Catherine Keener

Catherine Keener Headshot

Actress

Birth Name: Catherine Ann Keener

Birth Date: March 23, 1959

Age: 65 years old

Birth Place: Miami, Florida

A solid force in American independent cinema, Catherine Keener built up a following in films from directors like Tom DiCillo and Nicole Holofcener during the 1990s. The effortless, naturalistic acting style that landed her roles as wry, likable bohemians and stern, archly observed professionals found wider audiences the following decade with diverse offerings like Spike Jonze's "Being John Malkovich" (2000), Judd Apatow's monster summer comedy "40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005), and the gripping period literary drama "Capote" (2005). Aging gracefully into maternal roles, Keener continued alternating between lead roles in art house favorites such as Nicole Holofcener's "Friends With Money" (2006) and David Schwimmer's "Trust" (2010) and supporting roles in hits ranging from animated smash "The Croods" (2013) to Jordan Peele's horror hit "Get Out" (2017). For an actress with a dedication to interesting, well-developed female characters, Keener managed to beat the odds and maintain a steady presence in movie theaters as the go-to actress for vanity-free portraits of real women with relatable quirks and foibles.

Catherine Keener was born in March of 1959 (some sources cite 1960) and raised in the Little Havana section of Miami, FL. The middle child of a large family, she attended Catholic schools and dreamed of becoming a nun until the realization that nuns were subservient to priests gave her second thoughts. She was a rambunctious teenager but maintained good enough grades to gain admission to Wheaton College in Massachusetts. The women's college proved to be a revelation for the self-proclaimed "surfer chick" who, for the first time, was surrounded by strong, intellectual feminists. She studied literature, enrolled in her first theater course and expanded her interest in performing by taking a summer filmmaking course at New York University.

After graduating in 1983, she moved to New York City, NY and began working for casting agent Gail Eisenstadt. When Eisenstadt was transferred to Los Angeles, Keener followed, only to have her boss give her an acting pep talk and her first small film role as a cocktail waitress in "About Last Night..." (1986), where she exhorted Rob Lowe and Jim Belushi to "Go! Go! Go!" in their drinking contest, thus earning the newcomer a Screen Actors Guild card.

In a brief flirtation with television, Keener was cast as a young, cheeky sidekick on the short-lived cop show "Ohara" (ABC, 1987-88) before acting in 1989's Outward Boundish feature "Survival Quest," which introduced her to future husband, actor Dermot Mulroney. She had small roles in Dennis Hopper's "Backtrack" (1990) and Blake Edwards' "Switch" (1991), before landing a timely entry into the fledgling indie film scene in Tom DiCillo's writing-directing debut "Johnny Suede" (1991), opposite then-unknown Brad Pitt's preening pop star, and earning her first critical recognition with a nomination as Best Female Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards. DiCillo took an instant liking to the actress, and feeling she had not gotten nearly enough screen time in "Johnny Suede," he wrote a part for her in the short film "Scene Six, Take One" (1994), which he expanded into the feature "Living in Oblivion" the following year. An insider's look at low-budget filmmaking, the now legendary send-up featured James Le Gros as an egocentric star wreaking havoc on a sh string shoot and Keener as an actress who - together with the inept director (Steve Buscemi), cinematographer (Dermot Mulroney) and crew - precipitates endless snags on an ill-fated indie production.

Following small roles in "The Destiny of Marty Fine" (1995) and Stacy Cochran's "Boys" (1996), Nicole Holofcener's "Walking and Talking" (1996) gave Keener a strong leading role as a continual loser in love coming to terms with the impending marriage of her best friend (Anne Heche). The "thinking woman's chick flick" showcased Keener's well-observed portrayal of an outspoken, contemporary woman plagued with complex doubts. For her role, she received another Best Lead Actress nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards.

That same year, Keener enjoyed a wide audience with her portrayal of Demi Moore's judgmental sister-in-law in Nancy Savoca's "1952" segment of HBO's popular series "If These Walls Could Talk." She reunited with DiCillo on "Box of Moonlight" (1996) where she gave a stand-out performance as a big personality stuck in a small town where she rocks the foundation of an uptight professional (John Turturro). DiCillo then cast Keener in "The Real Blonde" (1997), his comic exploration of the quest for integrity in the superficial worlds of fashion advertising, rock videos and soap operas.

