Barbara Hershey (born 5 February 1948) is an American actress, known
for her many film roles.
Barbara was born Barbara Lynn Herzstein in Hollywood California, the daughter of Arnold Nathan Herzstein, a horse racing columnist and occasional actor. Her father was Jewish and her mother was an Arkansas-born Presbyterian of Irish descent. Barbara attended Hollywood High School. She lived with actor David Carradine between 1969 and 1975, and was married to Stephen Douglas, an artist, between 1992 and 1993. Barbara and Carradine were a prominent symbol of the Hollywood counterculture, becoming parents to a child whom they named Free (who later changed his name to Tom). Barbara is dating actor Naveen Andrews; during a brief separation in 2005, Andrews fathered a child by another woman. Barbara Hershey and Barbara have reconciled.
Hershey's acting debut came in three episodes of Gidget in 1965, which she followed up by being cast in the television series The Monroes (1966), along with Michael Anderson, Jr.. She found working on The Monroes such a dispiriting experience that she wrote pseudonymous letters to the producers asking that the show be cancelled. In 1967, she also made a guest appearance on the hit Fess Parker NBC western series Daniel Boone in an episode titled "The Kings Shilling."
Hershey's feature film debut was in the 1968 comedy With Six You Get Eggroll which marked Doris Day's final screen appearance. This was followed by the 1969 Glenn Ford western Heaven with a Gun, where one of her co-stars was future Kung Fu star David Carradine.
Later that year came the drama Last Summer, based on the novel by Evan Hunter (better known for his police procedurals written under the pseudonym Ed McBain) and directed by Frank Perry. The film received an X rating for a graphic rape scene and earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for co-star Catherine Burns. During the filming of a scene for Last Summer, a seagull was killed. Barbara felt a sense of personal responsibility for its death and went by the name of Barbara Seagull for several years professionally in the early 1970s as a tribute to the creature.
Her 1970 film The Baby Maker explored the idea of surrogate motherhood many years before it became a mainstream reproductive option and reinforced her image as a free-spirited hippie. This image helped secure her the starring role in the Roger Corman production Boxcar Bertha (1972), which was being directed on a typically low Corman budget by a fresh-out-of-film-school Martin Scorsese. During filming, Barbara gave Scorsese a copy of her favorite book — Nikos Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ. Adapting that book into a film would become a 16-year labor of love for Scorsese, who would eventually cast Barbara as Mary Magdalene — though not before making her audition, to prove that she had earned it. Hershey's co-star in Boxcar Bertha was once again David Carradine. They would later recreate their love scene in a hay-filled boxcar for a Playboy magazine pictorial.
In 1974, Barbara Hershey guest-starred in a two-part episode of the TV series Kung Fu which starred her then live-in boyfriend of David Carradine (Besieged: Death On A Cold Mountain, Season 3, Episodes 10 & 11). Barbara Hershey played a love interest of David Carradine's character, Kwai Chang Caine, during his time at the Buddhist temple.
Barbara Hershey starred alongside Charlton Heston in The Last Hard Men (1976). However, the hippie label soon became a career impediment and by the late 1970s she was appearing in made-for-TV movies like Flood! and Sunshine Christmas. But her work in Richard Rush's critical favorite The Stunt Man (1980) — her first big screen appearance in four years — began a gradual career renaissance.
Barbara Hershey's appearance in the horror film The Entity (1981) — where she played a woman repeatedly raped by an unseen supernatural force — sufficiently impressed Michael Douglas, who a decade later fought to have her cast as his estranged wife in Falling Down. Barbara Hershey also portrayed Errol Flynn's first wife, actress Lili Damita in the TV movie My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1985), based on Flynn's autobiography.
Barbara played a small, but memorable role as a mad woman who seduces and shoots Robert Redford's character in The Natural (1984). She also made a large impression on Woody Allen, who would later foster her mid-'80s career revival by casting her in his greatest commercial success Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).
She gained increased visibility with performance as Glennis Yeager, wife of test pilot Chuck Yeager, in the Philip Kaufman directed film The Right Stuff (1983) and as Gene Hackman's love interest in the basketball film Hoosiers (1986). Barbara followed the commercial success of Hannah and Her Sisters with unprecedented back-to-back wins for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Shy People and for her appearance as anti-apartheid activist Diana Roth (based on Ruth First) in A World Apart (1988).
For Barbara Hershey's role in the Bette Midler melodrama Beaches (1988), she injected collagen into her lips — an act that drew negative media coverage.
In 1990, Barbara Hershey won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special for her turn as real-life murderer Candy Morrison in A Killing in a Small Town. Throughout the nineties, Barbara made more small independent films and television projects.
As Madame Merle in Jane Campion's adaptation of the Henry James novel The Portrait of a Lady (1996), Barbara earned an Oscar nomination and won the Best Supporting Actress award from the National Society of Film Critics. In 1999, Barbara starred in Drowning on Dry Land with Naveen Andrews. In 2001, Barbara was part of a largely Australian ensemble cast for the critically successful mystery Lantana, which also starred Kerry Armstrong, Anthony LaPaglia and Geoffrey Rush playing a troubled psychiatrist.
This Barbara Hershey Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub