Ellen Barkin was born in the Bronx on April 16, 1954. She attended New York's renowned High School for the Performing Arts, majored in history and drama at Hunter College, and studied acting at New York's Actors Studio. She is considered one of today's most versatile actresses due to her ability to play everything form dramatic and comedic leads to sexy sirens and supporting roles.
Her first acting credit was in the stage production of Irish Coffee in 1980. Soon after, she became a regular on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Barkin received critical acclaim for her film debut as the neglected wife of an obsessive record collector in Barry Levinson's Diner (1982). Roles in Eddie and the Cruisers (1983), Buckaroo Bonzai (1984), Act of Vengeance(1986) and Desert Bloom(1986) soon followed.
However, she didn't reach stardom until her steamy performance in the 1987 thriller The Big Easy, opposite Dennis Quaid. That same year, while on the set of Siesta, she met and eventually married Irish actor Gabriel Byrne with whom she has two children.