- 25 March 1948
- New York City, New York, USA
The native New Yorker was born Bonnie Bedelia Culkin on March 25, 1948, the daughter of Phillip Harley Culkin, a journalist, and Marian Ethel Wagner Culkin, a writer and editor. Trained in ballet, her parents guided all of the children at one time or another into acting (which included Christopher (Kit), Terry and Candace Culkin). Bonnie herself attended Quintano School for Young Professionals in New York at one point and Bonnie and Kit went on to appear on the local stage and TV. Brother Kit would later be known more for siring a handful of talented child actors and/or stars (Macaulay Culkin, Kieran Culkin, and the rest). It was Bonnie who was first spotted among the other acting siblings by a talent scout who happened to catch her in a school production of "Tom Sawyer", and encouraged her. She made her professional debut at age 9 in a 1957 North Jersey Playhouse production of "Dr. Praetorius" and then was handed a full scholarship to study at George Balanchine's New York City Ballet. But the acting bug had bitten and after dancing in only four productions (including playing the role of Clara in "The Nutcracker"), she decided to hang up her ballet slippers. She proceeded to study at both the HB Studio and Actors Studio in New York. Bonnie nabbed a five-year role as young teen "Sandy Porter" in the New York-based daytime soap Love of Life (1951) starting in 1961. During that time, she took her first Broadway bow in "Isle of Children", a show that lasted but a week in March of 1962. She was also a replacement in the established hit comedy "Enter Laughing", a year later. After appearing in the stage play "The Playroom" in 1965, she earned strong reviews for her touching performance in "My Sweet Charlie", for which she won the 1967 Theatre World Award for "promising new artist". In it, she played a pregnant young Southern girl on the lam with a black lawyer. Patty Duke recreated the role a few years later on TV and captured an Emmy. Films beckoned at this point and Bonnie made her debut lending topnotch support in The Gypsy Moths (1969) which reunited From Here to Eternity (1953) stars Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. She earned even better marks in her next two films, one performance simply haunting and the other one hilarious. Once again playing pregnant and once again delivering a touching pathos, she played the dirt-poor marathon dancer who pitches songs for pennies and the almost-mother of Bruce Dern's child in the superb, award-winning, Depression-era drama They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). On the other end of the acting spectrum, she played the lovable bride-to-be in the side-splitting comedy classic Lovers and Other Strangers (1970). By this time, Bonnie had started concentrating on family values. She married scriptwriter Ken Luber on April 24, 1969, and bore him a son, Yuri, the following year. The time off to focus on motherhood (she had second son, Jonah Luber, in 1976) proved detrimental to her rising star. The remaining decade was uneventful at best, despite some fine showings in a splattering of TV-movies. Her big comeback came again on the movie trail in the early 1980s when she absolutely nailed the role of race car driver Shirley Muldowney in Heart Like a Wheel (1983). She was surprisingly overlooked at Oscar time, however, despite the praise she received. Despite respected work in subsequent movies such as Violets Are Blue... (1986), The Prince of Pennsylvania (1988), Presumed Innocent (1990) and a running role as Bruce Willis's put-upon wife in Die Hard (1988) and its sequel, she found better and more frequent parts on TV. She found her niche in TV-movies with social themes and tugged at more hearts in Switched at Birth (1991), A Mother's Right: The Elizabeth Morgan Story (1992), Any Mother's Son (1997) and To Live Again (1998). In a change of pace, Bonnie joined the ensemble cast of the low-budget cult comedy Sordid Lives (2000), as "Latrelle", a homophobic woman dealing with her mother's death, the imprisonment of her gay brother and her own son's "coming out". The movie has recently evolved into a TV series, which is scheduled for some time in 2008 and reunites her with original cast members Leslie Jordan and Olivia Newton-John. Divorced from the father of her two children, she is presently married to third husband (or fourth, depending on your source of reference) actor Michael MacRae, whom she married in 1995.