It was after marrying her third husband, actor Neil Burstyn, that she adopted the name most familiar to audiences, and was so billed in 1969's film adaptation of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer.
next appeared opposite Jack Nicholson in Bob Rafelson's acclaimed The King of Marvin Gardens before starring in William Friedkin's 1973 horror hit The Exorcist, a performance which earned her a Best Actress nomination.
However, it was 1974's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore which truly launched Burstyn
to stardom.Warner Bros.
had purchased the screenplay at her
insistence two years earlier, but her
efforts to bring it to the screen were met with considerable resistance.Her
first choice for director was Francis Ford Coppola, who declined, but he
approach Martin Scorsese.
However, upon wrapping up her
theatrical run, Burstyn
was not besieged by the offers so many expected her
to receive.In fact, she
did not appear onscreen for three years, finally resurfacing in Alain Resnais' Providence.
The film was not a success, nor was 1978's Jules Dassin-helmed A Dream of Passion.With co-star Alan Alda, Burstyn
Broadway performance in a 1978 feature version of Same Time, Next Year, but it too failed to meet expectations, although she
was again Oscar-nominated.After a two-year hiatus, she
starred in Resurrection, followed in 1981 by Silence of the North, which went directly to cable television.For the networks, she
starred in 1981's The People vs.
After 1984's The Ambassador, Burstyn
co-starred in the following year's Twice in a Lifetime, which was to be her
last feature film for some years.She
instead turned almost exclusively to television, appearing in a series of TV movies and starring in a disastrously short-lived 1986 sitcom, The Ellen Burstyn Show.Finally, in 1988, she
returned to cinemas in Hanna's War, followed three years later by Dying Young.Other notable projects of the decade included 1995's How to Make an American Quilt, The Spitfire Grill (1996), and the 1998 ensemble drama Playing by Heart, in which she
played the mother of a young man dying of AIDS.If her
success and talents had eluded younger audiences for the past decade all of that would change with Burstyn's role as the delusional mother of a herion addict in Darren Aranofsky's grim addiction drama Requiem for a Dream.An adaptation of Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel of the same name, Burstyn's
heartbreaking performance as an abandoned mother whose dreams come shattering down around proved an Oscar nominated performance.
Subsequently appearing in such made-for-television dramas as Dodson's Journey and Within These Walls (both 2001) and such films as Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Cross the Line (both 2002), Burstyn
was soon gearing up to reteam with Aranofsky for the time travel fantasy thriller The Fountain. -- Jason Ankeny