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Barbara Hershey

05 Feb 1948 (Age 69)

Barbara Hershey Biography

Barbara Hershey born in February 5, 1948, also known as Barbara Seagull, is an American actress. In a career spanning nearly 50 years, she has played a variety of roles on television and in cinema, in several genres including westerns and comedies. Although she began acting at age 17 in 1965, Hershey did not achieve much critical acclaim until the latter half of the 1980s. By that time, the Chicago Tribune referred to her as "one of America's finest actresses."

Hershey was awarded an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries/TV Film for her role in A Killing in a Small Town (1990). She has been nominated for two more Golden Globes: in 1989 for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mary Magdalene in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, and for her role in Jane Campion's Portrait of a Lady (1996). For the latter film, she was also nominated for an Academy Award and she won a Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress. In addition, she has won two Best Actress awards at the Cannes Film Festival for her roles in Shy People (1987) and A World Apart (1988). She also featured in both Woody Allen's critically acclaimed Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Garry Marshall's comedy, Beaches (1988).

Establishing a reputation early in her career as a "hippie", Hershey experienced conflict between her personal life and her acting goals. Her career suffered a decline during a six year relationship with actor David Carradine, with whom she had a child. She experimented with a change in stage name that she later regretted. During this time her personal life was highly publicized and ridiculed. It was not until she separated from Carradine and changed her stage name back to Hershey that her acting career became well established. Later in her career, she began to keep her personal life private. Her career was again revived by the release of Black Swan, for which her portrayal of an overbearing mother and former ballerina has received critical acclaim and a BAFTA Award nomination.

Early life

Barbara Hershey was born in Hollywood, California. She is the daughter of Melrose (née Moore) and Arnold Nathan Herzstein. Her father, a horse racing columnist, was Jewish, and her mother, a native of Arkansas, was a Presbyterian of Irish descent. The youngest of three children, Barbara always wanted to be an actress. Her family nicknamed her "Sarah Bernhardt". She was shy in school and so quiet that people thought she was deaf. By the age of 10 she proved herself to be an "A" student. Her high school drama coach helped her find an agent and in 1965, at age 17, she landed a role on Sally Field's television series, Gidget. She said that she found Field to be very supportive of her in her first acting role. According to The New York Times All Movie Guide, she graduated from Hollywood High School in 1966, but David Carradine, in his autobiography, said she dropped out of high school after she began acting.

Hershey's acting debut, three episodes of Gidget, was followed by the short lived television series, The Monroes (1966), which also featured Michael Anderson, Jr.. At this point, she had adopted the stage name of Hershey. Although she said that the series helped her career, she expressed some frustration with her role saying, " One week I was strong, the next, weak". While on the series, Hershey garnered several other roles, including one in Doris Day's final feature film, With Six You Get Eggroll.



In 1969, Hershey co-starred in the Glenn Ford western Heaven with a Gun. On the set, she met and began a romantic relationship with actor David Carradine, who later starred in the television series, Kung Fu (see Personal Life). In the same year, she acted in the controversial drama Last Summer, which was based on the novel by Evan Hunter. Hershey played Sandy in this film, the "heavy", influencing two young men, played by Bruce Davison and Richard Thomas, to rape another girl, Rhoda, played by Catherine Burns. Even though the film, directed by Frank Perry, received an X rating for the graphic rape scene, it earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Burns.
Barbara Hershey as Sandy, Bruce Davison as Dan and Richard Thomas as Peter in "Last Summer." Sandy convinces the boys to rape Rhoda, played by Catherine Burns, not shown in photo.

During the filming of Last Summer, a seagull was killed. "In one scene", Hershey explained, "I had to throw the bird in the air to make her fly. We had to reshoot the scene over and over again. I could tell the bird was tired. Finally when the scene was finished the director, Frank Perry, told me the bird had broken her neck on the last throw." Hershey felt responsible for the bird's death and changed her stage name to "Seagull", as a tribute to the creature. "I felt her spirit enter me", she later explained, 'It was the only moral thing to do.'" The name change was not positively received. When she was offered a part opposite Timothy Bottoms in The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974) (AKA Vrooder's Hooch) Hershey had to forfeit half her salary, $25,000, to be billed under the name "Seagull" because the producers were not in favor of the billing.


