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banner Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 17:23 GMT
Sissy Spacek's shy career
Sissy Spacek at the Golden Globes 2002
Spacek: Winning awards again for In the Bedroom
American actress Sissy Spacek has had an Oscar-winning career but she prefers the quiet life on her ranch in Virginia.

Age may have mellowed actress Sissy Spacek but it has not dulled her ability to grab attention on screen.

Spacek, 52, is the American film star who first came to prominence as the tormented telekinetic teenager in the 1977 horror movie Carrie.

That film memorably saw Spacek splattered head to toe in blood and won her many plaudits, including a best actress Oscar nomination.

Spacek's movie highs
Badlands - 1973
Carrie - 1977
Coal Miner's Daughter - 1980
Raggedy Man - 1981
Missing - 1982
Violets Are Blue - 1986
The River - 1984
Crimes of the Heart - 1986
The Straight Story - 1999
In the Bedroom - 2001

Now, Spacek is again winning widespread praise but this time for her sedate performance in family drama In the Bedroom.

Spacek plays Ruth Fowler, the conservative New England wife and mother coming to terms with the death of her teenage son.

The role may be considered by many film-goers as the elusive Spacek's welcome return to the acting fold.

But it is an illusion carefully crafted by the publicity-shy Spacek herself. In truth, she has rarely been out of work in 30 years and has notched up numerous awards along the way.

When not working, Spacek prefers to dodge the limelight, living the quiet ranch life with her family in Virginia.

And in many ways, her life with her husband, Jack Fisk, and their two teenage daughters, Schuyler and Madison, resembles Spacek's own upbringing in Quitman, Texas.

Sissy Spacek in Carrie
Spacek became famous with horror movie Carrie

A self-styled tomboy, Mary Elizabeth Spacek - she was nicknamed "Sissy" by her older brothers - spent much of her time horseriding, swimming and playing outdoors.

But she also loved acting. Her first memory of being on stage was tap dancing and singing a couple of songs, including On The Sunny Side Of The Street.

So, on graduation from Quitman High School, she knew she wanted to pursue an acting career.


With the help of her actor cousin, Rip Torn, Spacek moved to New York where she joined the New York Actors Studio and the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute.

Her first movie break came with the 1973 film Badlands, a provocative crime story in which she played a teenager on a killing spree with a psychotic boyfriend, portrayed by Martin Sheen.

Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom
In the Bedroom sees Spacek play a mother torn apart by grief

The film was a major influence on Spacek's life - in more ways than one. She has described it as the "most incredible" experience of her career.

It was also the film on which she met her art director husband Fisk. Professionally, they have collaborated on eight films. Privately, they have been married since 1974.

And Badlands led to Spacek's career-making role in Carrie. Since then, she has worked in TV and movies, winning admiration along the way.


Her role in the Coal Miner's Daughter in 1980 won her the best actress Oscar. She has also been an Oscar nominee for her roles in Missing in 1982, The River in 1984 and for Crimes of the Heart in 1987.

In 1999, she co-starred in David Lynch's Oscar-nominated drama, The Straight Story.

Sissy Spacek in TV Western
Spacek has worked steadily in US TV dramas

Apart from being a radical departure from Lynch's usual surreal fare, The Straight Story bowled audiences over with its quiet dignity.

It tells the tale of an old man, Alvin Straight, who travels across the US on a lawnmower to mend his relationship with his older brother, who is ill.

Spacek plays Alvin's daughter Rose, in a film that is unashamedly about the power and importance of love and family.

Spacek's own priorities of home and contentment have tended to gear her towards films about deep relationships.

Under Fisk's direction, she starred in several such films: The troubled love tales Raggedy Man in 1981 and Violets Are Blue in 1986.

In the Bedroom, Spacek's most recent feature, is unreservedly about family and love - and could well prove the defining point of her career.

See also:

19 Nov 01 | Oscars 2002
Todd Field makes good of grief
24 Jan 02 | Oscars 2002
Bedroom brings emotional wake-up
17 Dec 01 | Film
Bedroom drama tipped for Oscar
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