Martha Plimpton Biography

Martha Plimpton Biography on Monsters and Critics


"Martha Campbell Plimpton" (born November 16, 1970) is an American model turned actress.


Early life

Martha Plimpton was born in New York City to actors Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton, who were not married at the time of her birth; her paternal grandfather was actor John Carradine. Her first stage appearance was when her mother brought her on stage in costume for the curtain call of the short-lived Broadway play "The Leaf People".


Plimpton began her career in modeling, securing an early '80s campaign for Calvin Klein. After a featured appearance in the 1981 film "Rollover", she appeared in the Deep South independent drama "The River Rat" opposite Tommy Lee Jones. Her breakthrough performance was as Stef Steinbrenner in the 1985 feature film "The Goonies". She also appeared that year in a featured role on the television sitcom "Family Ties".

This would begin a trend of Plimpton being repeatedly cast in the role of a rebellious tomboy for several years, beginning with her critically lauded performance as the Reverend Spellgood (Andre Gregory)'s daughter in the 1986 film "The Mosquito Coast" starring Harrison Ford. It was on the set of this film that she met her future real-life love interest, River Phoenix. A critically praised but commercially unsuccessful venture with Barbara Hershey in the 1987 film "Shy People" was followed by a disastrous and panned performance in the quirky 1988 ensemble comedy "Stars and Bars". This was released shortly before Plimpton's second collaboration with River Phoenix in the film "Running on Empty", an Academy Award-nominated film for which she was nominated for a Young Artist Award.

Plimpton began what became a career trend, mixing small independent film appearances with supporting roles in big-budget films. She appeared in the 1989 Woody Allen film "Another Woman"; that year, she co-starred with Jami Gertz as a cancer patient in the German film "Zwei Frauen" (released in America as "Silence Like Glass"). The film was nominated for Outstanding Feature Film at the German Film Awards.

Plimpton's most high-profile performance since "The Goonies" was in the 1989 Steve Martin film "Parenthood", where Leaf Phoenix played her on-screen brother. Plimpton had shaved her head bald to play a cancer patient in "Zwei Frauen", and her reputation for playing rebellious teenagers secured her the role of the indignant teenage daughter (who shaves her head) of Dianne Wiest. Coincidentally, Plimpton appeared alongside Joaquin Phoenix (then credited as "Leaf" Phoenix), the younger brother of her former boyfriend River, in this role.

Plimpton worked sparingly in 1991 with a supporting role in the Robert De Niro film "Stanley & Iris". In 1992 Plimpton appeared as a lesbian terrorist in the independent film "Inside Monkey Zetterland" and was given a starring role in the film "Samantha". The film received lukewarm reviews and did not succeed financially.

Despite its shortcomings, the success of "Samantha" garnered Plimpton a variety of roles in 1993. She appeared with Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the television film "Daybreak" and was a part of the mostly improvised television film "Chantilly Lace". She had a featured role in the big-budget films "Josh and S.A.M." and played the lead in the critically blasted film adaptation of the Carolyn Chute novel "The Beans of Egypt, Maine". As a testament to her own 'indie cred', Plimpton also appeared that year as herself in the independent film "My Life's in Turnaround", a movie about filmmakers trying to make a movie.

Plimpton continued to make appearances in featured roles in both independent films and mainstream movies from 1994 through 1997, most notably as the lesbian lover of radical feminist Valerie Solanas in the film "I Shot Andy Warhol".

In 1997 the Showtime Network cast Plimpton as the female lead in a television film called "The Defenders: Payback". The show was a retooling of the classic television show by the same name, and the characters were descendants of character Lawrence Preston, a role reprised by actor E.G. Marshall. The intent was to spin the program off into a series akin to "Law & Order", but Marshall died in 1998. Two additional episodes ("The Defenders: Choice of Evils" and "The Defenders: Taking the First") were aired as specials that year. The decision was made to not continue production (despite high ratings and critical praise) due to Marshall's death.

Plimpton's career in film began to stall. She became involved with The Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago where she appeared in the "Hedda Gabler" (2001) among others. In 1998 she appeared in the John Waters film "Pecker"; the film was lambasted but Plimpton's work was praised. This also occurred with her appearance in the 1999 bomb "200 Cigarettes". In 1999 Plimpton had a recurring role in the television drama "ER" as Meg Corwyn. In 2001, she co-starred with Jacqueline Bisset in "The Sleepy Time Gal", which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival.

In 2002 she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her guest appearance on the television drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit". Plimpton was the voice of Miss Crumbles in the 2004 animated film "Hair High" by Bill Plympton. In 2004, she also guest-starred on an episode of the program "7th Heaven"; she received her first writing credit for a different episode of the show that year entitled 'Red Socks'. She continues to act in television, film and on stage. She has begun narrating audiobooks, notably the novel "Diary" by Chuck Palahniuk and "Mrs. Kimble" by Jennifer Haigh. Plimpton had a recurring role on the NBC show "Surface", which aired in the 2005-06 season.

From October 2006 until May 2007, she was in "The Coast of Utopia", a trilogy of plays by Tom Stoppard that played at the Lincoln Center. For her work in this play she won a Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony award. (The Tony was awarded to fellow cast member Jennifer Ehle.)

In October 2007 Plimpton completed a starring role in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on Broadway in New York City. She then began rehearsals for the play "Cymbaline". In the absence of film work she and friend Richard began a production company called "Everything is Horrible" (1) . They have produced a number of short films for the internet.

Personal life

Plimpton's high-profile relationship with River Phoenix, including their appearance together at the Academy Awards where she was bald, overshadowed her work. Their relationship would later end due to Plimpton's objection to his recreational drug use, from which he died in 1993.

Plimpton is the step-daughter of theatre director Daniel Sullivan.

Plimpton in popular culture

The band The Lawrence Arms has a song called 'Light Breathing (Me and Martha Plimpton in a Fancy Elevator)' which appears on the 2000 album "Ghost Stories".

External links

(Plimpton's page) at MySpace

('ScreenDivas: Martha Plimpton')

(Downstage Center Interview) at American Theatre, 2006

('Working in the Theatre') - April 2004 panel discussion at American Theatre Wing


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article about Martha Plimpton.

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