Melissa Leo

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Award-Winning Actress

Melissa Leo: Biography at a Glance

  • Received an Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance in “The Fighter”
  • Starred in M. Night Shyamalan's “Wayward Pines”
  • Nominated for an Emmy for her work on the HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce”
  • Received Oscar and SAG nominations for her role in “Frozen River”
  • Additional film credits include “Prisoners,” “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” “Oblivion,” “Flight,” “The Butler” and “Olympus Has Fallen”


Melissa Leo received an Academy Award®, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® and a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for her tour de force performance in “The Fighter.”  She also received Oscar® and SAG Award® nominations for her starring role in “Frozen River,” for which she won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead and a Spotlight Award from the National Board of Review, among countless other accolades.  Leo also shared a Best Ensemble acting award from the Phoenix Film Critics Society for her outstanding work in “21 Grams,” opposite Benicio del Toro and Sean Penn.

Leo will appear in the upcoming independent thriller “Leave Not One Alive” opposite Bella Thorne. She recently starred as “Reverend Mother” in Sony Picture Classics’ “Novitiate” and portrayed the outspoken activist, “Madalyn Murray O’Hair” in Netflix’s “The Most Hated Woman in America.”  Leo was featured in Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” for which she was nominated for Best Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture from the Screen Actors Guild. Leo portrayed Oscar-winning documentarian, Laura Poitras, in Oliver Stone’s “Snowden.” Some of her recent credits include “Prisoners” opposite Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal; “Oblivion,” opposite Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman; the blockbuster “Olympus Has Fallen,” directed by Antoine Fuqua and its sequel, “London Has Fallen”; Robert Zemeckis’s critically acclaimed drama “Flight,” with Denzel Washington; “The Equalizer” which reunited her with both Fuqua and Washington. Leo will be reprised her role as CIA Operative Susan Plummer in “The Equalizer 2” and co-starred in IFC’s “Furlough.”

Other notable film work includes “Conviction,” with Hilary Swank; “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” in which she starred opposite Dwight Yoakam and Tommy Lee Jones, with Jones directing; and “Hide and Seek,” starring Robert De Niro. 

On the small screen, Leo will play the role of “Ma” opposite Mark Ruffalo in the upcoming HBO limited series, “I Know This Much is True.” She will also make an appearance in the Netflix anthology series “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings.” Leo starred as ‘Goldie’ in the Showtime series, “I’m Dying up Here,” executive-produced by Jim Carrey. Her previous credits include the HBO telefilm, “All The Way” from director Jay Roach which earned Leo a Primetime Emmy Nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her portrayal of ‘First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.’ Additionally, Leo earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her hilarious and outrageous performance on FX’s “Louie” which PEOPLE Magazine described as “the best in television all year.”  Leo earned a Best Supporting Actress Emmy nomination for her work in the HBO miniseries, “Mildred Pierce,” directed by Todd Haynes.  Leo is also known for her groundbreaking portrayal of Detective Kay Howard on “Homicide: Life on the Streets.”  Additional television credits include the HBO series “Treme” for David Simon and the FOX event series, “Wayward Pines.”

Leo studied drama at Mount View Theatre School in London, England, and later at the SUNY Purchase Acting Program.

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