Joan Allen is an American actress best known for her roles in the films Nixon, The Contender, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum and The Upside of Anger.
Allen, the youngest of four children, was born in Rochelle, Illinois to James Jefferson Allen, a gas-station owner, and Dorothea Marie (Wirth), a homemaker. She has an older brother, David, and two older sisters, Mary and Lynn.
Allen attended Rochelle Township High School, and was voted most likely to succeed. She transferred to Northern Illinois University in 1976, where she graduated.
Allen began her performing career as a stage actress and on television before making her film debut in the movie, Compromising Positions (1985).
In 1989, Allen returned to the stage and won a Tony Award in her Broadway debut performance in Burn This. She also starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Heidi Chronicles.
She received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress for her roles as Pat Nixon in Nixon (1995) and as a woman whose husband is accused of witchcraft in The Crucible (1996).
She was also nominated for Best Actress in The Contender, (produced by co-star Gary Oldman and producer Douglas Urbanski) as a politician who becomes the object of scandal.
Allen is respected by her peers both for her professionalism and the intense preparation she brings to each of her roles. For example, to play a blind woman in the cult classic Manhunter (1986), she went to a school for the blind and wore a blindfold for several days.
Brian Cox, her co-star in Manhunter and The Bourne Supremacy, called Allen the finest actress he had ever worked with and one of the best in the business.
In 2001, Allen starred in the mini-series The Mists of Avalon. In 2005, she received many positive notices for her lead role in the comedy/drama The Upside of Anger, in which she played an alcoholic housewife.
Allen has signed on to appear in a remake of the film Death Race 2000, playing a prison warden; filming is scheduled to begin in 2007 for a fall 2008 release date.
In 1990, Allen married actor Peter Friedman. The couple separated in 2002, but live close to each other to share time with their daughter, Sadie, born in 1994.