Though born in Illinois, Karen Allen spent her youth traveling the country with her family. She packed up and moved herself to New York after high school to study art and design at the Fashion School of Technology, and always having an itch to travel, followed graduation by globetrotting around the Western Hemisphere. This is where she discovered her passion for acting.
In the late 1970s, Karen settled back in New York to continue honing her craft, utilizing the wisdom of such renowned acting teachers as Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg to guide her. By 1978, she was cast as Katy in the wild comedy “Animal House,” which was an instant box office success and raised Karen’s exposure up a notch. But minor roles followed, including a bit part in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” and William Friedkin’s Al Pacino gay crime drama “Cruising.” Then, in the spring of1980, Steven Spielberg (floundering after his “1941” misfire that reunited many “Animal House” faces) auditioned and cast Karen as the fiery ex of Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Not only did the film go on to great successes, but Karen’s portrayal of Marion Ravenwood was one of the movie’s highlights and proved to be her crowning role.
Devoting herself to theatre in the post-“Raiders” years, Karen’s notable works on film in the remaining years of the 1980s were “Starman” and “Scrooged.” She started a family in the early 1990s, moved into mom roles (a la “The Sandlot” in 1993), and busied herself outside acting by operating a yoga center in Massachusetts. In 2003, Karen ventured into the knitwear business by opening her own textile company, Karen Allen Fiber Arts. She also taught acting and directing at a Massachusetts college. In 2007, after a three-year hiatus from acting, Karen returned to movie sets once again as Marion Ravenwood for the fourth Indiana Jones film. Harrison Ford has claimed that “Indiana Jones has been my life’s work,” but while Marion Ravenwood is clearly Karen’s best film role, she’s crafted an interesting life that has taken her out of the realm of Hollywood and into personally enriching paths. Nevertheless, it’s still nice to see she has the same Ravenwood spirit after all these years.
Karen on the Web
Karen’s ultimate web resource guide.
TV Guide: Karen Allen
Latest news, photos, listings of Karen on TV, and some video clips.
Medium bio covering all the bases of Karen’s life.
Lengthy bio, links, photos and more.
Karen Allen Interviews
Links to a bunch of archival interviews.
Karen on Video
Comic Con 2007
A video presentation guided by Steven Spielberg with the cast of “Indy 4.”
Cannes Film Festival Interview
Chat with Karen at the reception for “Indy 4” at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
Karen on the Screen
She made her debut as Katy in “Animal House,” played Nina in “The Wanderers,” Jenny in “Starman,” and Claire in “Scrooged.” She’s Miss Dunne in “Malcolm X,” the schoolteacher in “King of the Hill,” and Melissa in “The Perfect Storm.” She took a hiatus beginning in 2004 before reprising her role as Marion Ravenwood for Spielberg.
On reprising her role as Marion Ravenwood:
“I was thrilled to pieces that they had written me into this story. And then when I read the script I was really, really happy with what they had done with Marion.”