Whether you know her as Misery‘s sadistic nurse, Annie Wilkes, or as her six kooky character portrayals in her five-season stint on American Horror Story, Kathy Bates is an acting legend. The Oscar and Emmy winner has lived quite the life, battling the beauty-obsessed entertainment industry and her own health complications with grace and strength, just as her feminist characters would. But few fans know all the ups and downs that made her an icon.
A charming Oscar-winning actor and everyone’s favorite murderous bookworm, Kathy Bates is known for portraying women who play the game of life by their own rules. She’s been a gem in the film industry for practically four decades, but that journey hasn’t been an easy one.
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The Memphis-born gal studied theater at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University before eventually moving to New York City in 1970 to pursue her dream of becoming a star. She soon realized that, regardless of her natural acting chops, she’d be scratching at every door for even a drop of work.
Kathy worked random jobs here and there just to make ends meet, even working as a cashier at the Museum of Modern Art for a bit. Her work ethic and raw talent managed to land her some minor roles in theater productions, and eventually a part in director Miloš Forman’s 1971 comedy Taking Off.
The small role as character Bobo Bates was just the beginning for Kathy, but several casting agents warned her that she wasn’t physically attractive enough to become a successful actor. Hearing that was gut-wrenching.
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She elaborated, “I’m not a stunning woman. I never was an ingenue; I’ve always just been a character actor. When I was younger it was a real problem, because I was never pretty enough for the roles that other young women were being cast in,” Kathy told The New York Times in 1991.
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“The roles I was lucky enough to get were real stretches for me: usually a character who was older, or a little weird, or whatever. And it was hard, not just for the lack of work but because you have to face up to how people are looking at you,” she continued.
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“And you think, ‘Well, y’know, I’m a real person,'” she finished. Meanwhile, the shallow entertainment industry lacked talents as real as Kathy. She didn’t nab her next film role until seven years later.
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After playing the part of Joanne in the off-broadway production of Vanities in 1976, Kathy finally landed her next film role in 1978’s crime flick Straight Time alongside the film’s main star, Dustin Hoffman. After this, momentum began picking up for Kathy.
In the early ’80s, she appeared in plays like Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July, films like Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, and soap operas like The Doctors, All My Children, and One Life to Live. Needless to say, Kathy Bates was proving herself as a performer.
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The New York Times even deemed ’80s Kathy to be “one of America’s finest stage actresses.” As Kathy said, she was never really pegged for resembling the classically-pretty girl, and that soon wouldn’t matter.
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In 1990, Kathy famously portrayed the character of Annie Wilkes, a former nurse with a dangerous obsession with a popular series of novels, in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. This is the role that skyrocketed Kathy to mainstream recognition in Hollywood.
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Kathy’s portrayal of Annie was frumpy and completely deranged, and it made the world fall in love with her. She was talented and refreshing, and her work in Misery rightfully earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress.
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Her performance was so memorable, in fact, that the American Film Institute included Annie Wilkes in its list of “100 Heroes and Villains,” with Kathy’s character ranked as the 17th most iconic movie villain. She forever cemented herself as a queen of horror, but she was much more than that.
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In 1991, Kathy claimed a leading role again, this time as lonely Southern housewife Evelyn Couch in the film adaptation of Fried Green Tomatoes. She went on to play a maid accused of killing her boss in 1995’s Dolores Claiborne, as well as real-life socialite and philanthropist Margaret Brown, AKA “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” in 1997’s Titanic.
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She didn’t need to be a size-two beauty queen to find wild success; Kathy proved that. In the ’90s she felt like the King of the World (look at that Titanic reference), but some troubling news in 2003 left her feeling like anything but.
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Kathy was diagnosed with stage I ovarian cancer. Treatment made working difficult, as it was hard for her to control her bowel movements. “When you’re on set you don’t want to have to be running to the restroom every time, so that was really hard,” she told SurvivorNet.
“I lost patience with people when things would be draggy. You really can’t do that on a movie set because things are going to go at the pace they’re going to go and yelling about it isn’t going to help,” she continued. But life post-chemo wasn’t exactly a breeze either.
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“You come off of the steroids, and I just found that the hardest part. It was like detoxing. I was shaking, I couldn’t talk, and I remember I had to go do a voiceover and it was just so, so difficult,” Kathy recalled.
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The worst part of it was that this was only her first spell of cancer. Though she was in remission from ovarian cancer, Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. The actor underwent a traumatic double mastectomy, resulting in the removal of lymph nodes as well.
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“I went berserk. I left the examining room and and ran out of the building. I still had my drains in, I was holding a pillow to my tits, and I thought, ‘What am I doing? It’s July, I’m standing out here, it’s hot, I’m still healing, I don’t want to hurt anything,’” she remembered.
