Lois Arlene Smith (née Humbert; born November 3, 1930) is an American character actress, whose career spans eight decades. She made her film debut in the 1955 drama film East of Eden, and later played supporting roles in a number of movies, including Five Easy Pieces (1970), Resurrection (1980), Fatal Attraction (1987), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), Dead Man Walking (1995), Twister (1996), Minority Report (2002), The Nice Guys (2016) and Lady Bird (2017).In 2017, Smith received critical acclaim for her leading performance in the science-fiction drama film Marjorie Prime, for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards and Saturn Award, and won a Satellite Award. She has also had many roles on daytime and primetime television. She was a regular cast member in the HBO horror drama True Blood, and received a Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series nomination for The Americans.Smith also is known for her extensive work in the theatre. A three-time Tony Award nominee, she won the 2020 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in The Inheritance, becoming the oldest performer to win a Tony Award for acting. She also received Tony nominations for her performances in The Grapes of Wrath (1990) and Buried Child (1996). She starred in an acclaimed Off-Broadway revival of The Trip to Bountiful in 2005 for which she received an Obie Award for Best Actress, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, and a Drama Desk Award. Smith is an ensemble member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.Smith was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2007 for her outstanding contributions to the theatre. In 2013, she was given a Lifetime Achievement Obie Award for excellence in Off-Broadway performances. In her career, she has taught, directed, and written for the stage.
Smith was born Lois Arlene Humbert in Topeka, Kansas, the youngest of six children of Carrie (née Gottshalk) and William Humbert, who worked for a telephone company. Her father died in 1950 at age 54. Her family included her two sisters, Alice and Marvelle, and three brothers, William, Dilman, and Phillip, all of whom are now deceased. Her father moved the family to Seattle when Lois was 11 years old, and he was involved heavily in the church, staging plays there in which young Lois performed. She studied theatre at the University of Washington but did not graduate. At age 18, she married Wesley Dale Smith, whom she met in college; they divorced in 1970. They had one daughter, Moon Elizabeth Smith.Around 1951, Smith and her husband decided to leave Seattle for New York City to begin their professional careers. After she worked with Elia Kazan on East of Eden, he encouraged her to study with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, which she did. She was also mentored in her early years in New York City by John Van Druten.