Mary Elizabeth Spacek (Born: December 25th, 1949) best known as Sissy Spacek is an American actress and singer. She began her career in the early 1970s and first gained attention for her role in the film Badlands. Her major breakthrough came in 1976 when she played the title character of Carrie White in Brian De Palma's horror film, Carrie based on the first novel by Stephen King, for which she earned an Oscar nomination a rare feat for an actor or actress in a horror film. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn in the 1980 film Coal Miner's Daughter, and also earned a Grammy nomination for the song "Coal Miner's Daughter" from the film's soundtrack. She went on to receive further Oscar nominations for her roles in Missing, The River, Crimes of the Heart and In the Bedroom. Coal Miner's Daughter and Crimes of the Heart also won her the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. A 6th time Oscar nominee, she received her sixth nomination for In the Bedroom , which also won her a 3th Golden Globe, this time for Best Actress in a Drama. Her other films include Missing, Prime Cut, 3 Women, Raggedy Man, JFK, Affliction, The Straight Story, Tuck Everlasting, Nine Lives and The Help. Sissy also played matriarch Sally Rayburn in the Netflix thriller series Bloodline from 2015 until its cancellation in 2017. She is playing Ruth Deaver in the new Hulu series Castle Rock.
Sissy was born on December 25th, 1949 in Quitman, Texas, the daughter of Virginia Frances (December 18th, 1917 – November 10th, 1981) and Edwin Arnold Spacek Sr. (July 3th, 1910 – January 7th, 2001), a county agricultural agent. Her mother, who was of Polish, English and Irish descent, was from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. At age 6, she performed on stage for the first time, appearing in a local talent show. Although her birth name was Mary Elizabeth, she was always called "Sissy" by her brothers which led to her stage name. She attended Quitman High School and was named Homecoming Queen at her Senior Prom. Sissy was greatly affected by the death of her close 18 year old brother Robbie, in 1967 from leukemia when she was 17, which she has called "The defining event of my whole life." Sissy said the personal tragedy made her fearless in her acting career: "I think it made me brave. Once you experience something like that, you've experienced the ultimate tragedy. And if you can continue, nothing else frightens you. That's what I meant about it being rocket fuel I was fearless in a way. Maybe it gave more depth to my work because I had already experienced something profound and life changing."
1970's and beginning of acting career
Sissy worked for a time as a photographic model represented by Ford Models and as an extra at Andy Warhol's Factory. She appeared in a non credited role in his film Trash. With the help of her cousin, actor Rip Torn, she enrolled in Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio and then the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York. Her first credited role was in Prime Cut, in which she played Poppy, a girl sold into sexual slavery. The role led to television work, which included a guest role in The Waltons, which she played twice in 1973. Sissy received international attention after starring in Terrence Malick's Badlands, in which she played Holly, the film's narrator and a 15 year old girlfriend of mass-murderer Kit. Sissy has described Badlands as the "most incredible" experience of her career.On the set of Badlands, Sissy met art director Jack Fisk, whom she married in 1974. Sissy's iconic and career defining role came in Brian De Palma's film Carrie, in which she played Carrie White a shy and troubled high school senior with telekinetic powers. Sissy had to work hard to persuade director Brian to engage her for the role. After rubbing Vaseline into her hair and donning an old sailor dress her mother made for her as a child, Sissy turned up at the audition with the odds against her, but won the part. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in the film. Sissy had previously been the set dresser for Brian's film Phantom of the Paradise. After Carrie, Sissy played the small role of housekeeper Linda Murray in Alan Rudolph's ensemble piece Welcome to LA and cemented her reputation in independent cinema with her performance as Pinky Rose in Robert Altman's classic 3 Women. Altman was deeply impressed by her performance: "She's remarkable, one of the top actresses I've ever worked with. Her resources are like a deep well." Brian de Palma added: "Spacek is a phantom. She has this mysterious way of slipping into a part, letting it take over her. She's got a wider range than any young actress I know." Sissy also helped finance then brother in law David Lynch's directorial debut, Eraserhead and is thanked in the credits of the film.
