All the celebrities who have starred in 'A Doll's House'

Academy Award winner Jessica Chastain is the latest in a long line of female stars to take on the leading role of Nora Helmer in Henrik Ibsen's classic drama.

Rebecca VanderKooi
Rebecca VanderKooi

Henrik Ibsen's multi-award-winning play A Doll's House has achieved masterwork status since premiering in Copenhagen in 1879. The play questions the constraints of traditional gender roles through the story of housewife Nora Helmer, who keeps a financial secret from her husband. Between this stress and a desire for independence, Nora feels suffocated in her seemingly perfect life.

It's no shock that nearly 150 years later, Nora Helmer is still a highly sought-after role. Countless celebrities have stepped into the part or become celebrities by doing so. Jessica Chastain is the latest star to play Nora in a new A Doll's House production on Broadway, adapted by Pulitzer-nominated playwright Amy Herzog and directed by Jamie Lloyd.

Audiences can see Chastain perform at the Hudson Theatre until June 10. Below, look back at some of the most notable stars who have played Nora Helmer in A Doll's House over the years.

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Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain leads the latest revival of A Doll’s House as Nora Helmer. Lloyd aimed to premiere his production, starring Chastain, at the Playhouse Theatre in London in 2020. Covid-19 forced its postponement, and the show now premieres on Broadway instead.

As Broadway Direct reported, Lloyd said Chastain’s work has been “overwhelming, beyond any expectation. She’s so open, so up for trying different options as we investigate and explore ideas. The fact that she’s so free, so able to do that with such confidence and dexterity and specificity and real emotional truth, is astounding. She’s a remarkable artist.”

Eleven years before A Doll’s House, Chastain made her Broadway debut in Heiress. She’s also a screen star with more than 55 awards to her name. In 2022, she won an Oscar for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and she most recently starred in the TV series George & Tammy as Tammy Wynette.

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Laurie Metcalf

While Laurie Metcalf never starred in A Doll's House, she played Nora in A Doll's House, Part 2, Lucas Hnath’s 2017 sequel to Ibsen’s play. Metcalf won her first Tony Award for her performance as an older Nora who returns to her former home 15 years after Ibsen’s play ends.

New York Theatre Guide’s critic raved, “Metcalf is beyond brilliant as she waves Nora's banner high.” The LA Times wrote, "The agility of her acting, the way she can reverse course while making it seem like she's simply following the logic of her character, is a marvel."

Metcalf returns to Broadway in 2023 in Grey House. Off stage, she has earned 12 Emmy nominations, most recently winning in 2022 for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Weed in Hacks. Her other three Emmy wins are for her role as Jackie Harris in the sitcom Roseanne.

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Hattie Morahan

In 2012 and 2013, Hattie Morahan starred in a new adaptation of A Doll's House at the Young Vic in London. The show played two sold-out runs before moving to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. Morahan was awarded the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Awards for Best Actress, and she also earned an Olivier Award nomination. The New York Times called Morahan's performance "galvanizing and star-making."

Morahan is also known for her roles in period dramas, including the British show Sense and Sensibility. Her other best-known roles include Agathe in Beauty and the Beast and Queen Elsemere in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

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Gillian Anderson

Many know Gillian Anderson for her TV roles as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully on The X-Files and Margaret Thatcher in The Crown, but she’s also a powerhouse on stage. In 2009, Anderson starred in A Doll’s House, as translated by Zinnie Harris, at London's Donmar Warehouse. She was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Actress.

Variety’s critic wrote, “Anderson’s Nora is the most complete performance. From a light, almost coquettish start, this patient, petite woman in upswept curls appears to grow in stature as her dilemma deepens.”

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Janet McTeer

Oscar and Emmy nominee Janet McTeer starred as Nora in the 1996-97 Broadway revival of A Doll's House, which first played in London. Upon moving to New York, the show won four Tony Awards, including Best Leading Actress in a Play for McTeer. She also won an Olivier Award, London Critics' Award, Time Out Award, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk Awards for Best Actress.

McTeer also has numerous television and film credits, including Lillian in the 2022 film The Menu. She is also known for playing Helen Pierce in the Netflix series Ozark.

