Sally Field's Life in Photos

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From her sitcom days to her movie stardom, the award-winning actress continues to shape Hollywood with her lasting career

<p>American Broadcasting Companies via Getty; Frazer Harrison/Getty</p>

American Broadcasting Companies via Getty; Frazer Harrison/Getty

Over five decades, Sally Field has had an iconic career, from her early days in the cute-as-a-button TV roles of Gidget and The Flying Nun to her powerful Oscar-winning performances in Norma Rae and Places in the Heart. She's made audiences laugh in Mrs. Doubtfire and Soapdish and cry in Forrest Gump and Steel Magnolias, and always kept them guessing about her next role, whether it's in serious theater on Broadway or a superhero film.

Field has been honored for her work many times over, and she's still having fun (most recently starring in 80 for Brady with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Rita Moreno); she's also had some memorable offscreen romances and raised three children.

As she turns 77, look back at her incredible life and career in photos.

Growing Up Sally Field

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library
Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Born and raised in Pasadena, California, Sally Field attended Birmingham High School in Van Nuys. She graduated in 1964, but not before she was elected homecoming princess during her senior year.

Field returned to her alma mater in 2010, when they named their performing arts center in her honor. At the unveiling of a new sign bearing her name, the actress praised her school's drama department, noting that it "quite simply saved my life" in that she could "most truly and absolutely" be herself while involved.

'Gidget' and Other Early Laughs

American Broadcasting Companies via Getty
American Broadcasting Companies via Getty

At just 17 years old, Field nabbed the lead role in the sitcom Gidget. She starred as the titular boy-obsessed surfer girl alongside Don Porter, who played her widowed dad. She followed her first TV comedy lead with more: Field played Sister Bertrille in The Flying Nun from 1967 to 1970, and she went on to portray Sally Burton in NBC's The Girl with Something Extra for a single season in 1973.

As her career progressed in the sitcom genre, Field hoped to break out of television, though she previously said this was met with backlash and rejection. Speaking at the 2015 Simmons Leadership Conference in Boston, the actress recalled her agent saying she wasn't "good enough" or "pretty enough" to be in films. "And I said, 'You're fired,' " she added.

Starting a Family

Jack Knox/Hulton Archive/Getty
Jack Knox/Hulton Archive/Getty

Field married her first husband, Steven Craig, in 1968. They welcomed two sons, Peter and Eli, before separating in 1973.

Growing Her Home

Ron Galella/WireImage
Ron Galella/WireImage

Field and Craig welcomed their firstborn, Peter, in 1969, while she was working on The Flying Nun. In tandem with her early experiences on a set and working with a crew, she was also experiencing the beginning of motherhood. "My life was happening beside itself," she remembered in a 2016 conversation with Jess Cagle. "My focus was on what was happening inside of me."

Peter accompanied his mother to the 8th Annual People's Choice Awards in 1982, when she won for her starring role in Absence of Malice.

Adding Another

Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty
Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty

In 1972, Field became a mother of two with the arrival of her son Eli Craig (pictured here with Mom in 2002).

Major Acclaim

NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty
NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

The young actress won her first Emmy Award for her leading role in the 1976 TV film Sybil. Field shattered any doubts of her dramatic capabilities in her performance as a young girl suffering from what was then called multiple personality syndrome (now known as dissociative identity disorder). Joanne Woodward played the psychiatrist treating Field's character's condition.

Movie-Making Memories

Bettman/Getty Images
Bettman/Getty Images

One of Field's earliest major movie roles saw her starring alongside Jeff Bridges and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1976 comedy Stay Hungry. The film featured Field in the role of Mary Tate, the love interest of Bridges' character and receptionist at the gym frequented by the body builder portrayed by Schwarzenegger.

Falling for Burt Reynolds

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Burt Reynolds and Sally Field in <em>Smokey and the Bandit</em> (1977)
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Burt Reynolds and Sally Field in Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

On the set of their film Smokey and the Bandit, Field and her costar Burt Reynolds lit a romantic flame that burned long after the production wrapped in 1977, lasting even after they finished the sequel, Smokey and the Bandit II, in 1980.

