skip navigation
Jane Anderson

Jane Anderson

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Also Known As: Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: California, USA Profession: screenwriter, director, actor, stand-up comedian

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An award-winning, openly lesbian writer, Jane Anderson first garnered attention for her pungent and wittily observed teleplay for the 1993 HBO original "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom." Her script depicted the scrambling by American TV networks for the rights to the story and the aftermath of the crime yet never lost sight of the humanity of the individuals involved. Her efforts were highly praised (Variety called it a "formidable achievement") and Anderson netted a richly deserved Emmy award.The daughter of a Silicon Valley software designer and a housewife, Anderson was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. After a brief flirtation with college, she headed to NYC at age 19 to pursue an acting career. Almost immediately, she landed a role in the 1975 premiere of David Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago." The petite actress went on to develop her own stand-up comedy act as well as the one-person show, "How to Raise a Gifted Child" which brought her back to California. Anderson was a regular on the short-lived "The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour" (NBC, 1982) and segued to working behind the scenes in TV after becoming frustrated by the lack of decent parts....

An award-winning, openly lesbian writer, Jane Anderson first garnered attention for her pungent and wittily observed teleplay for the 1993 HBO original "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom." Her script depicted the scrambling by American TV networks for the rights to the story and the aftermath of the crime yet never lost sight of the humanity of the individuals involved. Her efforts were highly praised (Variety called it a "formidable achievement") and Anderson netted a richly deserved Emmy award.

The daughter of a Silicon Valley software designer and a housewife, Anderson was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. After a brief flirtation with college, she headed to NYC at age 19 to pursue an acting career. Almost immediately, she landed a role in the 1975 premiere of David Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago." The petite actress went on to develop her own stand-up comedy act as well as the one-person show, "How to Raise a Gifted Child" which brought her back to California. Anderson was a regular on the short-lived "The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour" (NBC, 1982) and segued to working behind the scenes in TV after becoming frustrated by the lack of decent parts. She created the failed sitcom "Raising Miranda" (CBS, 1988) and then went on to pen episodes of sitcoms like "The Facts of Life" and "The Wonder Years" before turning to the theater. Her first produced play was "Defying Gravity," a collage of impressions of the Challenger space shuttle disaster.

Commissioned to write a new play, Anderson turned to a friend's life for inspiration and wrote the adoption-themed drama "The Baby Dance" which premiered to good notices at the Balcony Theatre of the Pasadena Playhouse in 1990. Remounted Off-Broadway the following year with Stefanie Zimbalist and Linda Purl in the lead roles, the play was unjustly excoriated by the Gotham critics. Having rejuvenated her career in 1993, Anderson soon found herself in demand. She made her feature debut with the based-on-fact screenplay "It Could Happen to You" (1994) about a cop who tipped a waitress with a winning lottery ticket. The charming romantic comedy, though, didn't exactly click with audience at the cineplexes despite good notices. Her second feature effort, the adaptation of Whitney Otto's novel "How to Make an American Quilt" (1995) fared slightly better.

Anderson returned to the small screen with an adaptation of her play "The Baby Dance" (Showtime, 1998). Having attempted to conceive a child with her long-term partner, Anderson, in one of those life-imitating-art scenarios, finally adopted a son just as she got the green light to turn her play into a TV-movie. In an article written for The New York Times in August 1998, the writer admitted that her approach to writing and directing the piece for television had been influenced by the events in her own life: ." . , the true change in the piece is not literal. It's somewhere in the subtext . . . It's my story now. It's about my own unspeakable ache to love a child." The Showtime film, produced under the auspices of Jodie Foster's Egg Pictures and starring Stockard Channing and Laura Dern, received rave reviews and earned Anderson a pair of Emmy nominations for writing and directing.

