 1959, in La Jolla, California, the third of five children. Her mother, Beverly (Bushfield), was a homemaker, and her father, Thad Harold Harden, was in the military. The family relocated often -- she first became interested in the theater when the family was living in Greece, and she had attended plays in Athens. Harden began her college education at American universities in Europe and returned to the US to complete her studies at the University of Texas in 1983; went on to earn an MFA at NYU, and, thereafter, embarked on her acting career.

Although she had acted in a movie as early as 1986, in the little-known The Imagemaker (1986), her first mainstream role, coming alongside some TV movie work, was as a sultry femme fatale in the Coen Brothers' cleverly offbeat homage to the gangster movie, Miller's Crossing (1990). Harden received good reviews for her sultry performance as Verna, a seductive, trouble-making moll. Harden thereafter worked steadily in supporting roles, including the portrayal of Ava Gardner in Sinatra (1992), a television biopic about Frank Sinatra. Harden also worked in the theater and, in 1993, was part of the Broadway cast of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America", playing Harper, the alienated wife of a closeted gay man. It was a demanding dramatic role, and Harden won acclaim for her work, including a Tony award nomination. She returned to movie making in the mid-1990s, continuing to turn in superb supporting performances in films and television.

Harden's road to success was a long one, her work generally being overlooked because the productions were either critically panned or ignored by audiences. However, it was just a matter of time before Harden got a chance to truly show her quality on-screen, and that time came in 2000, with Ed Harris's Pollock (2000), in which she played Lee Krasner, artist and long-suffering wife of Jackson Pollock. Harden's performance was deeply moving and unforgettable and earned her the Oscar and New York Film Critic's Circle awards for best supporting actress. Continuing to work prolifically in features and television, she earned another Oscar nomination in 2003 for her supporting role in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River (2003), Harden having earlier worked with Eastwood in 2000's Space Cowboys (2000).

Harden's work often makes otherwise mediocre productions worth watching, fully inhabiting any character she portrays. She married Thaddaeus Scheel, with whom she worked on The Spitfire Grill (1996), in 1996 and the couple have three children, a daughter Eulala Scheel and twins Julitta and Hudson.

15. Jennifer Connelly

Actress | A Beautiful Mind

Jennifer Connelly was born in the Catskill Mountains, New York, to Ilene (Schuman), a dealer of antiques, and Gerard Connelly, a clothing manufacturer. Her father had Irish and Norwegian ancestry, and her mother was from a Jewish immigrant family. Jennifer grew up in Brooklyn Heights, just across ...

Jennifer Connelly was born in the Catskill Mountains, New York, to Ilene (Schuman), a dealer of antiques, and Gerard Connelly, a clothing manufacturer. Her father had Irish and Norwegian ancestry, and her mother was from a Jewish immigrant family. Jennifer grew up in Brooklyn Heights, just across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, except for the four years her parents spent in Woodstock, New York. Back in Brooklyn Heights, she attended St. Ann's school. A close friend of the family was an advertising executive. When Jennifer was ten, he suggested that her parents take her to a modeling audition. She began appearing in newspaper and magazine ads (among them "Seventeen" magazine), and soon moved on to television commercials. A casting director saw her and introduced her to Sergio Leone, who was seeking a young girl to dance in his gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America (1984). Although having little screen time, the few minutes she was on-screen were enough to reveal her talent. Her next role after that was an episode of the British horror anthology TV series Tales of the Unexpected (1979) in 1984.

After Leone's movie, horror master Dario Argento signed her to play her first starring role in his thriller Phenomena (1985). The film made a lot of money in Europe but, unfortunately, was heavily cut for American distribution. Around the same time, she appeared in the rock video "I Drove All Night," a Roy Orbison song, co-starring Jason Priestley. She released a single called "Monologue of Love" in Japan in the mid-1980s, in which she sings in Japanese a charming little song with semi-classical instruments arrangement. On the B-side is "Message Of Love," which is an interview with music in background. She also appeared in television commercials in Japan.

She enrolled at Yale, and then transferred two years later to Stanford. She trained in classical theater and improvisation, studying with the late drama coach Roy London, Howard Fine, and Harold Guskin.

