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Faye Dunaway Young: A Look Back at the Hollywood Legend’s Long Career

A new documentary about her extraordinary life will hit HBO later this year!

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Faye Dunaway is a name synonymous with Hollywood glamour and acting prowess, and over the course of more than five decades, the star of era-defining movies like Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Network (1976) and Mommie Dearest (1981) has become known as a legend who brings her all to every role. 

Looking back at her long career, Dunaway, now 83, has attributed her staying power to her intense work ethic, saying, “Work is a salvation. Work is how you connect with who you are, no matter how painful it might be.”

Here’s a look back at some of the impressive work Faye Dunaway put into her career in the ’60s, ’70s and beyond.

Faye Dunaway young

Dorothy Faye Dunaway was born on January 14, 1941, in Bascom, Florida, a small town in the northwestern part of the state. Dunaway’s journey into acting began during her college years. She attended Florida State University and later the University of Florida, where she initially studied education but soon shifted her focus to theater.

Faye Dunaway in 1965
Faye Dunaway in 1965Hulton Archive/Getty

Her professional acting debut came shortly after graduation, when she joined the American National Theater and Academy. Dunaway’s first notable stage role was in the 1962 production of A Man for All Seasons. Her performance garnered attention and led to more opportunities on the stage.

Faye Dunaway young: Her big break

Dunaway’s big break in film came in 1967, when she was cast as Bonnie Parker in Arthur Penn‘s Bonnie and Clyde. It was only her third role, and she beat out established stars like Jane Fonda and Natalie Wood for the part.

MUST-READ: The Extraordinary Life and Tragic Death of Natalie Wood

While Bonnie and Clyde was based on the story of real-life Depression-era bank robbers, it perfectly captured the rebellious, countercultural spirit of the ’60s, thanks to Dunaway and Warren Beatty‘s charismatic performances.

Bonnie and Clyde made Dunaway a household name, as it showcased her bold onscreen style and ability to portray multifaceted characters. The film was both a critical and commercial success, earning several Academy Award nominations and winning two. Dunaway herself received her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress, catapulting her into the spotlight at the age of 27.

The actress and Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) moviestillsdb.com/Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

Faye Dunaway young: ’70s stardom

The success of Bonnie and Clyde opened the doors to a series of high-profile roles for Dunaway. She starred in a string of critically acclaimed films and became known as one of the screen icons of the decade.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Dunaway starred opposite Steve McQueen in this stylish heist film, showcasing her ability to hold her own against leading male actors.

Faye Dunaway in 'The Thomas Crown Affair' (1968)
Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)moviestillsdb.com/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Little Big Man (1970)

Dunaway played a reverend’s wife who later becomes a prostitute in this revisionist Western film from Bonnie and Clyde director Arthur Penn.

The actress in Little Big Man (1970)
Faye Dunaway in Little Big Man (1970)moviestillsdb.com/National General Pictures

Chinatown (1974)

Directed by Roman Polanski and set in ’30s LA, this complex neo-noir mystery featured Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray, a femme fatale who hires a private investigator (Jack Nicholson) to follow her husband.

The twisty, stylishly shot film earned Dunaway her second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Chinatown is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time, and Dunaway has said that despite epic clashes with Polanski on the set, the movie was “possibly the best film I ever made.” 

Faye Dunaway in 'Chinatown' (1974)
Faye Dunaway in Chinatown (1974)moviestillsdb.com/Paramount Pictures

The Towering Inferno (1974)

Dunaway joined an all-star ensemble cast in this disaster film, which became a major box office success.

MUST-READ: ‘The Towering Inferno’ Cast: A Look Back At Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire and More!

Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in 'The Towering Inferno' (1974)
Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen in The Towering Inferno (1974) moviestillsdb.com/Warner Bros

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

In this tense political thriller, Dunaway starred opposite Robert Redford, further cementing her status as a leading lady in Hollywood.

MUST-READ: Robert Redford Young: 20 Rare Photos of The Handsome Icon Who Stole Our Hearts

The actress in Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Faye Dunaway in ‘Three Days of the Condor’ (1975) moviestillsdb.com/Paramount Pictures

Network (1976)

The pinnacle of Dunaway’s ’70s career came with her performance as Diana Christensen, an intense programming chief at a TV station, in Network.

Directed by Sidney Lumet, Network was a bitingly satirical take on the media, and Dunaway’s portrayal of the ruthless TV executive won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. The role demonstrated her ability to delve into complex, morally ambiguous characters, earning her widespread acclaim. Her performance still feels deeply relevant decades later.

Faye Dunaway in 'Network' (1976)
Faye Dunaway in Network (1976)moviestillsdb.com/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Dunaway in the ’80s

The ’80s was a mixed bag for Dunaway, marked by both successes and challenges. She continued to work steadily, but didn’t quite achieve the heights of the previous decade.

Mommie Dearest (1981)

In Mommie Dearest, Dunaway took on the challenging role of Joan Crawford. The film was based on a high-profile memoir by Crawford’s daughter, Christina, which detailed the actress’ abusive behavior.

While the film received mixed reviews, it became a cult classic. Dunaway’s over-the-top performance was unforgettable, though it also typecast her in a certain light and impacted her career trajectory.

MUST-READ: Joan Crawford Movies: 17 of the Hollywood Golden Age Icon’s Most Memorable Roles

The actress in 'Mommie Dearest' (1981)
Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest (1981)moviestillsdb.com/Paramount Pictures

Barfly (1987)

Dunaway then appeared in movies like The Wicked Lady (1983) and Supergirl (1984), both of which were box office flops. She then costarred opposite Mickey Rourke in Barbet Schroeder‘s Barfly, a film based on the life of the controversial poet Charles Bukowski. Her performance was praised for its depth and rawness.

Faye Dunaway in 'Barfly' (1987)
Faye Dunaway in Barfly (1987)moviestillsdb.com/The Cannon Group, Inc.

Despite her success, Dunaway’s career faced hurdles, particularly following the polarizing reception of Mommie Dearest. However, she continued to demonstrate her resilience and commitment to her craft.

When asked why she took on certain characters, she said, “Those were the hot roles, and I’m glad I got them. It made a career, and I did them well, well at least I think I did.”

Dunaway in the ’90s

The ’90s marked a period of reinvention and resurgence for Dunaway. She diversified her roles and explored different genres, appearing in both film and TV.

Arizona Dream (1993)

Directed by Emir Kusturica, this surrealist comedy-drama featured Dunaway alongside Johnny Depp and Jerry Lewis. While not a hit in the US, the indie art film was well-received in Europe and showcased Dunaway’s versatility.

The actress in 'Arizona Dream' (1993)
Faye Dunaway in Arizona Dream (1993)moviestillsdb.com/Canal +

Don Juan DeMarco (1995)

Dunaway played the wife of Marlon Brando‘s character in this modern retelling of the Don Juan tale. The film was a modest success and highlighted Dunaway’s ability to adapt to lighter roles.

Faye Dunaway in 'Don Juan DeMarco' 1995
Faye Dunaway in Don Juan DeMarco (1994)New Line Cinema/Getty

Gia (1998)

In this HBO biographical film about the troubled supermodel Gia Carangi (played by Angelina Jolie) Dunaway had a supporting role as model agent Wilhelmina Cooper. Dunaway won a Golden Globe for her performance.

Faye Dunaway and Angelina Jolie in 'Gia' (1998)
Faye Dunaway and Angelina Jolie in Gia (1998)moviestillsdb.com/HBO

Dunaway in the ’00s and beyond

In the ’00s, Dunaway continued to work in film and TV, taking on a mix of supporting and guest roles. Notable projects from this period included The Yards (2000) and The Rules of Attraction (2002).

Prior to that, she paid homage to her earlier career, when she made a cameo appearance in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.

Faye Dunaway in 2018
Faye Dunaway in 2018Taylor Hill/Getty

Personal life of Faye Dunaway young

Faye Dunaway’s personal life has been nearly as eventful as her career. She has been married twice. Her first marriage was to musician Peter Wolf, the lead singer of the J. Geils Band, from 1974 to 1979. Her second marriage was to photographer Terry O’Neill, with whom she has a son, Liam O’Neill, born in 1980.

The actress and Terry O'Neill in 1983
Faye Dunaway and Terry O’Neill in 1983Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty

Looking back at her the many handsome leading men she starred with — including Warren Beatty, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Johnny Depp, and Marcello Mastroianni (to name just a few), Dunaway said she managed to avoid having affairs with any of them, except one — Mastroianni, who she starred with in the 1968 film A Place for Lovers.

Asked about if she frequently got intimate with costars, the actress said, “You just don’t. I have a rule: You know it’s going to ruin the performance and ruin the movie, so you don’t do that.” 

In her 1998 memoir Looking for Gatsby, Dunaway admitted that she was more vulnerable than people may have realized, writing, “All my life, I’ve been the kind of person who could shatter easily. I’ve never been able to bear being hurt, so rather than feel any kind of emotional pain, I’ve usually snipped off that kind of relationship, even friendships, and just closed myself in and everyone else out.”

Faye Dunaway and her son, Liam Dunaway O'Neill, at the Cannes Film Festival in 2024
Faye Dunaway and her son, Liam Dunaway O’Neill, at the Cannes Film Festival in 2024Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Now in her 80s, Faye Dunaway is still going strong. Even though she was labeled difficult by some costars and directors in the past, she’s owned up to her behavior. In fact, the world will soon get an intimate glimpse into the often misunderstood actress’ life, with Faye, an upcoming HBO documentary detailing the star’s highs and lows.

Faye just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where Dunaway and her son hit the red carpet. The sure to be fascinating doc will be available to watch later this year. In anticipation of the film, we’ll definitely be revisiting some of her many classic roles.

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