Celebs » Mary Steenburgen » Biography

Mary Steenburgen

08 Feb 1953 (Age 65)

Mary Steenburgen Biography

Mary Nell Steenburgen is an Academy Award-winning American actress.

Personal Life

Steenburgen was born in Newport, Arkansas, the daughter of Nell, a school-board secretary, and Maurice Steenburgen, a freight-train conductor who worked at the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Steenburgen grew up in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Steenburgen married Malcolm McDowell in 1980 and they had two children together Lily Amanda, born January 21, 1981, and Charles Malcolm born July 10, 1983, before divorcing in 1990, and she has been married to actor Ted Danson since 1995.

In September 2005, she and Danson provided a guest lecture for students at the Clinton School of Public Service, where they discussed their roles in public service as well as the foundations and causes in which they are involved. In 2006, Steenburgen received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas.

She is a close personal friend of former First Lady and Senator, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and supported Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign along with her husband.

She splits her time living in California and Martha's Vineyard, in addition to sharing a condominium with Danson in the River Market District of Little Rock.


Steenburgen moved to New York City in 1972, working at Doubleday's while studying acting at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse under William Esper. Her break came when she was discovered by Jack Nicholson in the reception room of Paramount's New York office and was cast as the lead in his second directorial effort, the 1978 Western Goin' South.

In only her third film, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the 1980 film Melvin and Howard, playing the wife of a man who claims to have befriended reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.

Steenburgen played Clara Clayton in Back to the Future Part III (1990), a role which her children, fans of the Back to the Future movies, convinced her to play. She reprised the role by providing the character's voice in the Back to the Future: The Animated Series.

She had a leading role in the 1979 film Time After Time as a modern woman who falls in love with author H.G. Wells, played by husband-to-be Malcolm McDowell. In both this film and Back to the Future, she played the love interest of a time traveler.

Other notable film appearances came in the well-received 1983 film Cross Creek, her performance as an adulterous wife in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? with Johnny Depp, as the mother of Richard Nixon in the Oliver Stone biopic Nixon, and as a woman who discovers her husband is the father of a North Pole elf in the Will Ferrell holiday comedy Elf. She appeared in the 2008 comedy Step Brothers, another movie starring Will Ferrell, playing the mother of Ferrell's character.

In a little-known film, The Butcher's Wife, also starring Demi Moore and Jeff Daniels, Steenburgen plays a lead role in which she also sings. Film critic Charles Taylor, in The New York Times, said Steenburgen's "slow-drip voice comes to your ears like honey arriving on a moonbeam". She also acted in the film Life as a House in which she appears fully naked.

She also has starred in the sitcom Ink and the television miniseries of Gulliver's Travels with husband Ted Danson. She has appeared as herself alongside Danson in the HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2008, she appeared in the comedy Four Christmases.

Steenburgen appeared in a film production about the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, which was directed by New Zealander Niki Caro. The actress played Canadian reporter Linda Mack, who tries to mislead ABC News' Pierre Salinger on the subsequent investigation.
Hollywood Best of 2018

Get all the buzzing scoop from the world of entertainment - Filmibeat

Notification Settings X
Time Settings
Clear Notification X
Do you want to clear all the notifications from your inbox?
Settings X
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. This includes cookies from third party social media websites and ad networks. Such third party cookies may track your use on Filmibeat sites for better rendering. Our partners use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on Filmibeat website. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Learn more