Remembering Misty Upham

20 Oct

How shocked was I to read that actress Misty Upham was found dead late last week. Apparently, she had been missing since early October, which I also didn’t know. Her body was discovered not too far from her home in Washington state.


Misty Upham (1982-2014). Here she is at the 2013 premiere of August Osage County, playing caretaker to Oscar nominee Maryl Streep’s venomous, cancer ravaged matriarch. Upham also confronted pervy Dermot Mulroney in one memorable scene. The actress recently completed filming Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston.

Upham was hardly a household name, but the Native-American had amassed a considerable filmography in a relatively short period. After toiling in television early in her career, she moved to feature films and made a memorable impression in 2008’s harrowing Frozen River opposite Oscar nominee Melissa Leo as a desperate single mom whose path crosses Upham’s. The two form an uneasy alliance, transporting illegal aliens from Canada into upstate New York. This grim wintry tale packs quite a wallop, and a lot of that comes from Upham who scored an Independent Spirit nomination in addition to claiming honors from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and the American Indian Film Festival. Not so incidentally, besides Leo’s Academy nod, writer-director Courtney Hunt competed for Best Original Screenplay honors.

From Frozen River, Upham went on to the likes of Django Unchained (2012), a major Oscar contender, and last year’s star-studded August: Osage County, in which she held her own up against a cast full of well seasoned hams, inclduing Oscar nominees Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. Happily, Upham shared a SAG nomination for ensemble acting with her high-profile co-stars.

Her IMDb filmography lists 18 acting credits, including Skins (2002), with Eric Schweig and Graham Greene, along with TV’s Big Love, but the fact that she made her mark in three Oscar contenders, earning a passel of honors along the way, indicates that she might have very well been on her way to true stardom and also makes the mysterious circumstances of her death at age 32 all the more puzzling. Early reports indicated a possible suicide though Upham’s dad released a statement indicating that his daughter died from a fall and that she had possibly been in hiding from the police.

In an era in which confusion seems to be the norm, we might never know the truth, and that saddens me a great deal. Frozen River, indeed. Rest in peace, dear Misty….

Meanwhile, if you haven’t see Upham and Leo in their remarkable combined effort, isn’t it about time?



Misty Upham at the Internet Movie Database:

Mr. Uphams’s statement in People



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