Holly Hunter is only 5-foot-2, but on screen the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress packs a powerful punch, whether playing a baby-kidnapper, a TV news producer battling insecurity, a scene-stealing secretary, or a mute woman in thrall to her piano.
"I would say that even very ordinary people, upon closer examination, can often look extraordinary," Hunter told CBS News' Jane Pauley. "And I've played a lot of everyday kind of people who normally might not have a lens trained on them."
Pictured: Holly Hunter in "The Firm" (1993), for which she received one of her four Oscar nominations.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
The youngest of seven kids, Holly Hunter was raised on a farm in Conyers, Georgia. Freed from the kinds of chores that the boys had ("In that way, there was a sexism between what men could be raised to do that women could be raised to not do"), she joined her school's drama club and fell in love with "making things up."
School plays led to drama school, which led to theater in New York.
After her screen debut in the 1981 horror flick "The Burning," Hunter had small roles in the TV films "Svengali" and "An Uncommon Love," and appeared in the Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell film "Swing Shift."
She was asked by the Coen Brothers to appear as the lead in their crime thriller "Blood Simple," but as she was committed to a play, she suggested her roommate, Frances McDormand, instead. Hunter managed to appear in the film anyway, as the voice in an answering machine message.
"You go right back up there and get me a toddler!"
Hunter's breakthrough role (one written especially for her) was in the Coen Brothers comedy "Raising Arizona" (1987), as a police officer who, with her recividist husband (Nicolas Cage), decides to end their childlessness by kidnapping one of a set of quintuplets.
"I have passed some line, some place. I am beginning to repel people I'm trying to seduce."
Hunter became a bona fide star in "Broadcast News," opposite Albert Brooks and William Hurt, bringing to her performance her self-doubt about playing a TV news producer troubled by insecurity, and by her romantic flutterings for a TV newsreader (Hurt).
To assist, she shadowed the film's technical advisor and associate producer, Susan Zirinsky, who was a producer at CBS News' Washington bureau. "I took copious notes," Hunter told Jane Pauley, "because, you know, it's a daunting thing to have to, one, be smarter than Bill Hurt, and two, pretend to do something that you don't do.
"I like to do research; it gives me a sense of ownership. That's very powerful for me as an actor to just own it. And so I have to go through a series of steps to own it."
Hunter won Best Actress Awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association for her performance in "Broadcast News," and earned Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.
Reunited in the CBS Newsroom in New York City in March 2016, Holly Hunter and Susan Zirinsky (far right) attracted some attention, from CBS News' Bob Schieffer: "You know, it's so nice to talk to someone who doesn't have an accent," he said of Hunter.
"End of the Line"
In "End of the Line" (1987) Holly Hunter played the daughter of Wilford Brimley, a railroad worker who tries to save his job by hijacking a train.
"End of the Line"
Holly Hunter in "End of the Line."
"I can't be with a guy that looks like I won him in a raffle."
In "Always" (1989), director Steven Spielberg's semi-remake of the wartime drama "A Guy Named Joe," Richard Dreyfuss plays a pilot killed in a firefighting operation, who returns from Heaven to watch another young pilot (Brad Johnson) romance his surviving girlfriend (Holly Hunter).
"Miss Firecracker" (1989), adapted by Beth Henley from her play, stars Holly Hunter as a young Mississippi pageant hopeful.
Holly Hunter in the 1989 film, "Miss Firecracker."
"Roe vs. Wade"
In the TV film "Roe vs. Wade" (1989), Holly Hunter played an unmarried, pregnant Texas woman (named Ellen Russell in the film) whose struggle to obtain an abortion in a state where it was illegal leads to a landmark Supreme Court decision, with the help of a determined lawyer (Amy Madigan).
Hunter (who met with the real-life "Jane Roe," and even wore some of her jewelry in the film) won an Emmy Award for her performance, and was nominated for a Golden Globe.
In the romantic comedy-drama "Once Around" (1991), Holly Hunter (pictured with Danny Aiello and Laura San Giacomo) knocks her family for a loop when she takes up with an older man (her "Always" costar Richard Dreyfuss).
"Crazy in Love"
Holly Hunter and Gena Rowlands starred in the 1992 TV film "Crazy in Love," based on the Luanne Rice novel.
"I love your crooked little mouth."
"Well, it's not my best feature."
In "The Firm" (1993), based on the John Grisham legal thriller, Holly Hunter played the colorful secretary of a private investigator (Gary Busey), who may be key to helping a young attorney (Tom Cruise) survive threats from the mob, the FBI and his own law firm.
Hunter earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.
In Jane Campion's period drama "The Piano" (1993), Holly Hunter plays a mute woman who travels across the globe from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) to marry a New Zealander (Sam Neill). But when her precious piano is sold to a former sailor (Harvey Keitel), she offers piano lessons as a means to win back her instrument -- lessons which soon develop into a physical relationship.
Holly Hunter won the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in "The Piano" (in which she only used sign language, and performed her own piano pieces), while Anna Paquin won Best Supporting Actress for her very first film role -- at 11, the second-youngest actor to win an Oscar.
The two are joined by writer-director-producer Jane Campion, who received three Oscar nominations, and won for Best Original Screenplay.
"The things you do for your kids!"
