Dunaway was born in Bascom, Florida, the daughter of Grace April (née Smith), a housewife, and John MacDowell Dunaway, Jr., a career non-commissioned officer in the United States Army. She is of Scots-Irish, English, and German descent. She attended the University of Florida, Florida State University, and Boston University, but graduated from the University of Florida in theater. In 1962, Dunaway joined the American National Theater and Academy.
Dunaway appeared on Broadway in 1962 as the daughter of Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons. Her first screen role was in 1967 in The Happening. In 1967, she was in Hurry Sundown; that same year, she gained the leading female role in Bonnie and Clyde opposite Warren Beatty, which earned her an Oscar nomination. She also starred in 1968 with Steve McQueen in the caper film The Thomas Crown Affair (and had a small role in the 1999 remake with the same title with Pierce Brosnan).
In the 1970s, she starred in such films as Three Days of the Condor, Little Big Man, Chinatown, The Three/Four Musketeers, Eyes of Laura Mars, and Network, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress as the scheming TV executive Diana Christensen. She worked with such leading men as Dustin Hoffman,Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Nicholson, and Robert Duvall.
In the 1980s, although her performances did not waver, the parts grew less compelling. Dunaway would later blame Mommie Dearest (1981) for ruining her career as a leading lady. She received a Razzie Award for Worst Actress, and the critics despised the film, although it grossed a moderate $19 million in its first release and was one of the top 30 grossing films of the year. In 1987, she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama for her performance in Barfly with Mickey Rourke. In the 1980s, Dunaway worked alongside legendary actress Bette Davis. During a 1988 appearance on The Johnny Carson Show, the latter emphatically stated that she would never work with Dunaway again. In a later movie, Don Juan DeMarco(1995), Dunaway co-starred with Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando.
Dunaway starred in the 1986 made-for-television movie Beverly Hills Madam opposite Melody Anderson, Donna Dixon, Terry Farrell and Robin Givens. She had earlier turned down the role of Sable Colby onThe Colbys, the Aaron Spelling spin-off of the nighttime soap Dynasty. In 1993, Dunaway briefly starred in a sitcom with Robert Urich, It Had to Be You. She also starred in Arizona Dream in 1993. Dunaway won an Emmy for a 1994 role as a murderer in “It’s All in the Game,” an episode of the long-running mystery series Columbo.
In 1996, she toured nationally with the stage play Master Class. The story about opera singer Maria Callas was well received. Dunaway bought the rights to the Terrence McNally play for possible film development.
In 2000, she turned down Requiem for a Dream and appeared in The Yards. In 2006, Dunaway played a character named Lois O’Neill in season six, episode 13 of the crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, titled “Kiss-Kiss, Bye-Bye“. She served as a judge on the 2005 reality show The Starlet, which sought, American Idol-style, to find the next young actress with the potential to become a major star. In the spring of 2007, the direct-to-DVD movie release of Rain, based on the novel by V. C. Andrews and starring Dunaway, was released. In 2009, Dunaway starred in the film The Bait, by Polish film director and producer Dariusz Zawiślak. The Bait is a contemporary version of a drama Balladyna, by Polish 19th – century poet Juliusz Słowacki.
On October 2, 1996, Dunaway was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.
Dunaway at Fashion for Relief 2007
Dunaway has been married twice, from 1974 to 1979 to Peter Wolf, the lead singer of the rock group The J. Geils Band, and from 1984 to 1987 to Terry O’Neill, a British photographer. She and O’Neill have one child, Liam O’Neill (born 1980). In 2003, despite Dunaway’s earlier claims that she had given birth to Liam, Terry claims that Liam was adopted.
Dunaway is an adult convert to Roman Catholicism.
In August, 2011, Dunaway was sued for eviction by the landlord of her rent stabilized apartment on East 78th Street in Manhattan. The suit alleged that she was not actually residing in the apartment but rather lived in California. Rent stabilization rules require tenants to live in the apartment they are renting as a primary residence, not as a second home. If Dunaway were to leave the apartment, rented by her on August 1, 1994, the landlord could receive more than double the $1,048.72 per month rent paid by Dunaway. In a voice message to the New York Times, Dunaway said that she had not been evicted, but had chosen to leave the apartment because of its condition and that she had been spending less time in New York.
Famous People From Florida: Fay Dunaway/ Florida Latin Connection/ P.Varona, Editor