Barbara Hershey Biography

Barbara Hershey photo

Born: February 05, 1948


Date of Birth: February 5, 1948

Barbara Hershey has been acting for over 50 years. She was once described in the Chicago Tribute as "one of America's finest actresses." Barbara is best known for her memorable roles in the dramedy Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), the drama BeachesPortrait of a Lady (1996), and the ballet thriller Black Swan (2010).

Barbara was born Barbara Herzstein in Hollywood, California to a Presbyterian mother of Irish descent, Melrose, and a Jewish father, Arnold Nathan Herzstein. Nicknamed "Sarah Bernhardt" by her parents and two siblings, Barbara had a flair for the dramatic and always knew she wanted to be an actress. Although she was actually quite shy, she managed to stand out in high school drama class and landed an agent by the time she was 16. In 1965, when she was just 17 years old, she earned a three-episode stint on the Sally Field TV series Gidget. She followed this up with a lead role on the short-lived series The Monroes. Because of this early success, Barbara dropped out of Hollywood High School and decided to change her stage name to Barbara Hershey.

It was in 1968 that Barbara made her feature film debut in the romantic comedy With Six You Get Eggroll, followed by the Western drama Heaven with a Gun (1969). During the filming of the coming-of-age drama Last Summer in 1969, Barbara was traumatized after a seagull was killed. "In one scene, I had to throw the bird in the air to make her fly. We had to reshoot the scene over and over again. I could tell the bird was tired. Finally, when the scene was finished the director, Frank Perry, told me the bird had broken her neck on the last throw." She felt responsible for the bird's death and subsequently changed her stage name to "Barbara Hershey Seagull" in tribute. "I felt her spirit enter me," she later explained. "It was the only moral thing to do.”

Despite the controversy regarding her name, Barbara still worked steadily over the next decade, appearing in various television shows, including Love Story, Kung Fu, and Just a Little Inconvenience, as well as film projects such as The Pursuit of Happiness (1971), Boxcar Bertha (1972), Love Comes Quietly (1973), Diamonds (1975), and Trial By Combat (1976).

Barbara continued to land consistent parts in movies and television, but it wasn't until the mid 1980s that she would secure the first of many roles that would mark her career. In 1986, she was cast as Lee in the dramedy Hannah and Her Sisters, directed by and starring Woody Allen. For her work, Barbara was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress. She scored a few more hits in the latter half of the decade with the comedy Hoosiers (1986), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), a role for which she was nominated for her first Golden Globe, and the sweeping drama Beaches (1988), alongside Bette Midler.

Barbara began the following decade with a Golden Globe win for her role in the CBS television movie A Killing in a Small Town. She continued on with a string of roles in movies like Defenseless (1991), A Dangerous Woman (1993), Last of the Dogmen (1995), and The Pallbearer (1996). In 1996, she starred as Madame Serena Merle in the period drama The Portrait of a Lady (1996) based on Henry James' novel of the same name. This was the most critically successful role of her career, earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Over the next several years, the seasoned actress continued working in a slew of lesser-known, independent projects, including the black comedies (1999), and 11:14 (2003), and the dramedy Love Comes Lately (2007). However, Barbara found unexpected mainstream success when she appeared in the Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller Black Swan (2010) alongside Natalie Portman. For her role as Erica Sayers, she earned her second BAFTA Award nomination, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.

Following the success of Black Swan, Barbara's body of work waned drastically. She has starred in only a few films, including Insidious (2010) and its 2013 sequel Insidious: Chapter 2, and Answers to Nothing (2011). She can more recently be seen in the supernatural thriller The 9th Life of Louis Drax, starring Jamie Dornan and Sarah Gadon.

Barbara was in a longterm relationship with late actor David Carradine, whom she met on the set of Heaven with a Gun (1969). The two have a son together, whom they named Free, but later renamed Tom. The couple split in 1974, following a very public relationship. In 1992, Barbara married artist Stephen Douglas, but divorced him the following year. She then began dating Lost actor Naveen Andrews in 1999. Their relationship was on and off for 10 years, before separating permanently in May 2010.


The 9th Life of Louis Drax(2016)
Sister (2014)
Insidious: Chapter 2(2013)
Answers to Nothing(2011)
Black Swan(2010)
Albert Schweitzer (2009)
Childless (2008)
Uncross the Stars (2007)
The Bird Can't Fly (2007)
Riding the Bullet(2004)
11:14 (2003)
Drowning on Dry Land (1999)
Breakfast of Champions(1999)
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries(1998)
Frogs for Snakes (1998)
The Portait of a Lady (1996)
The Pallbearer (1996)
Last of the Dogmen (1995)
A Dangerous Woman(1993)
Splitting Heirs (1993)
Swing Kids (1993)
Falling Down (1993)
The Public Eye (1992)
Defenseless (1991)
Paris Trout (1991)
Tune in Tomorrow... (1990)
Beaches (1988)
The Last Temptation of Christ(1988)
A World Apart (1988)
Shy People (1987)
Tin Men (1987)
Hoosiers (1986)
Hannah and Her Sisters(1986)
The Natural(1984)
The Right Stuff(1983)
The Entity (1982)
Take This Job and Shove It (1981)
Americana (1981)
The Stunt Man (1980)
The Last Hard Men (1976)
A Dirty Knight's Work (1976)
The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974)
You and Me (1974)
Love Comes Quietly (1973)
Boxcar Bertha (1972)
Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1972)
The Pursuit of Happiness (1971)
The Baby Maker (1970)
The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970)
Last Summer (1969)
Heaven with a Gun (1969)
With Six You Get Eggroll (1968)
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