She is most well-known for her starring role as the temperamental lawyer in the 1997-2002 television show, Ally McBeal.
Calista Flockhart was born in Freeport, Illinois, to Kraft Food executive Ronald Flockhart, his English-teaching wife, Kay Calista and as a sibling to her older brother Gary Flockhart. Reversing her own first and second names, her mother named her Calista Kay. The name Calista means most beautiful in Greek.
Because her father’s job required the family to move often, Calista was raised with brother Gary in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, upstate New York, and New Jersey. As a child, she wrote a play called Toyland in which she performed to a small audience at a dinner party. However, she never professed an ambition to become an actor, instead claiming she wanted to be a clown when she grew up.
Beginning in 1978 and graduating in 1982, Flockhart attended Shawnee High School in Medford Township, New Jersey. She served on the Student Council, participated in the drama program, and became a cheerleader. A football player named Brian Anderson was her high school sweetheart.
Following her graduation, Flockhart attended The Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. While there, she attended a specialized and competitive class, lasting from 6 o’clock in the morning to 6 o’clock in the evening. In her sophomore year at Rutgers, Flockhart met Jane Krakowski, the best friend of her room mate. Having already worked on Broadway, Calista often questioned Jane on how to find employment there. Flockhart’s acting ability was recognized when William Esper (Mason Gross’ theatre director and Flockhart’s acting teacher) made an exception to policy by allowing Flockhart to perform on the main stage. Though usually reserved for juniors and seniors, Harold Scott insisted that Flockhart perform in his production of William Inge’s Picnic.
Flockhart graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theatre in 1988 as one of only a few students who successfully completed the course. Flockhart was inducted into the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni on May 3, 2003.
After receiving her degree, Flockhart moved to New York City in 1989 where she remained until 1997, living with three other women in a two-bedroom apartment and working as a waitor and aerobics instructor whilst she simultaineously sought auditions.
In spring, 1989, Flockhart had a minor role in one episode of The Guiding Light as a babysitter. Following this, she found her professional debut on the New York stage, appearing in Beside Herself alongside actor Melissa Joan Hart at the Circle Repertory Theatre. Two years later in 1991, Flockhart appeared in a television movie, Darrow.
Though she later appeared in films Naked in New York (1993) and Getting In (1994), Calista claims her big break into Hollywood came from Robert Redford who provided her with a brief but speaking part of a college student in Quiz Show.
Flockhart debuted on Broadway in 1994, as the character Laura in The Glass Menagerie. Actor Julie Harris felt Flockhart should be hired without further auditions, claiming that Calista seemed ideal for the part of her character’s daughter. Flockhart recieved a Clarence Derwent Award for her performance. In 1995, Flockhart became acquainted with actor such as Dianne Wiest and Faye Dunaway when she appeared in the movie Drunks. Later this year Flockhart starred in the title role in Jane Doe as a drug addict.
In 1996, Flockhart appeared as the daughter of Dianne Wiest and Gene Hackman’s characters, in The Birdcage, her last film role before securing the starring role in the hit show Ally McBeal. Throughout this year she continued to work on Broadway, playing the role of Natasha in Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
In 1997 Calista was requested to audition as the starring role in David E. Kelley’s FOX television series, Ally McBeal. Kelley, having heard of Flockhart, wanted her to audition for the contract part. Though Flockhart at first hesistated due to the necessary commitment to the show in a negotiatable contract, she was swayed by the compelling script and travelled to Los Angeles to audition for the part, which she was later informed of winning. Through 1997 to 2002 Flockhart starred the show’s self-titled protagonist Ally McBeal, winning a Golden Globe Award for her role in 1998. Flockhart also appeared on the June 29, 1998 cover of Time magazine as her character Ally McBeal, placed as the newest iteration in the evolution of feminism, relating to the on-going debate about the role depicted by her character.
As her popularity as Ally McBeal peaked, rumours began to spread that Flockhart suffered from the medical conditions anorexia and/or bulimia. These rumours heightened the criticism Flockhart met as to being a poor role-model for young women. It has also been speculated that she has been a drug user. Flockhart maintains that she has never been diagnosed with either of these medical conditions, nor has she been a user of illegal drugs. She has remarked, however, that while starring as Ally McBeal she refrained from eating sweets, retaining her slim figure by working out.
While starring as Ally McBeal, Flockhart played the role of Helena in the 1999 film version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 2000, she appeared in Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her and Bash: Latter-Day Plays, later accompanying Eve Ensler to Kenya in order to protest against violence against women, particularly FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). Flockhart also starred in the off-Broadway production of Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.
On January 11, 2001, Flockhart adopted a baby boy, born ten days prior, whom she named Liam.
Flockhart has been romantically involved with actor Harrison Ford since meeting him at the 2002 Golden Globe Awards after she spilled wine on his award, initiating a social exchange which resulted in the pair dating within a week.
In 2004, Flockhart appeared as Matthew Broderick’s psychotic girlfriend in The Last Shot. In the same year, Flockhart travelled to Barcelona, Spain, for the filming of the film Fragile, which premiered in September, 2005 at the Venice Film Festival.
When approached to star in the film Indiana Jones 4, Harrison Ford requested that Flockhart co-star as the love interest of Indiana. Though the film producers agreed, Flockhart is not currently attatched to the project. Flockhart’s reaction to being asked to star has been quoted as the facetious “Oh, yes. If I could kick his (butt), absolutely!”
Flockhart continues to support charities such as Public Schools Arts, and causes such as breast cancer. She is the national spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (LACAAW), which led her to require a Humanitarian Award on October 21, 2005.