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A shocked and confused Kathy told her doctor that “having lymphedema was almost worse than having her breasts removed.” It’s safe to say, she didn’t take it well. “I was bitter, I was depressed. I thought my career was over.”
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Luckily, Kathy’s lymphedema is more mild than other cases she’s witnessed, but simple tasks are still a challenge. “I have to wear compression sleeves on the plane, and I have problems keeping my arms up to read books. I’m not supposed to lift things. … It’s a stress and a strain.”
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Rather than let her health battles take over her life, Kathy kept on working, taking the role of wretched serial killer and slave owner Delphine LaLaurie in 2013’s American Horror Story: Coven, which was the third installment of the horror anthology series.
Apart from season seven, American Horror Story: Cult, she appeared as a main cast member in every following AHS season. And though having lymphedema was just another dreadful health issue Kathy wished she was never plagued with, in 2014 she became a chairperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network’s honorary board.
Kathy chose to voice her struggles and her journey, hoping to help others who, too, live with the disease. Through her involvement, she said her “anger began to subside.” “It’s been an uphill climb and it still is, but researchers are making progress,” Kathy stated.
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In May 2018, Kathy and a group of advocates met with government officials in a Capitol Hill Lobby Day to gain congressional support for further research funding for lymphedema. Her impressive advocacy earned her the 2018 WebMD Health Heroes “Game Changer” Award.
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Kathy Bates hasn’t always had an easy time living in her skin, literally and figuratively, but she’s managed to come out stronger than ever each time life has thrown her a curveball. While she was breaking out of typecasting in the ’90s, a contemporary star was facing a stuggle Bates would come to understand all too well.
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Kathleen Turner knows you may not recognize her. The truth is, the actress hasn’t looked like her old self in quite some time, not since the ‘80s, when she smashed onto the scene as one of Hollywood’s newest sex symbols…
The 1981 thriller Body Heat made her an international star practically overnight. “I was the new trophy in town,” Kathleen reflected. But being a trophy, she learned, isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
She made one hit after the other, most notably Romancing the Stone, Prizzi’s Honor, and Peggy Sue Got Married. All three movies earned her Golden Globe nominations — two of which she won — and she was even nominated for an Academy Award.
The 42nd Annual Golden Globe Awards, 1985
In a five-year span, Kathleen had become one of Hollywood’s biggest box-office draws. She wasn’t only a pretty face, but a reliable talent who constantly earned rave reviews…not just from award shows, but from her male co-stars, as well.
According to the actress, some of her male co-stars competed to see “who could get [her] first.” Tabloids covered her love life more than her actual career, and her trophy-status only rose in 1988 with her most iconic role yet.
Voicing Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was the perfect role for the actress, whose trophy-status reached new heights with the role. But being a “trophy” is hard work, especially when, out of nowhere, your body decides to rebel against you.
In 1992, Kathleen was filming Serial Mom when she started experienced “inexplicable pains and fevers.” At first, she tried to brush them off as symptoms of over-work or exhaustion. But after a year, the pain only increased.
Traveling, walking on stage, and acting on a movie set — all tasks that had once been so easy were suddenly impossible. “My body could respond only with excruciating pain whenever I tried to move,” she explained. Even simple tasks turned into anxiety-inducing obstacles.
“I couldn’t hold a glass to get a drink of water,” she said. “I couldn’t pick up my child…my feet would blow up so badly that I couldn’t…walk on them.” But after a year of pain, Kathleen finally got her answer.
She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and told she would end up in a wheelchair. This would rattle anyone, but as a young actress made famous in part by her looks, it was a professional death sentence…not that she told anyone.
Instead of revealing her debilitating health struggles, Kathleen suffered in silence. The world had taken notice of her sudden disappearance from Hollywood, but without knowing the details of her illness, all they saw was one thing: An unrecognizable Kathleen Turner.
A combination of chemotherapy, steroids, and swelling greatly changed Kathleen’s appearance, something the tabloids picked up on right away. “The press were merciless,” she has said. When it comes to their speculations, “merciless” barely covers it.
“They snipped that I had become fat…because I was an angry, washed-up diva, an out of control has-been,” Kathleen explained, even though her bodily changes “were not within my control,” she said. She searched desperately for a way to alleviate the pain…
When asked how she coped, she was frank. “Oh, I abused alcohol,” she said. “Because it’s a great painkiller, let me tell you.” Rumors spread that Kathleen’s weight gain was caused by her alcoholism, and she did nothing to stop the rumor-mill.
“I couldn’t publicly refute them because I believed it was worse to have people know that I had this terrible illness,” she admitted. She “felt it was imperative” that no one knew the truth. Her greatest fear was having her secret slip…
“They’d hire me if they thought I was a drunk, because they could understand drinking, but they wouldn’t hire me if I had a mysterious, scary illness they didn’t understand,” she explained. But alcohol and arthritis aside — the roles just weren’t there.