The late 1980s saw her starring in a hit and three lesser seen films. Amongst the latter was her roles in Étoile (1989), as a ballerina and in Some Girls (1988), where she played a self-absorbed college freshman. The hit was Labyrinth (1986), released in 1986. Jennifer got the job after a nationwide talent search for the lead in this fantasy directed by Jim Henson and produced by George Lucas. Her career entered in a calm phase after those films, until Dennis Hopper, who was impressed after having seen her in "Some Girls", cast Jennifer as an ingénue small-town girl in The Hot Spot (1990), based upon the 1950s crime novel "Hell Hath No Fury". It received mixed critical reviews, but it was not a box office success.

The Rocketeer (1991), an ambitious Touchstone super-production, came to the rescue. The film was an old-fashioned adventure flick about a man capable of flying with rockets on his back. Critics saw in "Rocketeer" a top-quality movie, a homage to those old films of the 1930s in which the likes of Errol Flynn starred. After "Rocketeer," Jennifer made Career Opportunities (1991), The Heart of Justice (1992), Mulholland Falls (1996), and Inventing the Abbotts (1997). In 1998, she was invited by director Alex Proyas to make Dark City (1998), a strange, visually stunning science-fiction extravaganza. In this movie, Jennifer played the main character's wife, and she delivered an acclaimed performance. The film itself didn't break any box-office record but received positive reviews. This led Jennifer to a contract with Fox for the television series The $treet (2000), a main part in the memorable and dramatic love-story Waking the Dead (2000) and, more important, a breakthrough part in the polemic and applauded independent Requiem for a Dream (2000), a tale about the haunting lives of drug addicts and the subsequent process of decadence and destruction. In "Requiem for a Dream," Jennifer had her career's most courageous, difficult part, a performance that earned her a Spirit Award Nomination. She followed this role with Pollock (2000), in which she played Pollock's mistress, Ruth Klingman. Most recently, Ron Howard chose her to co-star with Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind (2001), the film that tells the true story of John Nash, a man who suffered from mental illness but eventually beats this and wins the Nobel Prize in 1994. Jennifer played Forbes' wife and won a Golden Globe, BAFTA, AFI and Oscar as Best Supporting Actress.

Jennifer lives in New York. She is 5'7", and speaks fluent Italian and French. She enjoys physical activities such as swimming, gymnastics, and bike riding. She is also an outdoors person -- camping, hiking and walking, and is interested in quantum physics and philosophy. She likes horses, Pearl Jam, SoundGarden, Jesus Jones, and occasionally wears a small picture of the The Dalai Lama on a necklace. Her favorite colors are cobalt blue, forest green, and "very pale green/gray -- sort of like the color of the sea". She likes to draw.

16. Catherine Zeta-Jones

Actress | Chicago

Catherine Zeta-Jones was born September 25, 1969 in Swansea, West Glamorgan, Wales, UK. She is the daughter of Patricia (Fair) and David James "Dai" Jones, who formerly owned a sweet factory. Her father is of Welsh descent and her mother is of English, Irish, and Welsh ancestry. Her brothers are ...

Catherine Zeta-Jones was born on September 25, 1969 in Swansea, West Glamorgan, Wales, UK. She is the daughter of Patricia (Fair) and David James "Dai" Jones, who formerly owned a candy factory. Her father is of Welsh descent and her mother is of Welsh and Irish ancestry. Her brothers are David Jones (b. 1967), a development executive, and Lyndon Jones (b. 1972), who works at her production company. Catherine showed an interest early on in entertainment. She starred on stage in "Annie", "Bugsy Malone" and "The Pajama Game". At age 15, she had the lead in the British revival of "42nd Street". She was originally cast as the second understudy for the lead role in the musical but when the star and first understudy became sick the night the play's producer was in the audience, she was given the lead for the rest of the musical's production. She first made a name for herself in the early 1990s when she starred in the Yorkshire Television comedy/drama series The Darling Buds of May (1991). The series was a smash hit and made her one of the United Kingdom's most popular television actresses. She subsequently played supporting roles in several films including Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992), the miniseries Catherine the Great (1996) and a larger part as the seductive Sala in The Phantom (1996) before landing her breakthrough role playing the fiery Elena opposite Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro (1998). She starred in many big-budget blockbusters like Entrapment (1999), The Haunting (1999) and Traffic (2000), for which many believed she was robbed of an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. In November 2000, she married actor Michael Douglas. She gave birth to their son Dylan Michael in August 2000 followed by daughter, Carys, in April 2003. She was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her accomplishments in film and television.

