Mary Jean “Lily” Tomlin (born September 1, 1939) is an American actress, comedian, writer, singer, and producer. She started her career as a stand-up comedian as well as performing Off-Broadway during the 1960s. Her breakout role was on the variety show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In from 1969 until 1973. She starred as Frankie Bergstein on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie (2015-2021), with Jane Fonda, Sam Waterson, Martin Sheen, Brooklyn Decker, Ethan Embry, June Diane Raphael, and Baron Vaughn. The show has earned her nominations for four Primetime Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Golden Globe Award.
Tomlin was cast by Robert Altman in her first film; her performance as Linnea Reese in Nashville (1974), with David Arkin, Barbara Baxley, Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Timothy Brown, Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Robert DoQui, Shelley Duvall, Allen Garfield, Henry Gibson, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Harris, Michael Murphy, Allan F. Nicholls, Cristina Raines, Bert Remsen, Gwen Welles, and Keenan Wynn. She won several awards and nominations for the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Her performance as Margo Sperling in The Late Show (1977), with Art Carney, Bill Macy, Eugene Roche, and Joanna Cassidy; won her the Best Actress Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and nominations for the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for Best Lead Actress. She also co-starred with John Travolta in the romantic drama Moment by Moment (1978), which was a notorious box office bomb.
Her notable films in the 80s include 9 to 5 (1980), with Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman; Joel Schumacher‘s The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), with Charles Grodin, Beatty, John Glover, and Elizabeth Wilson; Carl Reiner‘s All of Me (1984), with Steve Martin; and Jim Abrams‘ Big Business (1988), with Bette Midler.
Notable films in the 90s include Shadows and Fog (1991), with Woody Allen (who also directed), Kathy Bates, John Cusack, Mia Farrow, Jodie Foster, John Malkovich, Kenneth Mars, and Donald Pleasance; Altman’s The Player (1992), with Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Gallagher, Brion James and Cynthia Stevenson; Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), with Matthew Modine, Julianne Moore, Anne Archer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Downey Jr., Madeleine Stowe, Chris Penn, Frances McDormand, Lori Singer, Andie MacDowell, Buck Henry, Annie Ross, Huey Lewis, Lyle Lovett, Tom Waits, and Jack Lemmon; and Blue in the Face (1995), with Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, Giancarlo Esposito, Roseanne Barr, Michael J. Fox, Mira Sorvino, Lou Reed, Mel Gorham, Jim Jarmusch and Malik Yoba.
Late 90s roles include Getting Away with Murder (1996), with Dan Aykroyd and Jack Lemmon; David O. Russell‘s Flirting with Disaster (1996), with Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Téa Leoni, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Richard Jenkins, Josh Brolin, Glenn Fitzgerald, and Alan Alda; Krippendorf’s Tribe (1998), with Richard Dreyfus; and Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea with Mussolini (1999), with Cher, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, and Michael Williams.
Films in the 2000s include The Kid (2000), with Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Emily Mortimer, Chi McBride, and Jean Smart; Jake Kasdan’s Orange County (2002), with Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Catherine O’Hara, Schuyler Fisk, John Lithgow, Chevy Chase, and Harold Ramis; Russell’s I Heart Huckabees (2004), with Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Huppert, Jude Law, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg, and Naomi Watts; and Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion (2006), with Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, Garrison Keillor, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, and Lindsay Lohan.
Later roles include Grandma (2015), with with Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, and Sam Elliott, and the Academy Award winning animated superhero film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) with the voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, and Liev Schreiber.
Her signature role was written by her then-partner (now wife), Jane Wagner, in a show titled The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe which opened on Broadway in 1985 and won Tomlin the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play. She is also known as the voice of Ms. Frizzle on the children’s series The Magic School Bus. She won her first Emmy Awards in 1974 for writing and producing her own television special, Lily. Tomlin won a Grammy Award for her 1972 comedy album This Is a Recording. In 2014, she was given Kennedy Center Honors and in 2017 she received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers (1972) – directed by Robert J. Kaplan – uncredited voice – presumed lost
- Nashville (1975) – directed by Robert Altman
- The Late Show (1977) – directed by Robert Benton
- Moment by Moment (1978) – directed by Jane Wagner
- 9 to 5 (1980)** – directed by Colin Higgins – aka Nine to Five
- The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) – directed by Joel Schumacher
- All of Me (1984) – directed by Carl Reiner
- Big Business (1988) – directed by Jim Abrams
- The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (1991) – directed by John Bailey
- Shadows and Fog (1991) – directed by Woody Allen
- The Player (1992) – directed by Robert Altman
- The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) – directed by Penelope Spheeris
- Short Cuts (1993) – directed by Robert Altman
- Blue in the Face (1995) – directed by Wayne Wang & Paul Auster
- The Celluloid Closet (1996) – directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman – narrator – documentary
- Getting Away with Murder (1996) – directed by Harvey Miller
- Flirting with Disaster (1996) – directed by David O. Russell
- Krippendorf’s Tribe (1998) – directed by Todd Holland
- Tea with Mussolini (1999) – directed by Franco Zeffirelli
- The Kid (2000) – directed by Jon Turteltaub
- Orange County (2002)* – directed by Jake Kasdan
- I ♥ Huckabees (2004) – directed by David O. Russell – aka I Heart Huckabees
- A Prairie Home Companion (2006) – directed by Robert Altman
- The Ant Bully (2006) – directed by John A. Davis
- The Walker (2007) – directed by Paul Schrader
- Ponyo (2008)* – directed by Hayao Miyazaki – English dub – aka 崖の上のポニョ, Gake no Ue no Ponyo, Ponyo on the Cliff – Japan
- The Pink Panther 2 (2009) – directed by Harald Zwart
- Shorts in Shorts (2012) – directed by Jacob Chase, Robert Festinger, Chris Foggin, Rupert Friend, Benjamin Grayson, Jay Kamen, & Neil LaBute – anthology
- Admission (2013) – directed by Paul Weitz
- Grandma (2015) – directed by Paul Weitz
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)* – directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman