Today is the 60th birthday of ellen Barkin. If you aren’t following @ellenbarkin, you are missing out on everything. You will fall in love with her (if you haven’t already) and maybe even find your own voice. There is no denying that she is a beautiful and talented woman, throw in brains, a wicked sense of humor and a foul mouth (you can take the girl out of the Bronx…).
She was born in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, New York, the daughter of Evelyn (née Rozin), a hospital administrator who worked at Jamaica Hospital, and Sol Barkin, a chemical salesman. Barkin was raised in a lower-middle-class Jewish family, a descendant of immigrants from Siberia and the Russia-Poland border.
Barkin received her high school diploma at Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts. She then attended Hunter College and double majored in history and drama. At one point, Barkin wanted to teach ancient history. She continued her acting education at New York City’s Actors Studio. According to Time, she studied acting for ten years before landing her first audition.
Her break-out role was in the comedy-drama film Diner (1982), written and directed by Barry Levinson, for which she received favorable reviews. Barkin was cast in the drama film Tender Mercies (1983) after impressing its director Bruce Beresford during an audition in New York City, despite her inexperience and his lack of familiarity with her work. Robert Duvall, who played the lead role in Tender Mercies, said of Barkin, “She brings a real credibility for that part, plus she was young and attractive and had a certain sense of edge, a danger for her that was good for that part.” She also appeared in the 1983 rock & roll drama film Eddie and the Cruisers.
Barkin would later appear in several successful films, including the thrillers The Big Easy (1987), opposite Dennis Quaid and Sea of Love (1989), opposite Al Pacino. Barkin also appeared in Off-Broadway plays, including a role as one of the roommates in Extremities, about an intended rape victim played by Susan Sarandon who turns the tables on her attacker. About her performance in the play Eden Court, The New York Times critic Frank Rich summarized: “If it were really possible to give the kiss of life to a corpse, the actress Ellen Barkin would be the one to do it. In Eden Court, the moribund play that has brought her to the Promenade Theater, Miss Barkin is tantalizingly alive from her bouncing blond ponytail to the long legs that gyrate wildly and involuntarily every time an Elvis Presley record plays on stage”.
Barkin has also done work in made-for-television films like Before Women Had Wings (1997) and The White River Kid (1999). Currently, she voices the start of each Theme Time Radio Hour with host Bob Dylan on XM’s “Deep Tracks”. In 2005, Barkin set up a film production company with her brother, George, along with her husband at the time and billionaire investor, Ronald Perelman. She also starred in the movie ‘This boy’s life’.
Barkin appeared in her Broadway debut as Dr. Brookner in The Normal Heart, for which she won the 2011 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
Most recently, Barkin has received acclaim for her performance in Another Happy Day. IndieWire have cited her turn as one the best female performances of the year and have shortlisted her as an Academy Award for Best Actress contender.