- A well-known actor in her native Iran, she fled the country in 1978, a few months before the Shah was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when she discovered the acting workshop she attended had been closed by religious fundamentalists.
- Studied to be a journalist in England, earning a B.A. in 1983.
- Returned to acting in the mid-'80s in a Farsi-language play and met the man who would become her second husband, actor and playwright Houshang Touzie, a fellow Iranian expatriate.
- With Touzie, opened Drama Workshop '79, a Los Angeles-based theater company devoted to producing works in Farsi.
- A 25-year ban on her name in the Iranian media was lifted after her Oscar nomination for House of Sand and Fog (2003).
- Voiced a character in the video game Mass Effect 2 (2010).
- 2004, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Supporting Female: Winner
- 2003, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Nominee
- 2009, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie: Winner
- Tara Jane — Daughter
- Houshang Touzie — Husband
- Aydin Aghdashloo — Ex-husband
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