Let’s just all agree: Holly Hunter is a badass. She’s won Emmys, a Golden Globe and -- not to mention the hearts of fans. She’s given us comedy, drama, grit, sex appeal and intelligence in an astounding variety of roles. And that voice -- oh, that voice. Now she has another unforgettable role in the Sundance Channel original series TOP OF THE LAKE, premiering Monday, March 18 at 9P. Let’s take a look at some of Hunter’s most remarkable roles in a career full of them.
10. Thirteen (2003)
This 2003 semiautobiographical account of one girl’s descent into drugs, sexual activity and self-violence earned Hunter -- who also executive produced the film -- an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. In it she played a recovering alcoholic mom hard-pressed to keep her daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) from spiraling out of control. Its explicit content shocked audiences into realizing what exactly their young teens are doing behind their backs.
9. Broadcast News (1987)
The 1987 romantic comedy about behind-the-scenes power plays and attractions among TV-news anchors and producers landed a total of seven Oscar nominations, including one for each of the leads (Hunter, William Hurt and Albert Brooks).
8. Roe vs. Wade (1989)
This made-for-TV movie took a serious look at the landmark case that changed American women’s reproductive rights (and that is still challenged today; the movie aired in 1989 and the case was argued in 1973). For her role as Jane Doe (a.k.a. Roe), Hunter was nominated for a Golden Globe and won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
7. Crash (1996)
Another controversial film, David Cronenberg’s 1996 psychosexual drama CRASH (not to be confused with the 2004 Best Picture Oscar winner), offered us a creepy-cool glimpse at people getting off to the thrill of car crashes (yes, really). Hunter played Helen Remington, who draws James Ballard (James Spader) into this bizarre subculture.
6. The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993)
In 1993, Hunter starred in this HBO movie based on the (absurdly) true story of a Texas mom who attempted to hire a hit man to “take out” her daughter’s competition for a middle school cheerleading spot. Hunter won another Primetime Emmy for Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
5. Saving Grace (2007)
Though Hunter had certainly done TV movies -- to great acclaim -- her 2007 TNT series Saving Grace marked her first time on a network series. Though the series lasted only three seasons, she received typically rave reviews as Detective Grace Hanadarko, a cop who is befriended by an angel as she struggles with her own very human failings.
4. The Incredibles (2004)
Brad Bird’s 2004 Pixar hit, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, allowed Hunter’s distinctive voice to shine as Helen Parr, a.k.a. Elastigirl, a superhero forced out of retirement to help save the world with her husband and kids. It’s a hilarious, moving and oddly domestic role in one of the biggest animated movies of all time.
3. Raising Arizona (1987)
Hunter’s breakthrough role came in the Coen Brothers’ 1987 cult hit RAISING ARIZONA, in which she played Edwina McDunnough, a childless cop who kidnaps a baby with her husband (Nicolas Cage) to hilarious effect. Hunter, who was once roomies with Joel Coen’s wife, Frances McDormand, reteamed with the Coen Brothers in 2000 for the surprise hit O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, a Southern fable based loosely on Homer’s “Odyssey.”
2. The Piano (1993)
There’s just nothing else like this 1993 film from writer-director Jane Campion. THE PIANO is a sweeping, moody tale of a mute woman sent off to New Zealand to marry a cold but powerful landowner and her unlikely love affair with another man. It’s also the story of a mother and a daughter, and betrayal, and the power of music. The film earned three Oscars: Jane Campion’s for Best Original Screenplay, Anna Paquin’s for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Hunter’s for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
1. Top of the Lake (2013)
In TOTL, Hunter reunites with her PIANO director, Jane Campion. “Jane asking me to do it was a big attraction,” Hunter told Vanity Fair about the role of GJ, a revered figure -- whose long, straight gray hair oddly resembles Campion’s own -- running a camp for women who are looking to escape and seek redemption. Eerie and transcendent, Hunter gives a mesmerizing performance.