Updated – 6/27/2012
Claire Catherine Danes (born April 12, 1979) is an American television, stage and film actress. She has appeared in roles as diverse as Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, as Juliet in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, as Kate Brewster in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, as Yvaine in Stardust and as Temple Grandin in the HBO TV film Temple Grandin. She portrays Carrie Mathison in theShowtime series Homeland.
Danes was born in Manhattan, New York City, New York. Her mother, Carla (née Hall), is a day-care provider, painter, and textile designer who later served as her daughter’s manager, and her father, Christopher Danes (b. May 6, 1944 in Austin, Texas), is a computer consultant and former architectural photographer. Danes has described her background as being “as WASPy as you can get”; her paternal grandfather, Gibson Andrew Danes (1910–1992 in Litchfield, Connecticut), was the dean of the art and architecture school at Yale University. She has an older brother, Asa (b. 1973).
Danes attended the Dalton School in New York City, the New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies (where one of her classmates was actress Morena Baccarin ), the Professional Performing Arts School, and the Lycée Français de Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California. In 1998, Danes went to Yale University, her father’s alma mater. Director Oliver Stone wrote her letter of recommendation to Yale. After studying for two years as a psychology major, she dropped out of Yale to focus on her film career.
Danes got her start as a guest star on Law & Order in an episode called “Skin Deep”. She also appeared in an episode of HBO’s Lifestories: Families in Crisis entitled “The Coming out of Heidi Leiter”. In March 1993, a pilot episode was shot, when Claire was 13 years old. It would be almost another year and a half before broadcast. Danes starred as the 15-year-old Angela Chase in the television drama series My So-Called Life, for which she won a Golden Globe Award and received an Emmy nomination. The show was canceled after only 19 episodes. However, the show has developed a large cult following in the years since it was canceled.
In 2010, Danes starred in the HBO production of Temple Grandin, a biopic about the eponymous autistic woman. She won the 2010 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie, the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film and the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries award. The film was well received and Grandin herself praised Danes’ performance.
In 2011 Danes starred in a new Showtime series called Homeland in which she plays an agent of the CIA who, unbeknownst to her employer, is a person with bipolar disorder. Her character believes a United States Marine Corps war hero is planning a terrorist attack while being tapped for high profile government service. The series costars Mandy Patinkinand Damian Lewis. She won the 2012 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series for her performance.
Following the cancellation of My So Called Life, Danes made the transition into film. She played Elizabeth “Beth” March in the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women alongsideWinona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Samantha Mathis, Trini Alvarado, Christian Bale, Susan Sarandon, and Gabriel Byrne. She also appeared as Holly Hunter’s daughter in Home for the Holidays, which was directed by Jodie Foster. Danes appeared opposite French actress Jeanne Moreau, and Jude Law in 1995’s I Love You, I Love You Not. She then played the role of Rachel in To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday.
Danes first leading role on the big screen came in 1996. She portrayed Juliet Capulet in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo Montague. Later that year, it was reported that she turned down the female lead role in Titanic. Danes, however, said that while she may have been considered for the part, she was never offered the role.
In 1997, Claire Danes also worked alongside two acclaimed directors. She played abused wife Kelly Riker in John Grisham’s The Rainmaker directed by Francis Ford Coppola, as well as the trashy, dim-witted Jenny in Oliver Stone’s noir U Turn. In 1998, she played several very different roles: Cosette in Bille August’s film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, and the pregnant teenage daughter of Polish immigrants (played by Gabriel Byrne and Lena Olin) in Polish Wedding. In 1999, she made her first appearance in an animated feature with the English version of Princess Mononoke. That same year she played the role of Julie Barnes in the big screen adaptation of the 1970s TV show The Mod Squad, and took the lead role in Brokedown Palace, alongside Kate Beckinsale and Bill Pullman. Danes left her career temporarily to pursue her education at Yale.
In 2002, Danes returned to the big screen. She starred alongside Susan Sarandon, Kieran Culkin, and Bill Pullman again, in Igby Goes Down. Later that year she co-starred asMeryl Streep’s daughter in the Oscar-nominated, The Hours, with Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Ed Harris. The following year, she was cast in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, followed by Stage Beauty in 2004. She earned critical acclaim in 2005 when she starred in Steve Martin’s Shopgirl alongside Martin and Jason Schwartzman, and in The Family Stone opposite Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Keaton. In 2007, Danes appeared in the fantasy Stardust, which she described as a “classic model of romantic comedy”, with Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, and Sienna Miller, the drama Evening, and appeared in The Flock, opposite Richard Gere.
Danes got her start in New York City theater appearing in performances of Happiness, Punk Ballet, and Kids Onstage for which she choreographed her own dance.
In April 2000, she appeared off Broadway in Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. In November of that same year, she appeared as Emily Webb in a one night only staged reading of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. The production was staged by Bess Armstrong who’d played the mother of Danes’ character on My So-Called Life. Also featured in the cast were several other My So-Called Life actors including Tom Irwin, Devon Gummersall and Paul Dooley.
In September 2005, Danes returned to New York’s Performance Space 122 where she had performed as a child. She appeared in choreographer Tamar Rogoff’s solo dance piece “Christina Olson: American Model” where she portrayed the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting “Christina’s World”. Olson suffered from muscular deterioration that left her weak and partially paralyzed. “Tamar Rogoff uses her unique body-centric methodology to explore the ideas, spirit and physicality of a woman both rejected and revered.” Danes was praised for her dance skills and the acting talent that she brought to the project.
In January 2007, Danes reunited with Rogoff and Rogoff’s daughter and Danes’ childhood friend Ariel Flavin to perform in Performance Space 122’s “Edith and Jenny”. In the two person dance performance, Danes and Flavin revisited their film and dance roots: “Danes and Flavin encounter their eleven year-old selves on screen, captured in their respective film debuts, Claire as Edith in Dreams of Love, and Ariel as Jenny in Coyote Mountain. Rites of passage unfold in fragments revealing the complexities of two fictional families. The lines between screen and stage, life and art, are blurred as Edith and Jenny, Danes and Flavin, form an alliance, stepping through and beyond their films and the fates of their families.”
Later in 2007, Danes made her Broadway theatre debut as Eliza Doolittle in the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of George Bernard Shaw’sPygmalion, directed by David Grindley at the American Airlines Theatre.
In January 2012, Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals announced that they would honor Danes as 2012 Woman of the Year.