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Lena Maria Jonna Olin (born March 22, 1955) is a Swedish actress.

Early life

Olin, the youngest of three children, was born in Stockholmmarker, Swedenmarker, the daughter of Britta Alice (née Holmberg), an actress and singer, and Stig Olin, a director, singer, composer, and an actor who appeared in several of Ingmar Bergman's early films. Her brother is the Swedish singer Mats Olin. She was a top student and graduated with a 4.9 average in her graduation scores (with the highest in Sweden being 5.0). In October 1975, Olin was crowned Miss Scandinavia in Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker. Before her acting career she worked both as a substitute teacher and as a hospital nurse, and studied Medicine at university.

After studying acting at Sweden's National Academy of Dramatic Art (Scenskolan aka NAMA today) 1976-79, Olin performed for over a decade with Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theatremarker-ensemble (1980-1994) in classic plays by Shakespeare and Strindberg, and appeared in smaller roles of several Swedish films directed by Bergman and in productions of Swedish Television's TV-Theatre Company.


It was Ingmar Bergman who had cast her for the first time (in a small part in Face to Face), after she had not passed her first audition for theatre school because of her shyness. Later she acted at the national stage in Stockholm in several productions directed by Bergman, and with Bergman's production of King Lear (in which Olin played Cordelia) she toured national theatres in Parismarker, Berlinmarker, Copenhagenmarker, Moscowmarker and Oslomarker, among others. Critically acclaimed stage performances by Olin at Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theatre included the leading part as The Daughter in A Dream Play by Strindberg, Margarita in the stage adaption of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, Ann in Edward Bond's Summer, Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare, Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, the title role in Ingmar Bergman's rendition of Strindberg's Miss Julie and her neurotic Charlotte in the contemporary drama Nattvarden (The Last Supper) by Lars Norén (also director).

Olin's international debut in a lead role on film was in Bergman's After the Rehearsal (1984). Two years before she had appeared in a small role in the same director's Fanny and Alexander. In 1988, Olin starred with Daniel Day-Lewis in her first English speaking and internationally produced film, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and became a respected actress outside of Europe as well. Olin upon this received offers from the US and Hollywoodmarker. In 1989, she earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Enemies: A Love Story, in which she portrayed the survivor of a Nazi camp. In 1994 Olin starred in Romeo Is Bleeding and played what is perhaps her most extreme character to date; the outrageous hit woman Mona Demarkov - still one of the actress's most popular portrayals on film. Olin was reportedly offered but turned down the roles of the Catwoman in Batman Returns (the role eventually went to Michelle Pfeiffer), Maria Ruskin in The Bonfire of the Vanities (the role eventually went to Melanie Griffith), Ada McGrath in The Piano (the role eventually went to Holly Hunter) and Catherine in Basic Instinct (the role eventually went to Sharon Stone).

Olin and director Lasse Hallström collaborated on the 2000 film Chocolat, which received five Academy Award nominations, and on Casanova (2005). From 2002 to 2006, Olin appeared opposite Jennifer Garner in her first American television role ever; on the second season of the successful television series Alias. For her work on the series as Irina Derevko, Olin received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in 2003. Olin received good reviews for her part in Alias — particularly her chemistry with Victor Garber, who played her former husband and sometime-enemy Jack Bristow — and was rumored to have been offered a salary in excess of $100,000 per episode to remain part of the cast. She left the show after her first and only season, this was, however, to spend more time with her family in New York.

In May 2005, Olin returned to Alias for a two-episode appearance at the end of the show's fourth season, and subsequently appeared again in the fifth season, initially in a cameo in December 2005, and then following a four-month hiatus she appeared again in April 2006, and for the finale on May 22, 2006. Upcoming projects are films The Devil You Know and Daughter of the Queen of Sheba (which is to be directed by Hallström). Olin had a small but significant role in 2008's Oscar-nominated film, The Reader.

Personal life

In 1986 she gave birth to her first child, son August Ramberg. His father is Swedish actor Örjan Ramberg, with whom Olin had lived for several years (since the 1970s) and whom she had acted opposite on stage in many productions. The relationship ended in the late 1980s. In 1994, she married film director Lasse Hallström (whom she met in 1992 back in Sweden). They lived together for two years before they married in Hedvig Eleonora Churchmarker in Stockholm. In 1995 they had a daughter; Tora. Hallström also has a son from a previous relationship; Johan, born in 1976.

Olin currently lives in New Yorkmarker with her husband and children. In 2005 she returned to Sweden for a brief period of filming and starred in a supporting role in Danishmarker director Simon Staho's film Bang Bang Orangutang (with a punk music soundtrack by a.o. The Clash and Iggy Pop ).



  1. Lena Olin Biography (1955-)

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