Virginia Madsen

Virginia Madsens high school theater teacher, Suzanne Adams, has always been a free spirit. She studied in Switzerland. Acted in Chicago. Helped found a performing arts school in Uganda. And directed Virginia to higher planes. “She gave me the courage to be me—and all of the mes inside me.”

Behind Every Famous Person is a Fabulous Teacher.

Virginia Madsen and Suzanne Adams

A cool, classic beauty with a vibrant blonde mane and an exuberant flair for the dramatic, Virginia Madsen is one of Hollywood’s most versatile and unique actresses to date. Virginia received great reviews for her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated performance in Alexander Payne’s hit film, Sideways.

The Independent Spirit Award winning actress has an illustrious resume of acting roles alongside the most notable and respected actors in the business. In 2009, Virginia starred in the horror film The Haunting in Connecticut, which is about a family that begins experiencing supernatural behavior in their new home. From 2006-07, Madsen starred as Ray Liotta’s wife in producer John Wells’ fast-paced CBS drama, “Smith,” which tracks a diverse crew of career criminals as they plot and carry out high-stake heists across the country.

Madsen has worked in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker with Matt Damon, Rob Reiner’s Ghosts of Mississippi with Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg and James Woods, the cult classic Candyman with Kasi Lemmons, Dennis Hopper’s Hot Spot directed by Dennis Hopper, HBO’s first feature Long Gone and David Lynch’s Dune. Virginia’s versatility was seen in the independent film Almost Salinas opposite John Mahoney and in American Gun opposite Academy Award winner James Coburn.

In Firewall, Virginia plays the kidnapped wife of the head security executive for a global bank, who is ordered to steal millions of dollars in order to ensure his wife and children’s safety. From there, Madsen was directed by the legendary Robert Altman in A Prairie Home Companion opposite Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly. In this adaptation of America's most beloved radio personalities and acclaimed humorists, Madsen describes her character as a “dangerous woman” and an “angelic spirit” consumed with her fascination of the unusual collection of performances that take place around her. Madsen also stars in the Warner Independent Pictures film The Astronaut Farmer opposite Billy Bob Thornton. The film is about an eccentric farmer who dreams of space travel and sets out to build a rocket in his barn. Madsen plays Thornton’s wife, a woman who believes in her husband’s dreams against all odds. Virginia just finished shooting the New Line psychological thriller Number 23 opposite Jim Carrey. The film is slated for an early 2007 release.

Hailing from Illinois, Virginia grew up just north of Chicago. Her father was a fireman and her mother was an Emmy-Award winning filmmaker. As a child, she adored watching old black & white and silent films: “I was very artistic. I never ran around with the popular crowd,” admits Virginia. In high school, she turned to her high school drama department as an outlet to express herself: “I used it as a way to transform myself into something more. This rich cultural environment challenged me, my personality, and the image that I had of myself. It gave me strength of character.”

It was destiny for Virginia to become a star as her determination and talent quickly paid off. When a Polaroid of Madsen landed on the desk of the famed director David Lynch, he immediately cast her in his film Dune. Immediately following, Virginia landed a role in the first “computer” film, Electronic Dreams.

When Virginia became pregnant with her then-love interest, Antonio Sabato Jr., she put her successful career on hold and had a baby boy Jack. It wasn’t until Jack was in pre-school that the actress had notions of reentering into her Hollywood career. Upon hearing of Virginia’s desire to act again, Francis Ford Coppola asked her to audition for his latest project, the film version of John Grisham’s legal thriller The Rainmaker. This role helped reestablish Virginia’s dynamic career.
With the reestablishment of her thriving acting career, Virginia finds herself facing the ultimate challenge…with a huge smile. Juggling her successful career, caring for her top priority, son Jack, and maintaining her sanity is nothing short of a miracle. However, Virginia relishes her life and continues to take on more. With her hectic lifestyle, she still manages to find time for weight training, spinning classes, and pilates. And she graciously agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to do the TeachersCount photo shoot. Thanks, Virginia!

A part-time high school dropout, Suzanne Adams left school for a while to join a professional theater company in Chicago. New Trier High School let her take tests and graduate with her class. Ms. Adams went to Stanford as an undergraduate and she went to Northwestern University for graduate school. She studied with Ted Liss (as did Virginia), acted in plays around Chicago, ran a small theater company, and studied in Switzerland for a year. Needing steady income on her return, she agreed to teach for a year if she could teach at New Trier. They said she could! She loved it so much that she stayed for sixteen years and counts those years as among the happiest of her life. She now lives in Colorado, in a high fire risk area, and she is the chairperson of the Boulder Mountain Fire Protection District Board of Directors. She edits a quarterly journal, The Pine Brook Press, and she organized the group “The Beetle Busters” to combat the current bark beetle epidemic in the West. She also commuted to Africa to help establish an Institute of Performing Arts in Jinja, Uganda. The curriculum that she had developed for New Trier worked just as well in Africa—people are people, it seems!

Suzanne on high school: The school that both Virginia and I attended (though a generation or so apart) is New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Illinois. It is a great school with a wonderful theater department. It was a joy to go to school there, both as a student and as a teacher. My inspiring teacher was N. Saylor Lehman, my theater teacher. He once told me, when I asked him what field he thought I should pursue, that it didn’t matter because all learning was basically the same, “the most intense activity of the human spirit.” That intensive activity is very alive at New Trier. The school’s credo is “To commit minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion, and lives to the service of mankind.” Not a bad goal!

Suzanne on Virginia: The words that I would choose to describe her are authentic, real, courageous, compassionate, awake to life, and wild. She was a rebel with burning energy and talent, a joy to teach and to direct because she was eager to commit that energy and talent to the service of an art form. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I loved her. She’s spontaneous, unaffected, and loyal to her friends and colleagues.

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