Born in Tulsa, OK, Tripplehorn was raised by her father, Tom, who played guitar in the 1960s pop band Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and her mother, Suzanne. After her parents divorced when she was two, Tripplehorn and her younger brother, Jason, went to live with their mom and grandmother. Always hamming it up when she was a child, it was no surprise that when she was 13, the wise-cracking Tripplehorn submitted several comedy sketches to "Saturday Night Live" and was politely rejected. By the time she reached Edison High School in Tulsa, she was broadcasting a radio comedy show on KMOD-FM and later had her own local television show called "Creature Feature" during her senior year, while at the same time, performing in standard plays like "A Christmas Carol." Following a semester at Tulsa University, Tripplehorn moved to New York City, where she studied drama at the famed Julliard School while making her way as an artist's model and voiceover artist for radio commercials. At Juilliard, she studied the classics - Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw and Tennessee Williams - while performing in productions like "Three Sisters," by Anton Chekhov.After leaving Juilliard, Tripplehorn made her professional New York stage debut starring opposite former classmate Jake Weber in a Public Theater production of "The Big Funk" (1990), by John Patrick Shanley. In short order, she made her onscreen debut with a supporting role in the made-for-television movie, "The Perfect Tribute" (ABC, 1991). After starring opposite Val Kilmer in a rival of John Ford's "'Tis Pity She's a Whore" (1992) for the Public Theater, Tripplehorn received a major boost to her career when she landed a prominent supporting role in the notorious thriller, "Basic Instinct" (1992), playing a police psychiatrist who has an affair with a troubled police detective (Michael Douglas) while he simultaneously falls for a sexually aggressive mystery writer (Sharon Stone) under investigation for murder. Meanwhile, thanks to her on-again, off-again romantic entanglement with the still aspiring Ben Stiller, she made appearances on the comedian's self-named sketch comedy series, "The Ben Stiller Show" (Fox, 1992-93). It was during this time that Tripplehorn suffered an unexpected tragedy. Her mother, Suzanne, with whom she was very close, suddenly died from an aneurysm at age 48. The blow knocked her down for a spell, but she eventually managed to pick herself up.Back to work, Tripplehorn had a supporting role in the Gen-X romantic comedy "The Night We Never Met" (1993) before she upped her profile as Tom Cruise's supportive wife in "The Firm" (1993), a compelling thriller about a young lawyer going to work for a corrupt firm. After an unbilled cameo in the Stiller-directed comedy "Reality Bites" (1994), Tripplehorn suffered through the long, agonizing shoot for "Waterworld" (1995), the notoriously derided, post-apocalyptic adventure in which she bravely co-starred as the wife of The Mariner (Kevin Costner), a human who has evolved into growing gills and looks for dry land on a planet that has been covered in water. Back on the stage, she again performed in Chekhov's "Three Sisters" (1997) on Broadway, while continuing to appear regularly onscreen, landing a starring role as a hopelessly shy romantic waiting for Mr. Right - who shows up as a dashing architect (Dylan McDermott) - in "'Til There Was You" (1997). In a darker turn, she played the nosy wife of a man (Daniel Stern) who was present when a prostitute was killed at a Las Vegas-style bachelor party in Peter Berg's derided black comedy, "Very Bad Things" (1998). On the shoot, Tripplehorn met actor Leland Orser, whom she later married in 2000. Tripplehorn was next seen in "Sliding Doors" (1998), a romantic comedy-drama that told parallel stories of a recently fired PR executive (Gwyneth Patrow) whose life is radically changed by missing the subway by a few seconds. After playing the object of desire for a quick-tempered Irish-American car thief (Dennis Leary) in "Monument Ave." (1998), she was the murderous daughter of a Mafia boss (James Caan) who gets a smitten British expatriate (Hugh Grant) involved her family's criminal ventures in the mob comedy, "Mickey Blue Eyes" (1999). Tripplehorn next played an obnoxious American movie star engaged to a meek and mild English aristocrat (Edward Atterton), much to the dismay of his countess mother (Julie Andrews), in the straight-to-video comedy, "Relative Values" (2000). In "Timecode" (2000), Mike Figgis' experimental feature that showed four concurrent stories onscreen at the same time, Tripplehorn was the jealous lover of an aspiring actress (Salma Hayek) whose suspicions that she is having an affair prompt her to plant an audio bug, leading to her eventually hearing her girlfriend have sex with a producer (Stellan Skarsgard) while on an audition.Continuing to perform in low-budget indies rather than big budget extravaganzas, Tripplehorn donned blonde locks for "Steal This Movie" (2000), playing the lover of Yippie founder and political agitator, Abbie Hoffman (Vincent D'Onofrio), who shares the famed rebel with his wife, Anita (Janeane Garofolo), until constant FBI surveillance and a right-wing smear campaign tear their lives apart. Tripplehorn made the mistake of taking a supporting role in Guy Ritchie's dreadful remake of "Swept Away" (2002), though her career luckily remained intact. Tripplehorn returned to the small screen for "Brother's Keeper" (USA, 2002), playing a homicide detective who hunts down her brother (Corin Nemec) after he escapes from a maximum security prison, and "Word of Honor" (TNT, 2003), playing a JAG prosecutor investigating the case of a businessman (Don Johnson) who finds himself suddenly accused of a My Lai-like massacre when he served in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Tripplehorn was in "The Amateurs" (2005), a comedy about a small town banding together to make a porn film.In perhaps her most widely recognized project, she played one of three wives married to a home improvement store owner (Bill Paxton) in "Big Love" (HBO, 2006-11), a highly-anticipated series about one man's battle with modern-day polygamy and a fundamentalist leader (Harry Dean Stanton) trying to extort money by using the fear of God. Tripplehorn was the oldest and more intelligent of the wives, running the household while battling against her "sisters" (Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin) over power, seniority and their husband's sexual attention. The subject matter aroused both interest and controversy; the latter prompting the producers to put a disclaimer before every episode, stating that the Mormon Church banned polygamy in 1890. Nonetheless, "Big Love" premiered in March 2006 to good reviews and high ratings while becoming one of the cable network's strongest shows. Also on the small screen, Tripplehorn delivered an excellent supporting performance as Jacqueline Kennedy in the critically lauded "Grey Gardens" (HBO, 2009), which depicted the lives of her eccentric aunt, Big Edie (Jessica Lange), and first cousin, Little Edie (Drew Barrymore). The role earned her a well-deserved Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie.
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