Jessica Phyllis Lange was born 1949 in Cloquet, Minnesota, to Dorothy Florence (Sahlman) and Albert John Lange, a traveling salesman and teacher. She is of Finnish (mother) and Dutch and German (father) descent. She obtained a scholarship to study art at the University of Minnesota, but instead went to Paris to study drama. She moved to New York City, working as a model for many years, until producer Dino De Laurentiis cast her as the female lead in King Kong (1976). The film attracted much unfavorable comment and, as a result, Lange was off the screen for three years. She was given a small but showy part in Bob Fosses All That Jazz (1979), before giving a memorable performance in Bob Rafelsons The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), as an adulterous waitress. The following year, she won rave reviews for her exceptional portrayal of actress Frances Farmer in Frances (1982) and a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her work in Sydney Pollacks Tootsie (1982) (as a beautiful soap-opera actress). She was also outstanding as country singer Patsy Cline in Karel Reiszs Sweet Dreams (1985) and as a lawyer who defends her father and discovers his past in Music Box (1989). Other important films include Martin Scorseses Cape Fear (1991) (as a frightened housewife) and Tony Richardsons Blue Sky (1994), for which she won a Best Actress Academy Award as the mentally unbalanced wife of a military officer. She made her Broadway debut in 1992, playing Blanche in Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire. In addition to acting, Lange is a photographer with two published works,and is a humanitarian, holding a position as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, specializing in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Congo and Russia.