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Mercedes J. Ruehl was born on born February 28, 1948 in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. She won an Oscar and Golden Globe for her performance in "The Fisher King" in 1992 and a Tony Award for Lost in Yonkers in 1991.
She attended the College of New Rochelle, graduating in 1969 and began her professional acting career with the Denver Centre Theatre Company. She made her off-Broadway debut as Patricia in Coming of Age for the Public Theater in February 1985 and would return to the Public in May of that same year to star as Joan Brennan in Christopher Durang's The Marriage of Bette and Boo, winning an Obie Award for her efforts. In November 1985, she made her Broadway debut as Clara in the premiere of Herb Gardner's comedy I'm Not Rappaport which ran for an impressive 891 performances. In February 1988, she returned to the Public Theater and starred as Karen in American Notes and would then take on the role of Kate Sullivan in Other People's Money at the Minetta Lane Theatre in 1989, receiving a Clarence Derwent Award.
Ms. Ruehl returned triumphantly to Broadway in February 1991 to play Bella in the premiere of Neil Simon's comedy Lost in Yonkers, resulting in a Tony Award for "Best Actress in a Play," as well as a Drama Desk Award that year, and solidifying her status as a Broadway star. During the 1990s, she starred in two further Broadway productions - as Beverly in the 1994 revival of The Shadow Box and as Serafina Delle Rose in the 1995 revival of The Rose Tattoo, earning a Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk Award nomination, respectively. In September 2000, she appeared in the rotating cast of Eve Ensler's iconic piece The Vagina Monologues at the Westside Theatre, and in February 2002, she returned to the Great White Way to take on the role of Stevie in the premiere of Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? and left the production in September of that year, after receiving a third Tony Award nomination, as well as a third Drama Desk nomination.
She starred off-Broadway as Peggy Guggenheim in Woman Before a Glass in 2005 (picking up her second Obie Award) and as Louise Nevelson in Edward Albee's Occupant in 2008 and was last seen on the Great White Way as Eva Adler in the 2009 premiere of Richard Greenberg's The American Plan. Most recently, she took on the iconic role of Ma Beckoff in Second Stage Theater's acclaimed off-Broadway revival of Torch Song, which ran at the Tony Kiser Theater from September to December 2017.
On screen, Ms. Ruehl's crowing achievement was possibly her portrayal of Anne in 1991's "The Fisher King," which led to Academy Award and Golden Globe wins for "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" in 1992, as she became the first-ever Cuban-American female Academy Award winner.
Her other notable screen credits include "The Secret of my Suce$s" (1987), "Big" (1988), "Married to the Mob" (1988), the film adaptation of "Lost in Yonkers" (1993), "Last Action Hero" (1993), "Frasier" (1995-96), "All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story" (2000), "What's Cooking?" (2000), "Entourage" (2006-8), and, most recently, as Connie Teresi in "Power" (2017-18).
Ms. Ruehl reprised her performance as Ma Beckoff in the Broadway transfer of Second Stage Theater's hit production at the Hayes Theater from October 9, 2018 through January 6, 2019.