Mercedes J. Ruehl (born February 28, 1948) is an American theater, television, and film actor. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1992 for The Fisher King and a Tony Award for her performance in Lost in Yonkers in 1991.
Ruehl was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, the daughter of Mercedes J. Ruehl, a schoolteacher, and Vincent Ruehl, an FBI agent. She was raised Catholic. Her father was of German and Irish descent and her mother was of Cuban and Irish ancestry. Ruehl attended College of New Rochelle and graduated in 1969. She is married to painter David Geiser, with whom she adopted a son, Jake (born 1995). She had another son, Christopher, whom she placed in adoption in 1976; he later became Jake's godfather.
Her brother, Peter Ruehl, moved to Australia in 1987 where he was a popular newspaper columnist until his death in 2011.
Ruehl began her career in regional theatre with the Denver Center Theatre Company, taking odd jobs between engagements. Her first starring role on Broadway came in 1984's I'm Not Rappaport. She then went on to win the 1984 Obie Award for her performance in The Marriage of Bette and Boo and twenty years later, an Obie for Woman Before a Glass. She also received a 1991 Tony Award as Best Actress (Play) for Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers and continued her role in the show during its tour with co-star Mercedes McCambridge. Her performances in two other plays earned her two other Tony nominations: in 1995, as Best Actress (Featured Role – Play) for a revival of The Shadow Box; and in 2002, as Best Actress (Play) for Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?.
Her most acclaimed film role was in The Fisher King; her performance in the film earned her the 1991 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as an American Comedy Award, a Boston Society of Film Critics Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and a Golden Globe. Earlier she had won the 1989 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Married to the Mob. She played KACL station manager Kate Costas in five episodes of Frasier, and had a major role in the made-for-TV film All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story. She is the first Cuban-American female Academy Award winner. In 2005, she (along with Esai Morales) received the Rita Moreno HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors. She later played the mother of main character Vincent Chase in HBO's Entourage.
In 2009, Ruehl returned to the Broadway stage in Manhattan Theater Club's production of Richard Greenberg's The American Plan playing the role of Eva Adler. The production opened at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre and the limited engagement ran From January 22 until March 22. In his rave review in The New York Times, Ben Brantley called Ruehl's performance "masterly". Ruehl next appeared in the drama/horror film What Ever Happened to Barker Daniels?, which was released in 2009. In January 2012, Ruehl starred in Sarah Treem's play The How and The Why, directed by Emily Mann at McCarter Theatre of Princeton University.
Ruehl is appearing in the role of Ma in Harvey Fierstein's revamped and renamed revival of his play Torch Song Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater. The play began previews on September 26, and opens officially on October 19, 2017.
Though not a singer herself, Ruehl was involved in the production of the album Haunted by Poe; she also reads passages from the book House of Leaves by Poe's brother Mark Z. Danielewski on the CD Don't be Scared, issued to cross-promote both projects.
Awards and nominationsYear Title Accolade Results 1989 Married to the Mob National Society of Film Critics award, Best Supporting Actress Won 1991 The Fisher King Boston Society of Film Critics award, Best Supporting Actress Won Lost in Yonkers Drama Desk award, Outstanding Actress in a Play Won The Fisher King Los Angeles Film Critics Association award, Best Supporting Actress Won Lost in Yonkers Tony award, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play Won The Fisher King Venice Film Festival award, Best Lead Actress Won 1992 Academy award, Best Supporting Actress Won American Comedy award, Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Won Chicago Film Critics Association award, Best Supporting Actor Won Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association award, Best Supporting Actress Won Golden Globe award, Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Won Saturn award, Best Supporting Actress Won 1993 Boston Film Festival award, Film Excellence award Won 1995 Indictment: The McMartin Trial CableACE award, Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries Nominated The Rose Tattoo Drama Desk award, Outstanding Actress in a Play Nominated The Shadow Box Tony award, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play Nominated 2002 The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Tony award, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play Nominated 2006 Mom at Sixteen Prism award, Performance in a Television Movie or Miniseries Nominated 2007 A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story Imagen Foundation award, Best Actress - Television Nominated
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