Born to a pair of actors, Amy Irving began acting when she was just a child. After a Broadway debut at 12 and going to theater school, she took on her first feature film playing high school bully Sue Snell in the 1976 adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie. Ironically, she started down a path to that breakout part while unsuccessfully auditioning for another iconic character. Carrie director Brian De Palma was sitting in on George Lucas' auditions for the first Star Wars movie, and Irving met him when she was reading for Princess Leia, a role she lost to her friend Carrie Fisher.
"I knew the day I met [De Palma] that I was gonna do Carrie," Irving told Cult Oddities in 1999. "George [Lucas] was really shy. He comes off, when you don't know him, as kind of cold. He was doing the interview, and I had just come out of the hospital from an operation. I'd been laid up for six weeks and I hadn't been in an audition in a while, so I was still kind of delicate. George was asking kind of statistical questions with his head buried, and I just wanted a little human warmth. I kept looking over at the corner and there was Brian. He never opened his mouth but I just really felt something. When I walked out, I knew I was gonna do Carrie."
The horror movie would catapult Irving into a long and varied Hollywood career, which would bring her back, years later, to the spooky story that started it all. Read on to find out more about the 69-year-old's life and work today.
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She's been married three times—to three directors.
Irving's love life was hot topic throughout the late 1970s and into the '80s. She and director Steven Spielberg dated from 1976 to 1980, breaking up when Irving began dating Honeysuckle Rose co-star Willie Nelson. She and Spielberg later reconciled (though not before he gave Karen Allen the role of Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark instead of her) and were married from 1985 to 1989. The couple welcomed their son Max in 1985.
"Steven is brilliant, but I don't even know that side of him," Irving told Cult Oddities of their relationship. "I mean, there's this Joe Schmo off the street sitting here with me. He's this great guy and he eats junk food and, suddenly, I see this genius. I'm very much in awe of him."
The couple's split made more headlines when Irving was awarded a $100 million settlement after a judge ruled that their prenuptial agreement, written on a paper napkin, wasn't a valid contract.
Irving and director Bruno Barreto welcomed a son, Gabriel, in 1990 and were married from 1996 to 2005. The actor is currently married to documentary director, Kenneth Bowser Jr., and has been since 2007.
She sang with Nelson.
As mentioned above, Irving briefly dated Nelson after starring and singing alongside him in the 1980 country musical Honeysuckle Rose. This was the first time that Irving performed music on screen, but it wouldn't be the last. She also sings in the 1987 movie musical Rumpelstiltskin and as the voice of Jessica Rabbit in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, memorably covering the blues song "Why Don't You Do Right."
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She's in a band.
Irving's passion for music isn't just limited to her roles. Now, in her late 60s, she's performing and recording with a band.
"I am very musical. I've been doing more music than acting lately because my son Gabriel has been managing a group called Goolis, and they asked if I'd sing some songs with them, and we ended up doing an album together," she told Salon in 2021. "Ten songs from my life that he did new arrangements on. I sang with the band. It was a very cool experience—it was a little terrifying, but also just wonderful. Just before COVID hit, we played a few bars downtown, and we were getting ready to launch, but then had to shut down."
She added, "I am trying to get past my incredible stage fright, which I've always had, but to sing is even more frightening. I am trying to [perform] so when it's time to launch this album, I'll be able to get up and actually do a show."
She's still acting.
Irving has dozens of credits to her name across TV, film, and theater. Some of her most significant films roles post-Carrie include Yentl (for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award), I'm Not Rappaport, Deconstructing Harry, Traffic, and Tuck Everlasting. She also reprised the role of Sue in the 1999 sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2. On TV, she's appeared on Spin City, House, Law&Order: SVU, The Good Wife, and The Affair, as well as in several television movies. And she's starred in stage productions in regional theaters across the country and on Broadway. Her most recent credits are the 2021 films Confetti and A Mouthful of Air.
In her Salon interview, Irving talked about her process for choosing jobs and challenging herself. "You never know going into something how it is going to hit, or how it's going to be. I take it one day at a time," she said of her career. "Something comes across your desk and you think, 'I never thought I wanted to play that.' But I've never done it, so that's much more fun."