17. Renée Zellweger

Actress | Chicago

Renée Kathleen Zellweger was born on April 25, 1969, in Katy, Texas, USA. Her mother, Kjellfrid Irene (Andreassen), is a Norwegian-born former nurse and midwife, of Norwegian, Kven (Finnish), and Swedish descent. Her father, Emil Erich Zellweger, is a Swiss-born engineer. The two married in 1963. ...

Renée Kathleen Zellweger was born on April 25, 1969, in Katy, Texas, USA. Her mother, Kjellfrid Irene (Andreassen), is a Norwegian-born former nurse and midwife, of Norwegian, Kven (Finnish), and Swedish descent. Her father, Emil Erich Zellweger, is a Swiss-born engineer. The two married in 1963. Renée has a brother named Drew Zellweger, a marketing executive born on February 15, 1967. Renée got interested in acting in high school while working on the drama club. She also took an acting class at the University of Texas (Austin), where she began looking towards acting as a career. After graduation, she wanted to continue acting, but Hollywood is a tough town to break into, so Renée decided to stay in Texas, and auditioned for roles around Houston, where she managed to grab roles in such films as Reality Bites (1994) and Empire Records (1995).

While on the set for the sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994), she befriended Matthew McConaughey, another Hollywood up-and-comer. He was working on a project at the time that Renée was interested in, auditioned for, and won the role in the film Love and a .45 (1994), which earned her enough critical praise that she decided to move to Los Angeles. Another role in The Whole Wide World (1996) followed which led to her big break. Cameron Crowe was busy casting his next film, Jerry Maguire (1996), starring Tom Cruise. Crowe was considering such actresses as Cameron Diaz, Bridget Fonda, Winona Ryder, and Marisa Tomei, when he heard of Zellweger's performance in The Whole Wide World (1996). He auditioned Zellweger and was sure he'd found his Dorothy Boyd.

Renée followed her huge success with a few small independent films and after receiving further critical praise, she felt confident enough to reenter the world of big-budget Hollywood films. She starred opposite Meryl Streep in the tear-jerker One True Thing (1998). She also took a role in Me, Myself & Irene (2000), opposite Jim Carrey, and soon after began dating Carrey. The two denied their relationship at first, but finally gave in and admitted it; today they are no longer together. Also in 2000, she starred in the title role in Nurse Betty (2000), where she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical. In 2001, she received even more critical and commercial success in the title role in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001). She received her first Academy Award nomination for her role, which was followed by her second Oscar-nominated role in the musical Chicago (2002). She then again wowed audiences with her fierce yet warm portrayal of Ruby Thewes in the film adaptation of Cold Mountain (2003), which won Zellweger an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, which was her first Academy Award.

18. Rachel Weisz

Actress | The Constant Gardener

Rachel Hannah Weisz was born on 7 March, 1970, in London, U.K., to Edith Ruth (Teich), a psychoanalyst, and George Weisz, an inventor. Her parents both came to England around 1938. Her father is a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and her mother, from Vienna, was of Italian and Austrian Jewish heritage. ...

Rachel Weisz was born on 7th March 1970, in London, England, to Edith (Teich), a psychoanalyst, and George Weisz, an inventor. Her father is a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and her Austrian-born mother, who left Vienna in the 1930s, is of Italian and Austrian Jewish heritage. Rachel has a sister, Minnie, a curator and photographer.

Rachel started modeling when she was 14, and began acting during her studies at Cambridge University. While there, she formed a theater company named "Talking Tongues", which won the Guardian Award, at the Edinburgh Festival, for its take on Neville Southall's "Washbag". Rachel went on to star on stage in the lauded Sean Mathias revival of Noel Coward's "Design For Living". It was a role that won her a vote for Most Promising Newcomer by the London Critics' Circle.

She has starred in many movies, including The Mummy (1999), Enemy at the Gates (2001) and Stealing Beauty (1996). Rachel can also be seen in the movies The Shape of Things (2003), About a Boy (2002), Constantine (2005) and The Constant Gardener (2005), for which she won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress.

