Misty Upham: 'Frozen River' & 'August: Osage County' Actress Dies

by Anna Robinson
Misty Upham Juliette LewisMisty Upham of Frozen River fame and Juliette Lewis.

'Frozen River' actress Misty Upham found dead in Seattle suburb

Actress Misty Upham, gone missing since Oct. 6, was found dead on Thursday, Oct. 16, in a wooded area along the White River in suburban Seattle. The cause and time of death remain unclear. Best known for her roles in Frozen River, which earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination, and August: Osage County, Upham was 32.

According to a statement her father, Charles Upham, sent to media outlets, Misty Upham was last seen on Oct. 5, walking from her sister's apartment in Muckleshoot, Washington. He added that she suffered from bipolar disorder and had bouts of depression and anxiety – she had gone missing in the past – but said he didn't believe she was suicidal.

“The truth is Misty is not stressed over money or career. Her career is going great,” he wrote last Sunday, Oct. 12. “As her father I do not fear she committed suicide. I feel that she has been hurt by accident or someone has put her in harm's way.”

Since Upham's body was found, there have been conflicting reports as to the cause of her death, whether it was suicide or an accident. But according to Upham's friend Tracy Rector, speaking on behalf of the actress' family, one thing seemed to be clear:

The main thing her family wants people to know is that the Auburn Police Department would not cooperate in looking for Misty. There's a long history of police harassment and friction between the police and the Muckleshoot community here, and her family feels they dropped the ball and Misty perhaps would have been found if the police had taken it seriously.

Juliette Lewis

In the last few hours, August: Osage County actress Juliette Lewis has used social media to assert that Upham feared for her life, tweeting “#RIPMistyUpham I am in shock and greif [sic]. I pray the police do a murder investigation. They're saying not “foul play” when ofcourse [sic] it is.”

Additionally, Lewis wrote on Instagram:

Misty Upham survived many things that many don't early on in life. She fought for the voiceless feircely [sic]. She understood suffering and the deepest pain. She had a presence everyone saw and felt. It is this presence that will continue. Out of the dark space in which her light got dimmed. I will remember her as tuff. Wise. Funny. Spiritual. And hopeful.

Misty Upham Frozen River Melissa LeoMisty Upham in 'Frozen River,' with Melissa Leo.

Misty Upham movies

A Blackfoot Native American, Misty Upham was born on July 6, 1982, in Kalispell, Montana. She was raised in Auburn, Washington, south of Seattle.

Last year, she was seen in a supporting role in Arnaud Desplechin's Best Picture César nominee Jimmy P. a.k.a. Jimmy P. Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, starring Benicio Del Toro as an ailing Blackfoot Native American who returns to Montana after World War II.

Misty Upham's most notable film role, however, was that of a financially strapped Mohawk bingo parlor employee in Courtney Hunt's 2008 drama Frozen River. In the movie, Upham's character joins forces with a discount store clerk (Melissa Leo) to smuggle immigrants from Canada into the United States by way of the frozen St. Lawrence River. As to be expected, tragedy ensues.

Upham was shortlisted for a Best Supporting Actress Independent Spirit Award, but lost to Penélope Cruz for Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Upham was bypassed for the Academy Awards, even though fellow player Melissa Leo managed to land a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

'August: Osage County'

Last year, Misty Upham was seen as the housekeeper Johnna Monevata in John Wells' August: Osage County (2013), a dysfunctional family comedy-drama featuring a prestigious ensemble cast:

Meryl Streep. Julia Roberts. Sam Shepard. Ewan McGregor. Chris Cooper. Abigail Breslin. Benedict Cumberbatch. Juliette Lewis. Margo Martindale. Dermot Mulroney. Julianne Nicholson.

The August: Osage County cast, including Upham, was eventually nominated for a SAG Award,* but only Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts went on to be shortlisted for the Oscars.

More Misty Upham movies and television work

Misty Upham also had supporting roles in Ryan Piers Williams' The Dry Land (2010), about an Iraq War veteran (Ryan O'Nan) returning to his small Texas town; and in Quentin Tarantino's critical and box office hit Django Unchained (2012), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz.

Upham will next be seen in Daniel Barnz's Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston as a woman who becomes obsessed with the suicide of a fellow chronic-pain support-group member (Anna Kendrick). Also in the Cake cast: Avatar's Sam Worthington, Desperate Housewives' Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Chris Messina, Adriana Barraza, and Lucy Punch.

As per the IMDb, Upham was currently shooting Phil Claydon's thriller Crawlspace, featuring Michael Vartan, and had another project in the works, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water.

On television, Misty Upham had small roles in HBO's Big Love, starring Bill Paxton, and in several TV movies, among them Skinwalkers (2002), starring Adam Beach and Wes Studi, and Dreamkeeper (2003), with August Schellenberg and Eddie Spears. Both movies centered on Native American characters.

* Featuring Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner, among others, David O. Russell's American Hustle won the Best Cast SAG Award earlier this year.

CNN.com was a key source for this article on the death of actress Misty Upham.

Tracy Rector quote via Deadline.com.

Juliette Lewis and Misty Upham photo via Instagram.

Melissa Leo and Misty Upham Frozen River image: Sony Pictures Classics.

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