In 1970, Hershey played Tish Grey in The Baby Maker, a film which explored surrogate motherhood. Criticizing the directing and writing of James Bridges, critic, Shirley Rigby said of the "bizarre" film, "Only the performances in the film save it from being a total travesty." Rigby went on to say, "Barbara Hershey is a great little actress, much, much more than just another pretty face."

Hershey once said that starring in Boxcar Bertha (1972), "was the most fun I ever had on a movie." The film co-starred Hershey's domestic partner, David Carradine. Produced by Roger Corman, the film was Martin Scorsese's first Hollywood picture. Shot in 6 weeks on a budget of $600,000, Boxcar Bertha was intended to be a period crime drama similar to Corman's Bloody Mama (1970), or Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Although Corman publicized it as an exploitation piece with plenty of sex and violence, Scorsese's influence made it "something much more." Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun Times, said of the film's direction, "Martin Scorsese has gone for mood and atmosphere more than for action, and his violence is always blunt and unpleasant-never liberating and exhilarating, as the New Violence is supposed to be."

Hershey's experience with Scorsese would extend to another major role for her 16 years later, in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) as Mary Magdalene. During the filming of Boxcar Bertha, Hershey had introduced Scorsese to the Nikos Kazantzakis novel on which the latter film was based. That collaboration resulted in an Academy Award nomination for the director and a Golden Globe nod for Hershey.

By the mid-1970s Hershey stated, "I've been so tied up with David [Carradine] that people have forgotten that I am me. I spend 50 percent of my time working with David." She had, in 1974, guest-starred in a two part episode of Carradine's television series, Kung Fu. She played, under the direction of Carradine, a love interest to his character, Kwai Chang Caine, during his time at the Shaolin temple. She also appeared in two of Carradine's independent directorial projects, You and Me (1975) and Americana (1983), both of which had been filmed in 1973. Her father, Arnold Herzstein, also appeared in Americana. She publicly acknowledged the desire to be recognized in her own right and later in 1974 she did just that, winning a Gold Medal at the Atlanta Film Festival for her role in the Dutch-produced film, Love Comes Quietly.

Later in the decade, Hershey starred with Charlton Heston in The Last Hard Men (1976). She hoped the film would revive her career after the damage she felt it had suffered while she was with Carradine. She believed that the hippie label she had been given was a career impediment. By this time she had shed Carradine and her "Seagull" pseudonym. But, throughout the rest of 1970s, she was appearing in made-for-TV movies that were described as "forgettable", like Flood! (1976),Sunshine Christmas (1977) and The Glitter Palace (1977), in which she played a lesbian.


Hershey landed her first big screen role in four years, Richard Rush's The Stunt Man (1980). That role earned her some critical praise. Hershey felt that she would be forever in debt to Rush for fighting with financiers to allow her a part in that film. She also felt that The Stunt Man was an important transition for her, from playing girls to playing women.

Some of the "women roles" that followed The Stunt Man included the horror movie The Entity (1981); Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff (1983), in which she played Glennis Yeager, wife of test pilot Chuck Yeager; and The Natural (1984), in which she shot Robert Redford's character. For the role of Harriet Bird, Hershey had chosen a particular hat as her "anchor". Director Barry Levinson disagreed with her choice, but she insisted on wearing it. Eventually Levinson saw that her choice was apt, and because of it he developed respect for her acting instincts and credibility. Levinson later cast Hershey as the wife of Danny Devito's character in the comedy Tin Men (1987).