She recently (early 2011) married "James Bond" actor, Daniel Craig in a private ceremony in New York.

19. Jennifer Hudson

Soundtrack | Dreamgirls

Jennifer Hudson is a Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Academy Award-winning actress and best-selling author. Bright and booming talent Hudson is a perfect example of how NOT winning the title of American Idol (2002) can actually be a boon to your career and not necessarily the end of a ...

Jennifer Hudson is a Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Academy Award-winning actress and best-selling author. Bright and booming talent Hudson is a perfect example of how NOT winning the title of American Idol (2002) can actually be a boon to your career and not necessarily the end of a childhood dream.

Hudson was born Jennifer Kate Hudson on September 12, 1981, in Chicago, Illinois, to Darnell Donnerson and Samuel Simpson. She earned minor attention as one of the twelve finalists on the third season of the FOX TV series in 2004. She came in an underwhelming sixth runner-up. Hudson grew up singing in gospel choirs, acting in community theater productions, singing on cruise ships and touring for in Disney's Hercules: The Musical. With no formal musical training, her gospel-tinged voice initially pleased the panel of judges. The songs were arguably ill-advised but evidence of her greatness peeked through at times. She, Fantasia Barrino and La Toya London were promoted as the show's own version of the Dreamgirls and were expected to be the final three standing in the competition when Jennifer was unexpectedly cut from the pack. Fantasia won the competition and all the glory and the fame.

Hudson appeared with the "American Idol" summer tour and performed on the road in concerts over the next two years. She auditioned for the coveted role of Effie Melody White, the cast-off member of a popular 60s Supremes-like girl group in the long-awaited film version of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. Among Jennifer's competition was Fantasia herself. This time Jennifer was the winner, and was ordered to gain weight for the role. With the insurmountable task of taking over a role so indelibly identified with Tony-winning legend Jennifer Holliday, the making of Dreamgirls (2006).

In a role of a lifetime, Hudson no longer had to play second fiddle to anyone. Her role in Dreamgirls (2006) was one of the most triumphant musical film debuts since Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (1968). Hudson made the role her own delivering the same heart-breaking, gut-wrenching one-two punch that made Holliday the toast of Broadway in 1981. To outshine Beyoncé Knowles and Eddie Murphy is no easy task but Hudson was the heart and soul of the movie. She copped awards from the National Board of Review, New York Film Critics, Phoenix Film Critics Society, Golden Satellite, Golden Globe, the British Film and the coveted Oscar. The late, tragic Florence Ballard, on whom the Effie character is based, would be very inspired indeed to see Jennifer Hudson's meteoric rise to musical star.

Hudson has since made an impact in the world of music with the successful release of both of her Sony/Arista Records albums. Her sophomore album, "I Remember Me," was introduced on March 22, 2011 to rave reviews. The album debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top 200 and R&B Albums charts and has since been certified RIAA Gold in the U.S. She went on to receive a 2012 Billboard Music Award nomination for Top R&B Album as well as taking home two 2012 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Music Video and Outstanding Album. Additional collaborations include "Think Like A Man" with Ne-Yo and Rick Ross for the title track of the film and critically acclaimed single "Night Of Your Life" with David Guetta for his most recent hit-album "Nothing But The Beat." Hudson's 2008 debut self-titled record won a Grammy Award for "Best R & B Album," which was presented by one of Hudson's idols, Whitney Houston. She also received three additional nominations including "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance," "Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals" and "Best R&B Song." The album then went on to win three awards at the 2009 NAACP Image Awards including "Best Album." The RIAA Gold Certified album entered Billboard's Top 200 at No. 2 and marked the biggest first week sales for an R&B female entry since 2004 and has since sold over 1.1 million albums worldwide to date. 2013 was an exciting year for Hudson's music career, most recently being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Hudson also ended the year by releasing the critically acclaimed single "I Can't Describe (The Way I Feel)," produced by Pharrell Williams and featuring T.I.. She was also honored with the privilege to perform the Presidential Inauguration, Super Bowl XLVII and the Academy Awards. In addition, Hudson was also honored by the Recording Academy at the Annual Grammy's on the Hill for her philanthropic efforts, specifically with her organization, the Julian D. King Gift Foundation. The same year, Hudson was honored at VH1's Do Something Awards for her charitable work and also at Variety's Power of Women luncheon with the Samsung Galaxy Impact Award. In 2014, Hudson released the third single off her Sony/RCA album, scheduled for release this fall. The song, "It's Your World" features R. Kelly, who also produced the Studio 54-inspired dance track. Just prior, Hudson released "Walk It Out," produced by and featuring Timbaland, which functions as a reminder and a connection to Hudson's roots. The unreleased album has been garnering serious attention with the release of fresh tracks that show off a new sound, a thoughtful departure and a fearless rendering of her work produced by artists like Pharrell, Gorgon City, Timbaland, R. Kelly and others.

