Virginia Madsen

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Virginia Madsen
Virginia Madsen Oscars 2009.jpg
Madsen at the 81st Academy Awards in February 2009
Virginia Gayle Madsen

(1961-09-11) September 11, 1961 (age 59)
  • Actress
  • producer
Years active1983–present
(m. 1989;div. 1992)

Nick Holmes
(m. 2020)
Partner(s) Antonio Sabàto Jr. (1993–1998)
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Virginia Gayle Madsen (born September 11, 1961) [1] is an American actress and film producer. She made her film debut in Class (1983), which was filmed in her native Chicago. After she moved to Los Angeles, director David Lynch cast her as Princess Irulan in the science fiction film Dune (1984). Madsen then starred in a series of successful teen movies, including Electric Dreams (1984), Modern Girls (1986), and Fire with Fire (1986).


Madsen received further recognition for her starring role as Helen Lyle in the horror film Candyman (1992). For her performance in Alexander Payne's comedy-drama Sideways (2004), Madsen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

On television, Madsen has appeared in the comedy-drama series Moonlighting (1989), the comedy series Frasier (1998), the period drama series American Dreams (2002–2003), the murder mystery series Monk (2002-2009), the science fiction series The Event (2011), the supernatural drama series Witches of East End (2013–2014), the political thriller series Designated Survivor (2016–2017), and the DC Universe superhero horror series Swamp Thing (2019).

Early life

Virginia Gayle Madsen [2] was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Elaine Loretta Madsen (née Melson), who became an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and author, and Calvin Christian Madsen, a firefighter. [3] After Madsen's parents divorced in the late 1960s, when the children were young, her mother left a career in finance to pursue a career in arts, encouraged by film critic Roger Ebert. [4] Madsen's siblings are Michael Madsen, an actor, and Cheryl Madsen, an entrepreneur. Her paternal grandparents were Danish, and her mother has English, Irish, Scottish, German and distant Native American ancestry. [5] Madsen is a graduate of New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. [6]

Madsen later attended the Ted Liss Acting Studio in Chicago, and Harand Camp Adult Theater Seminar in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Of her experience with Liss, she said: "I had wanted to join his class since I was 12. It was well worth the wait because I don't think I could have got that sort of training anywhere else especially in the United States... I always wanted to make a real career out of acting." [7]



Madsen made her acting debut at age 22, in a bit part where she landed her role as Lisa in the comedy film Class (1983). She next appeared in Kenny Loggins' music video for "I'm Free (Heaven Helps the Man)" from the Footloose soundtrack.

She portrayed a cellist named Madeline in Electric Dreams (1984). She was cast as Princess Irulan in David Lynch's science fiction epic Dune (1984). [8] In 1986, she starred as Boris' (Vincent Spano) romantic interest Barbara in the film Creator , which also starred Peter O'Toole.

Madsen at the 2006 San Francisco International Film Festival VirginiaMadsenSFIFF06 adj.jpg
Madsen at the 2006 San Francisco International Film Festival

Madsen first became popular with audiences in 1986 with her portrayal of a Catholic school girl who fell in love with a boy from a prison camp in Duncan Gibbons' Fire with Fire . As beauty queen Dixie Lee Boxx, she was the love interest of minor league baseball manager Cecil "Stud" Cantrell (William Petersen) in the HBO original film Long Gone (1987). Also in the same year, she appeared in the music video for "I Found Someone", by Cher. She played Allison Rowe, a secretary in the comedy film Hot to Trot (1988). She also starred as Helen Lyle in the horror film Candyman (1992).

Madsen appeared in a small role in the Francis Ford Coppola drama The Rainmaker (1997) alongside Matt Damon and Claire Danes. Film critic Roger Ebert said that Madsen had a "strong scene", [9] while reviewer James Berardinelli noted that "the supporting cast is solid, with turns from . . . Virginia Madsen as a witness for the plaintiff". [10] Madsen had a critically acclaimed performance as a supporting actress in Sideways (2004), directed by Alexander Payne. Her role catapulted her onto the Hollywood A-list. [11]

Her first major role after Sideways was opposite Harrison Ford in Firewall . She later appeared in Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion , in a key role as the angel. She co-starred alongside Jim Carrey in The Number 23 and Billy Bob Thornton in The Astronaut Farmer ; both films were released in North America on February 23, 2007. She voiced Queen Hippolyta, mother of Wonder Woman, in the animated film Wonder Woman (2009).


