Ellen Burstyn

Ellen Burstyn


12/7/1932, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Birth Name

Edna Rae Gilhooley



Also Known As

Ellen McRae, Ellen MacRae
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Earthy, appealing star of the 1970s who acted under several names (most often Edna Rae) on stage and in TV shows during the late 1950s and early 1960s. A student of Lee Strasberg at the Actors' Studio, she debuted on-screen in 1964's For Those Who Think Young billed…more


Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • In 2013, Ellen won another Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie playing Margaret Barrish Worthington on Political Animals.

    • In 2009, Ellen won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series playing Bernie Stabler on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Swing.

    • In the 1970s Ellen was extremely active in the movement to free convicted boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter from jail.

    • Ellen often refers to her mother as tough, violent, and controlling citing her mother as the main reason for leaving home at the age of 18.

    • Ellen dropped out of Cass Technical High School in 1950.

    • Ellen's third husband Neil Burstyn became physically threatening after she left him. He often stalked her and once broke into her apartment and raped her. In 1978 Neil jumped from his ninth floor Manhattan apartment to his death.

    • Throughout her career Ellen has used many stage names such as Edna Rae, Keri Flynn, Erica Dean and Ellen McRae. It was not until 1970 that she decided to stick with the name Ellen Burstyn.

    • Ellen has stated that she can remember in her late teens being so poor and hungry that she would use her sex appeal to feed herself, she said that she was only able to get a meal when asked out on a date.

    • In the summer of 1969 Ellen contemplated giving up her acting career due to the fact that she believed she was not getting enough work.

    • On April 23, 1962 Ellen officially adopted her son Jefferson Jack Roberts.

    • In the spring of 1950 Ellen took a modeling job for the J. L. Hudson department store in Detroit.

    • Ellen holds the record for the shortest appearance on film to get nominated for an Emmy. Her role in Mrs. Harris in 2005 lasts a mere 15 seconds.

    • Ellen played her Academy Award nominated character Doris for the second time in 1978 in the film Same Time, Next Year. She portrayed the same character on Broadway in 1975 and won a Tony award for Best Actress (Dramatic).

    • Ellen has said that she practices the mystical Islamic religion Sufism.

    • Ellen practices yoga on a daily basis.

    • Ellen has stated that she does not drink alcohol or coffee.

    • Ellen is the Godmother of fellow actress Marcia Gay-Harden's children.

    • Before she began her acting career Ellen was an acrobat and a model for paperback book covers.

    • Ellen is of Irish - American descent.

    • In 2005 Ellen was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Acting by the Savannah Film Festival.

    • Ellen is a vegetarian

    • Ellen received a permanent spinal cord injury in 1973 while filming The Exorcist. Her injury was sustained in the sequence where she is thrown away from her possessed daughter. The harness that she was strapped to snatched her too hard causing her to land on her coccyx, as a result she was left on the ground screaming in pain. This was caught on film and was left in the final cut of the movie.

    • Ellen has stated that she believes her trade mark is her smile and her soft, frail voice.

    • Ellen was born at 4:00 a.m. EST.

    • Ellen has been nominated for two SAG Awards. In 2001, she was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for Requiem For a Dream. In 2008, Ellen was nominated for Best Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television for Mitch Albom's For One More Day.

    • Ellen has been nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards. In 1972, Ellen was nominated for Best Supporting Actress-Motion Picture for The Last Picture Show. In 1974, Ellen was nominated for Best Motion Picture Actress-Drama for The Exorcist. In 1975, Ellen was nominated for Best Motion Picture Actress-Drama for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. In 1979, Ellen won Best Motion Picture Actress-Musical/Comedy for Same Time, Next Year. In 1981, Ellen was nominated for Best Motion Picture Actress-Drama for Resurrection. In 1982, Ellen was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for The People vs. Jean Harris. In 2001, Ellen was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama for Requiem For A Dream.

    • In 2001, Ellen was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special for Mermaid.

    • Ellen was nominated for an Emmy in 1987 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special for Pack of Lies. In 2008, she was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series for her role on Big Love.

    • Ellen recieved an Emmy nomination for the lead role as Jean Harris in the 1981 TV-movie, The People vs. Jean Harris and, in 2006, she was nominated as a supporting character for her portrayal of an ex-lover of Jean Harris's lover in the cable-movie based on the Harris case in Mrs. Harris.

    • The character of Jean Harris seems to be a favorite for Ellen.

    • Ellen played her Academy Award nominated character from 1978's Same Time, Next Year on Broadway first and won a Tony Award for Best Actress in 1975.

    • Ellen had to wear 20 and 40 pound fat suits and prosthetic necks to play Sara Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream.

    • Ellen is an ordained minister.

    • Ellen has said that she is often mistaken for fellow actress Louise Fletcher. She says people tell her she was great in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (for which Fletcher won an Oscar). Fletcher reports being told frequently that she did a wonderful job in one of Burstyn's roles.

    • Ellen turned down the lead role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975 due to the fact that her husband was ill and she had to care for him.

    • Ellen was the first female president of The Actor's Equity. She held the position from 1982 to 1985.

    • Ellen has stated in the book "On Women Turning 50" that she did not attend the 1975 Academy Awards, where she won the Best Actress award for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), because she was certain she would win and could not handle the pressure and attention. After attending several later Oscar ceremonies at which she lost, she regretted not being there to accept her award.

    • Ellen was chosen by People Magazine as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" in May 2001.

    • Ellen has one grandchild.

    • Ellen was not able to attend the 1975 Academy Awards Ceremony, thus couldn't accept her Best Actress in a Leading Role for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.  Martin Scorsese accepted her Oscar on her behalf.

  • Quotes

    • Ellen: I'm writing my memoirs right now and I keep getting asked that question about who would play me. It's such a scary idea that I have no idea what the answer is.

    • Ellen: When you've been an actress for 45 years as I have, it's a feast or famine life.

    • Ellen: It was a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.

    • Ellen: Well, I try not to allow regret to live in me because I think it festers, and that's one way to become bitter and cynical.

    • Ellen: Well my taste wasn't very good when I first started out. But later, when I began to appreciate the art of acting, I would say the actress I most admire is Vanessa Redgrave.

    • Ellen: The interesting thing about doing a play is to find a way to make it fresh and do it as though you were doing it for the first time.

    • Ellen: I've lived most of my life in Manhattan, but as close as Brooklyn is to Manhattan, there are people who live there who have been to Manhattan maybe once or twice.

    • Ellen: I do like to work with young directors because it's such a difficult business that I think after directors have been around a while sometimes, not always, but sometimes their passion gets siphoned off because they get hurt.

    • Ellen: I always wanted to play Joan of Arc. I've always wanted to do that. Now I'm thinking, 'Maybe there's a story in Joan of Arc's mother!' If I don't hurry up, her grandmother!

    • Ellen: Acting feels like a congenial condition to me - it's in my genes.

    • Ellen: I've wanted an Oscar since I was seven years old. It is the basis of all my secret fantasies.

    • Ellen: It's unfortunate but our society is such that, for women in Hollywood, you get to a certain age and just fall off a cliff. But in my case, I refuse to die. I will hang on, by a little finger if necessary.