Hunt, Helen


Hunt, Helen
▪ 1999

      It seemed that everyone was mad about Helen Hunt in 1998. The year began with the American actress winning a Golden Globe for her performance as a lonely waitress in the surprise hit film As Good as It Gets (1997). A Screen Actors Guild Award soon followed, and in March she received an Academy Award, which completed her sweep of the major American film honours for best actress. Her first Oscar came just hours after NBC had agreed to pay Hunt $1 million per episode to return for a seventh season on television's "Mad About You" and six months before she won her third Emmy award for the series. For Hunt, 1998 was as good as it gets.

      Born on June 15, 1963, in Culver City, Calif., Hunt was introduced to acting by her father, a director and drama coach. At the age of six, she decided she wanted to become an actor, and within three years she had hired an agent and made her television debut, appearing on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Other small-screen parts soon followed, including a recurring role on "St. Elsewhere" and numerous made-for-television movies. After several failed TV series, Hunt was offered the role of Jamie Buchman on "Mad About You" in 1992. Developed by and costarring Paul Reiser, the comedy followed the ups and downs of a married couple. The show was an instant hit, and Hunt, with her caustic wit and easy charm, became a star. In addition to acting, for which she received four Golden Globes (1994-95, 1997-98) and those three Emmys (1996-98), Hunt also spent time behind the camera, producing and directing several episodes.

      Although Hunt had found fame on television, big-screen success remained elusive. After making her film debut in Rollercoaster (1977), she appeared in a string of movies, including Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Mr. Saturday Night (1992), and Bob Roberts (1992). Though Hunt earned praise for her performances, the films failed to ignite at the box office. That changed in 1996 with Twister. The special-effects-driven movie about tornado chasers was a blockbuster, grossing more than $200 million. As offers for other big-screen ventures poured in, Hunt chose the unlikely romantic comedy As Good as It Gets. Playing opposite Jack Nicholson's neurotic and bigoted writer, Hunt charmed viewers with her sympathetic and humorous turn as Carol, a single parent struggling with bills, an ill child, and an intrusive mother. She next appeared on stage as the cleverly disguised Viola in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. It was a fitting choice for Hunt, who revealed in 1998 that behind the image of the girl next door was actually one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood.

AMY TIKKANEN

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▪ American actress
in full  Helen Elizabeth Hunt 
born June 15, 1963, Culver City, Calif., U.S.

      American actress known for her caustic wit and easy charm. Her popularity on the television series Mad About You (1992–99) led to a successful film career, highlighted by her Academy Award-winning performance in As Good As It Gets (1997).

      Hunt was introduced to acting by her father, a director and drama coach. She made her television debut at age nine, appearing on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Other small-screen parts soon followed, including a recurring role on St. Elsewhere and numerous made-for-television movies. After several failed television series, Hunt was offered the role of Jamie Buchman on Mad About You in 1992. Developed by and costarring Paul Reiser, the comedy followed the ups and downs of a married couple. In addition to acting, for which she received four Golden Globe (1994–95, 1997–98) and three Emmy (1996–98) awards, Hunt also spent time behind the camera, producing and directing several episodes. Mad About You wrapped production in 1999, earning 34 Emmy nominations and 12 wins over its seven-season run.

      Although Hunt had found fame on television, big-screen success was at first elusive. After making her film debut in Rollercoaster (1977), she appeared in a string of movies, including Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Mr. Saturday Night (1992), and Bob Roberts (1992). Though Hunt earned praise for her performances, the films failed to ignite at the box office. That changed in 1996 with Twister. The special-effects-driven movie about tornado chasers was a blockbuster, grossing more than $200 million. As offers for other big-screen ventures poured in, Hunt chose the unlikely romantic comedy As Good As It Gets. Starring opposite Jack Nicholson (Nicholson, Jack), who played a neurotic and bigoted writer, Hunt charmed viewers with her sympathetic and humorous turn as Carol, a single parent struggling with bills, an ill child, and an intrusive mother. In addition to winning her first Oscar, Hunt also received a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. She next appeared on stage as the cleverly disguised Viola in Shakespeare (Shakespeare, William)'s Twelfth Night. Returning to the big screen in 2000, Hunt starred in Cast Away as the fiancée of a man (played by Tom Hanks (Hanks, Tom)) lost at sea and presumed dead. What Women Want was released the same year, with Hunt playing opposite Mel Gibson (Gibson, Mel). In 2008 she directed her first feature-length film, Then She Found Me, a comedy-drama that she also cowrote, produced, and starred in.

Amy Tikkanen
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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