Alicia Roanne Witt (born August 21, 1975) is an American actress, singer-songwriter, and classically-trained pianist. Witt first came to fame as a child actress after being discovered by David Lynch, who cast her as Alia Atreides in his film Dune (1984) and in a guest role in his television series Twin Peaks (1990).
Witt later had a critically acclaimed role as a disturbed teenager in Fun (1994), and appeared as a music student in Mr. Holland's Opus (1995), and as a college coed in the horror film Urban Legend (1998). She then appeared in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky (2001), Last Holiday (2006), and the thriller 88 Minutes (2007). Witt has made television appearances in Friday Night Lights and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and has had continuing starring roles in the sitcom Cybill and the Southern crime drama Justified. In addition to acting, Witt has been described as a musical prodigy, and is an accomplished pianist, singer, and song-writer, releasing a self-titled debut album in 2009.
Alicia Roanne Witt was born on August 21, 1975 in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her mother, Diane (nÃ©e Pietro), is a junior high school reading teacher, and her father, Robert Witt, a science teacher and photographer, and she has a brother, Ian. "Talking by age two and reading by the age of four," Witt has been described as a child prodigy, and alternatively as reading college textbooks at two years of age. Witt's acting talent was recognized by director David Lynch in 1980, in her fifth year, when he heard her recite Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet on the television show That's Incredible!. He would begin work with her in film and television before Witt earned her high school equivalency credential (at 14 years old). She did undergraduate work in piano at Boston University, and competed nationally.
Film and television
Witt's discovery by David Lynch led to his casting of the "flame-haired" child in the movie Dune (1984) as Paul Atreides's sister Alia; she turned eight during filming. She worked with Lynch again when she appeared in an episode of Twin Peaks, playing the younger sister of Lara Flynn Boyle's character Donna.
These experiences led to Witt having small parts in Mike Figgis's Liebestraum (1991), in which her brother Ian also appears, the Gen-X drama Bodies, Rest & Motion (1993) and the TV movie The Disappearance of Vonnie (1994). In 1994, Witt landed her first lead role in a film, playing a disturbed, murderous teenager in Fun, receiving the Special Jury Recognition Award at the Sundance Festival. Witt was then cast in the "desultory" Four Rooms, as Madonna's lover in the episode, "The Missing Ingredient".
Witt was introduced to a larger audience in the role of Cybill Shepherd's daughter, Zoey Woodbine, in the sitcom Cybill. While playing that part from 1995 to 1998, she also had film roles in Stephen Herek's Mr. Holland's Opus, Alexander Payne's "delightful" satirical comedy Citizen Ruth, Robert Allan Ackerman's Passion's Way (based on the Edith Wharton novel, The Reef), and Richard Sears' comedy Bongwater. After cancelation of the Cybill series, Witt went on to leading roles in Jamie Blanks' horror film Urban Legend (alongside "other nascently twinkling stars" Jared Leto, Joshua Jackson, and Rebecca Gayheart), and in Kevin Altieri/Touchstone Pictures' limited-release animated feature, GenÂ¹Â³. In 2000, Witt had starring roles on the television shows Ally McBeal and The Sopranos, the lead role in the Matthew Huffman comedy Playing Mona Lisa (featuring Harvey Fierstein, Elliott Gould, and Marlo Thomas), and a "memorable" part in John Waters's "scathing satire" Cecil B. Demented.
She then went on to a small part in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky (2001). Witt played "Two", the college graduate discussing loss of her virginity, in Rodrigo Garcia's Ten Tiny Love Stories (a series of ten monologs, alongside ones by Radha Mitchell, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Debi Mazar, Elizabeth PeÃ±a, and others), and played the role of promiscuous Barbie, half-sister of the title character, in Confessions of an American Girl (starring Jena Malone). Witt appeared in Marc Lawrence's 2002 romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice, starring Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock.
In 2003-2004, Witt took up residence in the United Kingdom, though portraying Joan Allen's daughter in the US-based comic drama The Upside of Anger (with Kevin Costner, Keri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood, and others). Between these two projects, Witt went to South Africa to shoot a film interpretation of the epic poem "Das Nibelungenlied", playing the central character Kriemhild in the German TV movie Kingdom in Twilight (with title Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King in the U.S., and The Ring of the Nibelungs and The Sword of Xanten elsewhere).
Witt filmed the Last Holiday (2006) and the thriller 88 Minutes (2007, alongside Al Pacino), and joined the cast of Law & Order: Criminal Intent for the 2007-2008 season. In the latter she played Detective Nola Falacci, a character temporarily replacing Megan Wheeler as Chris Noth's partner (otherwise played by Julianne Nicholson, who was away on maternity leave), and was a recurring character in the 2009-2010 season. Witt appeared in the role of Amy in the film Peep World (2010).
Witt appeared as the character Elaine Clayton in Cowgirls n' Angels (2012), and in 2013 co-starred in the independent film Cold Turkey opposite Peter Bogdanovich and Cheryl Hines; there, she additionally performed an original musical piece over the end credits (see below). Her dramatic performance in this film was critically acclaimed, with New York Magazine's David Edelstein proclaiming her turn one of the top performances of 2013. Witt also appeared in three Christmas films in 2013: the feature film Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, A Snow Globe Christmas for Lifetime Channel, and A Very Merry Mix-Up for Hallmark Channel, and another for Hallmark Channel in 2014, Christmas at Cartwright's.
In 2014, Witt appeared in a major guest starring role on the DirecTV series Kingdom, which aired in October 2014. Witt was a regular part of the cast of Justified in Season 5, which began airing in January 2014.
Witt made her stage debut in 2001 at Los Angeles's historic Tiffany Theater in Robbie Fox's musical The Gift, in which she played a high-priced, though diseased stripper.
While in residence in the United Kingdom in 2004, Witt starred as Evelyn in a stage production of Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things at the New Ambassadors Theatre. In September 2006 Witt returned to the London stage at the Royal Court Theatre, in the critically well-received Piano/Forte where she was "well-cast" in portraying the stammering, emotionally damaged pianist Abigail, sister to "unloved attention-seeker" Louise (Kelly Reilly).
Witt performed alongside Amber Tamblyn in Neil LaBute play, Reasons To Be Pretty at the Geffen Playhouse, which ran through 31 August 2014.
In addition to acting, Witt is also a professional singer-songwriter and pianist, and is reported to have been a musical prodigy. During her work with David Lynch, she supported herself by playing piano at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Responses to her 2006 stage portrayal of Abigail Piano/Forte included recognition of demonstration as an "outstanding pianist" of "formidable skill".
In 2009, Witt released her self-titled extended play album, followed by Live At Rockwood in 2012 and Revisionary History in 2015. In 2013, Witt and Ben Folds performed a song they had co-written on the soundtrack for the independent film Cold Turkey.
On June 14, 2004, Witt modeled what is believed to be the most expensive hat ever made for Christie's auction house in London. The Chapeau d'Amour, designed by Louis Mariette, is valued at $2.7 million (US) and is encrusted in diamonds. In September 1990, Witt competed on Wheel of Fortune.
Witt dated musician and record-producer Ben Folds from 2012 to 2014.
- Official website
- Alicia Witt at the Internet Movie Database
- Alicia Witt on Myspace
- Alicia Witt at AllMovie