June 12, 1919 - Jan. 14, 2004

By Diane Warren
Updated December 27, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Uta Hagen was my acting teacher for several years when I first moved to New York in the mid-’70s, and she remained an extraordinary influence throughout my career. Every character I have ever portrayed, on film, TV, or stage, has Uta’s technique all over it.

I have such vivid memories of going to her class, lugging my props on the subway to HB Studios, trying so hard to please her. I’ll never forget finally getting her ultimate approval — her ”no criticism” comment accompanied by a light-filled smile. Her class was the one highlight during those early days in New York City, struggling as a waitress/agentless actress. With Uta, it was always only about ”the work,” and as we learned to respect our process, we acquired an undeniably, nearly unshakable respect for ourselves as actors.

As a person, a teacher, and an actress, Uta was uncompromising, passionate, and demanding. She was my mentor, my constant source of inspiration, and my friend, and I, and so many others, will miss her deeply. She was a defining force in the American theater as well as in so many people’s lives, and the ferocity of her talent was made even greater by the extraordinary generosity of her spirit. (Hagen died of stroke complications in New York City.)