Dianne Wiest is an American actress best known to television audiences for her role as D.A. Nora Lewin in Law & Order, appearing in every episode of the 11th and 12th seasons (48 episodes, 2000-2002).
She reprised her role in the other two Law & Order franchise shows - Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Wiest's original ambition was to be a ballerina, but in late high school she switched her sights to acting in theatre. She made her film debut in 1980, but didn't make a name for herself until her performance as Emma, a prostitute during the Great Depression, in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985).
Under Allen's direction, Wiest won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).
She followed her Academy Award success with performances in The Lost Boys (1987) and Bright Lights, Big City (1988) before starring with Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Keanu Reeves and Martha Plimpton in Ron Howard's Parenthood, for which she received her second Oscar nomination.
In 1990, Wiest starred in Edward Scissorhands. She returned to Woody Allen in 1994 for Bullets Over Broadway, a comedy set in 1920s New York City, winning her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Helen Sinclair, a boozy, glamorous, and neurotic star of the stage.
She also appeared in the film Practical Magic (1998) and the television mini-series The 10th Kingdom (2000).
From 2000 to 2002, Wiest portrayed Nora Lewin in the long-running crime drama Law & Order.
Wiest's early career was in theatre. She studied theatre at the University of Maryland but left after her third term, in order to tour with a Shakespeare troupe.
She worked at the Long Wharf theatre, understudied off-Broadway in Kurt Vonnegut's Happy Birthday, Wanda June. She made her Broadway debut in Robert Anderson's Solitaire/Double Solitaire, taking over in the role of the daughter.
She then went to work at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and became one of their most prized leading actresses, appearing in many plays including a memorable Emily in Our Town, Honey in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and leading roles in The Dybbuk, The Lower Depths, and Heartbreak House.
She also toured the USSR with the Arena Stage Company.
In 1976 Wiest went to the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference and played leading roles in Amlin Gray's Pirates and Christopher Durang's A History of the American Film. Shortly after that, she left Arena Stage, and performed more in New York City.
At Joe Papp's Public Theatre she took over the lead in Ashes, and played Cassandra in Agamemnon, directed by Andrei Serban.
She was in two plays by Tina Howe, Museum and then The Art of Dining. In the latter play Wiest played the shy and awkward author Elizabeth Barrow Colt, and she won every off-Broadway theatre award for her performance: an Obie Award, a Theatre World Award, and the prestigious Clarence Derwent Award, given yearly for the most promising performance in New York theatre.
In the 80s she starred on Broadway in Frankenstein, directed by Tom Moore, and then in 1982 as Desdemona in Othello opposite James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer.
Later the same year she starred in the romantic screwball comedy Beyond Therapy by Christopher Durang, directed by John Madden. Playing opposite John Lithgow, she received stellar reviews for her charming and quirky performance as Prudence.
A few years later she played opposite Lithgow again in the Herbert Ross film Footloose.
Also in the 80s she was acclaimed for her performance in Hedda Gabbler, directed by Lloyd Richards, at Yale Repertory Theatre.
In New York City she was memorable in Harold Pinter's Another Kind of Alaska, in Janusz Glowacki's Hunting Cockroaches, and gave a dazzling performance in Lanford Wilson's Serenading Louie.
Once her film career took off with her work in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo and especially Hannah and Her Sisters, Wiest was available to the stage less frequently, though she performed in the 1990s in In the Summer House, Square One, Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl, and Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare.
In 2003 she acted on Broadway with Al Pacino and Marisa Tomei in Oscar Wilde's Salome and in 2005 she starred in Kathleen Tolan's Memory House, and then at Lincoln Center in the late Wendy Wasserstein's final play Third, directed by Daniel Sullivan.
Wiest lives in New York City with her two adopted daughters, Emily and Lily.