In spring of 2014, Hudson was seen in "Lullaby," a film by director Andrew Levitas. In November 2013, Hudson also appeared in her first movie musical since "Dreamgirls," in "Black Nativity." Just prior, Hudson was seen in "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete." In September of the same year, Hudson starred alongside Terrence Howard in Darrell Roodt's "Winnie Mandela." The role recently garnered Hudson an NAACP Image Award nomination for "Best Actress". Expanding her talents in the arts, Hudson added author to her list of accomplishments in January 2012 with the release her New York Times best-selling memoir, "I Got This: How I Changed My Ways, Found Myself and Lost Everything that Weighed Me Down".

Hudson also received an NAACP Image Award nomination in 2009 for her role in Fox Searchlight's "The Secret Life of Bees." Prior to "Bees," Hudson co-starred in the box office hit "Sex and the City: The Movie." In 2009, Jennifer, along with her sister Julia, founded The Julian D. King Gift Foundation, as a catalyst for change in children's health, education and welfare. The Foundation exists to provide stability, support and positive experiences for children of all backgrounds so that they will become productive, confident and happy adults.

20. Tilda Swinton

Actress | We Need to Talk About Kevin

The iconoclastic gifts of the visually striking and fiercely talented actress Tilda Swinton have been appreciated by a more international audience of late.

She was born Katherine Mathilda Swinton on November 5, 1960, in London, England. Her mother, Judith Balfour, Lady Swinton (née Killen), was ...

The iconoclastic gifts of the visually striking and fiercely talented Scottish actress Tilda Swinton, who was born on November 5th, 1960, have been appreciated by a more international audience of late. Her mother, Judith Balfour, Lady Swinton (née Killen), was Australian, and her father, Major-General Sir John Swinton, an army officer, was English-born. Her ancestry is Scottish, Northern Irish, and English. Born into a patrician military family, she was educated at an English and a Scottish boarding school. Tilda subsequently studied Social and Political Science at Cambridge University and graduated in 1983 with a degree in English Literature. During her time as a student, she performed countless stage productions and proceeded to work for a season in the Royal Shakespeare Company. A decided rebel when it came to the arts, she left the company after a year as her approach shifted dramatically: With a taste for the unique and bizarre, she found some genuinely interesting gender-bending roles come her way, such as the composer Mozart in Pushkin's "Mozart and Salieri", and as a working class woman impersonating her dead husband during World War II, in Karges' Screenplay: Man to Man: Another Night of Rubbish on the Telly (1992). In 1985 the pale-skinned, carrot-topped actress began a professional association with gay experimental director Derek Jarman. She continued to live and work with Jarman for the next nine years, developing seven critically acclaimed films. Their alliance would produce stark turns, such as turner-prize nominated Caravaggio (1986), The Last of England (1988), The Garden (1990), Edward II (1991), and Wittgenstein (1993). Jarman succumbed to complications from AIDS in 1994. His untimely demise left a devastating void in Tilda's life for quite some time. Her most notable performance of that period however comes from a non-Jarman film: For the title role in Orlando (1992), her nobleman character lives for 400 years while changing sex from man to woman. The film, which Swinton spent years helping writer/director Sally Potter develop and finance, continues to this day to have a worldwide devoted fan following. Over the years she has preferred art to celebrity, opening herself to experimental projects with new and untried directors and mediums, delving into the worlds of installation art and cutting-edge fashion. Consistently off-centered roles in Female Perversions (1996), Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1998), Teknolust (2002), Young Adam (2003), Broken Flowers (2005) and Béla Tarr's The Man from London (2007) have only added to her mystique. Hollywood too has picked up on this notoriety and, since the birth of her twins in 1997, she has successfully moved between the deep-left-field art-house and quality Hollywood blockbusters. The thriller The Deep End (2001), earned her a number of critic's awards and her first Golden Globe nomination. Such mainstream U.S. pictures as The Beach (2000) with Leonardo DiCaprio, fantasy epic Constantine (2005) with Keanu Reeves, her Oscar-decorated performance in Michael Clayton (2007) alongside George Clooney and of course her iconic White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) have cemented her place as one of cinema's most outstanding women.

