Mary Elizabeth “Sissy” Spacek (born December 25, 1949) is an American actress and singer. Born and raised in Texas, she initially aspired to a career as a singer. In 1968, using the name “Rainbo”, she recorded a single, “John, You Went Too Far This Time”. Sales of her music sputtered, however, and she was dropped from her record label. She subsequently switched her focus to acting, enrolling at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Spacek began her professional acting career in the early 1970s, making her debut as an extra in Andy Warhol’s Women in Revolt (1971). She made her credited feature debut in Michael Ritchie’s Prime Cut (1973), with Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman, Angel Tompkins, and Gregory Walcott.
Following her starring role in Terrence Malick‘s influential crime film Badlands (1973), with Martin Sheen, Warren Oates, and Ramon Bieri; Spacek rose to prominence with her portrayal of Carrie White in Brian De Palma‘s horror film Carrie (1976), with Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, William Katt, P.J. Soles, Betty Buckley, and John Travolta; for which she received her first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her next roles were in Alan Rudolph’s Welcome to L.A. (1976), with Kieth Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Sally Kellerman, and Harvey Keitel; and Robert Altman‘s 3 Women (1977), with Shelley Duvall and Janice Rule.
Spacek won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn in Michael Apted’s biographical musical film Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), with Tommy Lee Jones, Beverly D’Angelo, and Levon Helm. Her other Oscar-nominated roles include Costa-Gravas’ Missing (1982), with Jack Lemmon, Melanie Mayron, John Shea, Janice Rule, and Charles Cioffi; Mark Rydell’s The River (1984), with Mel Gibson and Scott Glenn; Bruce Beresford’s Crimes of the Heart (1986), with Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Tess Harper, and Hurd Hatfield; and Todd Field’s In the Bedroom (2001), with Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei, and William Mapother.
Other roles in the 80s include Heart Beat (1980), with Nick Nolte and John Heard; Jack Fisk’s Raggedy Man (1981), with Eric Roberts and Sam Shepard; an uncredited voice role in Carl Reiner‘s The Man with Two Brains (1983), with Steve Martin, Kathleen Turner, and David Warner; Marie (1985), with Jeff Daniels and Morgan Freeman; Violets Are Blue (1986), with Kevin Kline; and ‘night Mother (1986), with Anne Bancroft.
Other roles in the 90s include The Long Walk Home (1990), with Whoopi Goldberg; Oliver Stone‘s JFK (1991), with Kevin Costner, Kevin Bscon, Jones, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Oldman, and John Candy; The Grass Harp (1995), with Laurie, Walter Matthau, Lemmon, Edward Furlong, and Nell Carter; Paul Schrader’s Affliction (1997), with Nolte, James Coburn, and Willem Dafoe; Hugh Wilson’s Blast from the Past (1999), with Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, and Dave Foley; and David Lynch‘s The Straight Story (1999), with Richard Farnsworth and Harry Dean Stanton.
Roles in the 2000s include Tuck Everlasting (2002), with Alexis Bledel, Ben Kingsley, Amy Irving, Victor Garber, Jonathan Jackson, Scott Bairstow, and William Hurt; A Home at the End of the World (2004), with Colin Farrell, Robin Wright, and Dallas Roberts; Nine Lives (2005), with Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, and Joe Mantegna; The Ring Two (2005), with Naomi Watts; North Country (2005), with Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sean Bean, Richard Jenkins, Michelle Monaghan, Jeremy Renner, and Woody Harrelson; An American Haunting (2005), with Donald Sutherland, James D’Arcy, and Rachel Hurd-Wood.
Later roles include Hot Rod (2007), with Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Will Arnett, Danny McBride, Isla Fisher, Bill Hader, and Ian McShane; Four Christmases (2008), with Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Mary Steenburgen, Robert Duvall, Jon Voight, Jon Favreau, Tim McGraw, Dwight Yoakam, and Kristin Chenowet; Get Low (2010), with Duvall, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Gerald McRaney, Bill Cobbs; The Help (2011), with Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Octavia Spencer, and Emma Stone; and The Old Man & the Gun (2018), with Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, and Tom Waits.
On television, Spacek received Primetime Emmy Award nominations for the television films The Good Old Boys (1995), with Jones (who also directed), Matt Damon, and Sam Shephard; Last Call (2002), with Jeremy Irons and Neve Campbell; and for her guest role on the HBO drama series Big Love (2011). She portrayed matriarch Sally Rayburn on the Netflix drama thriller series Bloodline (2015–2017), Ruth Deaver on the Hulu psychological horror series Castle Rock (2018), and Ellen Bergman on the Prime Video psychological thriller series Homecoming (2018).
