Virginia Madsen is an American actor and producer, best known for her performances in the films ‘Sideways’ and ‘Candyman.’ Daughter of ‘Emmy Award’-winning filmmaker and author Elaine Madsen and sister of actor, poet, writer, director, producer, and photographer Michael Madsen, Virginia made her film debut with the American comedy ‘Class.’ Following this, she played the supporting role of ‘Princess Irulan’ in David Lynch’s American epic science-fiction film ‘Dune.’ She gained mainstream popularity with her role of ‘Lisa Taylor’ in the American romantic drama ‘Fire with Fire.’ She then delivered award-winning performances in ‘Candyman’ and ‘Sideways.’ The latter also earned her ‘Academy Award’ and ‘Golden Globe’ nominations. Other notable films featuring Virginia are ‘A Prairie Home Companion,’ ‘The Rainmaker,’ ‘Joy,’ and ‘Red Riding Hood.’ Over the years, Virginia has also featured in several TV series, such as ‘American Dreams’ and ‘Designated Survivor.’ She has also been seen in TV films such as ‘Linda’ and ‘Victim of Love.’ She has also launched her own film production company, ‘Title IX Productions.’ Its debut project was a documentary titled ‘I Know a Woman Like That,’ directed by her mother.
Childhood & Early Life
Virginia G Madsen was born on September 11, 1961, in Chicago, Illinois, US, to firefighter Calvin Madsen and ‘Emmy Award’-winning filmmaker and author Elaine Madsen. She is of Danish descent from her father’s side and a mix of English, Scottish, Native American, Irish, and German descent from her mother’s side. She has two siblings, Michael Madsen and entrepreneur Cheryl Madsen.
Her parents ended their marriage in 1968, following which her mother decided to shift from finance to a creative domain. Elaine was motivated by film critic Roger Ebert to pursue a career in the film industry.
Virginia attended the ‘New Trier High School’ in Winnetka, Illinois. As a child, she loved watching silent and black-and-white movies and considered Joan Blondell and Bette Davis her matinee idols. As a young girl, Virginia would often assist her brother in magic shows.
She joined the ‘Ted Liss Acting Studio’ in Chicago. She once mentioned that she had wished to attend Ted’s class since she was 12 years old. She also attended the ‘Harand Camp Adult Theater Seminar’ in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
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Virginia stepped into films with a small role in the Lewis John Carlino-directed 1983 American comedy film ‘Class.’
She appeared in the music video of the 1984-released song ‘I'm Free’ (‘Heaven Helps the Man’) by Kenny Loggins. That year, she also starred as cellist ‘Madeline Robistat’ in the science-fiction romantic comedy ‘Electric Dreams.’ She also played the supporting role of ‘Princess Irulan’ in David Lynch’s American epic science-fiction film ‘Dune.’ She appeared as ‘Lou Ellen Purdy’ in an episode of the anthology series ‘American Playhouse,’ titled ‘A Matter of Principle.’
She starred alongside Peter O'Toole, Mariel Hemingway, and Vincent Spano in the 1985-released film ‘Creator.’ The same year, she played the real-life character Clara Petacci, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s mistress, in the biographical miniseries ‘Mussolini: The Untold Story.’
She rose to fame playing the lead role of ‘Lisa Taylor’ in the Duncan Gibbins-directed 1986 romantic drama ‘Fire with Fire.’ In the ensuing years, she starred in several other films, such as ‘Zombie High’ (1987), ‘The Hot Spot’ (1990), and ‘Highlander II: The Quickening’ (1991).
She strengthened her big-screen career with the lead role of ‘Helen Lyle’ in the Bernard Rose-directed 1992 American slasher film ‘Candyman.’ The film also had Tony Todd, Vanessa Williams, Xander Berkeley, and Kasi Lemmons in starring roles and was based on Clive Barker’s short story ‘The Forbidden.’ Considered a contemporary classic of horror cinema by some critics, the film became a huge commercial success and won her the ‘Virginia Saturn Award’ for the ‘Best Actress.’
Another remarkable performance of hers was the starring role of ‘Maya Randall’ in the Alexander Payne-directed American comedy–drama ‘Sideways.’ The film was as a huge critical and commercial success. It premiered at the ‘Toronto International Film Festival’ on September 13, 2004, and released theatrically in the US on October 22 that year.
Her performance as ‘Maya Randall’ not only helped her earn critical acclaim but also won her several awards. These include the ‘Critics' Choice Movie Award’ for the ‘Best Supporting Actress,’ the ‘Independent Spirit Award’ for the ‘Best Supporting Female,’ and the ‘Satellite Award’ for the ‘Best Cast – Motion Picture’(along with the rest of the cast). She also earned an ‘Academy Award’ nomination for the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ and a ‘Golden Globe Award’ nomination for the ‘Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture’ for her performance.
Her expansive film career, spanning over 3 decades, has seen her appearing in several other notable films. These include the legal drama ‘The Rainmaker’ (1997), starring Matt Damon; Robert Altman’s comedy ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ (2006), starring Meryl Streep; the Jim Carrey-starrer psychological thriller ‘The Number 23’ (2007); the romance–horror film ‘Red Riding Hood’ (2011), starring Amanda Seyfried; and the biographical comedy–drama ‘Joy’ (2015), starring Jennifer Lawrence. She has also voiced the character ‘Queen Hippolyta’ in the 2009 direct-to-DVD animated superhero film ‘Wonder Woman.’
While building a successful film career, Virginia continued featuring in various TV productions. Two of her notable TV projects are the 1991 psychological thriller TV film ‘Victim of Love’ (starring Pierce Brosnan and JoBeth Williams) and the 2001 Western film ‘Crossfire Trail’ (with Tom Selleck and Wilford Brimley). She was also seen in series such as ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ (1999), ‘Scoundrels’ (2010), and ‘American Gothic’ (2016). She also appeared in the miniseries ‘The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair’ (2018).
She has been part of a number of hit series, such as ‘Frasier’ (1998), ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ (1998), ‘The Practice’ (2001), ‘Dawson's Creek’ (2003), and ‘CSI: Miami’ (2003).
She played ‘Maria Sunderland,’ a main role, in the American superhero horror–drama series ‘Swamp Thing.’ The series premiered on ‘DC Universe’ on May 31, 2019, but was canceled a week later.
Endeavors as Producer
She launched the production company ‘Title IX Productions’ in 2008. Its first project was a documentary film called ‘I Know a Woman Like That,’ which focused on the lives of older women. The documentary released on October 13, 2009, and was directed by Virginia’s mother. It starred Virginia, Rita Moreno, and Lauren Hutton.
She then produced a documentary film for ‘Empire 8 Productions’ and ‘Screen Siren.’ Titled ‘Fighting Gravity,’ the documentary was screened in 2009. It followed the journey of 15 women ski jumpers and their fight for the right to compete in the sport, which was only open to men back then, in the ‘Winter Olympic Games.’
Family & Personal Life
Virginia met American actor, writer, and director Danny Huston while filming the 1988 American comedy–drama film ‘Mr. North,’ directed by Huston. They got married on September 2, 1989. However, they divorced in 1992.
From 1993 to 1998, she was romantically associated with Italian–American model, actor, and politician Antonio Sabàto Jr. Her only child, son Jack Sabato, was born through this relationship, on August 6, 1994.
Her nephew, Christian Madsen, son of Michael Madsen and actor Jeannine Bisignano, has also become an actor.