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Lesley Ann Warren Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (39)  | Personal Quotes (14)

Overview (2)

Born in New York City, New York, USA
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Entrancing, red-haired, freckled Lesley Ann Warren started gearing towards a life in show business right off the bat as a young ballerina who trained at the School of American Ballet at the age of 14. Little did she know that Hollywood stardom would arrive on her doorstep in the form of a "Cinderella" story.

The New York-born actress (August 16, 1946) is the daughter of a night club singer Margot Warren (née Verblow) and real estate agent, William Warren. Her mother had earlier given up her own entertainment career for marriage and family. Growing up, Lesley attended the Professional Children's School at the age of 6 and High School of Music & Art as a young teenager. At age 17, she studied under Lee Strasberg at his Actors Studio, the youngest student to ever be accepted at the time.

Looking for on-camera work, the teenager appeared unbilled as Shelley Winters's young daughter in the melodrama The Chapman Report (1962) and was given a bit in the daytime TV show "The Doctors." The slender, young hopeful gathered early musical stage experience in such shows as "Bye Bye Birdie" (as swooning teen Kim McAfee), then made an auspicious Broadway debut in "110 in the Shade", the 1963 musical version of "The Rainmaker," and won Broadway's "Most Promising Newcomer" Award. She subsequently received the Theatre World Award for her lead work as a "cat burglar" opposite Elliott Gould in the very short-lived (8 performances) musical "Drat! The Cat!" in 1965.

The attention Lesley received from this brief stage venture, however, led to her capturing the beguiling title role in the Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II TV musical production of Cinderella (1965) with Stuart Damon as her Prince and a glittering, all-star cast in support. The Walt Disney people immediate signed the exquisite "Cinderella" to a fresh-faced ingénue contract. Co-starring in the moderately-received musical showcases The Happiest Millionaire (1967) and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968), Lesley became convinced that she needed to quickly nip the saccharine stereotype in the bud if she was to grow and sustain as an adult actress.

Rebelling against her studio-imposed image, Lesley left Disney determined to pursue roles with more depth, drama and character. Changing her name temporarily to "Lesley Warren" to reinforce her more mature goal, she was hired in 1970 to replace Barbara Bain in the long-running espionage series Mission: Impossible (1966) when Bain left over contractual issues. Audiences were quite cool in their reception to the "new and improved" Lesley and didn't buy her as a femme-fatale replacement for the cool and aloof Ms. Bain.

After only one season, Lesley realized her mission to grow was impossible (in spite of an encouraging Golden Globe nomination) and left the show, seeking greener pastures in the TV mini-movie market. She displayed a wide range of vulnerable neurotics as well as sexier ladies that began to alter her pristine image. Such 1970s material included the plane crash adventure Seven in Darkness (1969) as one of several blind survivors; the love drama Love Hate Love (1971) co-starring Ryan O'Neal; a failed pilot in the title role of Cat Ballou (1971); a mild western as one of The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972); the exotic "silent star" biopic The Legend of Valentino (1975); the rags-to-riches story Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue (1977), for which she won a Golden Globe award; the epic WWII story Pearl (1978); and the social melodramas Betrayal (1978) and Portrait of a Stripper (1979). Lesley also impressed with her starring roles in the Civil War miniseries Beulah Land (1980) and as a Polish-Jewish immigrant in Evergreen (1985). On stage, she ambitiously attempted to recreate Scarlett O'Hara opposite Pernell Roberts's Rhett Butler in a 1973 Broadway-bound musical version of "Gone with the Wind: The Musical." The show quickly died on the West Coast before ever reaching New York.

In the early 1980s, Lesley's movie career resurrected itself with a priceless performance as kingpin James Garner's whiny-voiced, peroxide-blonde spitfire Norma Cassady in the slapstick musical Victor Victoria (1982). Earning both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, this delightful, scene-stealing turn was followed by a couple of other quality offbeat films that were directed by Alan Rudolph -- Choose Me (1984) and Songwriter (1984). Warren went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination supporting Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson in the former, and a People's Choice Award for the latter. She continued to attempt to spread her wings as a worldly "cougar" type opposite young blond and boyish Christopher Atkins in the critically-panned drama A Night in Heaven (1983). She also played Miss Scarlett in the movie version of the board game Clue (1985).

Award-worthy TV roles for Lesley with a Golden Globe performance as a successful madam in the miniseries Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue (1977). She also received Emmy and Golden Globe noms as the conflicted wife of a naval officer turned Russian double agent (Powers Boothe) in Family of Spies (1990), as well as for her Cable Ace nom for her work as a barmaid who aspires to be a country-western singer in Baja Oklahoma (1988). In 1997, she returned to Broadway with the musical revue "Dream" co-starring [linknm0926014], which focused on classic "Golden Age" standards.

