Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Ness' Wife From The Untouchables Looks So Familiar

There's plenty of characters and moments that are memorable in the 1987 action film "The Untouchables", whether it's Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) killing an associate with a baseball bat, or Sean Connery's questionably Irish-American character Jim Malone. Yet many of the scenes that provide the emotional ballast of the film are in the tranquility of Eliot Ness' home, symbolized by his loving, supportive wife Catherine (Patricia Clarkson) and their daughter.

The role of Catherine was, in fact, Clarkson's first film role after graduating from the Yale School of Drama. At the time, she was having trouble financially so director Brian DePalma kindly expanded her role so she could be paid for the whole month instead of only a few days of work (AV Club).

Clarkson wouldn't struggle for too long, however, as the 61 year old actress has worked more or less steadily in film and television since breaking hearts in "The Untouchables". Here's a few roles then you may recognize Patricia Clarkson from.

You may recognize Patricia Clarkson from The Maze Runner and Shutter Island

Even if you've seen her in other award-winning films besides "The Untouchables", Patricia Clarkson may be familiar to science fiction and YA fans thanks to the "Maze Runner" films, appearing in the first film in 2014 as the ruthless Ava Paige. Over the course of the three films, Paige is revealed to be the head of an organization which first built the dangerous "mazes" the main characters have to navigate. A villain in these kinds of dystopian films has to be truly ruthless, and Clarkson's brittle, cold inner strength as an actress is perfect for this kind of role. The result was a success, even if the sequels saw diminishing box office returns with each new entry in the franchise (per Box Office Mojo).

Clarkson also starred in Martin Scorsese's 2010 thriller "Shutter Island," if only briefly. Some audiences hated the twist ending, but it's impossible to deny the creepy energy of her scene with Leonardo DiCaprio ; her fear and desperation onscreen ultimately rivalled the depths of other Scorsese characters such as Travis Bickle and Henry Hill, even with far less runtime.

Patricia Clarkson has also been working in independent movies for years

While she's been in some bigger movies, Clarkson seems most comfortable working in independent and smaller films.

Since her breakthrough in 1995 indie "High Art," she's been nominated for and won several film awards, including Oscar notice for "Pieces of April." In the latter film, she plays Joy, a woman with terminal breast cancer going through her last Thanksgiving. Joy is dying but won't go gently into that good night, as she does drugs and snaps at her daughters, and Clarkson is of course very funny and poignant in her role. The result was an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

The acclaimed actress also fantastic in "Spotlight" director Tom McCarthy's dramedy "The Station Agent." Clarkson stars as Olivia, a mother grieving her child when she encounters Finbar (Peter Dinklage), a reserved man with dwarfism who now owns a nearby train depot. Together with Joe, a chatty food truck worker, the three form an unlikely but close bond. Critic William Thomas in Empire praised her performance in the film: "Clarkson gives her best here: tough but vulnerable, teetering on breakdown but somehow reined in by her own survival instinct." 

Patricia Clarkson is a fantastic television actress

While she's worked on the big screen a lot during her career and earned plenty of acclaim, Clarkson has also made plenty of excellent appearances on TV, going as far back as "Spenser: For Hire" in 1985.  From 2002 to 2005, the actress had a recurring role on HBO drama "Six Feet Under" as Sarah, Ruth Fisher's impulsive, New Age-y sister — a role for which she ultimately won two Emmys in 2002 and 2006.

But ultimately it was a pair of cold, cruel performances in the 2010's that cemented Patricia Clarkson as being a great television actress. First off, she plays the formidable original Tammy, ex-wife and former driving instructor to Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), on "Parks and Recreation." Then in 2018, she received a second Golden Globe nomination for the HBO series "Sharp Objects", where she stars as Adora, a Southern belle socialite filled with a terrifying, chilling resentment towards her children... especially Amy Adams' Camille. All three characters demonstrate Clarkson's chief gifts as a thespian – including her ability to captivate audiences even while her characters try to give nothing of themselves away – and why she's been receiving attention ever since "The Untouchables."