Hunter was born March 20, 1958, in Conyers, Ga., and began acting at an early age. After theatrical training at Carnegie Mellon University, performances on Broadway and a few years in bit parts, Hunter starred in the quirky Coen Brothers comedy Raising Arizona (1987). Oscar-nominated turns in Broadcast News and The Firm followed.
Hunter finally struck Oscar gold with her performance as a mute Scottish woman in Jane Campion's The Piano. She's stayed in the spotlight with O Brother, Where Art Thou? and smaller festival films, notably the 2003 Sundance hit Thirteen, for which she received yet another Oscar nod. Her television series debut in "Saving Grace" earned her back-to-back Emmy nods.