Martha Plimpton is an actress who has been working steadily since she was a child. You may remember her best for her roles in The Goonies, Parenthood, and 200 Cigarettes. Martha is often cast in the role of a very intelligent girl (who is annoyed by almost everything), which is a part that suits her perfectly. In the 1980s she was one of the few teen actresses who regularly got great roles, without being extremely attractive, which is a testament to her acting ability. So many teen actresses are cast more for their looks, than for their actual acting ability. I remember seeing her in The Goonies as a child, and I didn't really notice her, because she was cast along with the (very) beautiful Kerri Green. But, when I watched the film again as an adult, I noticed that her character was infinitely more interesting than Kerri Green's, and her acting abilites were a whole level above those of Ms. Green. This fact was confirmed by the fact that she was nominated for a Young Artist Award for that film, while Kerri was not.
She was born on November 16, 1970, and was the daughter of two established New York City actors (Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton). She enrolled in an actor's workshop at the age of 8, and was cast in her first film two years later (Rollover). She went on to appear in several commercial before having a substantial part in the 1984 film "The River Rat"
She was now being noticed. Steven Spielberg decided to cast her in The Goonies, which I still believe was one of her best roles. In the Goonies she played Stephanie "Stef" Steinbrenner, a sarcastic, highly intelligent girl with a few obvious issues. Her character really wore some odd clothes (kind of like Cyndi Lauper). The true brilliance of her role in this film was not even evident to me until fairly recently. I had watched the movie countless times as a child. But it wasn't until I watched it again that I realized something, her character had a thing for "Mouth" (Corey Feldman's character). She played this just under the surface attraction so well, and so perfectly that I didn't even notice it. But if you go back and watch it again, you will see it, in every scene (not just the last one where he apologizes to her).
After The Goonies she was in high demand, and had parts in such memorable films as The Mosquito Coast and Parenthood. She started seeing River Phoenix some time during this period. She first met him at fifteen, but supposedly nothing happened between them until she was seventeen and they were filming Running on Empty (fifteen year olds are not supposed to have high profile Hollywood relationships, so who knows what really happened). Her relationship with Phoenix did not last, but he did manage to convert her to vegetarianism (and she is still a vegetarian today). She later dated Christian Slater and Jon Patrick Walker.
By the 1990s Martha was alternating between both stage and screen acting. She appeared in a lot of good (but low profile) films (such as Eye of God and I Shot Andy Warhol). She joined the illustrious Steppenwolf Theatre Company Ensemble in 1996, and has done a wide variety of stage work with them (other Steppenwolf members include Gary Sinise and my cousin, Christian Stolte).
The last film I saw her in was 200 Cigarettes where she played Monica, a neurotic girl who was only trying to have a successful New Year's Eve party (and she does, but she passes out drunk before it actually happens). She was one of high spots in this film, and definitely the most interesting character in the movie (although Casey Affleck's "sensitive punk" character was a close second).
Today Martha is still acting on both stage and screen, and spends much of her spair time working with a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching theatre to inner city youth.