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Jessica Phyllis Lange (born April 20, 1949) is an American actress of stage, film, and television.

Biography

Lange was born in Cloquet, Minnesota. She is of Finnish and German/Dutch descent. Lange studied Art and Photography at the University of Minnesota.

In 1973, Lange returned to New York and began supporting herself by becoming a waitress at the Lion's Head Tavern, while sharing an apartment with soon-to-be-famous fashion models Jerry Hall and Grace Jones in Manhattan. She was discovered by fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez and briefly modeled fashion for the Wilhelmina Models Agency before being discovered by Hollywood producer Dino De Laurentiis.

Since 1982, she has lived with playwright/actor Sam Shepard. She has three children: Alexandra (born in 1981) with dancer/actor Mikhail Baryshnikov (whom she met in 1979 and had a relationship with until after her daughter's birth), Hannah Jane (born 1985) and Samuel Walker (born 1985), who are both her children with Shepard.

Lange made her professional film debut in 1976's King Kong. The film was a box office hit, but both the film and Lange's performance were dismissed by film critics and most of Hollywood. Despite this, her role would receive her the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year and the film became the fifth highest-grossing movie of 1976. Lange did not work on another film for almost three years, but still determined to become a professional actress, she continued to be a waitress at the Lion's Head Tavern while attending classes at the Actor's Studio in Greenwich Village.

In 1979, Lange portrayed the "Angel of Death" in Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical film, All That Jazz. Lange and Fosse had carried on a short-lived affair after her film debut, but soon became close friends after Lange formed a relationship with Russian ballet dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Later on, Bob Rafelson offered Lange the infamous lead role, opposite Jack Nicholson, in 1981's The Postman Always Rings Twice. During filming, Nicholson became quite enamored with Lange for both her "beauty and strength". He was quoted as referring to Lange as "a cross between a delicate fawn and a Buick." Lange was unanimously praised for her performance, some even citing it as her "true film debut". Major critical and financial success followed Lange throughout the next three decades, including today.

In 2011, Lange joined the cast of American Horror Story. The series co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk originally wrote the role of "Constance", a nosy neighbor, as a supporting character. After Lange acquired the role, they expanded it considerably. They finally categorized her character as a "third lead". Murphy has stated that he repeatedly saw Lange as "Blanche DuBois" in the Broadway rendition of A Streetcar Named Desire during 1992. Afterward, he grew "obsessed" with her and cited her and her performance as his ultimate favorites.

Since American Horror Story's debut as FX's highest-rated premiere (and becoming one of the network's highest-rated shows ever), Lange has seen a resurgence in her popularity and has received rave reviews for her controversial role.

She has won the Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards and the Best Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie at the 2012 Emmy Awards for her performance as "Constance Langdon" in American Horror Story.

She also has won the Best Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie at the 2014 Emmy Awards for her performance as "Fiona Goode" in American Horror Story: Coven.

In 2016, she returned to the stage in Broadway's revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The next year, she starred in another Ryan Murphy-created show on FX, Feud, as Joan Crawford.

Work on American Horror Story

Jessica Lange portrayed Constance Langdon in Murder House, marking her first regular role on television. [1] Lange returned as Sister Jude in Asylum as a leading character in the season which was replicated the following year when she portrayed the Supreme Fiona Goode in Coven. Lange portrayed yet another leading character as Elsa Mars in Freak Show, which was supposed to be her "swan song". She returned to the franchise for its eighth season, Apocalypse, reprising the role of Constance Langdon.[2]

Lange's name was always the last to appear in every title sequence of seasons she was billed as main, credited with the honorary "and".

Having worked in film, theater, and television, Lange has been the recipient of several awards, including two Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, one of which for her role in Murder House, and two Emmy Awards for her roles in Murder House and Coven.

Jessica Lange on leaving American Horror Story

The fourth installment of American Horror Story marked her retirement from the series and she was planning to retire from acting in general. However, she retracted that decision and went on to work on another series created by Ryan Murphy called Feud which premiered on March 7, 2017.[3] However, she has stated that she was most likely going to be in the fifth season which was originally a World War theme. Once it changed to Hotel, she decided to leave as she was planning beforehand.[4]

Jessica Lange on returning to American Horror Story

Jessica Lange has revealed how Ryan Murphy convinced her to make a comeback in Apocalypse despite stepping away from the anthology series in early 2015.

“It was like all conversations with Ryan,” she told The Wrap's Emmy magazine. “So, for instance, he's talking about the relationship with the children and a 10-page monologue, the drunkenness and the death. He hits all the scenes that would make it interesting for me to come back to play this character. [...] So the idea that she is basically OD-ing and having these – are they visions, her children come to see her? It was my favorite scene to shoot.”[5]

Lange has denied returning to the series after Apocalypse, stating that “I did [Apocalypse] because it was recreating Constance, which was, for me, a very important time when I did that first season, Murder House,”. She also went on to say that without actors like Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy or Kathy Bates that she doubted "it would be the same".

Jessica Lange Ranks Her Best and Worst AHS Seasons

During a recent interview with TVLine’s sister site Gold Derby, Lange was asked to rank the five AHS seasons in which she appeared. She took out Apocalypse. “I never saw Apocalypse, so I don’t know [where it would rank],” she says. Despite being a widely fan favorite, Coven is her less favorite to say the least, stating that “The part was very well-written. I didn’t particularly like the whole set-up and season and story we were telling... It was not my favorite.” The third place went to Murder House, although she has a soft spot for it. She placed Freak Show second, describing it as her “very favorite, just from the experience of doing it.” According to Lange, Asylum “was the better season.”[6]

Notes

Appearances

Episode appearances for Jessica Lange
Story or Series Character Episodes
Murder House Constance Langdon
Asylum Sister Jude
Coven Fiona Goode
Freak Show Elsa Mars
Apocalypse Constance Langdon

Gallery

Video

References

 

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