Amy Davis Irving (born September 10, 1953) is an American actress, who appeared in the films Crossing Delancey, The Fury, Carrie, and Yentl as well as on Broadway and Off-Broadway. She has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Golden Globes, and has won an Obie award. She was married to director Steven Spielberg; they divorced in 1989 after four years of marriage,
A classically trained actress from an early age, Amy Irving was a soulful ingénue and leading lady in the 1970s and 1980s, moving effortlessly from dramas like “Carrie” (1976) and “Yentl” (1983) to comedies like “Micki + Maude” (1984) and “Crossing Delancey” (1988). Though an Oscar and Golden Globe nominee, her marriage to Steven Spielberg and its 1989 dissolution, which resulted in a massive settlement, overshadowed much of her film work. She moved into indies in the 1990s before returning to play more mature and complex roles in “Traffic” (2001) and “Hide and Seek” (2005). Though her talents rarely received the showcase they deserved, Irving remained a well-respected presence in films and on stage and television for over four decades.
Born Sept. 10, 1953 in Palo Alto, CA, Amy Davis Irving was the daughter of television and stage director Jules Irving and actress Priscilla Pointer. Her childhood was steeped in the theater; at nine months, she made her acting debut in a production starring her mother and directed by her father, and would continue to appear in his plays throughout her adolescence. After graduating from the Professional Children’s School in New York, she studied at the High School of Music and Art in New York while making her Broadway debut in 1965 with a walk-on in “The Country Wife.” The play was directed by Robert Symonds, who would later become her stepfather after Irving’s death in 1979.
After furthering her studies at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and London’s Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Irving made her off-Broadway debut in the play “And Chocolate on Her Chin.” Upon her return to Los Angeles, she began landing guest roles on television series and in TV movies, most notably as one of the romantic leads in the Emmy-winning miniseries “Once an Eagle” (NBC, 1976). That same year, she made her feature debut in “Carrie” (1976), Brian De Palma’s terrifying adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a high school student (Sissy Spacek) who uses telekinesis to wreak revenge on her tormentors. Irving played the sole survivor of Carrie’s rampage, while Pointer played her onscreen mother. The film’s runaway success led to other features, including a reunion with De Palma in the similarly themed “The Fury” (1978) and the country music drama “Honeysuckle Rose” (1980), where she served as temptation for an already wayward singer (Willie Nelson). That same year, she starred in “The Competition” as a classical pianist who finds herself both in love with and competing against fellow musical talent Richard Dreyfuss in an international contest.
During this period, Irving became involved with director Steven Spielberg, who was beginning to emerge as a major talent on the strength of “Jaws” (1976) and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1978). However, the relationship crumbled when Irving reportedly had an affair with Willie Nelson during the shooting of “Honeysuckle Rose.” The break-up cost her many things, not the least of which was the female lead in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), which Spielberg had offered to her before the part eventually went to Karen Allen. It was Irving’s second major loss in terms of starring roles in blockbusters, as she had also auditioned for and failed to land the role of Princess Leia in “Star Wars” (1977). Despite these setbacks, Irving settled into a steady string of film and stage appearances, the most successful of which was Barbra Streisand’s “Yentl” (1983), in which she played the fiancée of Mandy Patinkin, who falls in love with his best friend, Yentl (Streisand), unaware that he is dressed in male drag in order to study the Talmud. Irving received an Oscar nomination for her performance, as well as a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress, which rather ignominiously made her the first woman to earn nods from both ends of the acting spectrum for the same role.
The 1980s proved to be a fruitful period for Irving, both personally and professional. She worked steadily in features and on television and stage in a wide variety of roles that displayed her exceptional versatility. She was the Indian princess who broke from tradition to fall in love with a British soldier (Ben Cross) in the HBO miniseries “The Far Pavilions” (1984), then played a concert cellist who becomes entangled in a bigamous relationship with Dudley Moore and Ann Reinking in Blake Edwards’ comedy “Micki + Maude” (1984). The charming romantic comedy “Crossing Delancey” (1988) brought Irving a Golden Globe nomination as a single Jewish woman contending with a meddling grandmother (Reizl Bozyk) and matchmaker (Sylvia Miles) while navigating the dating scene, while “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna” (NBC, 1986) earned her a second Golden Globe nod as Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the lost daughter of Russia’s Czar Nicholas II. Irving also wowed audiences by providing the singing voice for Jessica Rabbit in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (1988). During this time, she was also a fixture on Broadway, most notably in “Amadeus” as Mozart’s wife and “Heartbreak House” opposite her “Anastasia” co-star, Rex Harrison.
Irving had also reconciled with Spielberg during the 1980s, and the couple was married in 1985, with a son, Max, arriving that same year. However, the personal and societal pressures of being married to one of the world’s most popular filmmakers soon undermined the relationship; in interviews, Irving said that she felt like a “politician’s wife” and unable to speak her mind during their marriage. Their union finally collapsed in 1989 when Irving began a relationship with Bruno Barreto, the Brazilian filmmaker who cast her as the lead in his political thriller, “A Show of Force” (1990). Irving earned headlines when a judge awarded her a $100 million settlement based on a controversial prenuptial agreement written on a napkin.
New love Baretto would provide Irving with her most substantive film roles in the 1990s, as well as a second son, Gabriel, born in 1990. She played the wife of a schoolteacher (Dennis Hopper) who becomes embroiled in an affair with a student in Barreto’s “Carried Away” (1996), and later shifted gears to play an FBI agent in “One Tough Cop” (1998) and woman who rediscovered her sensuality in “Bossa Nova” (2000). Her screen work in the 1990s moved along these independent-minded lines, though there were occasional forays back to Hollywood. She had a minor role in Woody Allen’s “Deconstructing Harry” (1997) and reprised her role as Sue Snell in “The Rage: Carrie 2” (1999), which failed to match the intensity of the original.
By the end of the decade, Irving’s film career was making something of a rebound, thanks to major roles in Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning “Traffic” (2000) as drug czar Michael Douglas’ wife, which earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble. She later reunited with Sissy Spacek for “Tuck Everlasting” (2002) as Alexis Bledel’s strict mother, and played Robert De Niro’s wife, whose death by suicide hid a complicated psychological tangle in the hit thriller “Hide and Seek” (2005). For four years she played Emily Sloane, the wife of international terrorist Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), on the hit spy series “Alias” (ABC, 2001-05). Irving also remained a staple of the New York theater scene, with appearances in acclaimed productions of “The Coast of Utopia” at Lincoln Center in 2007, and a debut with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in “A Little Night Music,” directed by designer Isaac Mizrahi.