Barbara Hershey (born February 5, 1948) is an Academy Award nominated and Emmy-winning American actress, known for her many film roles.
Hershey's feature film debut was in the 1968 comedy With Six You Get Eggroll which marked Doris Day's final screen appearance. This was followed by the 1969 Glenn Ford western Heaven with a Gun, where one of her co-stars was future Kung Fu star David Carradine. They became a couple and a prominent symbol of the Hollywood counterculture, becoming parents to a child whom they named Free (who later changed his name to Tom).
Later that year came the drama Last Summer, based on the novel by Evan Hunter (better known for his police procedurals written under the pseudonym Ed McBain) and directed by future Mommie Dearest helmsman Frank Perry. The film received an X rating for a graphic rape scene and earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for co-star Catherine Burns. During the filming of a scene for Last Summer, a seagull was killed. Hershey felt a sense of personal responsibility for its death and went by the name of Barbara Seagull for several years professionally in the early 1970s as a tribute to the creature.
Her 1970 film The Baby Maker explored the idea of surrogate motherhood many years before it became a mainstream reproductive option and reinforced her image as a free-spirited hippie.
This image helped secure her the starring role in the 1972 Roger Corman production Boxcar Bertha, which was being directed on a typically low Corman budget by a fresh-out-of-film-school Martin Scorsese. During filming, Hershey gave Scorsese a copy of her favorite book - Nikos Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ. Adapting that book into a film would become a 16-year labor of love for Scorsese, who would eventually cast Hershey as Mary Magdalene - though not before making her audition, to prove that she had earned it. Hershey's co-star in Boxcar Bertha was once again David Carradine. They would later recreate their love scene in a hay-filled boxcar for a Playboy magazine pictorial.
In 1976, she starred alongside Charlton Heston in The Last Hard Men. However, the hippie label soon became a career impediment and by the late 1970s she was appearing in made-for-TV movies like Flood! and Sunshine Christmas. But her work in Richard Rush's 1980 critical favorite The Stunt Man - her first big screen appearance in four years - began a gradual career renaissance.
Her appearance in the 1981 horror film The Entity - where she played a woman repeatedly raped by an unseen supernatural force - sufficiently impressed Michael Douglas, who a decade later fought to have her cast as his estranged wife in Falling Down. She also portrayed Errol Flynn's first wife, actress Lili Damita in the TV movie My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1985), based on Flynn's autobiography.
Hershey played a small, but memorable role as a mad woman who seduces and shoots Robert Redford's character in The Natural (1984). She also made a large impression on Woody Allen, who would later foster her mid-80s career revival by casting her in his greatest commercial success Hannah and Her Sisters.
She gained increased visibility with performance as Glennis Yeager, wife of test pilot Chuck Yeager, in Philip Kaufman's 1983 film The Right Stuff and as Gene Hackman's love interest in the basketball film Hoosiers. Hershey followed the commercial success of Hannah and Her Sisters with unprecedented back-to-back wins for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Shy People and for A World Apart.
For her role in the 1988 Bette Midler melodrama Beaches, she injected collagen into her lips - an act that drew negative media coverage.
In 1990, she won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special for her turn as real-life murderer Candy Morrison in A Killing in a Small Town. Throughout the nineties, Hershey made more small independent films and television projects.
As Madame Merle in Jane Campion's 1996 adaptation of the Henry James novel The Portrait of a Lady, Hershey earned an Oscar nomination and won the Best Supporting Actress award from the National Society of Film Critics. In 1999, Hershey starred in Drowning on Dry Land with Naveen Andrews - with whom she entered into a romantic relationship. During a brief separation in 2005, Andrews fathered a child by another woman. He and Hershey have reconciled.
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