Zoe Caldwell
Zoe Ada Caldwell

(1933-09-14)14 September 1933
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died16 February 2020(2020-02-16) (aged 86)
Resting placePound Ridge Cemetery, Pound Ridge, New York, U.S.
Years active1953–2018
(m. 1968; died 2002)

Zoe Ada Caldwell OBE (14 September 1933 – 16 February 2020) was an Australian actress.[1] She was a four-time Tony Award winner, winning Best Featured Actress in a Play for Slapstick Tragedy (1966), and Best Actress in a Play for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1968), Medea (1982), and Master Class (1996). Her film appearances include The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Birth (2004), and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011). She was also known for providing the voice of the Grand Councilwoman in the Lilo & Stitch franchise and in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.

Early life

Caldwell was born in Melbourne, and raised in the suburb of Balwyn. Her father, Edgar, was a plumber.[2] Caldwell's mother often took some of the neighbourhood kids to the Elizabethan Theatre in Richmond where they could go backstage and watch rehearsals and performances.[3][4]


Caldwell began her career in Melbourne in the 1950s and early 1960s, performing with the newly formed Union Theatre Repertory Company (later the Melbourne Theatre Company).[5]

She emigrated to England upon being invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company at a time when Charles Laughton was attempting to revive Lear, and Vanessa Redgrave, Eileen Atkins, Albert Finney were among the other newcomers in the company. She played Bianca in the 1959 production of Othello, starring Paul Robeson. Later she played the indomitable Helena, opposite Dame Edith Evans in a production of All's Well That Ends Well. Her career later brought her to the United States, where she was one of the original company of actors under Guthrie's direction at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. At the Guthrie, she played parts such as Ophelia in Hamlet and Natasha in Three Sisters.[citation needed]

A life member of the Actors Studio,[6] Caldwell won four Tony Awards for her performances on Broadway in Tennessee Williams' Slapstick Tragedy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Medea and Master Class. In the last she portrayed opera diva Maria Callas. In Stratford, Ontario she appeared often, including her role as Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra opposite Christopher Plummer's Mark Antony in 1967.[7]

Her other credits on Broadway include Arthur Miller's The Creation of the World and Other Business in which she played Eve, a one-woman play by William Luce based on the life of Lillian Hellman and a production of Macbeth with Christopher Plummer as Macbeth and Glenda Jackson as Lady Macbeth under Caldwell's direction. Caldwell directed, Off-Broadway, a two-woman play, created by Eileen Atkins, Vita and Virginia, based on the letters between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Atkins played Virginia and Vanessa Redgrave played Vita. Caldwell directed the Broadway production of Othello in the late 1970s with James Earl Jones, Christopher Plummer, and Dianne Wiest. She helmed the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut for two limited-run seasons as its Artistic Director in the mid-1980s.[citation needed]

Caldwell also performed on film, most notably as an imperious dowager in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo. She voiced the character of the Grand Councilwoman in Disney's Lilo & Stitch, and continued voicing the character in the franchise's later films and in Lilo & Stitch: The Series, as well as in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.[8] In 2011, she acted in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.[9]

Personal life

Caldwell graduated from Methodist Ladies' College, Kew and, much later, received an honorary degree from the University of Melbourne.[10] In 1968, she married Canadian-born Broadway producer Robert Whitehead, a cousin of actor Hume Cronyn. They had two sons and were married until Whitehead's death in June 2002.[11]


In 1970, Caldwell was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by The Queen.[9]


Caldwell died in Pound Ridge, New York on 16 February 2020, aged 86, of complications from Parkinson's disease.[1]



Year Title Role Notes
1962 Festival in Adelaide Saint Joan
1985 The Purple Rose of Cairo The Countess
2002 Lilo & Stitch Grand Councilwoman Voice
2003 Stitch! The Movie Voice, direct-to-video
2004 Birth Mrs. Hill
2004 Stitch's Great Escape! Grand Councilwoman Voice, short
2006 Leroy & Stitch Voice, direct-to-video
2011 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Oskar's Grandmother (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1959 A Midsummer Night's Dream Fairy TV movie
1960 BBC Sunday Night Play Ruth Honeywill Episode: "Twentieth Century Theatre: Justice"
1960 ITV Playhouse Louise Episode: "The Song of Louise in the Morning"
1960 Suspense Kathy Harrison Episode: "Flight 404"
1960 Theatre 70 Episode: "The Neighbour"
1961 Macbeth Lady Macbeth TV movie
1963 Festival Episode: "The Doctor's Dilemma"
1964 Playdate Streetwalker Episode: "A Night Out"
1964 Dear Liar Mrs. Patrick Campbell TV movie
1968 The Secret of Michelangelo Narrator TV movie
1971 Great Performances Sarah Bernhardt Episode: "Sarah ... Sarah Bernhardt"
1978 Play of the Month Mme. Arkadina Episode: "The Seagull"
1983 Medea Medea TV movie
1986 American Masters Carlotta Monterey O'Neill Episode: "Eugene O'Neill: A Glory of Ghosts"
1989 Lantern Hill Mrs. Kennedy TV movie
1990 Road to Avonlea Old Lady Lloyd Episode: "Old Lady Lloyd"
2003 Lilo & Stitch: The Series Grand Councilwoman Voice, Episode: "Finder"

Theatre credits

Year Title Role Notes
1965 The Devils Sister Jean of the Angels – replacement Broadway Theatre
1966 Slapstick Tragedy Polly Longacre Theater – Tony Award
1968 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Jean Brodie Helen Hayes Theater – Tony Award
1972 The Creation of the World and Other Business Eve Shubert Theater
1974 Dance of Death Alice Vivian Beaumont Theater
1977 An Almost Perfect Person Director Belasco Theater
1982 Medea Medea Cort Theater – Tony Award
1986 Lillian Lillian Ethel Barrymore Theater
1988 Macbeth Director Mark Hellinger Theatre
1991 Park Your Car In Harvard Yard Director Music Box Theater
1995–1997 Master Class Maria Callas John Golden Theater – Tony Award
2003 The Play What I Wrote Mystery Guest Star – replacement Lyceum Theater
2003 The Visit Claire Zachanassian Melbourne Theatre Company

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2002 Disney's Stitch: Experiment 626 Grand Councilwoman Deleted role; credit only
2010 Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Grand Councilwoman



  1. ^ a b Genzlinger, Neil (18 February 2020). "Zoe Caldwell, Winner of Four Tony Awards, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  2. ^ Nightingale, Benedict. Her Infinite Variety, The New York Times, 21 October 2001; accessed 27 May 2008.
  3. ^ "Ms Zoe Caldwell". University of Melbourne. 29 September 2003. Archived from the original on 30 August 2006. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  4. ^ "New York State Writers Institute on Caldwell". State University of New York. Archived from the original on 31 October 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
  5. ^ "Zoe Caldwell". AusStage. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  6. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of the Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing. p. 277. ISBN 978-0025426504.
  7. ^ "Zoe Caldwell". Stratford Festival. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep details". IMDb. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  9. ^ a b Conevey, Michael (19 February 2020). "Zoe Caldwell obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  10. ^ "Performing Arts at Pace University Presents An Evening with Zoe Caldwell, 4/23" (Press release). Pace University. 13 April 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  11. ^ Gussow, Mel (17 June 2002). "Robert Whitehead, Who Brought Top Playwrights to Broadway, Dies at 86" The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2014.