Karen Allen's Biography

Karen Jane Allen was born in Carrollton, rural southern Illinois, to Patricia (Howell), a teacher, and Carroll Thompson Allen, an FBI agent. Karen spent her first 10 years traveling around the country with her parents and two sisters. She was always "the new girl in school". Acting did not really cross Karen's mind until her early 20s when she saw a 'Jerry Grotowski' theater production that impressed her so much she instantly decided to give it a shot. She trained as a classical actress and enrolled at the Actors Studio and with Lee Strasberg in New York. During this period she made several student films and directed and acted in several plays. In 1976 she made her first film appearance in the award-winning small film, The Whidjitmaker (1976). Her first major film role came as "Katy" in 1978's National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) which became one of the biggest hits of the year, obtained "classic" status and launched a whole host of young "hot" stars. However, shortly after Animal House (1978) opened Karen was struck by a rare and dangerous eyesight condition called Kerato Conjunctivitis. Luckily, the condition subsided and Karen could continue her dramatic rise to the top. Lead roles in cult favorites like The Wanderers (1979) and the controversial thriller Cruising (1980) followed, as did smaller parts as in Woody Allen's Manhattan (1979). However, it was her performance in Rob Cohen's A Small Circle of Friends (1980), as well as her previously mentioned turn in Animal House (1978), that caught the eye of a certain Steven Spielberg. He then cast her as the feisty heroine and Harrison Ford's co-star in his big budget blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), which became a huge hit in 1981-82 and is regarded by many as the greatest action adventure film ever made. Strangely, following the huge success of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Karen chose to spend over two years out of the limelight - concentrating on smaller, more personal projects. She won a major award for her performances on Broadway, won critical acclaim for her creation of "Abra" in the hugely successful ABC production of East of Eden (1981) and had parts in two smaller films: Alan Parker's Shoot the Moon (1982) and Split Image (1982) co-starring James Woods and Peter Fonda. She returned to the mainstream in 1984 with Until September (1984) and the hugely successful Starman (1984) co-starring Jeff Bridges and directed by John Carpenter (of Halloween (1978) fame), but once again decided to leave the limelight for a couple of years doing more stage-work and some troubled 'indie' films. While Karen has worked almost constantly since then giving notable performances in Paul Newman's screen adaptation of The Glass Menagerie (1987), the Christmas hit Scrooged (1988)and Steven Soderbergh's underrated King of the Hill (1993), she has not been able to scale the same dizzy heights as the early 1980's hits. Most of her lead roles in feature films since Starman (1984) have not been that well received (Animal Behavior (1989), Ghost in the Machine (1993) and The Turning (1992) among them). However, she has been seen to good effect on TV in films like Challenger (1990) in which she portrayed tragic schoolteacher "Christa McAuliffe" and All the Winters That Have Been (1997), co-starring Richard Chamberlain. She has also made 'special guest star appearances' on such shows as Law & Order (1990), Knots Landing (1979), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985), and several TV movies including Hostile Advances: The Kerry Ellison Story (1996) and Secret Weapon (1990). She also played the lead in the CBS series The Road Home (1994). Karen Allen was married to soap star Kale Browne (with whom she co-starred in 'Til There Was You (1997)) in 1988 and they have a son Nicholas. Apart from acting Karen Allen is also an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician (she played in a band with Kathleen Turner, and recorded a duet with Jeff Bridges for the Starman (1984) soundtrack album). She also writes plays, screenplays and poetry, owns her own Astranga Yoga enterprise and spends time at her Berkshire Mountains farm or Upper Westside Manhattan townhouse. The classically trained actress also has a screenplay called "Second Coming, The", which is about to be made into a movie. Most recently she stars opposite Peter Coyote in The Basket (1999) and the blockbuster The Perfect Storm (2000) in which she co-stars with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Diane Lane. In addition to these, she is working on Shaka Zulu: The Citadel (2001) and recently made an independent film, In the Bedroom (2001). Karen Allen is undoubtedly one of the most talented, ambitious and versatile actresses of the last 20 years. In many ways her own choices to "go back to theater and smaller projects" are the only things that have really stopped her being a major, major star. Karen was voted one of the most beautiful women in the world in 1983, and is a naturally attractive lady - who often plays characters significantly younger than herself. She also often plays unglamorous types - and there is no one better at portraying real, human, and wholly believable people.

Sources:
IMDB, Wikipedia


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