Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Tootsie, Blue Sky, Music Box
Currently Known For:
American Horror Story
1976 - Present
Tootsie, Blue Sky, Music Box
For actors, there are three awards that you can receive that mark the pinnacle of your career. For films, it’s an Oscar. For stage, it’s a Tony. And for television, it’s an Emmy. Not many have been able to win at least one in each category, but one of those that can say they have is Jessica Lange. Not only has Lange had a career that’s spanned for more than 40 years, but at nearly 70 years old, she’s still going strong. For those that have watched her recently, it might be hard to believe her age.
Lange is a Minnesotan through and through, as she was born on April 20, 1949 in Cloquet and spent her childhood moving to different cities in the state because her father was a salesman that was constantly traveling. Eventually, Lange’s family made their way back to her hometown, where she graduated from high school. Lange decided to stay in-state for college, heading to the University of Minnesota, but would drop out to pursue a more alternative lifestyle once she started dating a photographer.
The couple would split up after having moved to France where Lange had learned more about theater and dance before being discovered by another photographer that kicked off her modeling career. Lange would head back to the United States as a result, and producer Dino De Laurentiis came across her while he was looking for someone to take on the leading role in the remake of the Hollywood classic “King Kong”.
The film was panned by critics, but did turn out a profit at the box office and helped Lange launch her acting career. “Getting cast in the Fay Wray role was such as fluke,” she said of her casting. “I was just back from Paris, and all skin and bones with a white Afro, and they took one look at me and said, ‘She’s not right.’ But then they flew me out to MGM to put me on camera...and by the time I left, I had the part.”
Now that she’d been in the lead role in a movie, Lange was able to be cast in subsequent films such as “Goin’ South” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. Lange had developed working relationships with notable people both in front of and behind the camera, which would be huge for her career heading into the 1980s.
1982 would prove to be the massive breakout year for Lange as she landed the role of Julie in “Tootsie” and as the titular character in “Frances”. In the latter, Lange was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, though she lost out to Meryl Streep’s performance in “Sophie’s Choice”. However, she was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “Tootsie” and won over Glenn Close and more.
“I knew when I did ‘Frances’ that it was something extraordinary,” she said. “I love those kinds of parts, with huge emotional swings. But ‘Tootsie’ turned out to be the best film I ever made. And to win my first Oscar for it was thrilling, not terrifying, the way it might be today. The awards were more casual then. You did your own hair; you did your own makeup. It wasn’t the fashion event of the season.”
Since then, Lange has been nominated for four more Oscars, including in 1985 for “Country” and 1986 for “Sweet Dreams” in the Best Actress category. Though she lost out on those two, Lange would win her second Oscar, earning the Best Actress title for her role in “Blue Sky”.
Some of the other notable film roles that Lange took on in the 1980s and 1990s included “Cape Fear”, “A Thousand Acres” and “Everybody’s All-American”. At the time, Lange didn’t do much work in terms of television, but that has changed in recent years. Films that Lange has starred in during the new millennium haven’t been as frequent, but include some memorable films such as “Big Fish” and “The Gambler”.
For the most part, many younger fans are more familiar with Lange’s work thanks to her roles in the “American Horror Story” series. From 2011 to 2015, Lange appeared in four of the series in the anthology playing different characters, and returned for one episode in 2018 for “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”. In another anthology series that aired on the same network (FX), Lange played Joan Crawford opposite Susan Sarandon in “Feud: Bette and Joan”.
Many were hoping that Lange wouldn’t stay away from “American Horror Story” completely, and even she didn’t want to say goodbye forever. “I’ll miss is, but I think in some way I had never intended to do more than one season, and then reconsidered and decided to do three more...It was an extraordinary experience.”
Now nearing 70 years old, Lange certainly isn’t struggling to find work, which is a rarity for someone her age. “It’s not a level playing field,” she said. “You don’t often see women in their 60s playing romantic leads, yet you will see men in their 60s playing romantic leads with co-stars who are decades younger.” To keep herself thinking young, though, Lange says that “In recent years I’ve tried to come to grips with the idea that you can actually choose to be happy...You can actually choose to let things roll off you.”