1980's and Oscar win
Sssy began the 1980's with an Oscar award for her role in Coal Miner's Daughter, in which she played country music star Loretta Lynn, who selected her for the role. In the film, both she and Beverly D'Angelo, who played Patsy Cline, performed their own singing. Film critic Roger Ebert has credited the movie's success "To the performance by Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn. With the same sort of magical chemistry she's shown before, when she played the high school kid in Carrie, Sissy at 29 has the ability to appear to be almost any age on screen. Here, she ages from about 14 to somewhere in her 30's, always looks the age, and never seems to be wearing makeup." Sissy also was nominated for a Grammy Award for her singing on the film's soundtrack album. She followed this with her own country album, "Hangin' Up My Heart" the album spawned one hit single, "Lonely But Only For You", a song written by K. T. Oslin, which reached No. 15 on the Billboard Country chart. In the film Heart Beat, Spacek played Carolyn Cassady, who slipped under the influence of John Heard's Jack Kerouac and Nick Nolte's Neal Cassady)into a combination of drudgery and debauchery. Sissy was so adamant about getting the role, that she pored through over 4,000 pages of research to prepare for her character. Producer Ed Pressman and director John Byrum took her to dinner to advise her that she did not have the role. Sissy was so distraught at the news that she shattered a glass of wine in her hand. After that, Ed walked up to Sissy with a piece of shattered glass and told her she had the role. He said that Sissy breaking the glass clinched the deal, and they believed she would ultimately best suit the part. The film was released on April 25th, 1980 to mixed critical reviews. Also in the 1980's, Sissy starred alongside Jack Lemmon in Constantin Costa Gavras's political thriller Missing, based on the book "The Execution of Charles Horman" and appeared with Mel Gibson in the rural drama The River, and with Diane Keaton and Jessica Lange in 1986's Crimes of the Heart. She was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for all of these roles. Other performances of the decade included star turns in husband Jack Fisk's directorial debut Raggedy Man and alongside Anne Bancroft in the suicide themed drama night, Mother. Sissy also showed her lighter side by voicing the brain in the Steve Martin comedy The Man with Two Brains.
1990's to 2010
She had a supporting role as the wife of Jim Garrison played by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone's JFK and made a number of comedies, TV movies, and the occasional film. Most notable of her appearances during these years was her turn as the evil Verena Talbo in the ensemble piece The Grass Harp, which reunited her with both Laurie and Lemmon, as well as a supporting performance, again alongside Nick Nolte, as the waitress Margie Fogg in Paul Schrader's father son psychodrama Affliction. She also played Rose Straight in David Lynch's The Straight Story and Brendan Fraser's character's mother in Blast from the Past. In 2001, she was again nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, for her work in Todd Field's In the Bedroom. The New York Times film critic Stephen Holden said of her work in the film: "Ms. Spacek's performance is as devastating as it is unflashy. With the slight tightening of her neck muscles and a downward twitch of her mouth, she conveys her character's relentlessness, then balances it with enough sweetness to make Ruth seem entirely human. It is one of Ms. Spacek's greatest performances." Her performance as Ruth Fowler, a grieving mother consumed by revenge, won extraordinary praise and garnered the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress as well as the Critic's Choice Award for Best Actress, Golden Globe Award for Best Actress Motion Picture Drama, and Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead, among many others. With her 6th best actress Academy Award nomination, Sissy became only the 8th actress to be nominated for at least 6 leading role Oscars. Sissy is the most recent inductee to this list. Other performances of this decade include unfaithful wife Ruth in Rodrigo García's Nine Lives and a turn as a woman suffering from Alzheimer's in the television movie Pictures of Hollis Woods. In 2008, Sissy had a supporting part in the Christmas comedy our Christmases and a lead role in the independent drama, Lake City. Sissy appeared on the HBO drama Big Love, for a multi episode arc, as a powerful Washington, D.C. lobbyist. In 2005, she narrated the audiobook of Stephen King's novel, "Carrie" and in 2006 she narrated the classic Harper Lee novel "To Kill a Mockingbird", which sold over 30 million copies. In 2011, she received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Sissy was featured in The Help, directed by Tate Taylor, and along with the cast, was awarded with the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for their performance in the film. In 2012, Sissy published a book, "My Extraordinary Ordinary Life", with co author Maryanne Vollers. The Washington Post's Jen Chaney called it "Refreshingly down to earth" and "Beautifully written". She also mentioned that Sissy's description of her childhood is so "Evocative that one can almost taste the sour stalks of goatweed she chewed on steamy summer afternoons". Jay Stafford of Richmond Times Dispatch pointed out that, unlike other actor's autobiographies, Sissy's "Benefits from good writing and remarkable frankness". The Austin Chronicle's Margaret Moser stated that Sissy's book is "As easy to read as it is a pleasure to digest". Joe Muscolino of the Biographile gave the book a 5 out of 5 rating, saying that it "Does not disappoint". Kirkus Reviews, however, was less appreciative of the book, calling it "An average memoir" and "Overly detailed", while criticizing its lack of "Narrative arc", but complimented Sissy for being "Truly down to earth". It further criticized that "The book is "ordinary" and does not have enough drama to engage readers not directly interested in Sissy and her work", and ended by saying that it's "For die hard movie buffs and Sissy fans only". Sissy became the first person to appear as an actor in a film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in each of the four most recent decades. Each film appeared at or near the beginning of its decade: Coal Miner's Daughter, Missing, JFK, In the Bedroom, and The Help.
Sissy married production designer and art director Jack Fisk in 1974, after they met on the set of Badlands. Fisk later directed her in the films Raggedy Man and Violets Are Blue. They have two daughters, Schuyler Fisk (Born: July 8th, 1982) and Madison Fisk (Born: September 21st, 1988). Schuyler Fisk is both an actress and a singer. In 1982, Spacek and her family moved to a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia. Despite Sissy's lengthy career and recognition, she has managed to keep a low profile and is rarely a tabloid fixture. Various critics have praised her ability to maintain a private life in the public eye. Sissy has been married twice and has two grown daughters.