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Emily Watson

Emily Watson (25831419375) cropped.jpg
Watson in 2016
Emily Margaret Watson

(1967-01-14) 14 January 1967 (age 54)
Islington, London, England
Alma materUniversity of Bristol
Years active1991–present
Jack Waters
(m. 1995)

Emily Margaret Watson OBE (born 14 January 1967)[1] is an English actress. She began her career on stage and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1992. In 2002, she starred in productions of Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya at the Donmar Warehouse, and was nominated for the 2003 Olivier Award for Best Actress for the latter.

She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her debut film role as Bess McNeil in Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves (1996) and for her role as Jacqueline du Pré in Hilary and Jackie (1998), winning the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress for the latter. For her role as Margaret Humphreys in Oranges and Sunshine (2010), she was also nominated for the AACTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Her other films include The Boxer (1997), Angela's Ashes (1999), Gosford Park (2001), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), Red Dragon (2002), The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004), Corpse Bride (2005), Miss Potter (2006), Synecdoche, New York (2008), War Horse (2011), The Theory of Everything (2014), Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) and The Happy Prince (2018). For her role in the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award. She won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress for playing Janet Leach in the 2011 ITV television biopic Appropriate Adult and was nominated for the International Emmy Award for Best Actress for the 2017 BBC miniseries Apple Tree Yard.

Early life

Watson was born in London. Her father, Richard Watson, was an architect, and her mother, Katharine (née Venables), was an English teacher at St David's Girls' School, West London.[2][3] She was brought up as an Anglican.[4] She has described her first years as 'a nice middle-class English girl ... I'd love to say I was a rebellious young girl, but I wasn't.'[5] She is a longtime friend of actress and writer Clara Salaman, and starred in the screen adaptation of Salaman's novel Too Close.[6]

Watson was educated at St James Independent Schools[7] in west London which were founded by the School of Economic Science. Whilst there, she witnessed "incidents of extreme cruelty" that were "very scarring for people going forward in their lives".[8] She attended the University of Bristol, where she obtained a BA (1988, English).[2] She later received an MA (2003, honorary) from Bristol University.[9] Watson later trained at Drama Studio London.

Watson was a member of the School of Economic Science until 1996, when she was expelled following her part in Breaking the Waves. She describes the organisation as a "very repressive regime"[8] and a "system where you were supposed to think a certain way and you weren’t really allowed to think any other way".[10] Breaking out of it, she says, was a "very powerful release" in her life.[11]

Theatrical career

Watson's career began on the stage. Her theatre credits include The Children's Hour (at the Royal National Theatre), Three Sisters, Much Ado About Nothing and The Lady from the Sea. Watson has also worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company in A Jovial Crew, The Taming of the Shrew, All's Well That Ends Well and The Changeling.[12][13] In 2002, she took time off from cinema to play two roles in Sam Mendes' repertory productions of Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night, first at Mendes' Donmar Warehouse in London and later at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Her performance was widely acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic and she was nominated for an Olivier Award nomination for Uncle Vanya.[14]

Film career

Film debut

Watson was virtually unknown until director Lars von Trier chose her to star in Breaking the Waves (1996) after Helena Bonham Carter dropped out.[15] Watson's performance as Bess McNeill won her the Los Angeles, London and New York Critics' Circle Awards for Best Actress, as well as the US National Society of Film Critics' Award for Best Actress and nominations at the Academy Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, and the Golden Globe Awards.[16]

Subsequent career

Watson at the British Academy Film Awards in the Royal Opera House, February 2007
Watson at the British Academy Film Awards in the Royal Opera House, February 2007

Watson came to public notice again in another controversial[clarification needed] role, that of cellist Jacqueline du Pré in Hilary and Jackie, for which she learned to play the cello in three months,[2] and received another Oscar nomination. She also played a leading role in Cradle Will Rock, a story of a theatre show in the 1930s, directed by Tim Robbins. Though she won the title role of Frank McCourt's mother in the adaptation of his acclaimed memoir, Angela's Ashes, the film underperformed.[17] In 2001, she appeared with John Turturro in The Luzhin Defence and in Robert Altman's ensemble piece Gosford Park.[18]

The following year, she starred as Reba McClane in the adaptation of Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs prequel, Red Dragon, as the romantic interest of Adam Sandler in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love and in the sci-fi action thriller Equilibrium with Christian Bale.