The two broke it off after three years of consistent dating and two years on-and-off, as Field has since clarified. But according to Reynolds, who died in 2018, the Norma Rae star always held a special place in his heart. In a 2015 interview with Vanity Fair, he called her "the love of my life" and opened up about the heartache he still felt.

"Even now, it's hard on me. I don't know why I was so stupid," he told the magazine. "Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up."

Longtime Love

Ron Galella/WireImage
Ron Galella/WireImage

Throughout their five-year relationship, Reynolds and Field worked together on several films after Smokey and the Bandit. In 1977, they costarred in Heroes; the following year, they shared the screen in both The End and Hooper.

After Reynolds' death, Field spoke to Diane Sawyer about her lasting impressions of the star and their time together.

"We were sort of, you know, deeply entangled," she said in 2018. "That nature of it wasn't just, 'Oh, this is a love affair.' There was some ingredient between us having to do with my caretaking and him needing to be taken care of."

Field also admitted that she didn't have much contact with her former boyfriend in the 30 years leading up to his death: "I would feel him kind of reach out to me via the press. It was something he would do even when we were dating. He would speak to me about things he could call me on the phone about."

Snagging Gold Statues

Barbara Rosen/IMAGES/Getty
Barbara Rosen/IMAGES/Getty

Field gained next-level acclaim for her starring performance in Norma Rae. She took home an array of awards, most notably her very first Oscar. She also won the Cannes award, accolades from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and National Society of Film Critics and her first Golden Globe.

Into the '80s

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

With her film career fully blossomed, the actress starred in several major features throughout the 1980s. Field acted alongside Paul Newman in Absence of Malice in 1981, and in 1982 she once again played Jeff Bridges' love interest in Kiss Me Goodbye. She appeared in Murphy's Romance and, as the decade wrapped up, the 1989 classic Steel Magnolias, with Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah and a young Julia Roberts.

Another Big Win

Time Life Pictures/Getty Sally Field
Time Life Pictures/Getty Sally Field

Field won a second Oscar for her leading performance in 1985's Place in the Heart. Her acceptance speech for the Best Actress accolade went on to be famously misquoted throughout her career.

While many believed Field exclaimed, "You like me! You really like me!" the actress actually shared some details about her journey to stardom. Her real words were, "I haven't had an orthodox career, and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it. And I can't deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!"

Another Knot Tied

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Alan Greisman and Field wed in 1984 and split 10 years later. Together their share one son, Sam, who was born in 1987.

A Complete Family

Kevin Winter/WireImage
Kevin Winter/WireImage

In February 2023, a grown-up Sam Greisman shared his adoration for his mother in an essay for PEOPLE, opening up about their tight connection and his gratitude for Field.

"My mom has given me permission to be messy, to struggle, to fight with her, to rage at her when I have no one else to yell at, given me permission to pick out all of her award show dresses, because ... well, no explanation needed," he wrote. "She has taught me that life, like art, is about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, like she has done countless times."

Field has also been a longtime advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, inspired especially by Sam, who is gay. In 2016, Field spoke to Jess Cagle about her unconditional support of and appreciation for her youngest son.

"I welcomed him to welcome himself and find that part of his life," she said, later adding: "Sam was always Sam, this wonderful human that he is, from the time he was born ... Some people actually shut their children out of the house when they're young, they're teenagers – they're having a hard enough time to be teenagers and own any part of sexuality. I'm still trying to figure it out!"

Starring in 'Soapdish'

Everett
Everett

Field starred as Celeste Talbert in the 1991 film Soapdish, which featured a star-studded cast including Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr., Elisabeth Shue, Whoopi Goldberg, Carrie Fisher and Garry Marshall, among others. The comedy was produced by Aaron Spelling and Field's then-husband, Alan Greisman.

Comedy Classic

SNAP/REX/Shutterstock
SNAP/REX/Shutterstock

In the beloved 1993 movie Mrs. Doubtfire, Field played Miranda Hillard, the ex-wife of Robin Williams' Daniel Hillard, mother of his children and eventually the employer of his alter ego, Euphegenia Doubtfire. Field and Williams also shared the screen with Pierce Brosnan, who appeared as Miranda's new boyfriend.

