Holly Hunter Reflects on Her Career in Photos: 'The More I Participate, The More Humble I Get'
The Oscar winner reflects on her most memorable roles and why she's happiest living out of the spotlight
Holly Hunter had only been living in New York City for three weeks when she was cast in the horror film The Burning, out in 1981. "That's when I got my SAG card," she says.
The actress started acting at Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Georgia. "I started asking, 'Where should I go to school?' " she recalls of enrolling at Carnegie Mellon University after graduation.
"It was so much fun after I got over being petrified," says Hunter of her Oscar-nominated role in 1987's Broadcast News as feisty television news producer Jane Craig (alongside William Hurt and Albert Brooks). "I've never been given so many breaks by journalists as I was after that [movie]. And that's because of the amount of research [director] Jim Brooks did. It was real."
Hunter became longtime friends with costar Richard Dreyfuss after their 1989 film, Always. "Richard came over a few years ago for Thanksgiving with me and my family," she says.
"I don't even know where this was, but I love to skate," says Hunter (ca. 1995). "I roller-skated as a kid, and then when I did Once Around [in 1991], the second movie I did with Richard Dreyfuss, I started taking ice-skating lessons. And I'm still skating. In the wintertime I love to be able to skate on a pond, on a lake, whatever is around."
Hunter has been nominated for six Emmys and won two; in 1993 (right) she scored the outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or special trophy for The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom.
The actress took home an Academy Award for her role as a mute 19th-century bride in 1993's The Piano (she's been nominated four times). "I did not have kids [then] but I felt that she was mine," Hunter says of costar Anna Paquin, who also won Oscar gold. "There was a psychic connection."
The actress and Frances McDormand (here in 2000) first met on a trip to Yale in 1981 and later became roommates in the Bronx. "We stayed there for a couple of years and then went out to Silver Lake in Los Angeles and rented a place together. We're still buddies," says Hunter.
"It was really cool to get to hang out with George [Clooney]," says Hunter of her second Coen brothers gig, 2000's O Brother, Where Art Thou?. "He's incredibly good-looking."
Her first Coen brothers film, 1997's Raising Arizona, paired her with Nicolas Cage. The comedy eventually became a cult hit. "People love to say lines to me on the street," she says.
When it comes to her roles, "hair is important to me," says Hunter. In real life, "my hair is still a manifestation of some character." At the 2004 Golden Globes (right) she says, "It was a little Sheryl Crow-ish." That year, she was nominated for best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture for Thirteen; she's been nominated seven times and won once.
Hunter and actor Gordon MacDonald met while costarring in the play By the Bog of Cats in 2001. "It was a great experience," says the actress (with MacDonald in New York City in 2007). "We kind of tend not to traipse down the red carpet together. It's just more about privacy." Together, they have teenage twin sons.
"I don't do well giving speeches," recalls the actress (receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008). "I was out of my mind with nerves."
Of fame in general, "it's not like, 'Oh wow, now I'm a success,' " the 62-year-old says of her four-decade-long career. "The road wings and turns and goes steeply downhill and uphill. The more I participate, the more humble I get."
"It was a massive shock at how incredible [laughs] the movie was," Hunter (in 2018) says of voicing Elastigirl in The Incredibles movies. "I was simply not prepared."
"He just emanates this joie de vivre, and it's fabulous to be around him," Hunter says of current Mr. Mayor costar Ted Danson. "Everybody soaks that up."