Two years later, she wrote and directed the "1961" segment of the HBO anthology sequel "If These Walls Could Talk 2" (2000), a delicate piece that focused on an older woman (Vaness Redgrave) dealing with the death of her lifelong lesbian companion. Once again, the Television Academy gave Anderson an Emmy nomination for her teleplay. Anderson went on to write and direct "When Billie Beat Bobby" (ABC, 2001), a satirical mockumentary about the famed Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King (Holly Hunter) and Bobby Riggs (Ron Silver). She then wrote and directed "Normal" (HBO, 2003), about a husband and father (Tom Wilkinson) who suddenly announces to his family his desire for a sex change operation. It was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, while Anderson earned nominations from the Writers and Directors Guilds. Anderson made her feature film debut as a director with "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" (2005), a kid gloves drama about a 1950's housewife (Julianne Moore) whose talent for winning jingle-contests keeps her struggling family afloat while her bum of a husband (Woody Harrelson) drinks away his meager wages. Anderson followed that success with a stint on the writing staff of "Mad Men" (AMC 2007-2015) during the highly-acclaimed series' second season. She won her second Emmy award in 2015 for penning the miniseries "Olive Kitteridge" (HBO 2014), directed by Lisa Cholodenko.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  Normal (2003)
3.
  When Billie Beat Bobby (2001) Director
5.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
3.
 P.O.P. (1984)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Wrote and performed the one-woman show "How to Raise a Gifted Child"
2001:
Wrote the script for the ABC TV-movie "Battle of the Sexes" which depicted the events leading up to the 1972 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobbie Riggs; second collaboration with Holly Hunter who portrayed King
1975:
Landed first professional role in Off-Broadway production of David Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago"
:
Had first play, "Defying Gravity", a collage-like view of the Challenger disaster, produced
1986:
Scripted episodes of the NBC sitcom "The Facts of Life"
1984:
Served as producer, creator and writer of the CBS sitcom "Raising Miranda"; only seven episodes aired
1990:
Premiered stage play "The Baby Dance" at the Balcony Theatre of the Pasadena Playhouse; staged Off-Broadway in 1991 with Stefanie Zimbalist and Linda Purl
1982:
Was regular on the short-lived variety program "The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour" (NBC)
2008:
Was on the writing staff for "Mad Men" during the show's second season
2003:
Directed "Normal," the HBO adaptation of her play "Looking for Normal," starring Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson
1993:
Wrote the based-on-fact teleplay for the HBO movie "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom"; first collaboration with Holly Hunter
1995:
Scripted the film adaptation of the novel "How to Make an American Quilt"
1994:
Landed feature writing debut, "It Could Happen to You", based on a real-life event wherein a cop tipped a waitress with a winning lottery ticket
2005:
Helmed the adaptation of "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" based on a heartwarming memoir about an enterprising woman who supported her family during the contest era of the 1950s and 1960s
1998:
Landed TV directorial debut, the Showtime adaptation of her play "The Baby Dance"
2014:
Wrote the screenplay for HBO miniseries "Olive Kitteridge"
1994:
Produced one-act "Lynnette at 3 a.m." on stage in L.A. under the auspices of Showtime
1988:
Penned an episode of the ABC comedy series "The Wonder Years"
2000:
Wrote and directed the "1961" segment of the omnibus TV-movie "If These Walls Could Talk 2", about the lesbian experience in America; received an Emmy nomination for teleplay
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"Jane's voice is a unique one and long may it flourish. The only thing I worry about is that she's already itching to be a director, and then I'll lose a collaborator." --director Michael Ritchie to The Advocate, July 12, 1994.

"I think gay women, out or not, have been brilliant comedians because their point of view is twisted. A part of us can never participate completely in the world, so we've always been watchers. In high school, when I didn't date, I was a watcher--and that's what makes you a writer." --Jane Anderson to The Advocate, July 12, 1994.

"I've never been the kind of writer to fo trolling for material from my own life. Whatever drama I've lived I have no desire to relive it on the page. I'd rather slip into other worlds. That's what makes writing an adventure for me. And I suppose that's what also keeps it safe. . . ." --From "When a Playwright Ends Up Living Out Her Own Plot" by Jane Anderson, The New York Times, August 16, 1998.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Tess Ayers. Together since 1982; in 1992 had a "marriage" ceremony.

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Polly Anderson.
son:
Raphael. Born in Paraguay in 1994; adopted with companion Tess.

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute