Mary Steenburgen

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Mary Steenburgen in 2009

Mary Nell Steenburgen (February 8, 1953) is an American actress, comedian, singer, and songwriter. After studying at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse in the 1970s, she made her professional acting debut in 1978 Western comedy film Goin' South. Steenburgen went on to earn critical acclaim for her role in Jonathan Demme's 1980 comedy-drama film Melvin and Howard, for which she received the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.


  • When I came round I felt very odd, It was like I had headphones on and I was listening to music. It didn’t go away. I wasn’t sleeping at night. It was as though my mind had become a musical tornado, and whatever came in front of me got whirled into it.
    • [1] Mary narrate how she felt after minor surgery on her arm in 2005.
  • I'm nicer than I am. Like most people I have a dark side, but because of roles I played early on people tend not to guess that.
    • [2] Mary speak on misconception about her in 2007.
  • That life keeps teaching me how little I actually know. I used to think I was going to die wise, and now the one wisdom I have is I know very little.
    • [3] Mary speak on her philosophy in 2007.
  • I thought they were saying this because they felt my music wasn’t good enough, and I needed to write with other people to make it better. Being open to everything and always saying yes, It was very frustrating for me because I have a really strong work ethic. I’ve never missed a performance in my life, so I’m sure not going to miss a co-writing session.
    • [4] Mary speak on co-writing in 2011.
  • If people call me a songwriter, I am honored to be called that. I’m keenly aware that I’m lucky to get to work with these writers.
    • [5] Mary point out admiration for other songwriters in 2011.
  • To be honest, when you have four kids and one grandchild, and one on the way, and a marriage that you are very blessed to have, I don’t want to work all the time.
    • [6] Mary speak on her marriage and kids in 2014.
  • Part of the beauty of being this age is that it doesn’t feel like it’s for ever. You can be overwhelmed, or you can go.
    • [7] Mary speak on her 60th Birthday anniversary in 2014.
  • It’s changed a lot. As a mother, when my kids were younger, I have to admit, I looked for the juiciest role I could get that would shoot in the smallest amount of days so that I could keep being a functioning mom.
    • [8] Mary talk about being a mother in 2018
  • I've spent 26 years with this man. If I could sign up for 100 more lifetimes with him, I would do it right now because he is just one of the great people on this planet.
    • [9] Mary speak on her husband in 2020.

And it still is hard, but I am so appreciative of how hard everybody’s working to keep themselves and their families and us all safe. It’s just an emotional time—I feel like my heart is constantly open and full at the moment.

    • [10] Mary speak on COVID ordeals in 2020.
  • A lot of people misunderstood why I was doing what I was doing, or even what I was doing. Then other people were actually kind of pissed off about it. Or they were worried I was going to make a fool of myself that it was somehow undignified or just weird.
    • [11] Mary speak on her new passion into song writing in 2020.
  • I think it causes the business to probably take you a little more seriously and to believe in you more. That’s a meaningful thing to me. This is something I’ve now done for 45 years. I treasure every single day that I’m on a set. I think anyone who’s worked with me would agree that I’m not bored or jaded or any of those things. For me, it’s still an utter privilege to do this for a living. I never forget that for a second.
    • [12] Mary speak on how she felt winning oscar award in 2020.
  • I think you learn something from everybody that you work with if you allow yourself to do that. What you might learn is to just be freer or braver. That's part of what you take away from an experience like that, and you grow. You might be a little less afraid the next time you work with somebody whose mind works like that.
    • [13] Mary speak on working with others in comedies in 2020.
  • We have to keep learning over and over in life not to worry about what people think or at least not to let that worry drown out what our heart's desires are.
    • [14] Mary speak on theme of film in 2020.
  • I think there is something at Christmas that challenges us all to think about being generous to others. To reach out and maybe give people a little joy. Maybe that’s why I love doing Christmas movies. It’s a way of being generous with oneself and I like that.
    • [15] Mary speak on christmas in 2020.
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