Actress. Born June 15, 1963, in Culver City, California. The daughter of Gordon Hunt, an acting coach and theater director, and Jane Hunt, a photographer, Hunt grew up in Los Angeles and New York. She decided on an acting career early: by age nine, she had begun studying drama, had an agent, and had landed a role in the 1973 television movie Pioneer Woman. After appearing as an adolescent in such TV series as Amy Prentiss (1974-75), Swiss Family Robinson (1975-76), The Fitzpatricks (1977-78), and It Takes Two (1982-83), Hunt found a recurring role on the medical melodrama St. Elsewhere in 1982. She also earned acclaim for her role in the 1983 TV movie Quarterback Princess, in which she played a high school girl bent on leading her school’s otherwise all-male football team to the state championships.
Hunt made her feature film debut in 1977 with the forgettable film Rollercoaster. Though she had supporting roles in such films as Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985, starring Sarah Jessica Parker), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986, starring Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage), The Waterdance (1992, starring Eric Stoltz), and Mr. Saturday Night (1992, starring Billy Crystal), Hunt first earned star status for her role as smart urban career woman and wife Jamie Buchman on the much-loved TV sitcom Mad About You. Over the course of the show’s seven seasons (1992-99), Hunt won four consecutive Emmy Awards from 1996-99 and became one of America’s best loved television couples with costar Paul Reiser.
Hunt’s hard work and small-screen stardom finally translated to big-screen success in the latter half of the 1990s. In 1996, she starred opposite Bill Paxton in the summer action blockbuster Twister, which became one of the top-grossing movies of that year. A year later, she won acclaim from both critics and audiences—along with an Academy Award for Best Actress—for her star turn as a long-suffering single mother and waitress alongside Best Actor winner Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets (1997), written and directed by James L. Brooks.
Although her Oscar win sent Hunt straight to Hollywood’s A-list, she made her next starring appearance on stage, playing the androgynously charming Viola in an acclaimed 1998 production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. In 2000, she returned to the big screen with several long-awaited efforts, including Pay It Forward, costarring Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment; What Women Want, costarring Mel Gibson; Dr. T and the Women, starring Richard Gere; and Cast Away, costarring Tom Hanks and directed by Robert Zemeckis.
In 2001, Hunt costarred opposite writer-director Woody Allen in Allen’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, a 1940s-era detective comedy also featuring Dan Ackroyd and Charlize Theron.
Hunt, who previously dated her Project X costar Matthew Broderick, married her longtime boyfriend, actor Hank Azaria (The Birdcage, Mystery, Alaska), in July 1999. The couple separated in August 2000. In May 2004, Hunt and her beau, writer-producer Matthew Carnahan, welcomed a baby girl named McKenna.