“I reached the point now where I have become as comfortable on a movie set as I am on stage. Before, I was trying to figure it out, how much should I emote, where should I stand? But now I know more about the camera and what goes into the mix, technically. I’m much more comfortable doing film now.” Imelda Staunton
British actress of stage, film and television Imelda Staunton gained appreciation and acclaim after starring in director Mike Leigh’s period drama, Vera Drake (2004), where she was awarded a Venice Film Festival Award, a European Film Award, a Toronto Film Critics Association Award, a National Society of Film Critics Award, a BAFTA Award, a National Society of Film Critics Award, as well as an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and SAG nominations. Before that spectacular performance, she spent years in supporting roles and earned considerably recognition with her roles in such films as Kenneth Branagh’s Peter’s Friends (1992), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Sense and Sensibility (1995), Shakespeare in Love (1998, shared a Screen Actors Guild Award) and Rat (2000). Her more recent and upcoming projects include Nanny McPhee (2005), Freedom Writers (2007) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007, as Dolores Umbridge). On the small screen, in 2005, she appeared as Mrs. Mead in several episodes of “Little Britain.”
As an applauded stage actress, Staunton has collected three Laurence Olivier Theatre awards, two London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre) awards and several award-nominations. Her most notable credits include “A Chorus of Disapproval” (1985), “The Corn is Green” (1985) and “Into the Woods” (1990). More recently, in 2007, she appeared in Frank McGuinness’ “There Came a Gypsy Riding.”
5-foot Staunton has been married to fellow actor Jim Carter since 1985 and has a daughter with him. In spite of their hectic schedule, in 2006, she proudly declared that after 21 years of marriage, the perfectly-matched couple has only been away from each other for three weeks. The same year, Staunton was awarded the O.B.E (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in New Year’s Honors List for her services to drama.
Childhood and Family:
Daughter of Joe Staunton, a road-worker and laborer, and Bridie McNicholas, a hairdresser, Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton was born on January 9, 1956, in London, England. Both of her parents are first-generation immigrants from County Mayo, Ireland, where her mother hailed from Bohola and her father from Ballyvary. She was educated at London’s La Sainte Union Convent and from 1974 to 1976, studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, England. Upon graduating from RADA, she spent six years at the English Repertory.
In 1985, Imelda married English actor Jim Carter (born in 1951). Together, they welcomed a daughter named Bessie in 1993.
Potter’s Dolores Umbridge
RADA graduate Imelda Staunton began her career on stage and worked with the National Theatre Company, where she enjoyed success by taking home a Laurence Olivier Theatre and a London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre) award for Best Supporting Actress for her fine work in Alan Ayckbourn’s “A Chorus of Disapproval” (1985). Her performance in Emlyn Williams’ semi-autobiographical play, “The Corn is Green” (1985), at the Old Vic Theatre cemented her status as an accomplished stage performer when she once again was handed both the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award and the London Critics Circle Theatre Award. Later, in 1987, she received an Oliver nomination for her starring turn in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “The Wizard of Oz,” which she followed by playing Sonya in Michael Blakemore’s production of “Uncle Vanya” for the Vaudeville Theatre, the next year.
Following an all-embracing career on stage, Staunton branched out into television and film. She landed her first significant TV role as Nurse White in the award-winning classic musical drama “The Singing Detective” (1986), written by Dennis Potter and starring Michael Gambon, and had small roles in such unremarkable movies as Comrades (1987) and They Never Slept (1990). She also starred as Jane Hartman in Beeban Kidron’s comedy Antonia and Jane (1991). However, Staunton fared better on stage as the Baker’s Wife in the original London production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” (1990), from which she eventually took home a Best Actress Olivier.
In 1992, the British thespian teamed up with Shakespearean actor-director Kenneth Branagh for his ensemble drama Peter’s Friends. The actress’ part in the movie launched her movie career, especially for her critically acclaimed comedic performance. Led by the success, the two reunited in Branagh’s highly praised movie Much Ado About Nothing, in 1993, where Staunton gained international recognition for playing Margaret. She went on to give good impressions with her parts in movies like Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility (1995, as the picky Charlotte Palmer), adapted from a book by Jane Austen, Trevor Nunn’s adaptation of Twelfth Night (1996, as the roguish housekeeper Maria), as well as the Academy Award winner Shakespeare in Love (1998, as the tart-tongued nurse), wherein she shared a Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by a Cast. Meanwhile, she also acted in Richard Eyre’s musical production of “Guys and Dolls” (1996) at the National Theatre, where she nabbed a Laurence Olivier Theatre nomination for her starring role as Miss Adelaide, and in Sam Mendes’ production of “Habeas Corpus” (1996) at the Donmar Warehouse, opposite Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn. In 1999, the actress could be seen on the small screen playing Mrs. Wilkins Micawber in the BBC/Masterpiece Theatre miniseries “David Copperfield,” opposite Bob Hoskins as Mr. Wilkins Micawber.
A voice-over role as Bunty in the animated film Chicken Run and a courageous costarring role as the title character’s wife, Conchita, in Rat, in which she was nominated for a 2000 IFTA for Best Actress, were Staunton’s opening work in the new millennium. She then took on the supporting role of the tough woman detective in the BBC hit drama Murder (2002) and was cast in several British films, including The Virgin of Liverpool (2003) and Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things (2003), before the applauded performer landed the title role of a lifetime in Vera Drake (2004), a drama about a woman who unlawfully helps desperate women induce miscarriages in 1950s England. Under the direction of Mike Leigh, Staunton delivered her best performance to date and won a number of awards for her outstanding efforts, including a BAFTA, a National Society of Film Critics, a British Independent Film, a European Film, a Chicago Film Critics Association, a Venice Film Festival, a Toronto Film Critics Association, and a Los Angeles Film Critics Association for Best Actress. The role also brought her many more nominations, most notably an Oscar, a Golden Globe and SAG nominations.
Following the huge victory, Staunton found herself playing Mrs. Sucksby in the made-for-TV film Fingersmith (2005), Mrs. Blatherwick in the Emma Thompson and Colin Firth vehicle Nanny McPhee (2005), Naomi in 3 & 3 (2005) and Polly in the TV version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2005). She also had a recurring role as Mrs. Mead in the television series “Little Britain” (2005). In 2006, she was cast as Barge Lady in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.
Recently, Staunton returned to the stage in Frank McGuinness’s “There Came a Gypsy Riding.” She also found herself supporting Oscar recipient Hilary Swank in Freedom Writers (2007), a drama directed by Richard LaGravenese. This July (2007), the award-winning player will play Dolores Umbridge in the new Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.