Phoebe Belle Cates was born on July 16, 1963 in New York City, New York, and raised there. She is the daughter of Lily and Joseph Cates, who was a Broadway producer and television pioneer. Her uncle was director/producer Gilbert Cates. Phoebe is of Russian Jewish, and one quarter Chinese, descent. She studied at Miss Hewitt’s school and at the Professional Children’s School in New York City. She took classes at Juilliard when she was ten-years-old for three and a half years until a knee injury forced her to stop. Phoebe had been a busy New York model starting at the age of fourteen. She’s since been featured on the covers of four Seventeens, two Elle covers, a British Vogue, and Andy Warhol’s Interview, as well as in numerous layouts in other magazines. She actively pursued her modeling career, until she met her film agent at a party at New York’s Studio 54. She trains with Robert Ravan, founder of The Actors’ Circle in New York. Previously she studied with Alice Spivack of the H.B. Studios. Cates made her motion picture debut as Sarah in Paradise (1982) in the same year she starred as Jennifer Jason Leigh’s “experienced” confidante in Amy Heckerling’s acclaimed Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Cates then landed the role of “Christine Ramsey” in Private School (1983), then co-starred in the innovative Gremlins (1984) for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, directed by Joe Dante. Cates has remained active in theatre, as well. After making her New York debut in Joseph Papp’s Off-Broadway production of “The Nest of the Wood Grouse” in 1984, she followed with David Henry Hwang’s “Rich Relations” at The Second Stage and a one-act festival at the Manhattan Punchline. On the West Coast, Cates played “Nina” in the La Jolla Playhouse production of Anton Chekhov’s “The Sea Gull” and has since appeared in “Much Ado About Nothing” at New York’s Public Theatre, and as “Juliet” in Chicago’s Goodman Theatre production of “Romeo and Juliet”.
Since 1989, Cates has been married to actor Kevin Kline, with whom she has two children.
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