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Why Leigh Bowden From Cape Fear Looks So Familiar

You'd be hard-pressed to find a filmmaker more revered in the industry than Martin Scorsese, and rightfully so, as the Oscar winner has directed some of the greatest movies ever made (i.e. "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas," and "The Irishman"). As it stands, Scorsese already is, and ever will be known as, one of the most important filmmakers who ever lived. The same may be said of his frequent star Robert De Niro, an actor of such stature he's inspired virtually every performer who's come after.

And the Scorsese and De Niro collaboration has indeed birthed a handful of legendary movies, though not all of their offerings are regarded as masterworks. One of the duo's more divisive films is 1991's "Cape Fear," a remake of a 1962 classic about a violent criminal who, after being released from prison, terrorizes the defense lawyer he believes didn't faithfully represent him during his trial. Scorsese's version of "Cape Fear" pit De Niro as said criminal and found the famed method actor in full scene-devouring mode, delivering a wildly over-the-top performance some critics believed pushed the film into the realm of camp (via Rotten Tomatoes). 

So showy is De Niro's performance, it wholly overshadows the solid work of his co-stars, including the actor who portrayed the wife of Nick Nolte's tormented attorney. If that actor's face looks familiar, that's because it belongs to a legit Hollywood legend. 

Jessica Lange was the beauty that killed the beast in 1976's King Kong

That actor's name is Jessica Lange, by the way. And she's a two-time Academy Award Winner who's made a name for herself in Hollywood for portraying strong-willed women. That's not entirely true of her breakthrough role, though, as 1976's "King Kong" remake found the actor portraying a bubbly, wannabe starlet who's eventually served up as a tribute to the mighty beast. As it happens, "King Kong" was Lange's first acting gig with the young star largely working as a model prior to landing the overtly sexualized part of Dwan — the remake's equivalent to Ann Darrow — in the film. While Lange definitely looks out of her element in "King Kong," her performance was mostly praised in critical circles (and even netted her a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut), even as the film itself was largely dismissed as a substandard remake with little to offer other than spectacle, per Rotten Tomatoes.  

As for Lange, the film seemed to ticket her for overnight stardom. But according to a web page about the actor (via the Wayback Machine), following "King Kong," she didn't book another acting gig for over two years and returned to return to New York to hone her new craft. That downtime paid off as she returned to the screen in triumphant form opposite Bob Fosse in his legendary 1979 musical "All That Jazz."  

Tootsie made an Oscar winner of Jessica Lange

Just a couple of years after her return to acting, Jessica Lange would become an Oscar winner for portraying another wanna-be starlet. Thankfully, 1982's groundbreaking comedy of gender politics, "Tootsie," found Lange as far away from gargantuan primates as possible, with the actor instead portraying Julie Nichols, a burgeoning soap opera star and single mother dealing with chauvinists of every shape size. Without spoiling too much of "Tootsie," we'll simply say life gets complicated for Julie when a talented actress named Dorothy is hired for a recurring role on her show. Unbeknownst to Julie or the rest of the soap's production team, Dorothy is actually Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), a talented but difficult actor who's taken desperate measures to finally land his big break.

"Tootsie" was released to critical acclaim in the waning days of 1982 (per Rotten Tomatoes), and went on to become one of the biggest box office hits of the year (via Box Office Mojo). While Dustin Hoffman's bravura turn is obviously the star of the show, some might argue Lange's soulful turn as Julie keeps the film grounded in a realm somewhere between high drama and high farce. And as it was, Lange notched the only win out of the 10 nominations "Tootsie" earned at the Academy Awards that year, taking home the statue for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.   

Jessica Lange has been a regular on Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story

Jessica Lange spent the bulk of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s being regarded as one of the pre-imminent actors in showbiz. Now into her seventh decade on Earth, she's understandably slowed her roll a bit, though most would argue she's still a formidable screen presence. Ryan Murphy is certainly among her biggest fans, as he's kept himself very much in the Jessica Lange business in the past decade, adding the legendary actor to his impressive ensemble of "American Horror Story" regulars over the years.

In fact, Lange was one of the horror anthology show's centerpieces in the first season, way back in 2011, when she appeared as Constance Langdon, a duplicitous character who ... well, her story is far too complicated to get into here. Apparently, Murphy and Lange hit it off during Season 1's production ,as he'd go on to cast her in different roles for Seasons 2, 3, and 4 of the anthology series. It seems that fruitful "AHS" partnership might've continued had the time-consuming rigors of television production not led Lange to step away from "American Horror Story" after her Season 4 run as "Freak Show" maven Elsa Mars (per Pop Sugar).     

Feud: Betty and Joan found Jessica Lange portraying a Old Hollywood icon

Though Jessica Lange ultimately left "American Horror Story" (save for a two-episode reprise in 2018), she has remained very much a member of Team Murphy, returning to the small screen for a 2017 project spear-headed by the super-producer. Said project was none other than Ryan Murphy's star-studded FX mini-series even "Feud: Bette and Joan," which pulled back the curtain on one of cinema's most bitter screen rivalries between Golden Age of Hollywood icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. 

Yes, Jessica Lange portrayed the infamously troubled Joan Crawford in the series. And no, Murphy could not have cast an actor better-suited for the part. Ditto for the actor cast as Bette Davis, with Susan Sarandon's fiery turn in the series complementing Lange's classic Hollywood grace in fascinating, occasionally frightening ways. As for "Feud," it follows the complicated production of the classic 1962 psychological thriller "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" which proved a late-in-the-game high point for both actors, eventually earning each an Academy Award Nomination.

As the series depicts, Crawford and Davis were hardly besties heading into the "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" production, and their behind-the-scenes feud quickly became the stuff of legend. Like the famed project at the heart of the mini-series, "Feud" proved a big hit for both Lange and Sarandon, though according to Murphy, the contemporary pair didn't do much feuding of their own behind the scenes (via E! Online).