Born into a family familiar with the ups and downs of acting, Virginia came into this world on September 11, 1963, in Chicago, Illinois. Her mother, Elaine, is a writer and producer who has won awards. Her dad, Cal, was a firefighter.
It wasn't until her teen years that the acting bug bit big time, and she began developing her acting skills at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois.
To further those skills, she enlisted the help of Chicago's Ted Liss Acting Studio and continued her studies at the Harand Camp Adult Theater Seminar in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. While still a teenager, she and her boyfriend made the decision and moved to Hollywood, where at 19, she made her onscreen debut in the film Class, which was also where she had her first of numerous nude scenes.
That movie did not do well, but Virginia did get noticed and better roles began slowly finding her, including a choice supporting role in the David Lynch film Dune in 1984. Mirroring her unstable personal life, her career continued on a rocky road of highs and disappointments.
But her work was steady and her performances almost always stole the attention of the films she was in. Roles in Long Gone, Heart of Dixie, The Prophecy, Highlander II, Becoming Colette, The Hot Spot, Candyman, Dune 2, The Rainmaker, The Haunting, Children of Fortune, After Sex, and Tempted, kept her in front of the public eye and she became a favorite supporting actress, one whom audiences enjoyed seeing. But stardom eluded Virginia and she took some time off to step back, be a mom, and try to figure out what she needed to do with her career.
After various parts in different television shows, her career suddenly perked up after the Louis L'Amour novel-made-cable-tv-movie Crossfire Trail, co-starring Tom Selleck. Overnight, people were once again talking about Virginia Madsen.
Then Alexander Payne saw her photo among possible female leads for his film Sideways and after an audition, Payne and producer Michael London quickly signed her.
Virginia received rave critical and audience reviews and received the Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for Sideways. She's now on the A list in Hollywood after completing major films like Firewall, Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion, The Astronaut Farmer, Ripple Effect, and the upcoming features The Number 23, Being Michael Madsen, and In the Shadow of Wings. And she feels her career is now back on path.