In 1988, Madsen appeared as Maddie Hayes' cousin in the fifth and final season of the ABC drama series Moonlighting . She has since made various television appearances, including Star Trek: Voyager , CSI: Miami , Dawson's Creek , The Practice , Frasier , and other television series. She was also co-host of the long-running television series Unsolved Mysteries in 1999, during the show's eleventh season (which was also the second and final season on CBS). She starred alongside Ray Liotta in the short-lived CBS crime drama series Smith . She also had a recurring role in the eighth and final season in the USA Network comedy-drama series Monk .

In 2010, she landed the starring role of Cheryl West in the ABC comedy-drama series Scoundrels . In December 2010, it was announced that she would be joining the cast in the NBC science fiction series The Event . [12] In 2012, she joined the cast of the AMC western drama series Hell on Wheels as Mrs. Hannah Durant, first appearing in episode eight of season 2, "The Lord's Day". In 2013, Madsen began appearing on Lifetime's Witches of East End as Penelope Gardiner, the main villainess of the first season.

She starred as Speaker Kimble Hookstraten in the first season of the ABC political drama series Designated Survivor . [13]


In 2008, she formed her own film production company called Title IX Productions. [14] Her first project was a film made with her mother titled I Know a Woman Like That. The film is a documentary about the lives of older women. On the creation of the film, she said her mother's active lifestyle was an inspiration to start filming.

My mother's level of activity, of productivity, was exactly why I thought a project like this would work. Originally, when we put the idea together, she had said, "I'm far too busy. I'm going to Holland, and then I'm going here and there and I'm writing my book." But that's really what it's about. [15]

Personal life

Madsen was married to actor and director Danny Huston after meeting on the set of Mr. North (1988). They married in 1989 and divorced in 1992. [16] Madsen was in a long-term relationship with Antonio Sabàto Jr. from 1993 to 1998, with whom she has one son. [17] Virginia Madsen married actor Nick Holmes in 2020.



1983 Class Lisa
1984 Electric Dreams Madeline Robistat
1984 Dune Princess Irulan
1985 Creator Barbara Spencer
1986 Fire with Fire Lisa Taylor
1986 Modern Girls Kelly
1987 Long Gone Dixie Lee Boxx
1987 Slam Dance Yolanda Caldwell
1987 Zombie High Andrea Miller
1988 Mr. North Sally Boffin
1988 Hot to Trot Allison Rowe
1988 Gotham Rachel Carlyle
1989 Heart of Dixie Delia June Curry
1990 The Hot Spot Dolly Harshaw
1991 Becoming Colette  [ fr ]Polaire Sorel
1991 Highlander II: The Quickening Louise Marcus
1992 Candyman Helen Lyle
1994 Caroline at Midnight Susan Prince
1994 Blue Tiger Gina Hayes
1995 The Prophecy Katherine
1996Just Your LuckKim
1996 Ghosts of Mississippi Dixie DeLaughter
1997 The Rainmaker Jackie Lemanczyk
1998Ballad of the NightingaleMo Lewis
1998 Ambushed Lucy Monroe
1999 The Florentine Molly
1999 The Haunting Jane Vance
2000 Lying in Wait Vera Miller
2000 After Sex Traci
2001 Full Disclosure Brenda Hopkins
2001 Almost Salinas Clare
2001 Just Ask My Children Brenda Kniffen
2002 American Gun Penny Tillman
2003 Artworks Emma Becker
2003Nobody Knows Anything!Prison Lawyer
2004 Sideways Maya Randall
2005 Scooby-Doo! in Where's My Mummy? Cleopatra (voice)Direct-to-DVD
2005 Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild The Beast (voice)Direct-to-DVD
2006 Firewall Beth Stanfield
2006 A Prairie Home Companion Dangerous Woman
2007 The Astronaut Farmer Audrey Farmer
2007 The Number 23 Agatha Sparrow / Fabrizia
2007 Ripple Effect Sherry Atrash
2007 Cutlass Robin
2007 Being Michael Madsen Herself
2008 Diminished Capacity Charlotte
2009 The Haunting in Connecticut Sara Campbell
2009 Wonder Woman Queen Hippolyta (voice)Direct-to-DVD
2009 Amelia Dorothy BinneyDeleted scenes
2010 Father of Invention Lorraine King
2011 Red Riding Hood Suzette
2012 The Magic of Belle Isle Charlotte O'Neil
2013 The Last Keepers Abigail Carver
2013 The Hot Flashes Clementine Winks
2013 Crazy Kind of Love Augusta Iris
2014 All the Wilderness Abigail Charm
2015 Walter Karen Benjamin
2015 Dead Rising: Watchtower Maggie
2015 Burning Bodhi Naomi
2015 Joy Terry Mangano
2016 Burn Your Maps Victoria
2017 Better Watch Out Deandra Lerner
2017 A Change of Heart Deena
2018 1985 Eileen Lester
2018 Her Smell Ania Adamcyzk
2018Spare RoomNat
2020 Operation Christmas Drop Congresswoman Angie Bradford
2021 Candyman Helen LyleVoice role
2021 The Devil's Light Dr. PetersFilming
2021 American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story Sue WarnerFilming
TBA Lola James Filming


