In Praise of Sissy Spacek

Why doesn’t Texas’s greatest movie actress get the respect she deserves?
In Praise of 
Sissy Spacek
Illustration by Matthew Hollings

It may sound odd to suggest that Sissy Spacek has long been underrated as a performer. She has been nominated six times for the Best Actress Oscar, winning the prize for her transformative turn as Loretta Lynn in 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter. In an industry that tosses aside its leading ladies once they turn forty, the 62-year-old actress has sustained a four-decades-long career, often managing to connect with immensely gifted directors—Alan Rudolph ( Welcome to L.A.), Robert Altman ( 3 Women), Costa-Gavras ( Missing), and Bruce Beresford ( Crimes of the Heart)—just when their talent was reaching full flower.

Yet in a strange way Spacek, whose new memoir, My Extraordinary Ordinary Life (Hyperion, $26.99), arrives this month, has never entirely escaped the shadow of her first major roles. She was chilling as the impressionable girl who falls in love with a murderous drifter in Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973) and as the ugly duckling humiliated by

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