With nearly one hundred film and television roles to her credit, Parker Posey has given life to some of Hollywood’s most unconventional characters, ranging from a young woman obsessed with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (The House of Yes) to an ingénue getting her first taste of “Oscar buzz” (For Your Consideration). According to Debra Zimmerman, the executive director of Women Make Movies, “Parker Posey is the quintessential outsider.”
Posey was raised far from the grind of the show business. Named after 1950s supermodel Suzy Parker, Posey was born two months premature in Baltimore on 8 November 1968 and spent weeks in a hospital incubator. The family moved south when Posey was a child, first to Monroe, Louisiana, and then to Laurel, Mississippi, where her father, Chris, owned a car dealership and her mother, Lynda, was a chef. For an actor defined by the uncanny, in both the roles she chooses and how she approaches her career, Posey’s childhood, reported the New York Times, was “normal in the extreme.”
In fact the future “Queen of the Indies,” as Time magazine labeled Posey, struggled to find outlets for creative expression in her small-town surroundings. Posey channeled her energy into music, drama, and ballet. She applied to the dance program at the North Carolina School for the Arts but was rejected because the dean thought she would make a better actor. After graduating from high school in Laurel, Posey was accepted into the drama program at the State University of New York at Purchase.
During her senior year she won the role of Tess, a devious teen on the long-running CBS soap opera As the World Turns. A supporting part in Dazed and Confused (1993) soon followed. Her first lead role was as Mary in the independent film Party Girl (1995); subsequent roles in The House of Yes (1997) and Christopher Guest’s Waiting for Guffman (1996) helped cement her status as “the chain-smoking self-parodying star of low-budget” films.
Perhaps Posey drew inspiration for many of her quirky characters from her grandmother, a woman Biography magazine described as an “unconventional character” who would wear a “tight, ’40s looking skirt and a silk blouse and heels” around her house. According to Posey, her grandmother would “put her feet over her head and play tricks with me. She was very limber. She always painted her nails, and I’d do that, too.”
In addition to starring in three more of Guest’s mockumentaries (Best in Show , A Mighty Wind , and For Your Consideration ), Posey has appeared on the big screen in Superman Returns (2006), Broken English (2007), Ned Rifle (2014), and two Woody Allen films, Irrational Man (2015) and Café Society (2016), as well as numerous others. She has also appeared frequently on television, with recurring roles on Boston Legal, The Good Wife, Louie, and Lost in Space, and guest appearances on New Girl, Inside Amy Schumer, and Portlandia, among many others.
Posey once described herself as having had a “hidden career. Only a small group of people know about [my] films. I’m so on the fringe, I’m on the fringe of the fringe.”
- David Carr, New York Times (6 May 2007)
- Michelle Collins, Bust (January 2007)
- Stephen Holden, New York Times (17 November 2006)
- Rebecca Louie, Daily University Star (19 November 2002)
- Alissa Quart, Film Comment (November 2002)
- Michael Schulman, New York Times (2 July 2015)
- Harvey Solomon, Biography (January 1999)