Mary Steenburgen

Known for her ability to play a broad array of characters -- from tender, soft-spoken women to passionate ladies with invincible spirit -- Mary Steenburgen was born Feb. 8, 1953, in Newport, Ark. She pursued drama in college but at 19 left for the Big Apple, where she spent several years with an improvisational theatrical company at the Neighborhood Playhouse.

Thanks to actor Jack Nicholson, Steenburgen was cast in her first film, Goin' South, in 1978. Her role in Melvin and Howard launched her to stardom two years later, and she took home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and a Golden Globe for her beguiling performance. Among Steenburgen's other noteworthy movies are Cross Creek (1983), Back to the Future III (1990), Philadelphia (1996), Nixon (1995) and the 2003 comedy hit Elf.

Despite her busy work schedule, Steenburgen devotes time to ecological and human rights issues.