21. Penélope Cruz

Actress | Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Known outside her native country as the "Spanish enchantress", Penélope Cruz Sánchez was born in Madrid to Eduardo Cruz, a retailer, and Encarna Sánchez, a hairdresser. As a toddler, she was already a compulsive performer, re-enacting TV commercials for her family's amusement, but she decided to ...

Known outside her native country as the "Spanish enchantress", Penélope Cruz Sánchez was born in Madrid to Eduardo Cruz, a retailer, and Encarna Sánchez, a hairdresser. As a toddler, she was already a compulsive performer, re-enacting TV commercials for her family's amusement, but she decided to focus her energies on dance. After studying classical ballet for nine years at Spain's National Conservatory, she continued her training under a series of prominent dancers. At 15, however, she heeded her true calling when she bested more than 300 other girls at a talent agency audition. The resulting contract landed her several roles in Spanish TV shows and music videos, which in turn paved the way for a career on the big screen. Cruz made her movie debut in The Greek Labyrinth (1993) (The Greek Labyrinth), then appeared briefly in the Timothy Dalton thriller Framed (1992). Her third film was the Oscar-winning Belle Epoque (1992), in which she played one of four sisters vying for the love of a handsome army deserter. The film also garnered several Goyas, the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards. Her resume continued to grow by three or four films each year, and soon Cruz was a leading lady of Spanish cinema. Live Flesh (1997) (Live Flesh) offered her the chance to work with renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar (who would later be her ticket to international fame), and the same year she was the lead actress in the thriller/drama/mystery/sci-fi film Open Your Eyes (1997), a huge hit in Spain that earned eight Goyas (though none for Cruz). Her luck finally changed in 1998, when the movie-industry comedy The Girl of Your Dreams (1998) won her a Best Actress Goya. Cruz made a few more forays into English-language film, but her first big international hit was Almodóvar's All About My Mother (1999), in which she played an unchaste but well-meaning nun. As the film was showered with awards and accolades, Cruz suddenly found herself in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. Her next big project was Woman on Top (2000), an American comedy about a chef with bewitching culinary skills and a severe case of motion sickness. While in the US, she also signed up to star opposite Johnny Depp in the drug-trafficking drama Blow (2001) and opposite Matt Damon in Billy Bob Thornton's All the Pretty Horses (2000). Cruz says she's wary of being typecast as a beautiful young damsel, but it's hard to imagine disguising her wide-eyed charms and generous nature. Fortunately, with Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky (2001) (a remake of Open Your Eyes (1997)) and a John Madden collaboration looming in her future, Damsel Penelope isn't likely to disappear just yet.

22. Mo'Nique

Actress | Precious

Mo'Nique received a standing ovation when she stepped on stage for the first time in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, giving her confidence to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. After numerous stand-up performances, she took a leap forward with one of the starring roles in The Parkers (...

Monique received a standing ovation when she stepped on stage for the first time in the hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, giving her confidence to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. After numerous stand-up performances, she took a leap forward with one of the starring roles in The Parkers (1999).

Mo'Nique's huge international breakthrough came with her performance in the independent movie Precious (2009), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and over 30 other major awards for acting, including all the most important ones like Golden Globe, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Circle, Chicago Film Critics Association, Independent Spirit, Screen Actors Guild, National Society of Film Critics, Critics' Choice, BAFTA, Sundance Film Festival.

23. Melissa Leo

Actress | The Fighter

Melissa Chessington Leo is an American actress. She is known for her Academy Award-winning performance in the 2010 film The Fighter (2010). She was born on September 14, 1960, in New York City. Leo starred as the mother of boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film The Fighter, also starring Mark Wahlberg. ...

