Born on April 30th, 1926, Cloris Leachman grew up in a small town near Des Moines, Iowa. As a child, she loved to act and play the piano. At age 11, she landed a job on a local children's radio show. By 17, Leachman had joined the Kendall Community Playhouse; a year later the aspiring actress headed to Northwestern University on a drama scholarship. At 20, Leachman entered a local beauty pageant on a lark and made it all the way to the Miss America finals. She was Miss Chicago at the 1946-Miss America contest. Leachman lost the beauty contest, but not her love of the spotlight. She headed for New York City and was recruited for the prestigious Actors Studio.
Leachman is an American Academy Award-, nine-time Emmy® - and Golden Globe-winning actress of stage, film and television. She has won nine Primetime Emmy® Awards—more than any other female performer—and one Daytime Emmy® Award. Leachman has starred in a wide range of theater, television and motion picture projects, creating such indelible characters as Phyllis in the TV series “Phyllis” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Nurse Diesel in “High Anxiety,” Frau Bluecher in “Young Frankenstein” and Ruth Popper in “The Last Picture Show” (for which she won an Oscar® and a BAFTA).
Leachman has been nominated 20 times for work in television over the years. In 1978 she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theater. She has voice acted in numerous animated films, including “My Little Pony: The Movie,” “The Iron Giant,” and most notably as the voice of the cantankerous sky pirate Dola in Hayao Miyazaki's 1986 feature “Castle in the Sky.” Dubbed by Disney in 1998, Leachman's performance in this film received nearly unanimous praise.
Leachman played embittered, greedy, Slavic Grandma Ida on the Fox sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle,” for which she won two Emmy® Awards, both for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (once in 2002, then again in 2006). She was nominated for the same role in that category for six consecutive years.
She was nominated for a SAG Award for her role as the wine-soaked, former jazz singer, Grandmother Evelyn in the Sony feature “Spanglish” opposite Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni. That same year she appeared with Sandler again, in the remake of “The Longest Yard.” She also appeared in Kurt Russell’s comedy “Sky High.”
In 2006, Leachman's performance alongside Sir Ben Kingsley and Annette Benning in the HBO special “Mrs. Harris” earned her an Emmy ® nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-series or TV Movie as well as a SAG Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-series. she was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Drake University.
Leachman recently wrapped three films, a remake of “The Women” with an all-star cast that features Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Annette Benning, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing, Candice Bergen and Bette Midler. Leachman also recently completed an independent film “American Cowslip” featuring Val Kilmer, Peter Falk, Rip Torn, Hanna Hall, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. And “New York, I Love You” a collective work of twelve short films shot by renowned international directors in each of the city's five boroughs, with the theme of finding love being interwoven between each of the five-minute stories.
Leachman’s memoirs will be published in the spring of 2009 by Kensington Books, and she is currently touring the U.S. with her one-woman show CLORIS!