With an Oscar, a Tony Award and two Emmy Awards on her mantle, Ellen Burstyn has, over the past half century, been a true awards season favorite. This year, with her turn in HBO’s “The Tale,” Burstyn is poised to add even more recognition to her resume.
The autobiographical film, written and directed by Jennifer Fox, earned rave reviews earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival and is scheduled to premiere on HBO on May 26. “The Tale” follows Fox (portrayed by Laura Dern), a professor and documentary filmmaker whose life his rattled after her mother (Burstyn) discovers a story Fox wrote at age 13 about a relationship she had with her running coach (Jason Ritter) and horseback riding instructor (Elizabeth Debicki). The revelation forces Fox to dig deeper into her memories to uncover the truths she has been suppressing for so many years.
In his review, Matt Goldberg of Collider observed, “Burstyn has a maternal role, but she also functions like the hard-charging editor forcing her reporter to dig deeper to get the truth.” Ethan Anderton of Slash Film raved over Burstyn’s performance, writing the actress portrays Fox’s mother “magnificently.”
Should Burstyn indeed earn an Emmy Award nomination for this performance, it will mark her ninth. Her prior bids were for Best TV Movie/Miniseries Actress for “The People vs. Jean Harris” (1981) and “Pack of Lies” (1987); Best TV Movie/Miniseries Supporting Actress for “Mrs. Harris” (2005), “Political Animals” (2012) and “Flowers in the Attic” (2014); and Best Drama Guest Actress for “Big Love” (2008), “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (2009) and “House of Cards” (2013). Burstyn triumphed for “Political Animals” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
A fourth bid in Best TV Movie/Miniseries Supporting Actress would tie Burstyn with Sarah Paulson for recognition in the category, though Kathy Bates remains far ahead with a record seven appearances.
In addition to accolades for her turns on the small screen, Burstyn won both the Tony and Oscar in 1975. She picked up the former for “Same Time, Next Year,” and was appearing in that show on Broadway when she won the Academy Award for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”. Her other Oscar nominations were in Best Supporting Actress for “The Last Picture Show” (1971) and in lead for “The Exorcist” (1973); “Same Time, Next Year” (1978); “Resurrection” (1980); and “Requiem for a Dream” (2000).
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