If the mark of a true actress is her willingness to sacrifice vanity for the sake of a role, Sissy Spacek earned her stripes long ago. With a string of hits in the 70s and 80s, Sissy quickly became a household name. But in 1986 her projects became less frequent and lower profile as she focused on raising a family.
Texas native, Mary Elizabeth Spacek was born December 25, 1949 in Quitman. Spacek began her career singing professionally in coffee houses around New York. She recorded a song, "Johnny, You Went Too Far This Time," under the name Rainbo before giving up singing for acting. She enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Theatrical Institute and in 1972 made her feature film debut in Prime Cut. That same year she appeared in two episodes of the TV series "The Waltons", playing a woman who sets out to convince John Boy to marry her. Spacek provided the series about the sugar coated Depression with perhaps its only memorable line when she asks,"When are you going to stop being John Boy and start being John Man?" Several television appearances and small film roles followed, but it wasn't until 1976 that she gained public notice.
For inspiration when she auditioned for the film, Carrie, Spacek wore a dress her mother forced her to wear to a seventh grade party. Obviously it worked because not only did Spacek get the title role in the film based on the popular Stephen King novel, it garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Spacek seemed to have a hard time finding the right role to follow up that performance, however. Four full years later she finally found it. "Coal Miner's Daughter" presented a challenge for the actress: she would be playing country music legend Loretta Lynn. Never one to slouch on research, Spacek joined the singer on tour and spent months observing her behavior.
The hard work paid off. "Coal Miner's Daughter" grossed $79 million in box office and landed Spacek the Academy Award she'd lost in 1976. A series of award wins surrounded the actress, including a Grammy nomination for her rendition of the film's title song.
Spacek's 1981 follow-up, "Raggedy Man", was directed by her husband, Jack Fisk. The Golden Globes nominated her for best actress and she received an Academy Award nomination her for her next film, Missing. Two more nominations followed, including one for her co-starring role with Mel Gibson in 1984's "The River", but "Coal Miner's Daughter" remains Spacek's only Oscar win.
The 1985 drama, "Marie", and the 1986 romance, "Violets Are Blue", were box office flops, but Spacek managed one last success, not to mention a second Academy Award nomination. It was the 1986 drama, "Crimes of the Heart".
Based on the successful play of the same name, "Crimes of the Heart" gathered an ensemble of some of the most talented actresses of our time. Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Tess Harper, and, of course, Sissy Spacek, helped "Crimes of the Heart" to a $22 million box office gross and numerous awards and nominations. It proved to be Sissy Spacek's swan song.
In 1986 after the release of the flop "'Night Mother", Spacek decided to take some time off to devote to her husband and two daughters, Madison and Schuyler. But when Schuyler herself broke into films with 1990's The Long Walk Home, it became Spacek's return to the big screen as well.
Spacek has appeared in 15 feature and television films since 1990, including "JFK" and the HBO movie, "If These Walls Could Talk". She co-starred with Nick Nolte in the 1997 film, "Affliction", and showed off her comedic talents in the 1999 box office hit, "Blast from the Past".
Spacek's daughter, Schuyler, can currently be seen starring in the Nickelodeon film, "Snow Day". Spacek turned down a cameo appearance in the sequel to her hit film, "Carrie", but appeared in archive footage in "The Rage: Carrie II". She was last seen in the 1999 film, "The Straight Story", directed by David Lynch.