From the annals of "it's too crazy to be true, but it is" stories, Michael Ritchie's "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom" (1993) told the true tale of Wanda Holloway (Holly Hunter), who was so determined to see her daughter (Frankie Ingrassia) succeed in the arena of high school cheerleading that she plotted to have her chief rival assassinated. Hunter won her second Emmy Award for her performance.
Actress Holly Hunter poses for photographers as she arrives at the 46th annual Prime Time Emmy Awards in Pasadena, Calif., Sunday Sept. 11, 1994.
In "Copycat" (1995), Holly Hunter and Sigourney Weaver and a San Francisco detective and a criminal psychologist trying to track down a serial killer.
"Home for the Holidays"
"Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That's what the day's supposed to be all about, right? Torture."
Directed by Jodie Foster, "Home for the Holidays" (1995) stars Holly Hunter as a single mom who returns home for Thanksgiving where, amid the usual family tensions, she gets to hang out with her gay brother (Robert Downey Jr).
David Cronenberg's sexual drama "Crash" (1996), based on J.G. Ballard's novel, stars James Spader and Holly Hunter as fetishists who take pleasure from car wrecks.
"A Life Less Ordinary"
"Jeopardy ... always works."
Don't let the guns fool you: In "A Life Less Ordinary" (1997) Holly Hunter plays an angel assigned to make sure Ewan McGregor falls in love with Cameron Diaz (which you'd think wouldn't require physical threats).
"Living Out Loud"
"When you're laying in the gutter, you can see underneath people better than usual."
In "Living Out Loud" (1998), written and directed by Richard Lagravenese ("The Fisher King"), Holly Hunter is a woman trying to find purpose after being left in the lurch by her doctor-husband.
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
"Vernon here's got a job. Vernon's got prospects. He's bona fide. What are you?"
In the Coen Brothers' farcical "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (2000), escaped convict George Clooney tries to make amends with his wife (Holly Hunter), who has taken up with another man.
"Harlan County War"
Holly Hunter received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for the 2000 TV movie "Harlan County War," about a Kentucky woman who promotes a strike following the death of her mine-worker husband.
"Is there justice?"
"For criminals, yes. But for the rest of us? Not unless there's a God."
In "Levity" (2003), Billy Bob Thornton plays a murderer released from prison who, in pursuit of redemption, seeks friendship with the sister (Holly Hunter) of the young man he'd killed.
Actress Holly Hunter arrives September 9, 2003 for a screening of her film "Levity" at the Deauville festival of American cinema in Deauville, France.
Holly Hunter earned her fourth Oscar nomination for "Thirteen" (2003), in which she played the divorced mother of a teenager (Evan Rachel Wood) whose life spirals down into a miasma of drugs, sex and crime.
Actress Holly Hunter attends the 76th annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater on February 29, 2004 in Hollywood, California.
"Little Black Book"
"Knowledge is a terrible, and marvelous, thing."
In the satire "Little Black Book" (2004), Brittany Murphy tries to get to the bottom of her commitment-phobic boyfriend by delving into the secrets of his past girlfriends, with the encouragement of a coworker (Holly Hunter).
"Girls, come on. Leave the saving of the world to the men? I don't think so."
Holly Hunter provided the voice, if not the hips, of the superhero Elastigirl in the Pixar animated comedy "The Incredibles" (2004).
"By The Bog Of Cats"
After appearing on Broadway in "Crimes of the Heart," "The Wake of Jamey Foster" and "The Play What I Wrote," Holly Hunter made her West End debut in 2004 in the London production of "By the Bog of Cats" (with Gordon MacDonald), at Wyndham's Theatre.
"The Big White"
In the dark comedy "The Big White" (2005), Robin Williams plays a travel salesman whose plot to swindle an insurance company over his missing-presumed-dead brother only leads to complications involving gangsters, a mistress, and his wife (Holly Hunter, pictured).
You have the right to remain silent, punk! In the crime series "Saving Grace," Holly Hunter played an Oklahoma City detective whose hard drinking and hard loving only slightly get in the way of her doing her job -- even as an angel makes recurring appearances hoping she'll change her ways.
Hunter earned nominations for three Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Emmys and a Golden Globe.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Actress Holly Hunter poses after being honored by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in Hollywood, California, May 30, 2008.
"Bonnie & Clyde"
In the miniseries "Bonnie & Clyde" (2013), Holly Hunter played Emma Parker, mother of Bonnie (Holliday Grainger).
"Top of the Lake"
In the Jane Campion miniseries "Top of the Lake" (2013), about the police search for a missing teenage girl, Holly Hunter played the androgynous leader of a retreat for troubled women. She earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for her performance.
"Top of the Lake"
Actresses Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter speak onstage at the "Top of the Lake" panel discussion during the Sundance Channel portion of the 2013 Winter Television Critics Association Tour at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Calif., January 5, 2013.
In "Manglehorn" (2014), Al Pacino stars as a recluse who begins a tentative friendship with a bank teller (Holly Hunter).
"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"
In "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" (2016), Hunter plays a U.S. Senator whose committee is investigating the potential threat to Earth from the Kryptonian Kal-El, a.k.a. Superman (Henry Cavill).
"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"
Actress Holly Hunter attends the "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" presentation during Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in San Diego.
The actress has three more films in the works, including "Weightless" (directed by Terrence Malick), "Strange Weather," and "Breakable You."