As an ardent admirer of Jessica Lange for decades, I‘m thrilled to provide this in-depth introduction to her incredible life and career. Ranked among the greatest actresses of her generation, Lange has enthralled audiences with her raw emotion and ability to inhabit complex characters. From her breakout role in 1982‘s Tootsie to her recent Television work, Lange brings her immense gifts to every performance.
Early Life and Modeling Career in Minnesota and New York
Born on April 20, 1949 in Cloquet, Minnesota, Jessica Lange was the third child of Dorothy and Albert Lange. She grew up in a close-knit family and discovered her passion for the arts at a young school, excelling in painting and photography. After graduating high school, Lange attended the University of Minnesota where she studied painting and photography.
Restless for life outside small-town Minnesota, a 19-year-old Lange relocated to Paris in 1970 to pursue modeling. She quickly found success, appearing on the covers of Vogue and Cosmopolitan and modeling top designers like Yves Saint Laurent. After several years overseas, Lange returned to New York City in 1973 to further her modeling career.
Success in Blockbuster Films: King Kong, Tootsie and Blue Sky
Lange‘s breakout acting role came with the 1976 remake of King Kong, where she played the legendary damsel in distress. Though the film received mixed reviews, Lange‘s performance set her course for stardom. Her big break arrived in 1982 when she landed the part of struggling actress Julie Nichols in Tootsie opposite Dustin Hoffman. Lange earned her first Academy Award nomination for the comedic role.
But it was her tour-de-force performance in 1994‘s Blue Sky that finally won 32-year-old Lange her first Academy Award for Best Actress. As mentally ill housewife Carly Marshall, she delivered a heartwrenching and complex performance. Lange went on to win her second Best Actress Oscar in 1995 for A Streetcar Named Desire, where she embodied the iconic role of Blanche DuBois.
Throughout her prolific film career, Lange sought out fascinating, troubled female characters in films like Frances, Country, Sweet Dreams, Music Box, and Cousin Bette. Directors raved about her willingness to capture the most challenging parts of the human experience.
Transition to Acclaimed Television Roles
In 2011, Lange surprised fans by taking on a leading role in FX‘s macabre hit American Horror Story. As twisted neighbor Constance Langdon, the 62-year-old Lange got to showcase new acting muscles. She remained with the show for four seasons, earning two Emmy Awards.
Lange later went on to play screen legend Marlene Dietrich in Feud and a faded farm woman in Wild Oats, proving her mastery of the television medium as well. She continues to seek out complex, juicy roles that underscore her emotional depth as an actress.
Personal Life with Long-Term Partners & Children
Though extremely private about her personal life, Lange was in long-term relationships with renowned ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov and playwright Sam Shepard over the years. She met Baryshnikov in 1976 when he was director of the American Ballet Theatre and she was a budding Hollywood starlet. The couple began a romance and had one daughter together, Aleksandra Lange, in 1981. Though they eventually split, Lange always spoke fondly of Baryshnikov.
Lange later entered into a 27-year relationship with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and actor Sam Shepard. They had two children together: Hannah Jane in 1985 and Samuel Walker in 1987. The family lived together on a Virginia farm until separating amicably in 2009.
Interests in Photography and Artistic Pursuits
Away from the screen and stage lights, Lange enjoys the quieter pursuits of fine art photography and painting. She began studying photography in 2008 and went on to publish multiple books showcasing her nature photography, including 50 Photographs and In Mexico. Lange finds the solitary art of photography centering and meditative, allowing her to reset from the demands of acting.
Lange also continues to paint, create pottery, and pursue other creative endeavors at her homes in Minnesota and New Mexico. She appreciates the tactile, grounded nature of creating art with one‘s own hands.
Why I Deeply Admire Jessica Lange
As a devoted fan for decades, I deeply admire Jessica Lange for so many reasons:
- Her raw, naturalistic acting style: Lange disappears fully into each role, conveying emotion with an intimacy that feels completely real and unforced.
- Her daring choice of roles: Never one to play it safe, Lange gravitates toward prickly, troubled characters that other actresses shy away from.
- Her stunning transformations: Lange is a chameleon, magically transforming for each new character, no matter how quirky or challenging.
- Her artistic spirit: Whether acting, photography or painting, Lange sees art as an act of the soul. This spiritual approach shines through in all her creative pursuits.
- Her timeless beauty and grace: Now 74, Lange remains a classic Hollywood beauty, exuding an elegant poise and style.
At its core, my admiration stems from Lange‘s sheer artistry. She poured her heart and soul into portraying the human experience in all its joy and suffering. It‘s hard to imagine an actress more courageous, vulnerable and fully committed to the work. Lange is nothing short of a living legend.
5 Fascinating Facts About Jessica Lange
Beyond her immense on-screen talent, there are endless fascinating facets to Lange‘s life. Here are 5 interesting facts that surprised me over the years:
- She was a scholarship student at the University of Minnesota, where she studied arts and photography before dropping out.
- David Bowie was briefly her roommate in the 1970s when they were both starving artists in New York City.
- She studied mime with the legendary Jacques Lecoq in Paris to improve her physical acting skills.
- She can speak some German, thanks to her grandfather‘s Bavarian roots, and has appeared in several German films.
- Lange has a massive butterfly collection and is an avid lepidopterist in her personal life.
The Enduring Legacy of a True Hollywood Icon
Without question, Jessica Lange has secured her place in Hollywood history as one of the great dramatic actresses. She took Hollywood by storm in the 1970s as a bombshell starlet, but quickly proved she was so much more. Lange laid bare the deepest parts of the human psyche for over 50 years, gifting audiences with emotional truth in all its rawness.
We remain in awe of her immense talents and willingness to take creative risks. And her devotion to the work, not the fame, allowed her brilliance to shine through. As she continues acting into her 70s, one thing is clear – Jessica Lange‘s legacy is set in stone as a true Hollywood great. I will remain her most ardent fan for years to come.