In 1986, Hershey left her native California and moved with her son to Manhattan. Three days later, she met briefly with Woody Allen, who offered her the role of Lee in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). In addition to a Manhattan apartment, Hershey also bought an antique home in rural Connecticut. The Woody Allen picture won three Academy Awards and a Golden Globe. The film also earned Hershey a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress. She described her part in this as "a wonderful gift".

Hershey followed Hannah and Her Sisters with back-to-back wins for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Shy People and for her appearance as anti-apartheid activist Diana Roth in A World Apart (1988). Her character in the latter film was based on Ruth First. Also in the 1980s, she portrayed Errol Flynn's first wife, actress Lili Damita in the TV movie My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1985), which was based on Flynn's autobiography. She also played the love interest to Gene Hackman's character in the basketball film Hoosiers (1986).

Barbara Cloud, of the Pittsburgh Press, gave attribution to Barbara Hershey for starting a trend when she had collagen injected into her lips for her role in Beaches (1988).Humorist Erma Bombeck said of the movie, which also starred Bette Midler, "I have no idea what Beaches was all about. All I could focus on was Barbara Hershey's lips. She looked like she stopped off at a gas station and someone said, 'Your lips are down 30 pounds. Better let me hit 'em with some air'."


In 1990, Hershey won an Emmy and a Golden Globe, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special for her role as Candy Morrison in A Killing in a Small Town, which was based on the acquittal of Candy Montgomery for the death of Betty Gore. Montgomery had killed Gore, on Friday June 13, 1980, in her Wylie, Texas home, by hitting her 41 times with an ax. The jury determined that she did so in self defense. In preparation for the part, Hershey had a phone conversation with Montgomery. Many of the names of the real life principles in the case were changed for the movie. This movie also has an alternative title of Evidence of Love. Also in 1990, Hershey drew upon what Woody Allen once described as her "erotic overtones," portraying a woman who falls in love with her much younger nephew, by marriage, played by Keanu Reeves, in the comedic Tune in Tomorrow.

In 1991, Hershey played Hanna Trout, the wife of the title character in Paris Trout (1991), a made for cable television movie. In this Showtime production, Hershey collaborated again with A Killing in a Small Town director, Stephen Gyllenhaal, to play a woman who has an affair with her husband's lawyer. Her husband, an abusive bigot, played by Dennis Hopper, is on trial for murdering a young African-American girl. The film, which was based on the 1988 National Book Award winning novel by Pete Dexter, featured Hopper and Hershey enacting a graphic rape scene that the actress found difficult to view. The picture was described as a "dramatic reach deep into the dark hollows on racism, abuse and murder." Paris Trout was nominated for five Prime Time Emmy Awards, including nods for both Hershey and Hopper. Later in the year, she played an attorney defending her college roommate for the murder of her husband in the suspenseful whodunit Defenseless (1991).

Because of her frequent television appearances, by the end of 1991, Hershey was accused of "selling out to the small screen." In 1992, Hershey appeared with Jane Alexander in the ABC miniseries Stay The Night (1992), causing Associated Press writer Jerry Buck to write, "Barbara Hershey is a person who jumps back and forth between features and television very easily".She starred in another TV miniseries in 1993, succeeding Angelica Huston, as Clara Allen in the sequel series Return to Lonesome Dove. She was nominated for a Golden Satellite Award for another TV appearance, The Staircase (1998). Between 1999-2000, she played Dr. Francesca Alberghetti in 22 episodes of the sixth season of the medical TV drama, Chicago Hope.

In 1997 Hershey appeared in a music video for a James Taylor song "Enough To Be On Your Way," as a character named "Alice" that represented Taylor's real-life brother Alex Taylor, who died in 1993.

Among her feature film appearances during the 1990s, was Jane Campion's adaptation of the Henry James novel The Portrait of a Lady (1996). Hershey earned an Oscar nomination and won the Best Supporting Actress award from the National Society of Film Critics for her role as Madame Serena Merle in that picture. In 1999, Hershey starred in an independent film called Drowning on Dry Land during which she met co-star Naveen Andrews with whom she began a romantic relationship which lasted until 2010 (see personal life).