Steven Soderbergh helped boost Keener's profile when he cast her in a memorable supporting role as a flamboyant, street smart magician's assistant and ex-wife of a bank robber (George Clooney) in the gem "Out of Sight" (1998), adapted from the novel by Elmore Leonard. Back in the indie arena, Keener joined the ensemble cast of Neil LaBute's "Your Friends & Neighbors" (1998), a biting look at the tangled relationships of a group of bright, endlessly loquacious urbanites. She dipped her t into mainstream Hollywood with a small role as Nicholas Cage's faithful wife in "8mm" (1999), but her career breakout came later that year with a starring role in Spike Jonze's "Being John Malkovich" (1999). The Charlie Kaufman script revolved around a file clerk (John Cusack) who discovers a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich. Keener successfully went against type to play the no-nonsense boss who turns the journey into a paying attraction, while her domineering sex appeal has Malkovich, Cusack, and Cusack's frumpy wife (Cameron Diaz) falling in love with her. The character-driven supporting actress was unaccustomed to a sexy leading role and it showcased spectacular new dimensions to the tune of Best Actress nominations at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Keener co-starred in the Sam Shepard adaptation "Simpatico" (1999) before kicking off the new millennium with director and friend Holofcener, who again tapped Keener for a smart and insightful portrait of very different sisters in 2001's "Lovely and Amazing," a starring role that earned the actress another Independent Spirit Award nomination. Keener was one of the high points in Steven Soderbergh's disappointing return-to-indie-style feature "Full Frontal" (2002) and worse for the actress was Danny DeVito's roundly dismissed dark comedy "Death to Smoochy" (2002), in which she played a TV executive caught in a war between two TV kiddie show hosts (Edward Norton and Robin Williams). One of several "career woman with tough exterior" roles, Keener next veered into typecasting territory when she took on a similar character in "S1m0ne" (2002), a mainstream release about a computer-generated actress which failed to excite audiences or critics. Keener followed up with rave reviews for writer-director Rebecca Miller's indie "The Ballad of Jack & Rose" (2005), where she played a mother who tries to integrate her family into the sheltered commune lifestyle of her boyfriend (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his daughter.The year 2005 proved to be a pivotal time in Keener's life.

On the personal front, her 15-year marriage to Mulroney - long considered one of Hollywood's most stable - came to an end following the couple's separation in May. In the press, much was made of the fact that the Mulroney/Keener break-up came right on the heels of an even more shocking split - that of Keener's close friend Brad Pitt and his wife, Jennifer Aniston. Being that the two couples often double-dated, the media could not help but speculate if there was something in the water. On a professional note, her onscreen work that year continued to test her range, while at the same time, place her in front of more mainstream film audiences than ever before. She had a supporting turn in the taut thriller "The Interpreter" (2005), where she was a welcome sight as the wisecracking partner of Sean Penn's federal agent. Keener's flair for realistic, subtly played characters made her a brilliant casting choice to play opposite Steve Carell in the critically hailed summer comedy "40-Year-Old-Virgin." Keener infused the "hot grandma" character with genuine warmth and a fun, sweet sexiness that led audiences to invest in the relationship between her and her inexperienced partner. Only a month later, Keener hit screens a fourth time in the pivotal role of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Nelle Harper Lee in "Capote" (2005). The film focused on author Truman Capote's (Philip Seymour Hoffman) investigation of the grisly quadruple murder in Holcomb, KS that became the writer's true crime classic, In Cold Blood. Lee had been an integral part of Capote's research and her friendship an important aspect of the story. Keener's outstanding portrayal was nominated for an Academy Award, SAG Award and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress.Keener's high-profile year did not spell the end of the actress' dedication to independent film.

