(1961-02-24) February 24, 1961
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
|Occupation||Actress, film director|
|Spouse(s)||Vondie Curtis-Hall (1995–present); 2 children|
Kasi Lemmons (born Karen Lemmons; February 24, 1961) is an American film director and actress, most notable for her work on the films Eve’s Bayou, The Caveman’s Valentine and Talk to Me. She was described by film scholar Wheeler Winston Dixon as “an ongoing testament to the creative possibilities of film”.
Lemmons was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of a poet/psychotherapist mother and a biology teacher father. When Lemmons was eight years old, her parents divorced, and she and her mother and two sisters moved to Newton, Massachusetts. Her mother remarried when she was nine. Her passion for movies came at an early age, but becoming a director was her goal. “I wanted to do something more meaningful than going to auditions…”.
In 1979, Lemmons made her acting debut in the television movie 11th Victim (1979). She performed with the Boston Children’s Theater and later attended New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts but transferred to UCLA to major in history. She eventually left UCLA and enrolled in the film program at the New School for Social Research. As a young child, she got her first role on TV on a local soap opera called You Got a Right, a courtroom drama. She played the first and only black girl who integrated to an all-white school. Her acting credits include episodic parts on shows like As the World Turns, Murder, She Wrote, The Cosby Show or ER and films such as Spike Lee‘s School Daze (1988), Vampire’s Kiss (1988), the Academy Award winner for Best Picture The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Candyman (1992), Hard Target (1993), Fear of a Black Hat (1993), Gridlock’d (1997) and ‘Til There Was You (1997).
In 1997, Lemmons directed the film Eve’s Bayou starring Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Diahann Carroll, and Jurnee Smollett. The film was well-received among critics (currently holding an 80% rate of approval on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes) and won Lemmons an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature as well as a National Board of Review award for Outstanding Directorial Debut.
In 2001 she directed Jackson again in The Caveman’s Valentine about a schizophrenic homeless man trying to solve a murder mystery. In 2002 Lemmons conceived and helmed the tribute to Sidney Poitier for the 74th Annual Academy Award show. Shortly afterwards it was announced that Lemmons would direct The Battle of Cloverfield, a supernatural thriller, from her own script for Columbia Pictures. In 2007, she directed Talk to Me (2007) about an ex-con (played by Don Cheadle) who became a popular talk show host and community activist. Lemmons specifically wanted Don Cheadle in her movie. She felt Martin Sheen would be fitting to play E.G. Sonderling, head of the radio station. The film and the actors were praised and Lemmons received an Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture.
Lemmons explained during an interview that she considered writing to be central to her task as a director:
I’ve been writing scripts all the time, pretty much every day for fourteen years…. I have to write scripts, because that’s the only way I can write parts that will get a lot of people whom I really want to work with involved.
Lemmons has been married to actor and director Vondie Curtis-Hall since 1995. The couple have two children.
Lemmons states that her husband is immensely supportive and feels that he is more relaxed than she is. Compared to how he works, she prefers the pressure of working on a set with the actors. As a director and a mother, Lemmons says that it gives her perspective. Her life outside of the movie set and Hollywood has kept her grounded. Though she is a black woman, Lemmons identifies herself as an artist first and foremost in her career.
“…I don’t wake up every day saying I’m a black woman because it’s too given, but I wake up every day feeling like an artist and I feel I’m an artist.”
- Black Nativity (2013)
- Talk to Me (2007)
- The Caveman’s Valentine (2001)
- Dr. Hugo (1998)
- Eve’s Bayou (1997)
- Disconnect (2012) – Roberta Washington
- ER (2002) – Chemo Tech
- ‘Til There Was You (1997) – Angenelle
- Drop Squad (1997) – Madonna
- Walker, Texas Ranger (1993) – Diane Warren
- Hard Target (1993) – Det. Marie Mitchell
- Murder, She Wrote (1993) – Paula Raynor
- Fear of a Black Hat (1993) – Nina Blackburn
- Candyman (1992) – Bernadette “Bernie” Walsh
- The Five Heartbeats (1991) – Cookie
- The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Ardelia Mapp
- A Man Called Hawk (1989) – Lois
- Vampire’s Kiss (1989) – Jackie
- School Daze (1988) – Perry
- The Equalizer (1988) – Zandili
- Spenser for Hire (1985) – Lydia Wilson
Awards and nominations
|1997||NBR Award||Outstanding Directorial Debut||Eve’s Bayou (1997)||Won|
|1998||Black Film Award||Best Director||Eve’s Bayou (1997)||Won|
|1998||Independent Spirit Award||Best First Feature (Shared with Caldecot Chubb (producer), Samuel L. Jackson (producer))||Eve’s Bayou (1997)||Won|
|1998||OFTA Film Award||Best First Feature Film||Eve’s Bayou (1997)||Nominated|
|1998||Director’s Achievement Award||Won|
|2007||AAFCA Award||Best Director||Talk to Me (2007)||Won|
|2007||EDA Special Mention Award||Best Leap from Actress to Director||Talk to Me (2007)||Nominated|
|EDA Film Focus Award||Best Woman Director||Talk to Me (2007)||Nominated|
|2007||WFCC Award||Best Movie by a Woman (Tied with Sarah Polley for Away from Her (2006))||Talk to Me (2007)||Won|
|2008||Image Award||Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television)||Talk to Me (2007)||Won|
|2014||Hollywood Award||Best Screenplay||Black Nativity (2013)||Nominated|
|2014||Black Reel||Outstanding Screenplay (Adapted or Original), Motion Picture||Black Nativity (2013)||Nominated|