Helen Elizabeth Hunt (born June 15, 1963) is an American actress, film director, and screenwriter. She starred in the sitcom Mad About You for seven years, before being cast in the romantic comedy As Good as It Gets (for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress) and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Some of her other Hollywood credits include Twister, Cast Away, What Women Want and Pay It Forward. She made her directorial debut in 2007 with Then She Found Me.
Hunt was born in Culver City, California, the daughter of Jane Elizabeth (née Novis), a photographer, and Gordon Hunt, a film director and acting coach. Her uncle, Peter H. Hunt, is also a director, and her maternal grandmother, Dorothy Fries (née Anderson) was a voice coach. Her paternal grandmother was Jewish and her mother was Methodist. She spent part of her childhood in New York City and later attended the University of California at Los Angeles.
Hunt began working in the 1970s as a child actress. Her early roles included an appearance as Murray Slaughter's daughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, alongside Lindsay Wagner in an episode of The Bionic Woman, and a regular role in the television series The Swiss Family Robinson. She appeared as a marijuana-smoking classmate on an episode of The Facts of Life. She also appeared as a young woman who, while on PCP, jumps out of a second-story window in a 1982 after school special called Desperate Lives (a scene which she mocked during a Saturday Night Live monologue in 1994). In the mid-1980s, she had a recurring role on St. Elsewhere as Clancy Williams, girlfriend of Dr. Jack "Boomer" Morrison. She remains well known for one of her earliest roles as Jennie in Bill: On His Own, costarring Mickey Rooney.