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Creator / Ellen Burstyn

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Ellen Burstyn (born Edna Rae Gillooly, December 7, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan) is an American actress. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.


Roles


Tropes associated with her work.

  • Actor-Inspired Element:invoked Ellen came up with the idea to have Chris wear a bracelet with a horseshoe on it in The Exorcist. Her reasoning was that she wanted Chris to be "poorly armed" to fight the devil.
  • Auteur Licence:invoked She was given this for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, and her goal was to make a film about a woman with real-life problems.
  • The Danza:invoked In the film Resurrection, she plays an Edna, which is her birth name.
  • Doing It for the Art:invoked Determined to do her own singing for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, she spent six months training for it.
  • Dyeing for Your Art:invoked
    • For a scene in The King of Marvin Gardens, she cut off her hair on camera.
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    • Averted with the weight loss in Requiem for a Dream, which was achieved by prosthetics. She also wore wigs.
  • Playing Against Type:invoked In later years she often plays the Cool Old Lady. Thus quite a shock to see her as the Evil Matriarch Olivia Foxworth in the TV version of Flowers in the Attic.
  • Stage Names: She was initially Erica Dean as a dancer on The Jackie Gleason Show, and then Ellen McRae. She became Burstyn after marrying.
  • Throw It In!:invoked
    • The Exorcist has a scene where Chris is thrown away from the bed, the harness jerked her hard and she landed on her coccyx. Her scream of pain is real, and it's used in the final film.
    • In Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Alice says "I don't sing with my ass". This was an ad-lib from Ellen.
  • Typecasting:invoked In both The Age of Adaline and Interstellar she plays the older version of a child whose parent stayed young. Both characters have surnames as their first names (Flemming and Murphy respectively).
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  • Wag the Director:invoked She agreed to star in The Exorcist as long as she didn't have to say the line "I believe in the devil".
  • What Could Have Been:invoked
    • Audrey Hepburn was the first choice for Chris in The Exorcist but insisted on the film being shot in Rome, where she was living. Jane Fonda, Shirley Maclaine and Louise Fletcher passed on the role before Ellen was cast.
    • When auditioning for The Last Picture Show, she was up for the role of Genevieve, but was then asked to read for Ruth. She then insisted she was a better fit for Lois. After taking a day to think it over, that's who she was cast as.
    • She turned down One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest because she was caring for her sick husband at the time. Even so, she's often mistaken for Louise Fletcher, who did play the role.
    • She almost didn't do the film Resurrection, as the plot was originally a more Exorcist-esque thriller. When the film became more of a fantasy drama, she came on board.
    • She initially turned down the role of Sara in Requiem for a Dream, horrified by the script. Then when she watched Darren Aronofsky's Pi, she changed her mind. She later called Sara her proudest acting achievement.
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