Ivey was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of Mary
Nell Ivey Santacroce, a teacher, speech therapist and actress who appeared
in productions of Driving Miss Daisy and taught at Georgia State University,
and Hugh Daugherty Ivey, a physicist and professor who taught at Georgia
Tech and later worked at the Atomic Energy Commission. Her parents later
divorced. She has a younger brother, John, and a half-brother, Eric Santacroce,
from her mother's re-marriage to Dante Santacroce. Ivey has described her
Unitarian upbringing as "very liberal."
She received her undergraduate degree at Rollins College in Winter Park,
Florida, and then received a Fulbright grant to study drama at the London
Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was a member of the Phi Mu sorority
at Rollins College. She received an Honorary Doctorate (Humane Letters)
from Rollins College in February 2008.
Ivey appeared in numerous American and Canadian stage productions before
making New York City her home in the late 1970s. She made her Broadway
debut playing two small roles in a 1981 production of Macbeth; the following
year she was cast in a major supporting role in a revival of Noel Coward's
Present Laughter, for which she received the Clarence Derwent Award as
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play. She was nominated for two Tony
Awards in the same season (1984) - as Best Featured Actress in a Musical
for Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in
the Park with George and Best Featured
Actress in a Play for a revival of George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak
House - a feat repeated by only two other actresses, Amanda Plummer and Kate
Burton. Ivey's performances in Driving
Miss Daisy (in the title role) and
Quartermaine's Terms won her Obies, an annual award presented by the newspaper
The Village Voice for off-Broadway productions.
Ivey's first major screen appearance was in Steven Spielberg's adaptation
of Alice Walker's The
Color Purple in 1985. Her many film credits include
Scoundrels, Sabrina, Postcards
from the Edge, The
Adventures of Huck Finn, The
Scarlet Letter, Home
Alone 2: Lost in New York, Sleepless
in Seattle, Two
Rush Hour 3, and Legally
Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde.
Most recently, she has been seen in the Academy Award nominated
film The Help.
In 1978, Ivey
made her television debut in the daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow.
Her television credits include the 1982 miniseries Little Gloria... Happy
at Last, and guest appearances on Homicide:
Life on the Street, Law & Order,
Oz, The Practice, Sex
and the City, and Monk.
She has also guest starred as the tyrannical President of the Condo board,
Ms Langer, in the Three Days of the Condo episode of Frasier and
had a recurring part on the hit HBO drama Boardwalk
Ivey was recently seen onstage in New York in the Broadway production
of The Importance of Being Earnest starring Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell. back