Diane Venore is a veteran American actor who started her career with Shakespearean plays and became famous for her performance as ‘Chan Parker’ in the biographical film ‘Bird,’ for which she won the ‘New York Film Critics Circle Award.’ She is one of the first women to have played the lead role in ‘Hamlet’ at the ‘New York Shakespeare Festival,’ thus crossing the gender divide. Her TV career includes recurring roles in the popular serials ‘Thunder Alley’ and ‘Chicago Hope.’ She married Andrzej Bartkowiak but got divorced nine years later, when her daughter was eight. She quit show business for a while to spend more time with her daughter who was partially deaf and suffered from a degenerative nerve condition that made her dependent on her mother. Later, she returned to acting when her daughter’s condition improved. Subsequently, she appeared in movies such as ‘The Jackal,’ ‘Self Medicated,’ and ‘All Good Things.’ Her latest TV appearances have been for series such as ‘Criminal Minds,’ ‘Private Practice,’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ Diane Venora is a respected film personality who has inspired many women in the industry, especially those who have faced difficulties. She is a woman who has come back fighting against all odds to be a winner in the end.
Childhood & Early Life
Diane Venora was born on August 10, 1952, in East Hartford Connecticut, USA, to Marie Brooks Venora and Robert P. Venora. Her father was of Italian descent and ran a dry-cleaning establishment. She was one of the six children of her parents. She had once wanted to become a hairdresser. However, her parents encouraged her to take up acting as a profession.
Diane was fond of singing and acting since childhood. She played an active role in her school dramatics club and other cultural activities. She graduated from ‘East Hartford High School’ in 1970 and went on to study music at the ‘Boston Conservatory of Music’ for two years.
Later, she won a scholarship to study at the prestigious ‘Juilliard School’ in New York City, from where she graduated in 1977. She was a member of the drama group that had some of America’s future stars such as Harriet Sansom Harris, Kelsey Grammer, and Robin Williams.
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Diane started her career with theater in 1981 with a role in the ‘Off-Broadway’ play ‘Penguin Touquet.’ She worked extensively in Shakespearean plays and is one of the first women to have played the lead role in ‘Hamlet’ at the ‘New York Shakespeare Festival’ in 1983. Thereafter, she played the title role of ‘Hamlet’ on numerous occasions at various venues. She became famous for crossing the gender divide in Shakespearean theater and proved herself to be a versatile actor.
She made her film debut with the crime horror ‘Wolfen,’ co-starring Gregory Hines and Albert Finney, in 1981. Moving on, she appeared in the movies ‘The Cotton Club’ (1984), ‘Terminal Choice’ (1985), and ‘Ironweed’ (1987).
Her career received a big boost in 1988 with her performance as ‘Chan Parker’ in the biographical film ‘Bird,’ produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, for which she won a ‘New York Film Critics Circle’ award and also earned a ‘Golden Globe’ nomination.
In 1995, her performance as ‘Justine Hanna,’ alongside Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, in the crime thriller ‘Heat’ earned her positive reviews from critics as well as fans. Thereafter, she has appeared in many movies, including ‘Self Medicated,’ where she played the role of ‘Louise Eriksen.’ The movie won the award for the best ensemble cast at the ‘Phoenix Film Festival.’
Along with her theater and big-screen appearances, her TV career bloomed in the early 80s. She appeared in the shows ‘Getting There’ (1980), ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (1982), ‘Great Performances’ (1990), and ‘Law & Order’ (1993).
Her TV career was at a high with her recurring roles in ‘Thunder Alley’ (1994) and the ‘Emmy’-winning serial ‘Chicago Hope’ (1994–1995), in which she played Ed Asner’s daughter and a plastic surgeon, respectively.
Her TV career continued to flourish till 2016, with her appearances in popular primetime serials such as ‘Criminal Minds’ (2006), ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (2010), ‘The Wish List’ (2010), and ‘The Victorians’ (2016).
Diane Venora has acted in a number of Shakespearian plays in her early days.
Her most significant films include ‘Wolfen’ (1981), ‘Bird’ (1988), ‘Heat’ (1995), ‘The Jackal’ (1997), ‘The Young Girl and the Monsoon’ (1999), ‘Self Medicated’ (2005), ‘Follow the Prophet’ (2009), and ‘All Good Things’ (2010).
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She has appeared in a number of TV serials and films that include ‘Nurse’ (1981), ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (1982), ‘Law & Order’ (1993), ‘Chicago Hope’ (1994 – 95), ‘Race Against Time’ (2000), ‘Criminal Minds’ (2006), ‘Private Practice’ (2009), and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (2010).
Awards & Achievements
She won the ‘New York Film Critics Circle’ award for the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ and the ‘Sant Jordi’ award for the ‘Best Actress in a Foreign Film’ for her performance as ‘Chan Parker’ in ‘Bird.’. She was also nominated for a ‘Golden Globe Award’ for her performance in the movie.
Her movie ‘Self Medicated’ was regarded as the film with the ‘Best Ensemble Cast,’ at the ‘Phoenix Film Festival.’
Diane Venora met Andrzej Bartkowiak while working for a commercial for ‘Head & Shoulders’ shampoo. They started dating each other and got married a year later, in 1980. They have a daughter named Madzia.
Things did not work out and the couple decided to file for divorce in 1989. Diane quit show business for a while to spend more time with her daughter who was eight years old at that time. Her daughter was partially deaf and suffered from a degenerative nerve condition that made her dependent on her mother.
During this period, she lived in New York and taught underprivileged children while devoting most of her time to her daughter. She made occasional theater appearances in New York, till her daughter showed significant signs of improvement and they moved to Los Angeles. She started acting in films again in 1994 while her daughter slowly gained confidence to face life on her own.
Bartkowiak remarried but offered to help with the upbringing of their daughter. However, Diane preferred to face life on her own with her daughter and two dogs.
She was removed from the sitcom ‘Thunder Alley’ because the producers felt she acted as if she were on ‘Broadway.’
When it came to a choice between her career and the well-being of her daughter, she made it clear that her daughter was her priority.