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Jessica Lange Young: 11 Throwback Photos of the Stunning ‘King Kong’ Starlet

See the award-winning actress throughout the early days of her career!

A young Jessica Lange, born and raised in Minnesota, became a face few could forget when she was cast in King Kong in 1976, but before making a career for herself on the screen, she met a man named Paco Grande while studying at the University of Minnesota who would eventually become her husband.

I’ve never met anybody like Paco,” she said in a 1991 interview with Vanity Fair, after they had separated and divorced in 1982. “He’s always lived exactly the way he’s wanted to, never worked, always been involved in an artistic endeavor. Our life together was completely unconfined. We were always outside the law. He was extremely, you know, double Scorpio.”

Dropping out of college, she and Grande embarked on travels throughout the US, Mexico, and eventually, Paris, where Jessica Lange would be connected with the Wilhelmina modeling agency. While her work at the time consisted more of waitressing and less of modeling after returning to New York, it wasn’t too long before she caught the eye of King Kong producer Dino DiLaurentiis, who cast her in her pivotal role.

I was a waitress. I was at the agency — if they ever would’ve gotten me a job — but I wasn’t the model type. I was much too short and never thin enough…But Dino called all the agencies, he was auditioning everybody in the world for that part,” Lange recalled to Vanity Fair in 1991 the process leading up to the casting that would change her life.

Jessica Lange, King Kong, 1976
Jessica Lange, King Kong, 1976FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

Jessica’s life and career after King Kong

King Kong was a blockbuster hit, but Lange’s performance didn’t result in rave reviews. In spite of this, she still earned the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year. Her next role came in 1979, in Bob Fosse‘s All That Jazz as Angelique.

Roy Schneider and Jessica Lange, All That Jazz, 1979
Roy Schneider and Jessica Lange, All That Jazz, 1979Images/Getty Images

Films that followed throughout the 80s included How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), which Lange reportedly beat out Meryl Streep for and starred opposite Jack Nicholson. Her performances in these films led her to her next role in Frances (1982) and soon after, Tootsie (1982). She went on to be nominated for two Academy Awards in the same year for her work in these films, winning Best Supporting Actress for her part in Tootsie opposite Dustin Hoffman.

Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie, 1982
Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie, 1982Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

The year of 1984 brought Lange yet another Academy Award nomination for her role in Country (1984) and in 1985, she portrayed Patsy Cline in the film Sweet Dreams. Some of her other most notable films include 1991’s Cape Fear, Blue Sky in 1994, Titus in 1999 and Big Fish in 2003.

Related: Patsy Cline Songs, Ranked: 10 Classics That Can Get You Through Any Heartache

Jessica Lange today

In recent years, Lange made a transition into television, kicked off with various roles in American Horror Story between 2011 and 2015, and again in 2018 when she revived her season one role.

You know, when I originally agreed to do this, it was for one season. (I thought) ‘this will be interesting to try this. I’ve never done this kind of television before,'” she told Deadline in 2015.

“Then I had such a great time doing it the first year, when they approached me to do it again I thought, ‘well okay, maybe we can do it season to season.’ Instead, I agreed to do three more seasons. And that was fine because I’ve had just such a great time doing it. I have no regrets or second thoughts about that decision. But there’s always an end to everything,” she said.

Additional recent roles have been in series including Horace and Pete, Feud and The Politician. Her most recent role was in 2022’s Marlowe. Here, take a look at the star over the years and some of our favorite photos of Jessica Lange as a young actress!

1976: Jessica’s breakout role

Jessica Lange, King Kong, 1976
Jessica Lange, King Kong, 1976Dino De Laurentis Company/Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

See Jessica Lange as a young actress starring in her breakout role in King Kong. Lange recalled her confidence prior to getting the part to Vanity Fair in 1991.

Foolhardily, I believed I could do anything. I walked into this cattle call, weighing 114 pounds, looking different than the other girls — a lot of big, buxom blondes. Just from sight they weren’t interested in me.”

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She continued, “By the time it was my turn, the director had already gone. I did a screen test with the assistant director, who called the director and said, ‘You better come down here and see this screen test,’ and I did it all over again because they called Dino.” And the rest is history.

1981: Jessica and Jack

Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson, The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1981
Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson, The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1981Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

In the 1981 film noir, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Jessica Lange stars as an unhappy wife to the owner of a diner. When Jack Nicholson’s character makes his way to the diner one day, he soon becomes employed there and the two begin a tumultuous and dangerous affair.

1982: Jessica stuns as a soap star in Tootsie

Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, Tootsie, 1982
Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, Tootsie, 1982Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

Lange starred as an actress named Julie in Tootsie opposite Dustin Hoffmann. Hoffmann plays an actor who disguises himself as a woman named Dorothy Michaels for the sake of getting an acting job.

1982: Lange stars as Farmer

Jessica Lange, Frances, 1982
Jessica Lange, Frances, 1982Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Lange starred in the biopic Frances, the biographical story of Frances Farmer, a 1930s era actress who endured difficult mental health struggles.

1983: Young Jessica Lange brings home the gold

Jessica Lange poses backstage after winning Best Supporting Actress at the 55th Academy Awards, 1983
Jessica Lange poses backstage after winning Best Supporting Actress at the 55th Academy Awards, 1983Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Jessica Lange took home the prestigious award for her role in 1982’s Tootsie.

1984: Young Jessica Lange shines alongside Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange, Country, 1984
Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange, Country, 1984Paramount/Getty Images

Jessica Lange starred alongside Sam Shepard in the 1984 film Country, which told the story of a family struggling to keep their farm afloat. Shepard, who passed away in 2017, maintained a long romantic relationship with Lange, the pair having two children together.

1986: Lovely ladies of Hollywood

Sally Field, Meryl Streep and 1986
Sally Field, Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange, 1986Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The three Hollywood starlets enjoyed each other’s company at a party in the wake of the Academy Awards in 1986. Is it possible for one table to have too much talent?

Related: 14 Must-See Photos of Young Sally Field that Prove She Was Born to Be a Star

1988: Young Jessica Lange is a leading lady once again

Dennis Quaid Everybody's All-American, 1988
Dennis Quaid and Jessica Lange, Everybody’s All-American, 1988Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Jessica stars alongside Dennis Quaid in Everybody’s All-American, a sports drama where she stars as the wife of a college football hero whose life unravels in ways he didn’t anticipate.

Related: Dennis Quaid Opens Up About His Faith Journey: “I Was Sitting Too Close to the Devil”

1991: Another revered role

Juliette Lewis and Cape Fear, 1991
Juliette Lewis and Jessica Lange, Cape Fear, 1991Universal/Getty Images

Lange stars alongside Robert De NiroNick NolteJoe Don Baker and Juliette Lewis in the 1991 psychological thriller, Cape Fear.

1994: A classic beauty

Tommy Lee Jones, Blue Sky, 1994
Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones, Blue Sky, 1994Artisan Entertainment/Getty Images

Tommy Lee Jones stars in Blue Sky as a military nuclear engineer with Lange as his mentally ill wife, who fails to fit the mold of the others around them after they move to a base in Alabama.

1995: Lange takes on the Highlands

Rob Roy, 1995
Jessica Lange and Liam Neeson, Rob Roy, 1995United Artists/Getty Images

Lange takes on a new era in this historical drama, Rob Roy, taking place in 18th century Scotland.

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