Other TV movies include The Migrants (1974), with Cloris Leachman and Ron Howard; Katharine (1975), with Henry Winkler and Art Carney; Verna: USO Girl (1978), with William Hurt, Howard Da Silva, and Kellerman; A Private Matter (1992), with Aiden Quinn and William H. Macy; A Place for Annie (1994), with Mary-Louise Parker and Joan Plowright; Beyond the Call (1996), with David Strathairn; If These Walls Could Talk (1996), with Demi Moore, Shirley Knight, Catherine Keener, CCH Pounder, Joanna Gleason, and Cher; and Songs in Ordinary Time (2000), with Beau Bridges.
As a singer, Spacek recorded the soundtrack album of Coal Miner’s Daughter, which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and garnered her a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. She also released a studio album, Hangin’ Up My Heart (1983), which was critically well received and peaked at number seventeen on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. She’s the recipient of various other accolades including three Golden Globe Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and nominations for four British Academy Film Awards, and three Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2011, Spacek was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Spacek married production designer and art director Jack Fisk in 1974, after they met on the set of Badlands (1973). Fisk later directed her in the films Raggedy Man (1981) and Violets Are Blue (1986). They have two daughters, Schuyler Fisk (born July 8, 1982) and Madison Fisk (born September 21, 1988). Schuyler Fisk has followed in her mother’s footsteps as both an actress and a singer. In 1982, Spacek and her family moved to a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- Prime Cut (1972) – directed by Michael Ritchie
- The Girls of Huntington House (1973) – directed by Alf Kjellin – TV movie
- Badlands (1973) – directed by Terrence Malick
- The Migrants (1974) – directed by Tom Gries – TV movie
- Ginger in the Morning (1974) – directed by Gordon Wiles
- Phantom of the Paradise (1974) – directed by Brian De Palma – set dresser only
- Katherine (1975) – directed by Jeremy Kagan – aka The Radical
- Carrie (1976) – directed by Brian De Palma
- Welcome to L.A. (1976) – directed by Alan Rudolph
- 3 Women (1977) – directed by Robert Altman
- Verna: USO Girl (1978) – directed by Ronald F. Maxwell – TV movie
- Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) – directed by Michael Apted
- Heart Beat (1980) – directed by John Byrum
- Raggedy Man (1981) – directed by Jack Fisk
- Missing (1982) – directed by Costa-Gavras
- The Man with Two Brains (1983) – directed by Carl Reiner – uncredited voice
- The River (1984) – directed by Mark Rydell
- Marie (1985) – directed by Roger Donaldson
- Violets Are Blue (1986) – directed by Jack Fisk
- ‘night, Mother (1986) – directed by Tom Moore
- Crimes of the Heart (1986) – directed by Bruce Beresford
- The Long Walk Home (1990) – directed by Richard Pearce
- Hard Promises (1991) – directed by Martin Davidson
- JFK (1991) – directed by Oliver Stone
- A Private Matter (1992) – directed by Joan Micklin Silver – TV movie
- Trading Mom (1994) – directed by Tia Brelis – aka The Mommy Market
- A Place for Annie (1994) – directed by John Gray – TV movie
- The Good Old Boys (1995) – directed by Tommy Lee Jones – TV movie
- The Grass Harp (1995) – directed by Charles Matthau
- Streets of Laredo (1995) – directed by Joseph Sargent – miniseries
- Beyond the Call (1996) – directed by Tony Bill – TV movie
- If These Walls Could Talk (1996) – directed by Nancy Savoca & Cher – TV movie
- Affliction (1997) – directed by Paul Schrader
- Blast from the Past (1999) – directed by by Hugh Wilson
- The Straight Story (1999) – directed by David Lynch
- Songs in Ordinary Time (2000) – directed by Rod Holcomb – TV movie
- In the Bedroom (2001) – directed by Todd Field
- Midwives (2001) – directed by Glenn Jordan – TV movie
- Last Call (2002) – directed by Henry Bromell – TV movie
- Tuck Everlasting (2002) – directed by Jay Russell
- A Home at the End of the World (2004) – directed by Michael Mayer
- Nine Lives (2005) – directed by Rodrigo Garcia
- The Ring Two (2005) – directed by Hideo Nakata
- North Country (2005) – directed by Niki Caro
- An American Haunting (2005) – directed by Courtney Solomon
- Summer Running: The Race to Cure Breast Cancer (2006) – directed by Scott Mactavish
- Gray Matters (2007) – directed by Sue Kramer
- Hot Rod (2007) – directed by Akiva Schaffer
- Pictures of Hollis Woods (2007) – directed by Tony Bill – TV movie
- Lake City (2008) – directed by Perry Moore & Hunter Hill
- Four Christmases (2008) – directed by Seth Gordon
- Get Low (2009) – directed by Aaron Schneider
- The Help (2011) – directed by Tate Taylor
- Deadfall (2012) – directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
- The Old Man & the Gun (2018) – directed by David Lowery