Helen Elizabeth Hunt, Actress, b. June 15, 1963 in Culver City, California, 5'7" tall.
Born in 1963 to a theatre director and acting coach, Gordon Hunt, and a photographer, Jane Hunt, Helen had the right connections to enter into acting before the age of ten. She started in television, landing her first role in the 1973 television movie Pioneer Woman. This began a run as a child and teen actress in television series, beginning with Amy Prentiss from 1974-75, Swiss Family Robinson in 1975 and The Fitzpatricks in 1977. She managed her first feature film role in something called Rollercoaster which I am told by sources is best forgotten. Her first starring role came in 1981 made for television movie, The Miracle of Kathy Miller in which she plays a high school athlete seriously injured in a automobile accident who overcomes the obstacles of her mental and physical injuries. Her first "adult" role came on the long running St. Elsewhere when she landed a recurring role as the intense sometimes girlfriend of doctor Jack "Boomer" Morrison, played by David Morse.* At the same time, in 1982, she landed another role as an adult in the television series It Takes Two. In 1983 she would make her own unique and semi-controversial splash in the starring role of the television movie Quarterback Princess in which, you guessed it, she plays a female quarterback on an otherwise all male football team.
Movie offers would start to pour in at that point, and Helen Hunt would accept sizable roles in Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Trancers in 1985 and Peggy Sue Got Married in 1986. In 1987 she would star alongside Matthew Broderick and a regiment of monkeys in Project X, which led to her long time romantic involvement with Broderick and finally some serious name recognition. Rumor has it that through much of Helen's early career she was considered by casting directors to be a poor man's Jodie Foster, but she was on the road to overcoming that perception.
In 1991 she would star with Eric Stoltz in The Waterdance, appear in her first sequel, Trancers 2 and in a role dear to my own heart, star as Pamela Smart in the television rendition of Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Smart Story. The following year she would land her famed role as Jamie Buchman, playing opposite Paul Reiser, on the long running television series Mad About You. The show would run seven seasons and earn Helen four Emmy Awards.
In 1992 she would again dip into the sequel bucket, basking in her cult following as Lena Deth by making Trancers 3. While the paychecks rolled in from Mad About You she would dabble some more in film, appearing in Only You and Kiss of Death before her first real monster film broke out in the form of Twister in 1996.
Brief aside: I work a three minute walk from a giant screen that all day features giant talking heads of Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton speaking intently about tornadoes, but that is another story all together.
The late 1990s would prove to be a golden era for Helen Hunt. With the success of Twister and the piling up of Emmy Awards, Helen would land her most critically acclaimed role in the 1997 film As Good As It Gets. Playing a struggling New York waitress and single mother with a consistently ill child, she manages to bring depth and realism to the love interest of Jack Nicholson's weird, sociopathic, obsessive-compulsive writer. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the film.
Brief aside: Back in my waitress stalking days this film was recommended to me as a documentary.
Winning the Oscar moved Helen Hunt up the Hollywood food chain and onto the "A-List." However, she decided to do an about face and took her next role to the stage, playing Viola in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Closing out the 1990s, she ran out the meter with Mad About You and then returned to feature films. Her choices were Pay It Forward with Kevin Spacey, What Women Want with Mel Gibson and Dr. T and the Women with Richard Gere. She would then take second billing to a volleyball in the Tom Hanks vehicle, Cast Away.
In 2001 she would opt to work with Woody Allen in the throwback detective comedy, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion along with Dan Ackroyd. Where will she turn up next? She is certainly not ready to retire quite yet. She defies the Hollywood standard of glamour, holding onto the kind of strength and beauty that can be more easily translated to the perception of the everyman, whether it be the tomboy or the rough around the edges blue collar princess... and she'll be coming around again soon to a theatre near you.
Oh, and there is another Helen Hunt who was an actress during the 1920s and 1930s who appeared in such films as Wagon Wheels and Words and Music but her resume is rather thin and no one seems to have all that much information on her.
Some research done at allmovie.com
*Correct details provided by Miles Dirac as I originally remembered this incorrectly.