Frances Louise McDormand is an Academy Award-winning and Golden Globe-nominated American film, stage, and television actress.
McDormand was born in Chicago, Illinois, the adoptive daughter of Canadians Noreen, a now retired registered nurse and receptionist, and Vernon McDormand, a Disciples of Christ pastor. McDormand has said that her biological mother may have been one of the parishioners at her adoptive father's church. McDormand has an adoptive sister, Dorothy A. McDormand, who is an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and chaplain, as well as two other siblings, all of whom were adopted by the McDormands, who had no biological children. As her adoptive father specialized in restoring congregations, he frequently moved their family, and McDormand lived in several small towns in Illinois, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee, before settling in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area town of Monessen, where she graduated from high school in 1975. She attended Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, and earned a B.A. in Theater in 1979.
In 1982, McDormand earned an M.F.A. from the Yale University School of Drama. She was roommates with Holly Hunter at the time. Her first professional acting job was in Trinidad and Tobago, performing in a play written by poet Derek Walcott and funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
McDormand's film debut was in Joel and Ethan Coen's first film, 1984's Blood Simple. In 1985, McDormand, the Coen brothers, Holly Hunter, and director Sam Raimi shared a house in the Bronx.
In addition to her early film roles, McDormand played Connie Chapman in the fifth season of the television police drama Hill Street Blues. In 1988, she played Stella Kowalski in a stage production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. Frances McDormand is an associate member of the experimental theater company The Wooster Group.
McDormand appeared in several theatrical and television roles during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. She has gained renown and critical acclaim for her dramatic work, and is a respected actress, having been nominated for Academy Awards four times. In 1988, she was nominated for a Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Mississippi Burning; in 1996, she won the Academy award for Best Actress for her performance as police chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo; in 2000, she earned her second nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of a concerned mother in Almost Famous. Also for Almost Famous, she won the Best Supporting Actress nod from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, San Diego Film Critics Society, Southeastern Film Critics Association, and the Florida Film Critics Circle. For her role in Wonder Boys (2000), she won Best Supporting Actress from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Florida Film Critics Circle, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
In 2006, McDormand received her third Best Supporting Actress nod for her performance in 2005's North Country, although she lost to Rachel Weisz. She also had a role in the film Friends with Money, a dark comedy co-starring Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack, and directed by Nicole Holofcener. She recently received an Independent Spirit Award for her role in Friends with Money. She also voiced the role of the lady principal Melanie Upfoot in the Simpsons episode Girls Just Want to Have Sums, which aired on April 30, 2006. McDormand has recently starred in the films Burn After Reading and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.
McDormand has been married to director Joel Coen since 1984, and the two adopted a son from Paraguay, Pedro McDormand Coen, in 1994. They live in New York City. McDormand has starred in six of the Coen Brothers films, including a minor appearance in Miller's Crossing, a secondary role in Raising Arizona and lead roles in Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn't There, Fargo, for which she won an Academy Award, and more recently Burn After Reading.