Getting Sketchy on 'SNL'

Gene Page/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
Gene Page/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

In 1993, Field appeared on Saturday Night Live to host the show's Christmas episode during its 19th season.

A Historic Role

Sunset Boulevard/Getty
Sunset Boulevard/Getty

One of Field's most memorable (and most quoted) performances was in the 1994 Oscar-winning film Forrest Gump. Though she's only 10 years older than Tom Hanks, she played his character's determined and loving mother, Mrs. Gump.

Of her many moving moments in the film, Field's most famous line from the movie may be when she tells her son, "Life's a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you're gonna get."

An 'ER' Emmy

Kevin Winter/Getty
Kevin Winter/Getty

Field joined the cast of ER in 2000 as Maggie Wyczenski, the unstable albeit loving mother of Dr. Abby Lockhart. Her performance won her an Emmy in 2001, and she continued on the series as a recurring character until 2006.

Sally Rallies for Health

Fernando Leon/Getty
Fernando Leon/Getty

In 2005, Field revealed she'd been diagnosed with Osteoporosis. Her experience with the bone fragility disease led her to become the spokesperson for Bone Health, a group advocating for those who suffer from it as well. Field also started her own awareness campaign called Rally with Sally for Bone Health.

Mother of 'Brothers & Sisters'

Field continued her return to television in 2006 with the premiere of Brothers & Sisters on ABC. The Hollywood veteran played the Walker family matriarch, Nora Walker, for all five seasons of the show, which began with the death of her husband. Throughout the series, Field's character navigated revelations about her husband and familial conflict alongside her five children, played by Rachel Griffiths, Balthazar Getty, Calista Flockhart, Matthew Rhys and David Annable.

Triple Emmy Winner

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In 2007, Field won her third Emmy for her portrayal of Nora Walker in the ABC drama. At the end of her acceptance speech, Field controversially spoke out against the Iraq war. Her comment — "If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no g------ wars in the first place" — was censored during the Fox broadcast.

Field also took home a 2009 SAG Award for her work on Brothers & Sisters.

Lady in 'Lincoln'

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

For her role as First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln in the historical drama Lincoln, Field was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 85th Annual Academy Awards. The 2012 film earned a nod for Best Picture, and Field's costar, Daniel Day-Lewis, won in the Best Actor category for his portrayal of the 16th United States president.

At the Palm Springs Film Awards in February 2023, over a decade after the film premiered, Field shared a cheeky detail about her relationship with Lincoln director Steven Spielberg. According to the actress, she and the award-winning filmmaker were once set up on a date, though they never actually pursued a romantic relationship.

"For almost 50 years — is it really? — we have gone through this life that's been filled with good and bad, the laughter and the angst," she recalled of Spielberg, to whom she was presenting the Vanguard Award. "He has been my biggest supporter and a constantly welcoming place."

Spider Star

Michael Loccisano/Getty
Michael Loccisano/Getty

Marvel's 2012 adaptation of The Amazing Spider-Man featured Field in the role of Aunt May alongside fellow castmates Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Denis Leary and Martin Sheen. She reprised the role in the 2014 sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Street of Stardom

Michael Tran/FilmMagic
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Field's mark on the entertainment industry was set in stone — or rather, sidewalk — in 2014, when she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was joined by her second son, Eric, and his family at the ceremony.

National Treasure

AP
AP

Field was honored by President Obama in 2015, when he bestowed upon her the National Medal of Arts during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Fellow recipients of the Arts distinction include Stephen King and Alice Waters.

According to a statement released by the White House, the medal recognized how "the dignity, empathy and fearlessness of her performances have touched audiences around the world, and [how] she has deployed those same rich qualities off screen in her advocacy for women, LGBT rights and public health."

Becoming 'Doris'

Aaron Epstein
Aaron Epstein

In the 2015 romantic comedy Hello, My Name Is Doris, Field's character, an older woman, tried to woo her younger co-worker, played by Max Greenfield. Her leading portrayal of Doris earned Field her second Critics Choice Award nomination (her first was for Lincoln).