In 2001, Hershey appeared in the psychological thiller Lantana (2001). She was the only American in a mostly Australian cast, which also included Kerry Armstrong, Anthony LaPaglia and Geoffrey Rush. Film writer, Sheila Johnson said that the film was "one of the best to emerge from Australia in years." Another thriller followed in 2003. 11:14 (2003) also featured Rachael Leigh Cook, Patrick Swayze, Hillary Swank and Colin Hanks.

Hershey continued to appear on television during the 2000s, including a season on the series The Mountain. She also starred as Anne Shirley as an adult in Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning (2008). Her most recent appearance, as of June 2010, was as American actress Mrs. Hubbard in an adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express for the British television series Poirot starring David Suchet, which was scheduled to air in the United States on Public Broadcast Service (PBS) in July, 2010.

In 2010, Hershey co-starred in Darren Aronofsky's acclaimed psychological thriller Black Swan (2010), opposite Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. She will star in the James Wan horror film Insidious, scheduled for release in 2011.

Personal life

In 1969, Barbara Hershey met David Carradine while they were working on Heaven With a Gun. The pair began a domestic relationship that would last until 1975. Carradine said that during the rape scene in that movie he cracked one of Barbara's ribs. They appeared in other films together including Martin Scorsese's Boxcar Bertha. In 1972, the couple posed together in a nude Playboy spread, recreating some sex scenes from Boxcar Bertha. Hershey was quoted in the magazine as saying of the sex scenes, "We wanted to really make it, but it was hard with the camera crews around. But we sure didn't have to fake anything." Later in 1972, Hershey gave birth to their son, Free, who changed his name to "Tom" when he was 9 years old. Although Carradine described Barbara as his soulmate,he confessed to being unfaithful to her seven times, in seven years. The relationship fell apart, around the time of his 1974 burglary arrest, after Carradine had begun an affair with Season Hubley who had guest starred in Kung Fu.

Hershey and Carradine had been prominent symbols of the Hollywood counterculture, and it was during this period that she changed her stage name to "Seagull". A blunt newspaper article from the Knight News Service, in 1979, referenced this period of her life saying of her acting career, "it looked as if she blew it". The article went on to describe David Carradine as a "Great American Fruitcake" and ridiculed Hershey for a claim she once made that after the birth of her son she had used the placenta to fertilize a fruit tree, "so Free someday could eat food nurtured by their own bodies."The article further referred to Hershey as a "kook" and stated that she was frequently "high on something". In addition to that criticism, she had been ostracized for breast-feeding her son during an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, and for breast-feeding him beyond the age of two years old. She said that this period of her life hurt her career; "Producers wouldn't see me because I had a reputation for using drugs and being undependable. I never used drugs at all and I have always been serious about my acting career." After splitting up with Carradine, she changed her stage name back to "Hershey", explaining that she had told the story of why she adopted the name "Seagull" so many times, it had lost its meaning.

By the time Hershey was 42 years old, she was described by columnist Luaina Lee as a "private person who was mired in some heavy publicity when she first became a professional actress."Yardena Arar, writing for the Los Angeles Daily News, confirmed that Hershey had become a private person by 1990. Arar added that it appeared Hershey wanted to put the Beaches lip augmentation, her name change to "Seagull," her relationship with David Carradine, and the fact that her son was once named "Free" behind her.

On August 8, 1992, when Hershey was 44, she married for the first time, to artist Stephen Douglas. The ceremony took place at her Connecticut home, where the only guests were their two mothers and Hershey's son, Tom (né Free) Carradine, who was 19 years old at the time. The couple began their relationship when she took art lessons from him in Los Angeles. They were separated and divorced one year after wedding.

Hershey began dating actor Naveen Andrews in 1999. During a brief separation in 2005, Andrews fathered a child with another woman. In May 2010, after Andrews won sole custody of his son, the couple announced that they had ended their 12-year relationship six months earlier. Hershey was 62 at the time.
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