Sissy Spacek is a self-described "flower child" who, after 30 years in show biz, prefers life on the family ranch in Virginia to the Hollywood fast lane. The choice to shun the bright lights of Tinseltown, however, may have cost the Oscar winning star the recognition afforded other actresses of her generation.
"A lot of deals in LA are made at the bar and over dinner, and a lot of that you miss out on," she explains. "Sometimes I'll run into people when I'm here and they'll say, 'Wow, you're still alive'."
Mary Elizabeth Spacek she was given the nickname Sissy by her brothers was born in Quitman, Texas, in 1949. The former homecoming queen lived a "happy, idyllic, small town life" until she finished high school and her cousin, actor Rip Torn, invited her to New York to pursue a show business career. She initially embarked on a career as a singer under the name of "Rainbo", and in the late Sixties recorded a little-heard single. However, after working as an extra in Andy Warhol's 1970 film Trash,
she decided to try and break into Hollywood.
The freckled blonde's breakout role was in the 1973 film Badlands
playing the girlfriend of Martin Sheen's spree killer. The film earned her a BAFTA nomination as best newcomer, and to this day is one of the actress' favourites. "I still feel that Badlands
was the most extraordinary experience a human being should be allowed," she says. "If I never made another movie again after that one, I would have been happy."
also ranks among her favourites because it was where she met her husband, production designer Jack Fisk, whom she married in 1974. The couple have two daughters, Schuyler and Madison, and spend much of their time on a 210-acre horse ranch in Virginia.
In 1976 her role in the Stephen King horror classic Carrie
garnered Sissy her first Oscar nomination, and her career came full circle in 1980 when her singing skills helped her win the statue for the Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner's Daughter
. In the dramatisation of the country singer"s life, the musical numbers were recorded by Sissy herself, with her rendition of the title song earning her a Grammy.
Choosing to stay with acting, the talented vocalist went on to score three more Oscar nominations during the Eighties, for Missing, The River
and Crimes In The Heart.
She has experienced a career revival of sorts in recent years, with appearances in Affliction
and The Straight Story
, while her role in 2002's In The Bedroom
brought a sixth nomination from the Academy.
It's clear that despite her slew of awards, Sissy's priorities lie firmly with her family. Since having her children, the actress has lived most of the year at the rural home that mirrors her idyllic childhood, working only when she finds a film with particular meaning for her. "I found that motherhood dwarfed everything else," says Sissy. Thankfully for her fans, the actress hasn't given up on the movie business altogether, however. "Once or twice a year, I take a project that appeals to me for its redeeming social value," she says.