Cheryl Campbell

Cheryl Campbell played Nora in the 1982 London revival of A Doll’s House at the Barbican Theatre. She won an Olivier Award for her standout performance.

Campbell has had a long and decorated career on both stage and screen. This English actress is best known to Americans for her role in Pennies From Heaven, which earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Television Actress. In 2015, Campbell played the role of Helen Foster in the British thriller Doctor Foster.

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Liv Ullmann

Liv Ullmann played Nora alongside Sam Waterston in the 1975 A Doll’s House Broadway revival at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. She received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for the role. As The New York Times said of the sold-out show, “In short, everyone wants to see Liv Ullmann.”

Ullmann’s impressive career has spanned stage and screen, earning her more than 50 award wins. She won Oscars for her performance in the 1976 film Face to Face and the 1973 film The Emigrants.

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Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda played Nora in the 1973 A Doll’s House movie alongside David Warner as Torvald. The film debuted at the New York and Cannes Film Festivals. Well-known critic Leonard Maltin said Fonda’s performance was the main reason to see the movie.

Fonda has had a long and decorated film career, winning two Oscars for Klute and Coming Home. Her recent credits include Trish in the film 80 for Brady and Grace Hanson in the hit series Grace & Frankie.

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Claire Bloom

Interestingly, Fonda’s film was one of two A Doll’s House adaptations in 1973. After playing Nora in the 1970-71 Broadway revival of A Doll’s House at the Playhouse Theatre, Claire Bloom starred in the other screen adaptation opposite Anthony Hopkins. The New York Times highly praised Bloom, stating, “Miss Bloom evolves with the play itself.”

Bloom is also known for leading roles in the plays A Streetcar Named Desire and Long Day’s Journey into Night and in the miniseries Brideshead Revisited. She was in almost 60 films throughout her career.

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Ruth Gordon

Ruth Gordon starred in the 1937 A Doll’s House adaptation by Thornton Wilder. The New York Times critic wrote, “A good many people were profoundly impressed, for Miss Gordon is a remarkable actress.”

Gordon's career began on stage and in silent films and also spanned television and scriptwriting. Of her many notable works, she is known for writing the movie Adam’s Rib and winning a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in the horror film Rosemary’s Baby.

Minnie Maddern Fiske

Minnie Maddern Fiske, better known as Ms. Fiske, was a prominent American actress at the turn of the 20th century. She played the role of Nora in A Doll’s House thrice throughout her career: in 1894, 1896, and 1902. Fiske had a career on stage from the age of five. She is primarily known for performing in Ibsen plays including Hedda Gabler and Rosmersholm.

Beatrice Cameron

In 1889, Beatrice Cameron played Nora in the Broadway premiere of A Doll's House at Palmer's Theatre. Cameron performed in plays primarily in London and New York throughout her career. One of the most famous shows she was in, other than A Doll's House, was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She performed in 10 Broadway plays from 1887-97.

Janet Achurch

Janet Achurch played the role of Nora in the 1899 English premiere of A Doll’s House. Achurch was a diverse actor known for playing various roles in her home country of England and performing in Australia, New Zealand, India, and Egypt. Playwright George Bernard Shaw even wrote the title role of his play Candida with her in mind, only approving its premiere if Achurch was a part of it. Even so, she is most famous for her work on A Doll’s House.

Betty Hennings

Betty Hennings played Nora in the world premiere of A Doll’s House almost 150 years ago, on December 21, 1879. The show, which took place at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, was just the beginning of what became a world-renowned play with multiple adaptations and revivals. Hennings played 170 roles, including in multiple Ibsen plays, in almost 3,000 performances throughout her career. Hennings was dubbed the first lady of the Royal Theatre upon her retirement.

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Other celebrities in A Doll's House

Nora isn't the only A Doll's House role to attract stars. Succession star Arian Moayed plays Torvald opposite Chastain on Broadway, and celebrities like Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and Emmy winner David Warner have also stepped into the role of the domineering husband.

The 2023 Broadway production also features Private Practice's Michael Patrick Thornton as family friend Dr. Rank and Hamilton alum Okieriete Onaodowan as Torvald's employee Nils Krogstad.

Originally published on

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