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Kathleen Doyle Bates

Also Known As: "Kathy"
Birthplace: Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Langdon Doyle Bates and Bertye Kathleen Bates
Ex-wife of Tony Campisi
Sister of Private and Private

Occupation: Actor, director
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Kathy Bates

Kathleen Doyle "Kathy" Bates (born June 28, 1948) is an American actress and film director. After appearing in several minor roles in film and television during the 1970s and the 1980s, Bates rose to prominence with her performance in Misery (1990), for which she won both the Academy Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe. She followed this with major roles in Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and Dolores Claiborne (1995), before playing a featured role as Molly Brown in Titanic (1997).

She received a Tony Award nomination for her 1983 performance in the Broadway play 'night, Mother. She won a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance in Primary Colors (1998), for which she also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for About Schmidt (2002). Her television work has resulted in eleven Emmy Award nominations, two of which were for her starring role on the television series Harry's Law and most recently, a win for her acclaimed guest appearance on the CBS sitcom, Two and a Half Men as the ghost of Charlie Harper, a role formerly portrayed by Charlie Sheen.

Early life

Bates was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the youngest of three daughters of Bertye Kathleen (née Talbert; 1907–1997), a homemaker, and Langdon Doyle Bates (1900–1989), a mechanical engineer. Her paternal grandfather was lawyer and author Finis L. Bates. One of her great-great-grandfathers emigrated from Ireland to New Orleans, Louisiana, and served as President Andrew Jackson's doctor. She graduated from White Station High School, and later attended Southern Methodist University, where she majored in theatre, is a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, and graduated in 1969. She moved to New York City in 1970 to pursue an acting career. She was raised Methodist.


Bates' history of Broadway appearances includes Lanford Wilson's Fifth of July and the Robert Altman-directed Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean opposite Karen Black and Cher. She received a Tony Award nomination in 1983 for her stage role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play 'night, Mother opposite Anne Pitoniak. The production of 'night, Mother ran for more than a year. One of her other successful New York stage productions was, Off Broadway, in Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune which ran 533 performances. McNally specifically wrote the play for Bates and F. Murray Abraham, who had to drop out and was replaced by Kenneth Welsh. The play was later filmed as Frankie and Johnny, starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. She succeeded Amy Irving in the off-Broadway production of The Road to Mecca in 1988.

Bates' first feature film was the 1971 Miloš Forman comedy Taking Off (credited as "Bobo Bates"), wherein she sings an original song "Even Horses Had Wings". Bates' next feature was the Dustin Hoffman film Straight Time (1978). In 1990, she would appear again with Hoffman in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy as a stenographer. She appeared in films such as Summer Heat and The Morning After, while guest-starring in television shows such as L.A. Law, before landing the role of obsessed fan Annie Wilkes, who holds her favorite author (played by James Caan) captive, in the 1990 thriller Misery, based on the Stephen King novel. Bates received her first Academy Award nomination for that role, winning Best Actress. Soon after, she starred with Jessica Tandy in the acclaimed 1991 movie Fried Green Tomatoes, based on the novel by comedic actress Fannie Flagg. In 1977, Bates made her soap opera debut as Phyllis on NBC's soap opera The Doctors. From 1983 to 1984, she played prison inmate Belle Bodelle on All My Children and from 1984 to 1985, she played Evelyn Maddox on One Life to Live.

In 1995, Bates played the title character in Dolores Claiborne, a film adaption of another Stephen King novel, although she was not nominated for an Oscar. In 1997, Bates played Molly Brown in James Cameron's Titanic. Based on the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, the film went on to earn more than US$1.8 billion in box-office receipts worldwide.

Bates also excelled in her role as the acid-tongued "dustbuster" political advisor Libby Holden in the 1998 drama Primary Colors which was adapted from the book in which political journalist Joe Klein novelized his experiences on the Presidential campaign trail in 1991–1992. For this performance, she received her second Academy Award nomination, for Best Supporting Actress. In 2002 she received her third nomination, for About Schmidt. More recently, she and Terry Bradshaw played the parents of Matthew McConaughey's character in the 2006 film Failure to Launch. Bates was featured in an uncredited cameo in the miniseries of Stephen King's The Stand.

Bates has been nominated for an Emmy Award eight times: Outstanding actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, for her performance as Jay Leno's manager Helen Kushnick in HBO's The Late Shift (1996), and, twice again in the same category; as Miss Hannigan in Disney's remake of Annie (1999), and for the HBO Franklin Roosevelt biopic Warm Springs (2005). She was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Lifetime Television's Ambulance Girl (2006), which she also directed and received a Supporting Actress nomination for Alice.

She appeared on 10 episodes of the HBO cable television series Six Feet Under for which she received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, as Bettina, in 2003. She also was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for 3rd Rock from the Sun in 1999, the same year that she was nominated for Outstanding Directing in a Miniseries or Movie for the Dashiell Hammett-Lillian Hellman biopic Dash & Lilly. She also had a recurring guest role on the American version of The Office as Jo Bennett.

Starting in the 1990s, Bates forged a formidable career as a director. She has directed episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street, NYPD Blue, Oz, Six Feet Under, and Everwood. Bates directed the television movies Dash and Lilly and the self-starring Ambulance Girl. She directed and co-starred in Have Mercy (2006) with Melanie Griffith. In 2008, she re-teamed with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road. She starred in David E. Kelley's legal drama Harry's Law, which began airing on NBC on January 17, 2011, but was cancelled on May 14, 2012.

