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A prominent actress on both stage and screen, Shohreh Aghdashloo has portrayed a vast array of complex and powerful characters throughout her career. She is most notably known for her prodigious performance as Nadi in “House of Sand and Fog,” which earned her an Academy Award nomination.
This summer Shohreh can be seen in “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” and recently completed work on the BBC/HBO mini-series “Between Two Rivers,” in which Aghdashloo rose to the challenge of portraying Sadaam Hussein’s wife Sajida. The mini-series explores the inner workings of Saddam Hussein's family and his relationship with his closest advisers.
Next on the film front, Aghdashloo just completed shooting the feature film “The Stoning of Soraya M.”
In the December 2006 film "The Nativity Story," directed by Catherine Hardwicke, Aghdashloo transformed herself as Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. The film looks at the life of the Virgin Mary before the birth of Christ, following Mary and Joseph's lives including their relationships with other Biblical characters, such as Elizabeth, who is Mary's cousin. This film followed a series of roles for Shohreh, including “The Lake House starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, Paul Weitz’s “American Dreamz” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.”
During the 2005-2006 television season, Aghdashloo captured audiences on the small screen as a guest star on two popular television series, “ER” and “Will & Grace.” Prior to these appearances she was a critically-acclaimed guest star on Fox's award-winning television drama, "24," opposite Emmy nominated and Golden Globe winning Kiefer Sutherland.
Her strong political views and closely held beliefs almost led the Iranian actress to a career in journalism. Aghdashloo decided instead to pursue a career in theatre and film, which has allowed her to indulge her creative passion and permits a wide range of self-expression. It was fate that brought her the role of Nadi in “House of Sand and Fog.” In a role she says she had waited a lifetime for, Aghdashloo devastated audiences with her performance, which garnered her an Oscar nomination and allowed her to reach an audience larger than she could have ever dreamed.
Born in Tehran in 1952 to an intellectual, creative family, Aghdashloo was drawn to the theatre at an early age, and by her twenties was performing in various cutting-edge performance groups, among them the acclaimed Drama Workshop of Tehran. Filmmakers often drew upon talent from the Workshop, and Aghdashloo was cast by directors Abbas Kiarostami and Ali Hatami -- two towering figures of the nascent Iranian New Wave -- to play starring roles in several of their formally adventurous, socially progressive productions, including 1977's “Gozaresh” and “Sute-Delan.”
But in the late '70s, Aghdashloo, in pursuit of freedom, democracy and higher education, left her family and her career to go to London, England, where she earned a degree in international relations. She was on the verge of accepting a position at a newspaper when a friend presented her with a play, called “Rainbow,” about the Revolution and its discontents. He had written a role specifically for her, and Aghdashloo believed in the project enough to put her journalism career on hold -- for what would turn out to be an indefinite length of time. “Rainbow” was such a success it toured the United States, where Aghdashloo was reunited with Drama Workshop colleague Houshang Touzie. A romance soon developed and the two married in Los Angeles in the late '80s.
Discouraged by the dearth of non-stereotyped roles for Middle Eastern women in Hollywood, Aghdashloo has been unafraid to create meaningful work for herself. She focused her attention on stage work, even creating a traveling theater troupe with her husband that performed plays in Farsi for Iranian audiences. Her film work includes roles in such topical dramas as “America So Beautiful” and “Maryam,” both about the struggle of Iranian immigrants in the U.S. It was such work that caught the attention of director Vadim Perelman, who was looking to cast the supporting role of Nadi in his big-screen adaptation of the bestselling book, House of Sand and Fog. Perelman and his casting agent contacted Aghdashloo directly and were soon convinced that she was the woman for the part. Having read the book upon its release, Aghdashloo had long envisioned ways that she could play Nadi, a strong but subservient Iranian-American wife and mother caught between her husband's wishes and her own conscience. Opposite a cast of established performers, Aghdashloo’s subtle, simmering performance brought her kudos from the Independent Spirit Awards, the New York Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics Associations, all of which named her 2003's Best Supporting Actress. The Academy followed suit, nominating Shohreh as an Oscar contender for Best Supporting Actress against such Hollywood stalwarts as Holly Hunter, Marcia Gay Harden, Renée Zellweger and Patricia Clarkson.
Continuing to indulge her passion for the stage, Aghdashloo and her husband, playwright Houshang Touzie, write, perform and produce plays with their traveling theatre group, Drama Workshop ’79. Aghdashloo currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.