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Piper Laurie, Oscar-nominated ‘Carrie’ actress, dies at 91

Piper Laurie, the actress best known for her roles in Carrie, Twin Peaks, and The Hustler, has died. She was 91.

The three-time Oscar nominee’s manager, Marion Rosenberg, confirmed the news to EW on Saturday, describing Laurie as “one of the most remarkable and versatile actresses of her day, a brilliant and creative mind, and a glorious human being.”

Born in Detroit in 1932, Rosetta Jacobs changed her name after landing a contract with Universal Pictures as a teen in 1949. The following year, she made her big-screen debut in the Ronald Reagan–fronted comedy Louisa. Laurie continued to find onscreen success over the next five years, starring alongside fellow Hollywood greats like Rock Hudson in 1952’s Has Anybody Seen My Gal, Tyrone Power in 1953’s The Mississippi Gambler, and Tony Curtis in 1954’s Johnny Dark.

Piper Laurie in ‘Carrie’.
United Artists/Archive Photos/Getty

Feeling stifled by her roles in Hollywood, Laurie traded in the Golden State for the Big Apple, settling down in New York City to explore work in television and theater. However, she was drawn back to the City of Angels by an offer to star as pool shark Eddie Felson’s (Paul Newman) girlfriend Sarah Packard in the Academy Award–winning 1961 drama The Hustler, which earned Laurie her first Oscar nomination.

Laurie would not appear in another film until 1976, when she transformed into Margaret White, the domineering religious fanatic mother of young Carrie (Sissy Spacek) in the horror film Carrie, based on the novel by Stephen King. Her terrifying performance in the Brian De Palma classic not only secured Laurie a place in the annals of horror history, but also her second Oscar nomination.

EW critic Owen Gleiberman praised Laurie’s Carrie performance in 2013, describing her as “a woman who asserts the force of ‘goodness’ with so much tyrannical passion that she turns it into evil,” and noting the incredible chemistry between her and Spacek.

“The weirdest thing about Carrie is that it has a built-in dimension of camp and kitsch, with Piper Laurie as a kind of fire-and-brimstone Mommie Dearest, yet the way that Laurie’s towering psycho-diva acting plays off Sissy Spacek’s trembly, forlorn, so-vulnerable-it’s-almost-naked performance is the opposite of kitsch,” he wrote. “No horror film I can think of has such a molten emotional core.”

Laurie would appear on the silver screen and on television over the next decade, receiving her third and final Oscar nomination for her role in the 1986 drama Children of a Lesser God. She won an Emmy award that same year for her performance in the television film Promise.

In addition to starring in Carrie, Laurie is also beloved for her performance as Catherine Martell in Mark Frost and David Lynch‘s cult-classic television series Twin Peaks, for which she won a Golden Globe in 1991.

She continued to star in spotlight roles on popular television series throughout the years like Frasier, Will & Grace, ER, Touched by an Angel, and MacGyver. She made her final onscreen performance as a grandmother in the Matthew McConaughey–led film White Boy Rick in 2018.

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