Melissa Leo was born on September 14, 1960 in New York City, New York, USA as Melissa Chessington Leo. She is an actress and producer, known for The Fighter (2010), Prisoners (2013) and Oblivion (2013).

24. Octavia Spencer

Actress | Hidden Figures

Spencer is a native of Montgomery, Alabama, which she claims is the proverbial buckle of the Bible belt. She's the sixth of seven siblings and holds a BS in Liberal Arts from Auburn University. A "closet" lover of acting, this practical Alabamian knew that she'd someday work in the film industry, ...

Spencer is a native of Montgomery, Alabama, which she claims is the proverbial buckle of the Bible belt. She's the sixth of seven siblings and holds a BS in Liberal Arts from Auburn University. A "closet" lover of acting, this practical Alabamian knew that she'd someday work in the film industry, but never dreamed it would be in front of the camera. In 1995, acclaimed director Joel Schumacher changed all that by giving her a small part opposite Sandra Bullock in the hit film A Time to Kill, and Spencer was on her way. In 1996, she teamed up with Bullock again in Bullock's directorial debut of Making Sandwiches, a short film that premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.

Spencer made her stage debut in Los Angeles and originated the role of "LaSonia" (pronounced lasagna) in famed writer/director Del Shore's, The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, starring opposite veteran actors Beth Grant, Dale Dickey and David Steen (2003). The play garnered Spencer and her fellow cast mates critical acclaim and a bevy of awards. Since then, Spencer has continued to see success as an actor in both film and television, working alongside Hollywood's elite. In February 2009, she was lauded by Los Angeles Times publication: The Envelope, for her brief but memorable performance in the Will Smith drama Seven Pounds.

25. Anne Hathaway

Actress | Les Misérables

Anne Jacqueline Hathaway was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Kate McCauley Hathaway, an actress, and Gerald T. Hathaway, a lawyer, both originally from Philadelphia. She is of mostly Irish descent, along with English, German, and French. Her first major role came in the short-lived television series ...

Anne Hathaway was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Kathleen Ann (McCauley), an actress, and Gerald Thomas Hathaway, a lawyer, both originally from Philadelphia. She is of mostly Irish descent, along with English, German, and French. Her first major role came in the short-lived television series Get Real (1999). She gained widespread recognition for her roles in The Princess Diaries (2001) and its 2004 sequel as a young girl who discovers she's a member of royalty, opposite Julie Andrews and Heather Matarazzo.

She also had a notable role in Nicholas Nickleby (2002) opposite Charlie Hunnam and Jamie Bell, and a starring role in Ella Enchanted (2004). A former top-ranking soprano in New York, Hathaway was reportedly a front-runner for the role of "Christine" in the 2004 The Phantom of the Opera (2004). However, due to scheduling conflicts with The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), she couldn't take the role, which was later given to newcomer Emmy Rossum.

Hathaway soon started to move away from family-friendly films. Following The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), she appeared topless in the films Havoc (2005) opposite Josh Peck and Brokeback Mountain (2005) opposite Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Her desire to break out of her "Princess Diaries" image parallels that of her one-time co-star, Julie Andrews, who went topless in the film S.O.B. (1981) in order to break away from the image she created from her 1960s musicals. In interviews, Hathaway said that doing family-friendly films didn't mean she was similar to their characters or mean she objected to appearing nude in other films.

26. Lupita Nyong'o

Actress | 12 Years a Slave

Lupita Amondi Nyong'o was born March 1, 1983 in Mexico City, Mexico, to Kenyan parents, Dorothy Ogada Buyu and Peter Anyang' Nyong'o. Her father, a senator, was then a visiting lecturer in political science. She was raised in Kenya. At age 16, her parents sent her back to Mexico for seven months to...

Lupita Nyong'o was born in Mexico, to Kenyan parents. She was raised in Kenya and educated in the USA. She is a graduate of the Yale University School of Drama's Acting program.

Lupita's film debut was playing "Patsey" in acclaimed director, Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave (2013). She was also the lead in MTV's award-winning drama series, Shuga (2009).

Lupita's stage credits include playing "Perdita" in "The Winter's Tale", (Yale Repertory Theater), "Sonya" in "Uncle Vanya", "Katherine" in "The Taming of the Shrew", as well as being in the original production of Michael Mitnick's "Elijah".



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