1984 American Playhouse Lou Ellen PurdyEpisode: "A Matter of Principle"
1985 Mussolini: The Untold Story Claretta Petacci Miniseries
1987 Long Gone Dixie Lee BoxxTelevision film
1988 Gotham Rachel CarlyleTelevision film
1989 Third Degree Burn Anne ScholesTelevision film
1989 Moonlighting Annie Charnock3 episodes
1991 Victim of Love Carla SimonsTelevision film
1991 Ironclads Betty StuartTelevision film
1991Love KillsRebecca BishopTelevision film
1992A Murderous Affair: The Carolyn Warmus Story Carolyn Warmus Television film
1993 Linda Linda CowleyTelevision film
1997 The Apocalypse Watch Karin De VriesTelevision film
1998 Star Trek: Voyager KellinEpisode: "Unforgettable"
1998 Frasier Cassandra Stone4 episodes
1999 Unsolved Mysteries Co-host6 episodes
2000Children of FortuneIngrid BastTelevision film
2001 Crossfire Trail Anne RodneyTelevision film
2001Just Ask My ChildrenBrenda KniffenTelevision film
2001 The Practice Marsha Ellison2 episodes
2002 Justice League Dr. Sarah Corwin (voice)2 episodes
2002–2003 American Dreams Rebecca Sandstrom7 episodes
2003TemptedEmma BurkeTelevision film
2003 Dawson's Creek Maddy AllenEpisode: "All Good Things..."
2003 CSI: Miami Krista WalkerEpisode: "Death Grip"
2003 Spider-Man: The New Animated Series Silver Sable (voice)2 episodes
2003 Boomtown Erika AshlandEpisode: "The Big Picture"
2004 Brave New Girl Wanda LovellTelevision film
2005–2006 Justice League Unlimited Veronica Sinclair / Roulette (voice)2 episodes
2005 Teen Titans Arella (voice)Episode: "The Prophecy"
2006–2007 Smith Hope StevensMain role
2009 Monk T.K. Jensen3 episodes
2010 Scoundrels Cheryl WestMain role
2011 The Event Catherine Lewis4 episodes
2012 Hornet's Nest Judy HammerTelevision film
2012 Hell on Wheels Mrs. Hannah Durant4 episodes
2013Hatfields & McCoysEloise McCoyPilot
2013 The Anna Nicole Story Virgie Arthur Television film
2013–2014 Witches of East End Penelope Gardiner 8 episodes
2015 An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success Karen ThomasTelevision film
2015Lost BoyLaura HarrisTelevision film
2015 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Beth Anne RollinsEpisode: "Maternal Instincts"
2016, 2019 Elementary Paige Cowan3 episodes
2016 American Gothic Madeline HawthorneMain role
2016 Pickle and Peanut Jackson (voice)Episode: "Night Shift/Scalped"
2016–2017 Designated Survivor Kimble Hookstraten16 episodes
2017 Voltron: Legendary Defender Commander Heera (voice)Episode: "Hole in the Sky"
2018 The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair Tamara QuinnMiniseries
2019 Swamp Thing Maria Sunderland [18] 8 episodes

Awards and nominations

YearNominated workAwardResult
1993 Candyman Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival Award for Best ActressWon [19] [20]
Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Actress Won [21]
Saturn Award for Best Actress Won [22]
2004 Sideways Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cast Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Acting Ensemble Won
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female Won
Iowa Film Critics Award for Best Supporting ActressWon
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
New York Film Critics Online Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best CastWon
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
Satellite Award for Best Cast – Motion Picture Won
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Won
Seattle Film Critics Award for Best Supporting ActressWon
Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting ActressWon
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2006 A Prairie Home Companion Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Ensemble Cast Nominated

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  8. Madsen's opening monologue from Dune ("In this time, the most precious substance in the universe is the spice, melange. The spice extends life. The spice expands consciousness.") was later sampled by Israel-based group Astral Projection in their tracks "Dancing Galaxy" and "Ambient Galaxy" on their album Dancing Galaxy, and by drum and bass artist Aphrodite in his song "Spice (Even Spicier)".
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