Ellen  Burstyn

Ellen Burstyn

(Topics: Substance Abuse; Family Depression, Domestic Violence) With an illustrious career encompassing stage, film, and television, Ellen Burstyn won the Tony Award as "Best Actress" for her starring role in "Same Time, Next Year," but it was her Academy Award-winning performance in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" for which Burstyn is best known. Lecturing throughout the country on a wide range of topics, Burstyn is especially committed to women's health issues and domestic violence awareness. She also shares her personal story of overcoming substance abuse and dealing with a family member who suffered from depression.

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Ellen Burstyn's illustrious career has encompassed the stage, film and television. Born Edna Rae Gillooly in Detroit, Michigan, Burstyn spent her early years as a model and actress, appearing regularly on "The Jackie Gleason Show" and other television shows, including "The Doctors," "Ben Casey," and "Iron Horse." Debuting on Broadway in 1957 in "Fair Game," it was her starring role in "Same Time, Next Year" in 1975 that garnered Burstyn a Tony Award as "Best Actress," as well as The Drama Desk and Outer Circle Critics Award. In her recent memoir, Lessons in becoming Myself she gives an honest and enlightening account of her life, both personally and professionally. She includes her experience dealing with a family member who had mental illness and her own personal experience dealing with domestic violence when she was younger.

Burstyn's film career began with her portrait of an ex-housewife turned waitress/singer trying to support herself and her 12-year old son in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," for which she won the 1974 Oscar for "Best Actress," as well as a Golden Globe and the British Academy Award. She has been nominated for Oscars in four other film roles, including "The Last Picture Show," "The Exorcist," "Resurrection," and "Requiem for a Dream." Her other film credits include "Goodbye Charlie," "Tropic of Cancer," "The King of Marvin Gardens," "Providence," "Dying Young," "When A Man Loves A Woman," "Roommates," "How To Make An American Quilt," "Deceiver," "Playing By Heart," "Walking Across Egypt," and "The Spitfire Grill." She recently starred in the film "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."

On television, Burstyn received an Emmy nomination for her title role in "The People vs. Jean Harris." She also starred in "Act of Vengeance," "When You Remember Me," "Getting Out," "My Brother's Keeper," "Follow the River," Disney's "Flash," Hallmark's "Night Ride Home," and Showtime's "Mermaid." She received a second Emmy nomination for her starring role in "Pack of Lies," a 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame television production. In 1988, Burstyn narrated a segment of "Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam" on HBO. She also starred in the television series "That's Life." Burstyn has recorded many books-on-tape, and in 1996, she was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Spoken Word" category as the narrator of Grow Old Along With Me, The Best is Yet To Be.

The first woman to be elected President of Actors' Equity Association, Burstyn served as the Artistic Director of the Actors Studio for six years. She continues to be active as Co-President with Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel. Academically, Burstyn holds three doctorates: one in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Dowling College, as well as one from the New School for Social Research, where she teaches in the Actors Studio/New School M.F.A. program.

Burstyn also lectures throughout the country on a wide range of topics, including her personal story of overcoming substance abuse. In her early 20's, at the start of her career on Broadway, Burstyn found herself caught up in what was considered "normal" behavior at the time: late nights out drinking and partying, with mornings spent nursing hangovers. When she moved from New York to Hollywood to begin working in film, she continued to rely on alcohol and cigarettes to help her through stressful situations. Then, directed by her own intuition, Burstyn made a change in her career that changed her entire life. She returned to New York and began studying with the renowned acting coach, Lee Strasberg. Through her work with Strasberg, Burstyn learned "how to be present" in her work, and in her life. She overcame her impulses to drink and smoke, and as a result discovered her own commitment to a healthy balance of body, mind, and spirit. She is also an advocate for breast cancer awareness, having a family member who has suffered from the disease. Burstyn now encourages others to listen to what is real inside of themselves, to separate from their fear, and to "make a friend of your own mind."

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