The Chicago Music Consortium

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Nora Dunn


The Chicago Music Consortium Script Writer and Film Consultant


     This pretty, sharp-featured actress made a niche for herself playing funny, smart-mouthed character roles on TV and the big screen. A Chicago native, Dunn studied to be an artist before moving to California. By 1981, she was working as a stand-up comic. Dunn joined her hometown's Roxy cabaret in 1983 and moved East when she was cast in "Saturday Night Live" (NBC) in 1985. Her five year stint on the venerable sketch comedy show was relatively uneventful with her only memorable characters being obtuse talk show host Pat Stevens and one-half of the Vegas-style Sweeney Sisters act. In 1990, Dunn left the show shortly after boycotting an episode hosted by controversial comic Andrew Dice Clay.

   By the time of her "SNL" departure, Dunn had made a few other inroads in TV, guesting on such shows as "Get a Life" and "Civil Wars" and appearing on a handful of comedy specials. 1993 marked the beginning of a three-year run on the NBC drama "Sisters". Dunn played TV producer Norma Lear, who left her husband, came out as a lesbian and had an artificially-inseminated pregnancy.

Dunn's film career has consisted mostly of good, small character parts. She debuted as a bitchy office worker opposite Melanie Griffith in Mike Nichols' "Working Girl" (1988), followed by a small role in the comedy "How I Got Into College" (1989). A change of pace came with "Miami Blues" (1990), wherein Dunn was an Hispanic policewoman partnered with Fred Ward. Her next few films didn't amount to much: the flop Liza Minnelli vehicle "Stepping Out" (1991); the interesting but largely unseen short, "Walking the Dog" (also 1991); and a miniscule part in John Sayles' "Passion Fish" (1992). She once again played the bitchy foil to dumb blonde Griffith in "Born Yesterday" (1993), but this, as well as her next, "I Love Trouble" (1994) did not do well with critics or audiences. While Dunn filmed a role as a real estate agent for "Father of the Bride, Part II" (1995), the part was cut from the final film. She rebounded with a role in the dark political satire "The Last Supper" (1996).

Dunn continued to work steadily, although the quality and success of her projects was uneven at best: she appeared in Warren Beatty's political satire "Bulworth" (1998); the family film "Air Bud 2: Golden Receiver" (1998); and the broad beauty pageant farce "Drop Dead Gorgeous" (1999). She landed a plumb role as a battlefield newswoman in director David O. Russell's sublime action-comedy "Three Kings" (1999), but also appeared in Garry Shandling's comedic misfire "What Planet Are You From?" and the problematic Martin Lawrence-Danny DeVito collaboration "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" (2001). Next up were supporting roles in the kid-centered "Max Keeble's Big Movie" (2001), the saucy Sigourney Weaver-Jennifer Love Hewitt caper flick "Heartbreakers" (2001) and the extremely offbeat romantic comedy "Cherish" (2002).  After a string of low-profile turns, Dunn scored another high-visibility part in the zany Jim Carrey comedy "Bruce Almighty" (2003). 



April 29, 1952 in Chicago, Illinois

Job Titles:

Actor, Stand-up comic, Model, Waitress


Brother: Kevin Dunn. Born in 1956

Father: John Dunn. Died 1986

Mother: Margaret Dunn. Served as vice president of The Senior Center in Bothell, WA


Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, painting, 1970-1972

San Francisco City College, San Francisco, CA, acting

Academy of Fine Arts, Chicago, IL, painting

St Mary's Academy, Belleville, IL


1985 Joined cast of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" (through 1990)

1988 Film debut, "Working Girl"

1990 Boycotted episode of "Saturday Night Live" hosted by Andrew Dice Clay; eventually left the series

1992 TV-movie debut, "Mastergate" (Showtime)

1993 Primetime series debut as TV producer Norma Lear on "Sisters" (NBC)

1997 Wrote and performed in the stage show, "Small Prey"

1999 Featured in the critically acclaimed features "Drop Dead Gorgeous" and "Three Kings"

2000 Acted in the comedy "What Planet Are You From?"

2001 Had diverse parts in the comedies "What's the Worst that Could Happen?" and "Max Keeble's Big Move"

2003 Featured in the comedy "Bruce Almighty"

2003 Played Mrs. Carver in "The Hebrew Hammer"

2004 Had a small role as a Judge in the romantic comedy "Laws of Attraction," which starred Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore

2005 Cast opposite Courteney Cox in the drama "November"; premiered at Sundance

2007 Co-starred in Richard Kelly's ensemble film, "Southland Tales"

2008 Co-starred in David Gordon Greens film "Pineapple Express"

2009 Co-starred in John Hindman's film "The Answer Man"

2009 Starred in David Lee Miller's "My Suicide"


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