Frances McDormand was born in Chicago in 1957, and was adopted by Canadian minister Vernan McDormand and his wife Noreen, who raised her in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. She earned her B.A. in Theater from Bethany College in 1979 and her MFA from Yale in 1982.
Her career after graduation began onstage, and she has retained her association with the theater throughout her career. She soon obtained prominent roles in movies as well, first starring in Blood Simple. (1984), in which she worked with filmmaker Joel Coen, whom she married that year. She frequently collaborated with Coen and his brother Ethan Coen in their films.
McDormand's skilled and versatile acting has been recognized by both the critics and the Academy and, in addition to many critics' awards, she has been nominated for an Academy award four times - for Mississippi Burning (1988), Fargo (1996) (for which she won the Best Actress award), Almost Famous (2000) and North Country (2005).
Keenly intelligent and possessed of a sharp wit, McDormand is the antithesis of the Hollywood starlet - rather than making every role about Frances McDormand, Frances McDormand dissolves into the characters she plays. Accordingly, she has expressed some reservations about the iconic recognition she has gained from her touching and amusing portrayal of Police Chief Marge Gunderson, the quintessential Minnesota Scandinavian, in Fargo (1996).
McDormand and Coen adopted a son, Pedro, who was born in Paraguay, in 1994. They live in Manhattan.