You have to admire someone who just does it their way – no compromises, no half measures. Someone who has the courage to break with tradition and follow their instincts. Buck the system. Piper Laurie did just that.
Born in 1932, as a young girl she was painfully shy, anxious and withdrawn. In an attempt to bring her out of herself, her parents enrolled her in elocution and acting classes, where she was noticed by Universal Studios talent scouts.
In 1949, aged just 17, she signed a contract with Universal and spent five years co-starring in a plethora of lighthearted comedies. She became known across all of America, had a string of handsome suitors including Howard Hughes, Paul Newman and a certain Ronald Reagan, she was the toast of Hollywood society. A perfect life, no?
Not for Piper. So frustrated by the lack of substantial roles offered to her, and at Universal’s ludicrous attempts to enhance her image by telling gossip columnists she bathed in milk and ate flower petals to protect her skin, she burned her contract. Quite literally. A hugely courageous and risky decision for a young woman at the time.
She upped and left for New York to take acting classes and hone her craft on the stage and live television – a medium still in its infancy. She persevered – pushed on by a desire to work at the highest levels of her craft.
And it worked – because her next major film role was in 1961 opposite Paul Newman in THE HUSTLER – playing his crippled girlfriend, for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
But still the better roles didn’t come, so back she went to the east coast to raise a daughter and take time out. She baked. She sculpted. And then in 1976 the role of an eccentric religious zealot mother came her way – her screen daughter was called CARRIE – and she received her second Oscar nomination.
And then finally she started being offered the type of work she craved. In 1986 she received her third Oscar nomination for CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD and in the same year won an Emmy for the television movie PROMISE.
And her role in the classic TWIN PEAKS earned her a Golden Globe win (if you haven’t seen this series rent it now – it’s still groundbreaking television).
She has appeared in 60 films, scores of quality television shows and many memorable stage roles.
She’s come a long way from that mute child who couldn’t express herself – an incredible trajectory, and an amazing acting career.