Joan Allen was born on August 20, 1956 in Rochelle, Illinois. She is a three-time Academy Award nominee for Nixon, The Crucible, and The Contender and a Tony Award winner for Burn This.
She attended Rochelle Township High School before studying at Eastern Illinois University and then Northern Illinois University, finally graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree in theatre. She began her professional career as an actor with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble in 1977, when John Malkovich, who had been a fellow student at Eastern Illinois Univeristy, asked her to join. She made her Off-Broadway debut as Helen Scott in And a Nightingale Sang... in 1983, receiving a Theatre World Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Clarence Derwent Award alongside a Drama Desk Award nomination for her performance. She followed this performance with her Public Theater debut as Bette Brennan in The Marriage of Bette and Boo in 1985, adding an Obie Award to her list of accolades alongside a second Drama Desk nomination. In February 1987, Allen took on the role of Anna in Lanford Wilson's Burn This, which transferred to Broadway in October of that same year, marking her Broadway debut. She took home the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play in 1988.
Following the end of the Broadway run of Burn This in October 1988, Allen starred as Heidi Holland in Playwrights Horizons's world premiere of Wendy Wasserstein's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Heidi Chronicles, which transferred to Broadway in March 1989. She earned a Tony Award nomination and her third Drama Desk Award nomination for her portrayal of the title character. Since then, she made a brief appearance in the rotating cast of An Oak Tree at the Barrow Street Theatre in late 2006 and returned to Broadway to star as Katharine Keenan in Impressionism.
Allen has also forged a prolific career on both the silver and small screen. Some of her early credits include Reba McClane in Manhunter (1986), Maddy Nagle in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), and Vera in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988). Her career took off after her performance as Pat Nixon in 1995's Nixon earned her Oscar and BAFTA nominations. She went on to play Elizabeth Proctor in the 1996 film adaptation of The Crucible, resulting in her second Oscar nomination and first Golden Globe nomination. High-profile roles would follow in The Ice Storm and Face/Off in 1997 and Pleasantville in 1998. She earned her third Academy Award nomination and second Golden Globe nomination in 2001 for her performance as Laine Hanson in The Contender.
In film, she has also starred as CIA Department Director Pamela Landy in the Bourne movie franchise, appearing in The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and The Bourne Legacy in 2012. Other notable roles include Terry Ann Wolfmeyer in The Upside of Anger (2005), Hennessey in Death Race (2008), and Nancy in Room (2015).
Allen's first great success in television was her performance as Morgause in TNT's miniseries The Mists of Avalon, earning Allen her first Emmy Award nomination in 2002. She also played the title role in the Lifetime TV movie Georgia O'Keeffe, receiving Emmy Award and Golden Globe nominations in 2010. Her other notable TV roles include Claire Lachay in Luck for HBO (2012), Colonel Margaret Rayne in The Killing on Netflix (2014), and as Claire Warren in the ABC drama series The Family (2016).
Allen returned to the New York stage to star as Ellen Fine in the Broadway premiere of Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gallery at the Golden Theatre from September 25, 2018 through January 27, 2019.
Sep 25, 2018 - Jan 27, 2019