She maintained her interest in smaller, creative films like "An American Crime" (2007), a chilling, fact-based tale where Keener played an abusive caretaker of a pair of siblings in 1960s Indiana. After the film's premiere at Sundance in January, it was headed straight to DVD when Showtime picked it up for air later in the year. That twist of production fate enabled Keener to earn her first Emmy Award nomination for her leading role in the drama, as well as a Golden Globe nod. S

he returned to theaters in "Friends with Money" (2006), writer-director Nicole Holofcener's ensemble comedy drama exploring the role of money in the lives of a group of women in their 40s. From Keener's role as a successful television writer in the film, she made a 180-degree turn to play one half of a bohemian couple who take an idealistic young drifter under their wing in "Into the Wild" (2007). Sean Penn's film based on the true story of Christopher McCandless topped dozens of critic's top ten lists for the year, and led to a very busy 2008 for Keener, in which she co-starred in Charlie Kaufman's reality-bending debut "Synecdoche New York," the offbeat indie comedy about a high school drama teacher, "Hamlet 2," and the Italian-set thriller "Genova."Cementing her stranglehold on parts calling for powerful, professional ex-wives with great sympathy for their former husbands, Keener offered another strong performance as the editor and ex-wife of Robert Downey, Jr. in "The Soloist" (2009). Based on a true story of a reporter (Downey, Jr.) befriending a homeless, mentally disturbed violin genius (Jamie Foxx), the film was praised for its uplifting message, but hit a sour note at the box office.

Keener's charms remained in high demand, however, and her presence in a film continued to ensure positive critical attention. Although her role in the successful "Where the Wild Things Are" (2009) was small - as the overworked mother of the willful runaway Max - Keener was able to provide one of the loveliest and quietest moments in the film, falling asleep at the end, looking at her just-returned son. While the film itself divided fans and critics into passionate camps, as always, Keener's work received high marks, and she earned a Saturn Award nomination for Best Actress. She pulled mom duty again in another kid-friendly, would-be blockbuster, "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief" (2010). Mixing modern-day teenage life with ancient Greek mythology, the film was successful at the box office but not with critics, despite the best efforts of a campy Uma Thurman as a glamorous Medusa.Reuniting with Nicole Holofcener for the successful "Please Give" (2010), Keener found herself again tackling a complex dramatic part to the delight of critics and fans alike. Along with co-stars Amanda Peet and Oliver Platt, Keener enjoyed some career-best reviews playing a furniture seller growing more conflicted about the wealth she earns from the estates of bereaved families who do not realize the value of what they sell her -and for her luxury amidst New York homelessness and poverty. She also played John C. Reilly's supportive ex-wife who urges him to find love in the well reviewed comedy "Cyrus" (2010). After co-starring in James Franco's experimental "Maladies" (2011) and acting once again opposite Phillip Seymour Hoffman in "A Late Quartet" (2012), Keener reunited with Holofcener in the romantic comedy "Enough Said" (2013) and appeared in animated hit "The Croods" (2013) and Tom Hanks biopic "Captain Phillips" (2013). Keener produced and starred in the indie drama "War Story" (2014) and appeared in musical romance "Begin Again" (2014). Her starring role in the little-seen "Unless" (2016) was followed by one of her biggest box office successes, as she played an initially charming suburban mother in Jordan Peele's critically-acclaimed horror film "Get Out" (2017).