In 2012, Bates made a guest appearance on Two and a Half Men as the ghost of Charlie Harper on the episode, "Why We Gave Up Women", which aired on April 30, 2012. In the episode Charlie has returned as a ghost to haunt his brother, Alan (Jon Cryer). He tells Alan that after a life of womanizing and debauchery, he was sent to hell and condemned to spend eternity in a woman's body. This guest appearance resulted in Bates' winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. It was Bates' first Emmy win after nine nominations.


Bates is the Executive Committee Chair of the Actors Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors.

Cancer battles

Bates has successfully battled ovarian cancer since her diagnosis in 2003. In September 2012, she revealed via Twitter that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer two months earlier and had undergone a double mastectomy.



Few widely recognized, successful women on television and in film have built an acting career without an “ingénue phase,” which fits snuggly between an actress’s late teens and mid-twenties when she must capitalize on her looks before she expires–like a pint of yogurt–at age thirty. When Kathy Bates repeatedly heard she would never work because of her looks, she managed to succeed on Broadway and in Hollywood without capitalizing on glamour, and she has the Tony, Oscar, Golden Globe, and Emmy nominations (and wins) to prove it.

Actress and director Kathleen “Kathy” Doyle Bates was born in Memphis on June 28, 1948, as the youngest of three daughters to Langston Doyle Bates, a mechanical engineer, and Bertye Kathleen (Talbot) Bates. Though Bates speaks wryly of her date-less adolescence at White Station High School, her lonely Saturday nights most likely fostered her creativity; she played guitar and wrote songs and poetry. This creative composition perhaps led her to declare an English major at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, but discovering acting there led her to switch her major–for a third and final time–to theater. In 1970, one year after graduating from SMU with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Bates moved to New York City to pursue acting with only five hundred dollars from her father.

Before earning her Actors’ Equity card in 1973, Bates worked as a cashier at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan and as a singing waitress in the Catskills (her last job before reaching Equity status was playing a duck in a children’s theater in Virginia). Fellow SMU alumni and playwrights John Heifner and Beth Henley played no small part in her early career: Heifner’s Vanities, a 1976 Off Broadway play, served as Bates’s New York breakthrough, and Henley wrote 1981’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Crimes of the Heart, which originally starred Bates at the outstanding Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Despite small guest roles in television shows like St. Elsewhere, Cagney & Lacey, L.A. Law, and China Beach, Bates cut her thespian teeth at respected regional theatres like the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in Waterford, Connecticut, and the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At Cambridge in 1982, she originated the role of a suicidal divorcée in Marsha Norman’s ’night, Mother. The play’s depressive theme proved contagious for Bates shortly after the real-life suicide of a close friend. After her character’s depression became inseparable from her own, she entered therapy and emerged to finish the show’s run with a new ability to safely immerse herself in her role. Critics loved her performance, and after the play moved to Broadway in 1983, she earned her first Tony nomination.

Although Bates kept attracting attention in the mid-1980s for an acting style lauded as realistic and unaffected (in Fred Manley’s Rain of Terror and Ellen McLaughlin’s Days and Nights Within, again at Louisville), her craft did not immediately guarantee commercial success in Hollywood. Despite the 1987 Obie Award she won for her lead role on Broadway opposite F. Murray Abraham in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Bates’s full-figured five-foot-four-inch frame brought her criticism, most scathingly from New York Magazine’s John Simon, who called her “enormously overweight.” Hollywood executives apparently agreed, for although playwright Terrance McNally wrote the character Frankie with Bates in mind, the film Frankie and Johnny starred slender, glamorous Michelle Pfeiffer. This situation would twice repeat itself with the screen versions of Crimes of the Heart (with Diane Keaton) and ’night, Mother (with Sissy Spacek).

Weary of creating characters only to have other actresses reap the financial benefits, Bates moved to Hollywood in pursuit of a more financially rewarding career. Her film breakthrough as the sociopath Annie Wilkes in Rob Reiner’s terrifying Misery (1990) garnered the actress both an Oscar and a Golden Globe. In 1991, Bates found time to marry her long-time companion, actor Anthony Campisi. In that year, she also filmed her Golden Globe-nominated role in Fried Green Tomatoes as an average Alabama woman who transforms her life after befriending a nursing home patient. More memorable roles followed, as murder suspect Dolores Claiborne in the film of the same name (1995) and as the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown in Titanic (1997). Bates’s and Campisi’s divorce in 1997 coincided with the death of Bates’s mother Bertye.

Despite, and perhaps because of, that 1997 wave of personal upheaval, Bates worked more than ever; she acted in eight films in three years. She proved versatile as an actress: contrast her outlandish character Mama Boucher in The Waterboy (1998) with the surprisingly sexual appeal of her bohemian artist in About Schmidt (2002). Bates also displayed functional flexibility as a director. She directed multiple episodes of HBO’s acclaimed shows Six Feet Under and Oz.

In a fabulous trump of the usual Hollywood formula, Bates has worked and succeeded in an industry that values air-brushed “make-believe” over ordinary reality. With her mid-American accent, her round face and figure, and especially her seeming ability to “just be” rather than “act” for a camera, Bates makes “ordinary” glorious–and audiences love her for it.

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Kathy Bates's Timeline

June 28, 1948
Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, United States