Allison Janney had a rocky road to success as an actress and probably had many doubts that she would ever achieve the level of success she has. That’s all behind her now with her seven Emmy wins for acting placing her in second place all-time just one trophy behind Cloris Leachman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. And now with her 2017 film “I Tonya” bringing her the biggest silver screen success of her career, let’s take a look back at her stellar work in movies.
Janney faced great challenges in her early career and has stated she was told there was no place in the acting world for a six foot tall woman unless the woman was drop dead gorgeous like Sigourney Weaver. In a business that prizes youth it is interesting to note that Janney’s career only began on the New York stage when she was in her thirties and her TV/film career only started to materialize when she was approaching her fortieth birthday. There’s a proverb that says “long foretold, long last, short notice soon past.” Janney certainly has proven that following her milestone birthday. Her two hit series “The West Wing” and “Mom” have brought her a shelf full of awards and nominations as did her guest appearance on the TV drama “Masters of Sex.”
Janney returned to Broadway in 2017 in the revival of “Six Degrees of Separation,” but it closed early and failed to garner her an expected Tony nomination. The year ended on a high note though with the release of “I, Tonya.” She has already won Best Supporting Actress at the SAG Awards, Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice plus picked up her first ever Oscar nomination. She’s been part of the ensemble nominations with the Screen Actors Guild for “American Beauty,” “The Help,” and “Hairspray,” so let’s take a tour of her career in the photo gallery above where we feature her 10 greatest movie performances, ranked worst to best, in those films and more.
10. NURSE BETTY (2000)
After her initial success in the New York theater and prior to her star making role on “The West Wing,” Janney made a number of small appearances in some high-profile films. Most of the time she only had a few scenes in the films, and in this one, she makes the most of her role as a television producer.
9. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (2016)
This film based on the best-selling novel met with so-so reviews upon its release. Emily Blunt received surprise Best Actress nominations at the SAG Awards and BAFTA. Janney who often fluctuates between playing offbeat neurotics and competent smart women is here in the latter mode. She is a confident and determined police detective trying to unravel the films complicated plot.
8. HAIRSPRAY (2007)
Janney has ventured into all forms of media even including the musical theater. She received a 2009 Best Actress in a Musical Tony nomination for playing the Lily Tomlin role in the stage version of the film “9 to 5”. Janney doesn’t sing much in this film, but she is quite funny and imposing as the fanatically religious mother who goes to great lengths to keep her daughter from having any fun.
7. THE HOURS (2002)
“The Hours” featured a multitude of interesting roles for women and its three stars (Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep) all received various nominations with Kidman taking home the Oscar as Best Actress. Janney has a small but pivotal role as Streep’s lesbian lover. She is an interesting presence in the film and particularly compelling in her early morning walk home from what we presume to be a night of infidelity.
6. DROP DEAD GORGEOUS (1999)
Set in the world of small town beauty pageants, “Drop Dead Gorgeous” offers juicy comic roles for its large cast and Janney in particular ran with the material given. In one of her first full-out comic performances on screen, Janney won raves as the trailer park resident hungry for male attention.
5. THE WAY WAY BACK (2013)
Janney had a role in this comedy about a teenager’s experience hanging around an amusement park one fateful summer. Janney didn’t really break new ground here (and her role is a bit similar to the one she would later play to great success on “Mom”) but she received a lot of praise for the comedy she brought to this film. It also is interesting to note that Sam Rockwell is also in the film setting up a possible reunion come Oscar night if each win the supporting categories.
4. AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999)
Janney was among the noted ensemble of this 1999 Best Picture winner. In retrospect the film presents a Janney that we are not used to seeing in her future work. While she has become more known for her comedic bravura type roles like on “Mom” or her confident articulate professional women like on “The West Wing, here Janney gives an almost wordless performance as a clinically depressed housewife and mother trapped in an unhappy marriage to a strict military husband (Chris Cooper). While her dialogue is brief, her appearance in the film is quite memorable.
3. JUNO (2007)
“Juno” marks one of four Oscar Picture nominees to make our list of Janney’s top 10 films. Janney uses her comic flair and gift for sarcasm as the stepmother of the title character. Juno is a 16-year-old girl who finds herself pregnant. Janney makes the most of her scenes where she and her husband (future Oscar winner J.K. Simmons) spar with the highly articulate Juno over how she should handle her situation. Diablo Cody’s witty script won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
2. THE HELP (2011)
Janney’s well reviewed work in “The Help” as the mother of the lead character played by Emma Stone kind of got lost in the awards mix as “The Help” had a plethora of meaty roles for women. While Oscar nominees Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer got much of the attention, Janney gives a complicated performance as a southern woman who slowly starts to realize her own racial biases as her daughter exposes them to her.
1. I,TONYA (2017)
Janney has been on an awards run recently taking the Golden Globe, the Critics’ Choice and SAG Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role as the abusive mother of scandalous figure skater Tonya Harding. The role melds both Janney’s comedic and dramatic talents as she plays this downright awful woman but still manages to provoke laughs during her awfulness. Janney is currently at the top of Gold Derby’s charts to win the Supporting Actress Oscar at this year’s ceremony.