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CAROL M HEGBERG

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JOAN ALLEN: from Rochelle to Hollywood
By CAROL M HEGBERG   
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Last edited: Friday, March 14, 2008
Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2008

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Actress Joan Allen discusses her recent Hollywood acting roles.

This year actress Joan Allen will star in three major movies: The Upside of Anger, Off the Map, and Yes (to be released June 26).

Allen recently returned from a strenuous, three-week publicity tour for The Upside of Anger, written and directed by Mike Binder.

“It’s nerve-wracking, talking to the hosts,” she said over the telephone. “There’s the pressure to sell the movie, and yet everybody’s gushing over you. Limousines picking you up. For some actors, it’s very hard not to get wrapped up in it (stardom).”

Born in the Rochelle area and a Rochelle Township High School graduate, Joan Marie Allen dropped out of college to help classmate John Malkovich and others start a theater ensemble in Chicago. The group first performed plays in a Highland Park church basement.

“It was complete heaven,” said Allen in her March, 2005, More magazine interview.

There Allen developed as an actress in the supportive environment of the fledgling—but now famous—Steppenwolf Theatre.

To pay her bills, the left-handed Allen worked as a secretary at an educational film company.

When the Steppenwolf production of And a Nightingale Sang traveled to New York City, Allen’s career took on star light. She was nominated and/or won numerous awards, among them a Tony for best actress in “Burn This,” and three Oscar nominations: two for best supporting actress (1996 in Nixon and 1997 in The Crucible) and one for best actress (2000 in The Contender).

While in NYC, Allen met her husband, Peter Friedman, and agent Brian Mann signed her as a client.

“I fell in love with Peter, and I had an agent, and I started auditioning for films and didn’t have to work as a secretary anymore,” Allen recalled.

She and her husband have one daughter, Sadie, 11. Though they’re separated, living only four blocks apart, they remain married and share equal responsibility with Sadie.

“There’s no acrimony in our separation. We’re good friends,” Allen reported.

While Allen’s personal life developed, so did her career. In roles from a brainy student to a chain-smoking, Irish journalist, she acted in Peggy Sue Got Married, Manhunter, Ethan Frome, Searching for Bobby Fisher, It’s the Rage, In Country, Josh and S.A.M., Mad Love, and When the Sky Falls.

She next starred with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver in The Ice Storm. Allen won more critics awards and hasn’t had to audition for a film since.

In the smash hit Face Off with John Travolta and Nicholas Cage, Allen earned a Blockbuster and MTV movie awards, plus several critics’ awards. The black-and-white movie Pleasantville was another triumph for which she wore thick, green makeup to appear black-and-white.

In The Contender, as U.S. Vice Presidential candidate, Allen worked with Jeff Bridges, Gary Oldman, and Christian Slater and was nominated for a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors’ Guild Award, an Independent Spirit Award, and of course, the coveted Academy Award for best actress.

Angelica Huston and Julianna Margulies appeared as her co-stars in a TNT film, The Mists of Avalon, for which Allen, in her medieval role, was nominated for an Emmy.

Allen filmed five movies during the last two years. The Bourne Supremacy with Matt Damon and The Notebook with James Garner were last year’s productions.

Allen appears on the cover of Great Women of Film, a hardcover book about women who have created a difference in the movie industry. She serves as the volunteer national spokesperson for The First Book National Book Bank and reads texts for books-on-tape. According to Entertainment Weekly, she is one of the 25 best actresses of Hollywood.

As for television and sit-coms, Allen never says never, just “not right now.” “Most are made in California. They’re grueling, fifteen-hour days of filming,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t know that I’d like playing the same person over and over. I like doing different roles.”

Allen had no particular acting goals for her career, she acknowledged. She just wanted to act wherever possible. Where she is now is “the gravy.”

“I’ve had really good health,” the five-foot, ten-inch actress revealed. “Once in a while, lower back pain.”

Allen began an exercise program three years ago, working out six days a week. Now she’s more lenient, working with low-impact equipment and weights every other day.

How does stardom affect Joan Marie Allen? “I know when the ball’s over, and there’s laundry to do!”
 
©2005 Carol M Hegberg
published April 15, 2005 in DeKalb Daily Chronicle



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