Theatrical Pursuit

Julieta Cervantes
Julieta Cervantes

Field made her way to Broadway in 2017, when she starred in a revival of The Glass Menagerie, a play that first ran in 1945, just before Field was born. The longtime film and TV star played Amanda Wingfield, a southern mom struggling to support her two kids. The role of Laura, Field's character's daughter with disabilities, was played by Madison Ferris.

During their show's run, the on-stage mother and daughter spoke to PEOPLE about their time in the spotlight together. Ferris noted her costar's exciting disposition, saying, "She's a spitfire. I think people have an idea of Sally being this sweet mother, and she is — but she's also, she's feisty."

Field's performance also earned her her first and only Tony nomination in 2017.

A Story to Tell

Grand Central Publishing
Grand Central Publishing

In 2018, Field opened up about the many chapters of her life in a memoir titled In Pieces. The book, which she described as "incredibly raw, intimate and personal," explores the highs and lows of her life and career. She opens up about the instances of sexual abuse she'd suffered, her "complicated" relationship with former beau Burt Reynolds and the trials of growing up a woman in the 1950s.

"I knew I had a story to tell and I knew I had to tell it. It's taken me a great deal of time to figure out exactly what it was," Field told PEOPLE ahead of her book's release. "I have this life that no one really knows ... or at least I didn't even know truly."

Kennedy Center Honor

John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty
John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty

Field became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2019. The prestigious award was presented to her by four of her past collaborators: Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Pierce Brosnan and Maura Tierney (who played Dr. Abby Lockhart, Field's daughter on ER).

Sporty Star

Paramount Pictures 80 For Brady
Paramount Pictures 80 For Brady

The 2023 film 80 for Brady sees Field's character and three of her lifelong friends — portrayed by Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Rita Moreno — as NFL fans set on seeing Tom Brady play in the 2017 Super Bowl.

Beyond the four iconic leading ladies, 80 for Brady boasts a decorated list of cameos from Billy Porter, Guy Fieri, Harry Hamlin and, of course, Tom Brady himself.

Rob Gronkowski, who also appears in the flick, spoke to PEOPLE about his appreciation for Field's on-set style.

"She walked around with the swagger of a 30-, 40-year-old," he said. "Sally Field was an inspiration, just how on top of it she still is. She can just project and have charisma right on the spot, and you can tell why she's been on top of her game throughout her whole entire life."

A Life of Achievements

Kevin Winter/Getty
Kevin Winter/Getty

At the SAG Awards in 2023, Field received the highest honor of the evening: the Life Achievement Award. Her former Amazing Spider-Man castmate Andrew Garfield introduced the trailblazing star with heartfelt praise, citing not only his experience working with her but other stars' accounts, as well.

"You're a North Star for all of us, especially, of course, in inspiring, liberating and empowering women, charting a previously pathless path in an era of often unimaginative and one-dimensional female roles," said the actor, who played Field's superhero nephew in the Marvel movie.

Garfield added that Jane Fonda called the night's honoree "the epitome of greatness," and he said that Julia Roberts, Field's former Steel Magnolias costar, called her "a unicorn. That rare type of person who can be a mentor and a best friend all at the same time."

As Field accepted the milestone accolade on stage, she reflected on her journey to becoming a Hollywood icon and the obstacles she ran into along the way.

"Acting to me has always been about finding those few precious moments when I feel totally, utterly, sometimes dangerously alive. So the task has always been to find a way to get to that. To get to the work, to claw my way to it, if necessary," Field recalled.

She looked back on her various roles in productions across genres, reflecting on the "fierceness" with which she fought to break out of sitcoms in the '60s and '70s. Then, as she wrapped up her speech, Field celebrated her fellow actors who fought their own uphill battles for seats at the table.

"When I look around this room tonight, I know my fight — as hard as it was — was lightweight compared to some of yours. I thank you and I applaud you," the actress said in her concluding remarks. "And I know that for you, just like for me, it has not been easy. But you know what? Easy is overrated."

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