No wonder Jane Campion had some reservations when Holly Hunter sought the central role in The Piano (93).

      Hunter had established herself as a tiny fireball of energy, Southern abrasiveness, and talk, talk, talk. She was pretty, yet she easily offered the look of a modern Southern shopping-mall belle. But Hunter created the severe, less-than-dainty look of a nineteenth-century woman repressed in nearly everything except silent pride. She delivered a stunning performance, and in doing so she expanded her own horizons and won the Oscar. But can American film provide equal opportunities?

      She came from rural Georgia (not far from Tara) and studied at Carnegie Mellon. Her debut was in The Burning (81, Tony Maylam), after which she played on TV in Svengali (83, Anthony Harvey); With Intent to Kill (84, Mike Robe); Swing Shift (84, Jonathan Demme); Raising Arizona (87, Joel Coen); A Gathering of Old Men (87, Volker Schlondorff); End of the Line (87, Jay Russell); getting her first best actress nomination in Broadcast News (87, James L. Brooks); repeating a stage success in Beth Henley's Miss Firecracker (89, Thomas Schlamme); Animal Behavior (89, H. Anne Roley); getting an Emmy as Roe in Roe v. Wade (89, Gregory Hoblit); Always (89, Steven Spielberg); Once Around (91, Lasse Hallstrom); Crazy in Love (92, Martha Coolidge); very funny and Oscar-nominated as the secretary in The Firm (93, Sydney Pollack); and brilliant in The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (93, Michael Ritchie).



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