Entering her sixth decade of acting, Lesley remains highly active well into the millennium with often high-maintenance roles in such films as the Losing Grace (2001), Secretary (2002), My Tiny Universe (2004), When Do We Eat? (2005), The Shore (2006), Stiffs (2010), I Am Michael (2015), The Sphere and the Labyrinth (2015) and 3 Days with Dad (2019). Among her later TV credits are "Touched by an Angel," "The Practice," "Less Than Perfect," "American Princess," and a recurring role as an overly dependent mom named Jinx in the mystery crime series In Plain Sight (2008). Her dim, riotous Norma Cassady role had TV often pitching her as a scatter-brained comedienne, as in her recurring TV guest parts on Will & Grace (1998) and Desperate Housewives (2004).

Lesley has a son, actor/producer Christopher Peters, from her 1967-1973 marriage to makeup artist/hair stylist-cum-film producer Jon Peters. Since 2000, she has been married to advertising exec and sometime actor Ron Taft, a former vice-president at Columbia.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (2)

Ron Taft (16 January 2000 - present)
Jon Peters (13 May 1967 - 1975) ( divorced) ( 1 child)

Trivia (39)

Youngest actor ever to have attended NY's Actors Studio, when she was 17.
Was student at School of American Ballet when she switched to acting.
Lives in LA with husband Ron Taft, an ad executive.
Auditioned for the role of Liesl in The Sound of Music (1965).
Tried out for the role of Lois Lane in Superman (1978), but lost to Margot Kidder.
She has a son, Christopher Peters, from producer Jon Peters.
Her father was a World War II vet and realtor while her mother was a nightclub singer who stopped working when Lesley Ann was born.
At age 13, she won a scholarship to study with ballet legend George Balanchine.
She once enrolled in an acting class with drama coach Stella Adler.
Warren says she won the highly-coveted part of Susan's high-maintenance mom "Sophie" on Desperate Housewives (2004) because of her son, Christopher Peters.
Was supposed to play the role of Brenda in Goodbye, Columbus (1969), but she got pregnant and had to be replaced. Ali MacGraw then got the part.
Was very proud of her work in Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story (1992), and was disappointed that it got clobbered by an HBO movie on the same story (The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993)) that came out at about the same time, starring Holly Hunter.
Started working on her first Broadway show (110 in the Shade) at sixteen and a half years old.
When she first auditioned for Cinderella, she was so nervous that the audition tanked. She had to audition a second time, and then was hired.
Of all her television experiences, Warren said she had an especially great time on Will & Grace (1998) and Dr. Kildare (1961), and that her favorite television experience was the making of Cinderella (1965).
Says her favorite genre is the Musical.
Starred in an early 1970s busted TV pilot as "Cat Ballou," the role Jane Fonda made famous on film.
Walt Disney hand-picked Lesley for the ingénue role in the film The Happiest Millionaire (1967) after her "Cinderella" success. This film was the last live-action movie Disney supervised before his death.
Was extremely upset at first about her performance as the gangster's moll in Victor Victoria (1982) prior to its release, having thought she went horribly over the top. She did go over the top and the audiences loved her for it. Lesley was nominated for a "Supporting Actress" Academy Award, her only nod so far.
