Known for movies

Short Info

SpouseJohn Gregory Dunne
FactDidion's best-selling memoir "The Year of Magical Thinking" (2006) was later adapted for stage with Vanessa Redgrave portraying the author.
PaymentsEarned $125,000 +10% of profits from A Star Is Born (1976)

Joan Didion is an American writer best known for her novels and her literary journalism. Her novels explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, and her essays document the counterculture of the 1960s. She was born in Sacramento, California, on December 5, 1934, to parents who were both teachers. Didion’s older sister, Jane, was born two years earlier. The family later moved to the small town of Rio Vista, where Didion’s father worked as the high school principal. In 1945, when Didion was ten years old, her mother died suddenly of an embolism. Her father remarried soon after, and the family moved to New York City.

Didion attended Catholic schools in New York and was graduated from Vassar College in 1956. After college, she moved to San Francisco, where she worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency. In 1957, she married John Gregory Dunne, a writer she had met at Vassar. The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1964, where they began writing for film and television. Didion’s first novel, Run River (1963), is set in Northern California and deals with the decline of a once-proud family. Her second novel, Play It As It Lays (1970), is a dark portrait of Hollywood and the empty lives of its inhabitants.

The novel was made into a film starring Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins. Didion’s third novel, A Book of Common Prayer (1977), is set in the fictional Central American country of Boca Grande and tells the story of two American women—one a missionary, the other the wife of a revolutionary leader—caught up in the country’s political turmoil. The novel was adapted into a film starring Susan Sarandon and Christine Lahti. Didion’s fourth novel, Democracy (1984), is set in Hawaii and Washington, D. C. , during the early years of the Reagan administration.

The novel chronicles the decline of American politics and society through the eyes of an American woman married to a Filipino diplomat. Didion’s fifth novel, The Last Thing He Wanted (1996), is set during the Reagan administration’s involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. The novel was adapted into a film starring Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck. Didion’s nonfiction work includes Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), a collection of essays about California in the 1960s; The White Album (1979), a collection of essays about the counterculture of the 1960s; Miami (1987), a book about the city of Miami and the Cuban exile community; Salvador (1983), a book about the civil war in El Salvador; After Henry (1992), a collection of essays about California in the 1980s and 1990s; Political Fictions (2001), a collection of essays about American politics; Where I Was From (2003), a memoir about California; and Blue Nights (2011), a memoir about aging and death. Didion has also written several screenplays, including The Panic in Needle Park (1971), which she co-wrote with her husband, and A Star Is Born (1976), which she co-wrote with John Gregory Dunne. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the National Book Award for Nonfiction for The White Album and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction for Democracy.

Didion has been married three times: to John Gregory Dunne from 1957 until his death in 2003; to writer William vanden Heuvel from 2005 until his death in 2019; and to writer Geraldine Brooks from 2020 until present. She has one daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael, from her marriage to John Gregory Dunne.

General Info

Full NameJoan Didion
Height1.52 m
ProfessionJournalist, Novelist, Screenwriter, Essayist, Memoirist
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley


SpouseJohn Gregory Dunne
ChildrenQuintana Roo Dunne
ParentsEduene Didion, Frank Reese Didion


AwardsNational Book Award for Nonfiction, Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, St. Louis Literary Award, Evelyn F. Burkey Award, New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, Ambassador Book Award for American Studies, Clifton Fadiman Medal For Excellence In Fiction, American Academy of Ar...
NominationsPulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, National Book Critics Circle Award for Memoir/Autobiography, National Book Award for General Nonfiction (Paperback)
MoviesNew York in the Fifties, Up Close and Personal, True Confessions, A Star Is Born, Play It as It Lays, Such Good Friends, The Panic in Needle Park, Shotgun Freeway

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A Star Is Born (1976)$125,000 +10% of profits


1I've never been keen on open adoption. It doesn't seem to solve the main problem with adoption, which is that somebody feels she was abandoned by someone else.
2[on the death of her adopted daughter] I didn't take seriously how troubled she was. She was troubled from very early, certainly from the time she was five or six. If you come home and your child tells you that she's called a mental institution--that should have triggered something other than amusement on my part.
3[on writing] The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.
4When we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something . . . but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, that is when we join the fashionable madmen.


1She had an adopted daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael, was born on March 3, 1966 and died on August 26, 2005 of natural causes.
2Mother-in-law of Gerry Michael.
3Didion's best-selling memoir "The Year of Magical Thinking" (2006) was later adapted for stage with Vanessa Redgrave portraying the author.
4Sister-in-law of Dominick Dunne.
5Aunt of actor/director Griffin Dunne, actress Dominique Dunne and Alexander Dunne.
6B.A. from U.C. Berkeley [1956]




A Book of Common Prayernovel pre-production
Up Close & Personal1996written by
Broken Trust1995TV Movie teleplay
Women and Men: Stories of Seduction1990TV Movie
True Confessions1981screenplay
A Star Is Born1976
Play It As It Lays1972novel "Play It As It Lays" / screenplay
Such Good Friends1971uncredited
The Panic in Needle Park1971screenplay
Kraft Suspense Theatre1965TV Series story - 1 episode


Northern Exposure1993TV Series excerpt of "Los Angeles Notebook" from Slouching Towards Bethlehem copyright ©1967 by - 1 episode


The Falling of the Bright2008Short special thanks
Ellie Parker2005thanks
The Brandon Teena Story1998Documentary special thanks
Nicole1978special thanks


The 50 Year Argument2014DocumentaryHerself - Contributor
Charlie Rose1996-2011TV SeriesHerself - Guest
Late Review2011TV SeriesHerself - Interviewee
Writers in Needle Park2011Video shortHerself
Celebrity: Dominick Dunne2008DocumentaryHerself
David Halberstam: The Coldest Winter2007Video shortHerself - Interviewee
The South Bank Show2007TV Series documentaryHerself - Guest
New York 360º Presents: The 2007 Matrix Awards2007TV SpecialHerself
Dominick Dunne: Les crimes de la jet set2007TV Movie documentaryHerself
New York in the 50's2000DocumentaryHerself
Shotgun Freeway: Drives Through Lost L.A.1995DocumentaryHerself


Won Awards

2007Evelyn F. Burkey AwardWriters Guild of America, USA

Source: IMDb, Wikipedia

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