Patricia Clarkson, the sultriest character actress

Although her breakthrough roles didn’t arrive until her late 30s, it didn’t take Patricia Clarkson long to establish herself as one of the most versatile and respected actresses of her generation, as well as a sex symbol to thinking persons of any gender.

In 1987's "The Untouchables" she was a patient wife to Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness, then on the TV series "Murder One," the less self-sacrificing wife to a more flawed great man (though, she once recalled, "I chopped more vegetables in a season of television..."). Her burgeoning career portraying long-suffering housewives was cut short by "High Art," the 1998 debut film from Lisa Cholodenko (who went on to direct "The Kids Are All Right"), where Clarkson's smoky voice lent a doomed glamour to the role of photographer Ally Sheedy’s drug-addicted muse.

At an age — 50, as she’ll tell you herself — when many actresses are struggling to find good roles, Clarkson is at her peak, playing complicated, sexually engaged women of the kind movies rarely make room for: She’s an American actress with a European career.

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