One of Hollywood's more well-established and often underrated actresses, Dianne Wiest possesses a versatility that has allowed her to go from playing hookers to flamboyant stage actresses to some of the most memorable matriarchs this side of Barbara Billingsley. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Wiest decided to forgo a ballet career in favor of the theatre while attending the University of Maryland. She made her off-Broadway debut in 1976's Ashes; three years later she won the coveted Obie and Theatre World awards for her work in The Art of Dining. She made her first film, It's My Turn, in 1980, then returned to the stage, appearing with Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival and on Broadway in 1982's Frankenstein. In the mid-1980s, Wiest returned to films, where (except for the occasionally foray into live performing) she has remained ever since.
Often as not, Wiest has been cast in maternal roles, most memorably in Footloose (1984), The Lost Boys (1987), Parenthood (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990) and The Birdcage (1996). Some of her best screen work can be found in her neurotic, self-involved characterizations for director Woody Allen. Beginning with a cameo as a hooker in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), she has been generously featured in five Allen films, winning Academy Awards for her dazzling performances as unlucky-in-love Holly in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and hyperbolic stage actress Helen Sinclair in Bullets Over Broadway (1994).
Wiest could be seen playing another motherly figure in Robert Redford's 1998 adaptation of The Horse Whisperer; that same year, she appeared as one of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman's otherworldly aunts (along with Stockard Channing) in Practical Magic. In 1999, she could be seen in the made-for-TV The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn, starring alongside Sidney Poitier.
Her big-screen career continued with I Am Sam, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Dan in Real Life, and Synecdoche New York. She also found interesting work on television playing a DA on Law & Order for a couple of seasons, and playing the psychiatrist of a psychiatrist on HBO's In Treatment. She appeared in Rabbit Hole in 2010, and was Diane Keaton's flighty sister in Darling Companion. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi