Actress Kathy Bates has been involved in the arts in one way or another since graduating from Southern Methodist University. Among the Memphis native's earliest jobs were a stint as a singing waitress in a Catskill resort and a sojourn as a gift shop cashier in New York's Museum of Modern Art. Bates was type-cast in character roles early on, which assured her a lot more work than the thousands of faceless ingenues in the business. Her film debut occurred with 1971's Taking Off, and she made her off-Broadway debut five years later in Vanities.
For a long while, Bates made her name on the stage, only to see her roles go to other actresses in the plays' subsequent film adaptations. In 1983, she was nominated for a Tony award for her stage appearance as a garrulous would-be suicide in 'Night, Mother, a role played on screen by Sissy Spacek. She also appeared as Lenny McGrath in Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Crimes of the Heart, a role played on screen by Diane Keaton. And in 1987, playwright Terrence McNally wrote a part specifically tailored to Bates' talents: the much-abused waitress Frankie in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, a role which won her an Obie award, and, following a familiar pattern, was played on screen by Michelle Pfeiffer.
Bates finally got to star in a movie herself in 1990. And what a starring role it was: in Misery, she portrayed the psychotic "Number One Fan" of romance writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan), a searing performance which earned the actress an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Appropriately enough, Hollywood screenwriters subsequently began making more room for Bates in their scripts. She worked steadily throughout the rest of the decade in films of greatly varying quality. Particular highlights included Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), A Prelude to a Kiss (1992), Dolores Claiborne (1995), Titanic (1997), and Primary Colors (1998), the latter of which featured Bates giving an Oscar and Golden Globe nominated performance as a political muckraker. Following her firey, foul-mouthed performance in that thinly veilied political biopic, Bates added a new credential to her resume, that of director. Initially taking the helm for the made-for-cable feature Dash and Lilly, Bates would subsequently direct episodes of the quirky HBO drama series Six Feet Under, simultaniously taking minor film roles before returning to more substantial roles with the CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame entry My Sister's Keeper. Roles in Love Liza and Dragonfly (both 2002) were soon to follow, and with her turn as an extroverted mother who catches the attention of Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt Bates would recieve her third Oscar nomination.
She directed a number of episodes of the HBO series Six Feet Under before joining the cast in season 3 as Bettina. The next year she portrayed Queen Victoria in the big-budget remake of Around the World in 80 Days. She directed he feature Ambulance Girl in 2005. She continued to act steadily in a variety of projects including Failure to Launch, P.S. I Love You, Fred Claus, Bee Movie, and Revolutionary Road. She provided expert support for Sandra Bulock as the younger actress was winning an Oscar in The Blind Side, and Bates joined the cast of The Office in 2009. She was part of the large ensemble in 2010'ss Valentine's Day, and in 2011 starred as Gertrude Stein in Woody Allen's Oscar winning Midnight in Paris. That same year she launched her own network Drama series Harry's Law. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi