Holly Hunter was born on March 20, 1958 in Conyers, Georgia. Her father is Charles Edwin Hunter, a farmer and sporting goods salesman, and her mother is Opal Marguerite Catledge Hunter, a homemaker. She has six older brothers and sisters. She grew up on a farm in Georgia, where she took piano lessons and began acting in school drama productions when she was in fifth grade.
She attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, graduating with a degree in drama in 1980. After that, she moved to New York and worked in theater, until she moved to Los Angeles in 1982. Her first starring role in the Coen brothers' film, Raising Arizona
(1987). The same year she also starred in James L. Brooks' Broadcast News
(1987). In 1993 she played a mute bride in the film, The Piano
, a role for which she earned an Academy Award for Best Actress. She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the film Thirteen
(2003), and provided the voice of Helen Parr (Elastigirl) in the animated film The Incredibles
She was married to Janusz Kaminski, a cinematographer, from 1995 to 2001. She is currently in a long-term relationship with actor Gordon MacDonald
. The couple had twin boys in 2006.