Holly exploded on movie screens across America in the 80’s in such classics as Raising Arizona (1987), Broadcast News (1987) and Miss Firecracker (1989). Her comedic timing, diminutive yet power-packed stature made beautiful Holly ever inch the movie star. But it was her tour de force in Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993) that would send Ms. Hunter into the stratosphere, not to mention win her an Oscar for her performance. Holly’s intense and poignant performance showed a side of her we had never seen before. One that would cement her standing as a serious A-List actress.
Whenever I want to get a Holly-fix, however, I go back to Raising Arizona and her amazing performance as a policewoman opposite Nick Cage’s dense yet earnest criminal seeking to start a new life for the sake of his family. Holly was tailor-made for the Coen’s Brothers farce-fueled parable. And isn’t it true we remember our favorite actors how we first met them? Equally amusing is Broadcast News, with Holly surrounded by an amazing degree of talented actors in their own right. She held her own opposite William Hurt and the hilariously profusely-sweating Albert Brooks. It’s astonishing to think both these films came out in the same year: 1987 – the year of Holly Hunter’s ascension.
Miss Firecracker was another role seemingly tailor made for Holly. This time she played opposite Tim Robbins and Scott Glen to each parts charm and comedy. And aside from Jodie Foster’s Home for the Holidays (1995) it would be one of the last movies in recent memory that would tap Ms. Hunter’s amazing comedic talents. She was in the Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000) but the cameo was fleeting and not enough to get a full Holly-fix. To have a star of her stature, I really think directors need to make the most of it. I’m hoping the upcoming Won’t Back Down (2013) and an as yet untitled next Diablo Cody movie will use Holly to great advantage and put her back in the spotlight.
As an extra-July 4th surprise factoid about Holly Hunter: I knew a woman in LA who went to college with Holly at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Both aspiring actresses were pursuing a degree in drama and in 1978 were extras for an upcoming director shooting a film in a Pittsburgh mall named George A. Romero. Of course, the movie was Dawn of the Dead and Holly was an uncredited zombie. I would have given anything to have gone to college with a Holly-Zombie. Hmmm, sounds like an idea for a movie, doesn’t it?