Credits

Joker: Folie à Deux

Actor
Movie
2024

Lucky HankStream

Guest Star
Series
2023
93%

Nella terra delle creature selvagge

Actor
Connie
Show
2022

The Adam ProjectStream

Actor
Maya Sorian
Movie
2022
68%

Polar BearStream

Narrator
Movie
2022
74%

Brand New Cherry FlavorStream

Actor
Boro
Series
2021
76%

The Croods: A New AgeStream

Voice
Ugga
Movie
2020
77%

No Future

Actor
Claire
Movie
2020

The Croods: A New Age

Voice
Ugga
Movie
2020

Modern LoveStream

Actor
Julie
Series
2019
69%

KiddingStream

Actor
Deirdre
Series
2018
88%

Incredibles 2Stream

Voice
Evelyn Deavor
Movie
2018
93%

Sicario: Day of the SoldadoStream

Actor
Cynthia Foards
Movie
2018
62%

NostalgiaStream

Actor
Donna
Movie
2018
39%

Get OutStream

Actor
Missy Armitage
Movie
2017
98%

We Don't Belong Here

Actor
Nancy Green
Movie
2017

November Criminals

Actor
Fiona
Movie
2017

Little Pink House

Actor
Susette Kelo
Movie
2017

Unless

Actor
Reta
Movie
2016

Show Me a HeroStream

Actor
Mary Dorman
Miniseries
2015

Accidental Love

Actor
Rep. Pam Hendrickson
Movie
2015

War Story

Actor
Lee
Movie
2014

War Story

Producer
Movie
2014

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa .5

Actor
Ellie
Movie
2014

Elephant Song

Actor
Nurse Susan Peterson
Movie
2014

Bad GrandpaStream

Actor
Ellie
Movie
2013
61%

Enough SaidStream

Actor
Marianne
Movie
2013
95%

Begin AgainStream

Actor
Miriam
Movie
2013
83%

The CroodsStream

Voice
Ugga
Movie
2013
71%

Captain PhillipsStream

Actor
Andrea Phillips
Movie
2013
93%

Maladies

Actor
Catherine
Movie
2012

A Late Quartet

Actor
Juliette Gelbart
Movie
2012

Q With Jian Ghomeshi

Guest
Show
2011

The Oranges

Actor
Paige
Movie
2011

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

Actor
Diane
Movie
2011

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning ThiefStream

Actor
Sally Jackson
Movie
2010
49%

Please Give

Actor
Kate
Movie
2010

CyrusStream

Actor
Jamie
Movie
2010
80%

Lost Angels

Narrator
Movie
2010

Trust

Actor
Lynn Cameron
Movie
2010

ES.TV

Guest
Show
2009

Where the Wild Things AreStream

Actor
Mom
Movie
2009
73%

The SoloistStream

Actor
Mary Weston
Movie
2009
56%

Studio Spotlight

Actor
Show
2008

What Just Happened?

Actor
Lou Tarnow
Movie
2008

Hamlet 2

Actor
Mrs. Marschz
Movie
2008

Synecdoche, New YorkStream

Actor
Adele Lack
Movie
2008
69%

Genova

Actor
Barbara
Movie
2008

Into the WildStream

Actor
Jan Burres
Movie
2007
83%

An American Crime

Actor
Gertrude Baniszewski
Movie
2007

etalk

Guest
Show
2006

Friends With MoneyStream

Actor
Christine
Movie
2006
72%

The InterpreterStream

Actor
Dot Woods
Movie
2005
86%

The 40-Year-Old VirginStream

Actor
Trish
Movie
2005
85%

The Ballad of Jack and Rose

Actor
Kathleen
Movie
2005

CapoteStream

Actor
Nelle Harper Lee
Movie
2005
89%

Jimmy Kimmel Live!Stream

Guest
Talk
2003

Death to SmoochyStream

Actor
Nora
Movie
2002
42%

Full Frontal

Actor
Lee
Movie
2002

Simone

Actor
Elaine Christian
Movie
2002

Lovely & Amazing

Actor
Michelle Marks
Movie
2001

The Daily Show With Jon StewartStream

Guest
Talk
1999

8MM

Actor
Amy Welles
Movie
1999

Being John MalkovichStream

Actor
Maxine Lund
Movie
1999
94%

Simpatico

Actor
Cecilia
Movie
1999

Out of SightStream

Actor
Adele
Movie
1998
94%

Your Friends & NeighborsStream

Actor
Terri
Movie
1998
77%

The Real Blonde

Actor
Mary
Movie
1997

Walking and Talking

Actor
Amelia
Movie
1996

If These Walls Could TalkStream

Actor
Becky Donnelly
Movie
1996
88%

Box of MoonlightStream

Actor
Floatie Dupre
Movie
1996

Heroine of Hell

Actor
Magda
Movie
1996

The Destiny of Marty Fine

Actor
Lena
Movie
1996

Living in Oblivion

Actor
Nicole Springer
Movie
1995

Entertainers: With Byron Allen

Guest
Show
1994

栄光なき勇者たち

Actor
Movie
1992

SwitchStream

Actor
Steve's Secretary
Movie
1991
32%

Johnny Suede

Actor
Yvonne
Movie
1991

SeinfeldStream

Guest Star
Nina
Series
1989
89%

Survival Quest

Actor
Cheryl
Movie
1989

News aboutCatherine Keener