Contemporary American leading lady Mary McDonnell has not appeared in many films, but has already distinguished herself as a talent to be reckoned with. McDonnell began her career on the New York stage, appearing in Sam Shepard's Pulitzer prize-winning drama Buried Child. She then went on to play in many regional productions of classic plays. She first won critical acclaim for her film work in John Sayles' gritty drama Matewan (1987). This led her to play romantic leads in two subsequent films before she again won good reviews for her portrayal of a white woman raised by the Sioux in Dances With Wolves (1990).
- Made her stage debut in 1978, appearing in Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Buried Child.
- Was in the Portland Stage Company with Sarah Jessica Parker, and lived in the same apartment house.
- Taught drama at Vassar College summer theater in the mid-1980s, and later at the New York Stage and Film Company.
- Husband Randle Mell played a homeless man opposite her in the 1991 movie Grand Canyon.