An actress of striking beauty, impossible strawberry-blonde hair, and piercing blue eyes, Rebecca De Mornay’s compelling choice of roles shows an actress unafraid to take risks, even if those risks ultimately don’t pay off as anticipated. From an unhinged performance in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) to a touching turn as a cancer survivor on television’s popular ER, De Mornay has consistently proven herself adept at virtually any genre, and equally convincing no matter how unconventional each role may be. The Santa Rosa, CA, native’s parents divorced when she was just two, and three years later young Rebecca would assume the surname of her stepfather when adopted at age five. Following her primary education at England’s prestigious Summerhill Boarding School, the aspiring actress would earn her high school degree in Kitzbühel, Austria, where she graduated summa cum laude.
De Mornay’s training as an actress came when she enrolled in New York’s acclaimed Lee Strausberg Institute, and she was soon hired by Zoetrope Studios to appear in director Francis Ford Coppola’s romantic drama One From the Heart (1982). Though her role in that particular film was relatively minor, it was only a year later that the up-and-coming actress was making a splash in show business opposite Tom Cruise in the runaway box-office hit Risky Business. Subsequent roles in Testament (1983) and The Trip to Bountiful (1985) showed that De Mornay’s onscreen talent was no doubt growing, and following a high-profile role in the thriller Runaway Train (1985), she essayed a demanding role in the ambitious box-office failure And God Created Woman. Though De Mornay would strike big in the early ’90s with an intensely psychotic performance in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) and a solid supporting role in the previous year’s Backdraft, the remainder of the decade found her wallowing in a glut of low-budget thrillers attempting to capitalize on her frightful performance in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.
The new millennium found the talented actress still struggling to overcome her association with thrillers, and the heartwarming made-for-television drama Range of Motion proved without a doubt that she was indeed capable of greater things. Following a pair of impressive small-screen performances in A Girl Thing (2001) and Salem Witch Trials (2002), a virtually unrecognizable De Mornay turned up as a demanding screen diva in the 2003 sleeper thriller Identity. Outside of film work, De Mornay has been cited for her on-stage performances in the Pasadena Playhouse production of Born Yesterday, and in 1995 she made her directing debut with an episode of The Outer Limits entitled “The Conversation.” As of 2003, the fluent French and German speaking actress resided in Los Angeles with sportscaster husband Patrick O’Neil and the couple’s two daughters.