Lesley was to co-star in the beautician comedy series Snip (1976), a TV takeoff of the Warren Beatty movie Shampoo (1975) starring David Brenner as a divorced hairdresser. Just before its scheduled September 30, 1976, debut, NBC abruptly canceled the show, so fast in fact that TV Guide did not even have time to remove a special feature on the show in its Fall Preview of September 18-24, 1976. Why? One of the show's supporting characters, a fellow hairdresser named "Michael", was openly gay and NBC got cold feet at the last minute. Had Snip (1976) premiered, it would have been a first on American series TV. Instead, Billy Crystal went on to receive that honor with his gay character a year later on the popular series Soap (1977). Seven episodes of Snip (1976) were completed when it got the ax. The only place the series ended up airing was in Australia, and it became the highest rated show in Australian history up until that time.
Played Lois Lane in a television production of the musical It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman! (1975), and later screen tested for the role in Superman (1978).
Friend of Marianne Williamson.
Was fired after only the second day of filming for The Devil You Know (2013) due to reported unreasonable 'diva' demands and tantrums. Similar reports were made back in 1997 when Warren wasn't getting star treatment for her Broadway show: 'Dream: the Johnny Mercer Musical Revue'.
Appeared as one of the celebrity models in a charity fashion show staged by Thierry Mugler to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles. [April 1992]
Was in a relationship with choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday (1977-1985).
Was originally offered Jean Seberg's role in Paint Your Wagon (1969).
Won the most promising newcomer on Broadway for her work in 110 in the Shade in 1963.
Suffered from anorexia nervosa in her teen years and into her twenties.
Offered the stage role of Norma Cassidy (her Oscar-nominated role) in the stage version of "Victor/Victoria" starring Julie Andrews, but had to turn it down due to other movie commitments.
Acting protégée of Peter Graves.
She's designated Elia Kazan's Splendor in the Grass (1961) as her favorite film.
Is one of 26 actresses to have received an Academy Award nomination for their performance in a musical; hers being Victor Victoria (1982). The others, in chronological order, are: Bessie Love (The Broadway Melody (1929)), Grace Moore (One Night of Love (1934)), Jean Hagen (Singin' in the Rain (1952)), Marjorie Rambeau (Torch Song (1953)), Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen Jones (1954)), Deborah Kerr (The King and I (1956)), Rita Moreno (West Side Story (1961)), Gladys Cooper (My Fair Lady (1964)), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound of Music (1965), and Victor Victoria (1982)), Debbie Reynolds (The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)), Peggy Wood (The Sound of Music (1965)), Carol Channing (Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)), Kay Medford (Funny Girl (1968)), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl (1968)), Liza Minnelli (Cabaret (1972)), Ronee Blakley (Nashville (1975)), Lily Tomlin (Nashville (1975)), Ann-Margret (Tommy (1975)), Amy Irving (Yentl (1983)), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge! (2001)), Queen Latifah (Chicago (2002)), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago (2002)), Renée Zellweger (Chicago (2002)), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls (2006)), Penélope Cruz (Nine (2009)), Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables (2012)), and 'Meryl Streep (Into the Woods (2014)).
Daughter of Margot Warren.
Mother-in-law of Daniella Peters.
Dated Scott Baio, Robert Blake, Bobby Darin, Robert Evans, Val Kilmer, David Sanborn and Paul Stanley. She had a long-term boyfriend in the latter part of the 1980s but refused to identify him.
Turned down a chance to audition for the Kathleen Turner role in Romancing the Stone (1984).
Was considered for the female lead in Finian's Rainbow (1968) that later went to Petula Clark.
Had to turn down Mary Steenburgen's role in Step Brothers (2008) because of scheduling conflicts with In Plain Sight (2008).