Her career harshly declined as she struggled to find medication that eased the pain. She appeared in low-budget films and critical flops, all the while seeing unflattering paparazzi photos of herself plastered on magazines at the supermarket.
The ‘90s continued in a similarly painful fashion for Kathleen…until hope finally arrived in the early 2000s. Cutting-edge treatments made her rheumatoid arthritis go into remission, and for the first time in almost a decade, she could move.
Kathleen had a new lease on life — not that Hollywood noticed. She took on roles that addressed her new image head-on: She played Chandler’s father on Friends, and revived her stage career with a lauded performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
She’s also written two memoirs, and the most recent one — Kathleen Turner on Acting: Conversations about Film, Television, and Theater — contains words of wisdom that apply not only to aspiring actors, but to anyone going through something seemingly insurmountable.
“What I hope for is to have people take risks…[and] make choices and not just accept,” she explained. Kathleen may look different nowadays — something she wants you to “get over” already — but she’s just as strong, talented, and compelling as ever.
This advice resonated with so many of Kathleen’s ’80s peers, especially one star whose path mirrored Kathleen’s closely, from the rise to the fall. She, too, recently opened up about how she fell from Hollywood’s graces — and what she’s doing about it.
Born Margaret Hyra, the young beauty initially eyed a career in journalism. She studied that field at UConn and NYU until her lucrative part-time job convinced her to seek out a different path.
Meg made a few bucks acting on the side, but her perspective totally shifted when she started booking regular roles. Following a recurring part in the soap opera As the World Turns, she chose to drop out of college with just a semester left.
As the next few years saw Meg bounce around small turns in TV shows, it wasn’t until 1986 that she introduced herself to mainstream audiences. A supporting role in the blockbuster Top Gun suddenly put her in the same echelon as Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer.
In the late 1980s through the ’90s, Meg established herself as queen of the rom-com. She frequently collaborated with Tom Hanks, in classics like Joe vs. the Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail. She’s also behind one of the most iconic moments in film.
Movie buffs may ultimately remember Meg best for When Harry Met Sally. Audiences experienced just as much pleasure as Meg pretended to have in the iconic deli scene. She wasn’t just making headlines for her acting work either.
Meg married fellow actor Dennis Quaid in 1991 after they starred in the movies Innerspace and The D.O.A. together. In this new chapter of her life, she started taking more creative risks.
One of these risks, her foray into voice acting, paid off big time. She headlined Fox’s Anastasia, which won over enough moviegoers to break Disney’s stranglehold on animated flicks. However, not all of Meg’s gambled worked out for her.
Meg came under fire as she transitioned from romantic comedies to serious drama. Not even the additional star power of Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow could rescue the drudgery of Hanging Up, the tale of three sisters bonding after their father’s death.
With the new millennium arriving, the flops only continued. Meg floundered with Russell Crowe in Proof of Life, though the harsh reviews weren’t even the worst part. Rumors of an affair with Crowe followed her, tainting her personal and professional reputation.
That drama led to Meg’s split with Dennis in 2001. Meanwhile, her forays into strange new genres continued. Erotic thrillers, boxing flicks — it just didn’t pan out. And what was worse was that some projects that could’ve defined her career totally fizzled out.
Years prior, she memorably passed on the lead in Pretty Woman. While Julia Roberts was eternally grateful, that iconic part could’ve kept up Meg’s marketability through her string of flops. Then, there were big roles that never came to pass.
With the behemoth sitcom How I Met Your Mother about to end, CBS planned a spinoff called How I Met Your Dad. Meg provided the future voice of the main character — played by Greta Gerwig — but the network killed the show after a disappointing pilot.
Not long before, critics called Meg Ryan “America’s Sweetheart.” Then, a few years into the 2000s, she could barely get a guest spot. She didn’t have a husband, so she turned to the other man in her life.
Meg had always been close to her son Jack, who made a name for himself with an appearance in The Hunger Games. When she vented about her lack of opportunities, Jack encouraged her to keep taking risks, particularly one she always had on her mind.
After countless hours of being bossed around in front of the camera, Meg wanted to try her hand at directing. Understandably, she felt nervous before making this leap, so she called up an old friend.
She recruited Tom Hanks for 2016’s Ithaca, in which she also starred. Though not all critics adored it, Meg called it one of her most fulfilling experiences. However, behind-the-scenes developments prevented her from hopping back into the director’s chair.
Meg had too much going on in her personal life — especially with a new daughter! After adopting Daisy a few years earlier, the actress needed to set aside extra time as her daughter came of age. Plus, she had a bit of romance to enjoy as well.
You couldn’t call Meg the Cougar in this relationship because she was dating the legendary John Mellencamp! In 2018, they tied the knot and took some time to enjoy each other’s company before delving into their next big projects.
With so much going on, Meg will doubtlessly return to the silver screen once she’s ready. After all, performers often step away from the camera for a variety of reasons; others, though, don’t have a choice.
Throughout the ’90s, if a movie was billed as a comedy, you better believe Jim Carrey’s name was attached in some way. But as he accrued more and more roles, he eventually took a stand that nearly landed him on the sidelines with Meg.
From a young age, Jim Carrey always knew he wanted to be a comedian. With a knack for impressions and physical comedy, it wasn’t long before Jim was doing stand-up at local comedy clubs in the hope of being discovered.
And discovered he was, as legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield quickly took a shine to the young joker and signed him as a supporting act. With his star on the rise, Jim decided to take his talents to Hollywood to see if he could make it big.
The Un-Natural Act
It wasn’t long before Jim’s popularity as a comedian took off, and by the early 80s, he was making regular appearances on An Evening at the Improv and The Tonight Show. But everything changed when in 1990, Jim became a regular cast member on the sketch comedy show In Living Color.
In Living Color
Jim and his expressive slapstick style of comedy became a huge hit, and his success on television launched him into starring roles in comedy classics like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb & Dumber, and The Mask. But this was only the beginning for young Jim Carrey.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective / Dumb and Dumber / The Mask
After reprising his role as Ace Ventura in 1995’s Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and starring as the Riddler in Batman Forever, Jim’s price tag reached an astonishing $20 million per film. In fact, Jim was so sought after that he even began to score leading-man roles in dramatic films like The Truman Show.
The Truman Show
Around the turn of the century, Jim began to shy away from comedies in favor of films he considered to be more “highbrow”. With his performance in 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind receiving critical acclaim, it appeared that the comedian’s acting style was beginning to shift — and people were taking notice.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
During an interview that same year, Jim’s acting pursuits were called into question. Although he attributed his transition from goofy comedian to serious actor to the nature of the roles he was given, there was still no denying that Jim’s slapstick days were now behind him…for better or worse.
The latter proved to become a reality when in 2007, Jim starred in the psychological horror film The Number 23, which was both a critical and commercial disaster. While he’d bounce back a year later with the comedy Yes Man, this marked the first moment of decline in the storied actor’s career.
The Number 23
Though in the years to come, we saw him star in films like A Christmas Carol, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and Dumb and Dumber To, Jim’s performances were receiving more and more mixed reviews. Then, in 2013, the floodgate holding Jim’s career in place finally burst.
A Christmas Carol / Mr. Popper’s Penguins / Dumb and Dumber To
Several months prior to the release of the film Kick-Ass 2, Jim took to Twitter to denounce his role in the project. Citing the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the actor withdrew his support for what he believed to be an excessively violent film.
“I did Kick-Ass a month before Sandy Hook,” Jim tweeted, “and now in all good conscience, I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to others involved with the film. I am not ashamed of it, but recent events have caused a change in my heart.”
Though some praised Jim for sticking to his morals, an overwhelming majority — including Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar and some of Jim’s co-stars — openly rebuked his comments. But this wouldn’t be the last time Jim’s mouth would get him into trouble.
In 2015, the comedian once again took to Twitter to share some of his more controversial beliefs. Not only was Jim not a fan of Kick-Ass, but apparently he was anti-vaccination as well.
“California Government says ‘yes’ to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in mandatory vaccines,” Jim declared, in reference to a recently passed California law. “This corporate fascist must be stopped.”
Public outrage was immediate, with many pointing out that mercury is no longer used in vaccines and that refusing to vaccinate children poses a serious risk to public health. Though he backtracked his comments in several follow-up tweets, the labeling of Jim as an anti-science nutcase had already begun.
In fact, Time magazine even published an article titled, “Jim Carrey, Please Shut Up About Vaccines”. As one would expect, this kind of bad publicity only made finding work more difficult for the already struggling actor.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Despite being brought on for an episode of Saturday Night Live, film and television studios seemed to have blacklisted Jim, leaving his 2015 filmography almost completely blank. Things were bad for the former megastar, but what came next was the final nail in his coffin.
Following the suicide of his ex-girlfriend Cathriona White, a lawsuit was brought against Jim by her family and estranged husband. They alleged that Cathriona took her own life using prescription drugs that Jim provided her with just days before her death.
Not only that, but Cathriona’s mother accused Jim of emotionally abusing her daughter, giving her STDs, and using “high-priced Hollywood lawyers” to intimidate her following their breakup. The case is still playing out in court, with Jim fighting desperately to repair his already shattered public image.
In late 2018, Jim made his return to acting in Showtime’s comedy-drama Kidding. While the former Hollywood heavyweight will likely never regain the kind of stardom he achieved early on in his career.