Personal Quotes (14)

[reflecting on her career] I have come far, but not far enough. It is still a man's world.
The truth is, I would do anything for Alan Rudolph. If he asked me to stand on my head and spit wooden nickels, I would. I love him. I loved working with him. I did two movies before with him [Choose Me (1984) and Songwriter (1984)], and they were some of the highlights of my working life. He's just an inspired guy and a great person to work with.
I've been a character actress right from the beginning. I was no more like Cinderella in my real life than I was like the neurotic poet in Cop (1988). Age has nothing to do with being the kind of actress who relies not on magnetic personality, but on disappearing into the person you're playing instead. For my money, Michelle Pfeiffer's a character actress--it's got nothing to do with looks, or age, or whether it's the leading role.
Trust your own instincts, go inside, follow your heart. Right from the start. Go ahead and stand up for what you believe in. As I've learned, that's the path to happiness.
When I was a young girl, I had really long hair and I went to Jon Peters for the first time. He cut my hair within an inch of its life. I was traumatized!
I find that there are more interesting roles for women my age in the independent world, which is not to say that there aren't phenomenal roles in studio films, but 99% of the time they go to Meryl Streep or a very short list of women. Very short. And because they want to work as well as we all do, they take them. So now there's not a lot left over.
When I went to do Joseph (1995), it was working with Ben Kingsley that reignited in me my passion for acting. He was so dedicated and so impassioned himself, that it reignited that in me. That was a tremendous blessing.
Good work is good work wherever it is.
Your best is good enough. The only one you have to please is yourself.
[on landing Victor Victoria (1982)] I had my hair in braids and a baseball cap on and my agent at the time, Ron Meyer--who's now the head of Universal--called me and said, "You have to go in and meet Blake Edwards," and I said, "I can't! I have no makeup on." He said, "You have to. He's leaving for London tomorrow, you have to go meet him." So I went in, and we sat and talked for about 15 minutes, had a lot of laughs, and then he just said, "Do you want to do this role?" And I had not read the script, but I had seen Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) 11 times, and I had seen Pink Panther, and Days of Wine and Roses (1962) is a genius movie, so I said, "Yes, I want to work with you on whatever." And then I went home and read the script, and in the script Norma wasn't blonde, didn't have an accent and didn't have a dance number or a musical number. She was pretty much a classic chorine of the time. So I started to think about what I wanted to do with this role, and I made up this whole history for her. She grew up on the Lower East Side in a family of 14, and she had to yell to be heard. She worked at Woolworth's and read the movie magazines and wanted to look like Jean Harlow. I created this character in my head, and then I called Blake--he was already in London--and he said, "Yes." He sent his hair and makeup people and the costume designer, Patricia Norris, over to my house, and we created this character. When I walked on the set in hair and makeup for the first time, I thought, "I'm either going to be fired, or he's gonna love it," and luckily for me, he loved it. For me, she was very real. That's why I did that fabricated history, to fool myself, so she was a real person and had a real background and real reasons why she behaved the way she did. It was all for me. I know that some people work differently, but I have to work from the inside out. It doesn't matter how big the character is, there has to be a truthful core. And that's how I was taught; I studied with Lee Strasberg in New York, and he was my teacher for ten years, so that's how I was trained, and that's what I know. On top of that, if you have comedic sensibilities, you intuitively know how to bring that forward on top of a real person. What Blake would do a lot with me was, he would let the cameras roll and I would improvise, so a lot of what's in the movie is improvised. But I couldn't do that improvisation successfully if I didn't know who she was on the inside, operating from a real core.
[on The Happiest Millionaire (1967))] I was a baby; I think I was 18, or maybe 18 and a half. I had just done Cinderella (1965), and I was touring a Broadway show. I had been asked to come out and do a screen test, which, in those days, was a real screen test. They put me up at the Beverly Hills Hotel for two weeks. I had rehearsals, I had to do costume fittings and hair consultations and makeup, etc. Then at the end, you do this full on-screen test, with dance numbers and musical numbers and acting scenes in costume. Getting that job, that wonderful role and incredible experience, was just a huge accomplishment for me. I got to know Walt Disney; he was very much present. This is a man who knew what hair ribbon I was wearing, as well as what they were serving at the commissary, as well as what the animators were doing. He was a genius, and he had such vision, such a hands-on approach to everything. So to be picked by him was such an unbelievable honor for me.
[on making Songwriter (1984)] What happened on "Songwriter" was that I was doing that movie, but with a different director. Sydney Pollack was producing, and I remember a week into shooting, I got a call from Sydney, and I thought, "Oh no. Oh dear." He said, "I want to tell you that we're replacing the director," and I said, "You're kidding, why?" He said, "They weren't happy with the way things look." I said, "Well, why not replace the cinematographer if you're not happy with how it looks?" He said, "Trust me, just trust me," and I said, "Well, who's directing?" And he said, "You'll see, you'll see . . . " And he surprised me with Alan Rudolph. It was really interesting, because from the first day of Alan's dailies, they looked extraordinary. So it's interesting how much impact a director will have on a cinematographer and the look of a film. It's definitely a collaborative situation . . . I was terrified, terrified in "Songwriter", because there I was, New York Jewish girl, singing country-western onstage with Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. I mean, forget it. I was so terrified. Alan was amazing. He just kind of hand-held me during that entire experience.
[on Color of Night (1994)] That was a real heartbreaker. My participation was mostly in the scenes with the therapy group, and each of us was supposed to have had a relationship with the Jane March character. Our director, Richard Rush, struggled with what went on between Bruce Willis' character and Jane March's character, and how he had envisioned that to go. It was a tough film--it was tense, it was difficult. I think Jane was only 21. Even though she had done The Lover (1992), she was a young, young, young girl, and she had a lot of anxiety about doing all that nudity and all that erotic stuff. Even though she knew what she had signed on to do, it doesn't matter; somehow when you get to the point where you have to do it, it's a different experience. I remember one night when we were shooting our little love scene in somebody's house, and we were upstairs, shooting past the allotted time that the city had allowed us to shoot. I don't remember what that was, maybe 10 or 11. The police were called, and the crew just said, "Keep shooting, keep shooting! Keep kissing her, keep kissing her!" We're half-undressed, with these police officers coming up the stairs. "Keep shooting! Keep shooting!" It was a little crazy-making for sure, but exciting in a way. All the characters were so intense and neurotic in their own issues, and it was fraught with a lot of high anxiety just because of its material.
[recalling how she and husband Ron Taft met] In a hair salon! I said, "Do I know you?" He said, "I know who you are." He left and came back with a note for me, but I was still there. He asked if he could call me, and I never do this with people I don't know, but I said yes. It was love at first sight.

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