In 2004, Watson received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Peter Sellers's first wife, Anne Howe, in the HBO film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. 2005 saw Watson star in four films: Wah-Wah, Richard E. Grant's autobiographical directorial debut; Separate Lies, directed by Gosford Park writer Julian Fellowes; Tim Burton's animated film Corpse Bride, with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter; and John Hillcoat's Australian-set "western", The Proposition.

In 2006, Watson took a supporting role in Miss Potter, a biographical drama about children's author Beatrix Potter, from Babe director Chris Noonan, with Ewan McGregor and Renée Zellweger; and also in an adaptation of Thea Beckman's children's novel Crusade in Jeans. In 2007, she appeared in The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, an adaptation of the Dick King-Smith children's novel about the origin of the Loch Ness Monster.[19][20]

In 2008, Watson starred with Julia Roberts and Carrie-Anne Moss in Fireflies in the Garden,[21] the Lifetime Television movie The Memory Keeper's Daughter (based on the novel with the same name), and in screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York.[22] In 2009 she appeared in the film Cold Souls, from first-time director Sophie Barthes,[23] and Within the Whirlwind, a biographical film of Russian poet and Gulag survivor Evgenia Ginzburg from The Luzhin Defence director Marleen Gorris.[24] Watson considers Ginzburg her best recent role; however, the film was not picked up for distribution.[25]

In 2010, she starred in Oranges and Sunshine, a film recounting the true story of children sent into abusive care homes in Australia, directed by Jim Loach, and also the following year (2011) in War Horse, an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's prizewinning novel, directed by Steven Spielberg. In 2011, she played Janet Leach in the ITV two-part film Appropriate Adult, about serial killer Fred West, for which she won a BAFTA.[2]

In 2014, Watson had supporting roles in The Book Thief, alongside Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nélisse, and the Oscar-nominated film The Theory of Everything, portraying Jane Wilde, Hawking's mother in law, alongside Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. In 2015, she had supporting roles in Testament of Youth, alongside Alicia Vikander and Kit Harington, Eduardo Verástegui's Little Boy and A Royal Night Out, in which she portrayed Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. She also received rave reviews[26] for her portrayal of Julie Nicholson in the BBC Drama A Song for Jenny, with experts tipping her to win the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress.

In 2019 she appeared as a nuclear scientist — a composite of several real scientists — in the miniseries Chernobyl.

Watson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to drama.[27][28][29] In 2017, she starred in the BBC mini-series Apple Tree Yard.[30]


In 2007, Mood Indigo, a script written by Watson and her husband, was optioned by Capitol Films. The film is a love story set during the Second World War and concerns a young woman who falls in love with a pilot.[31]

Missed roles

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet wrote the character Amélie for Watson to play (Amélie was originally named Emily) but she eventually turned the role down due to difficulties speaking French and a desire not to be away from home.[32] The role made a star of Audrey Tautou. She was also the first choice to play Elizabeth I in Shekhar Kapur's film Elizabeth, the role that won Cate Blanchett an Academy Award nomination.[33]

She is frequently confused with Emma Watson, the actress who plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series due to the similarity of their names. She has stated that she does not correct anyone who makes that mistake, as she is "quite flattered that people think I'm 21".[34][35]


Watson is a supporter of the children's charity the NSPCC. In 2004, she was inducted into the society's hall of fame for spearheading the successful campaign to appoint a Children's Commissioner for England.[36] Receiving her award in the crowded House of Commons, she spoke out against the possibility that the Children's Commissioner become a figurehead with little real power.[37] She is also one of the patrons of the London children's charity Scene & Heard.[38] In April 2018, Watson presented Maternity Worldwide as her chosen charity on the BBC Radio 4 Appeal.[39]

Personal life

Watson married Jack Waters, whom she had met at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1995. They have a daughter born in 2005,[40] and a son in 2009.[25] They live in Greenwich, London.[41][42]

Her mother fell ill with encephalitis shortly before filming commenced on Oranges and Sunshine. Watson returned to London but arrived just after her death.[2]



Year Title Role Notes
1996 Breaking the Waves Bess McNeill
1997 Metroland Marion
1997 The Boxer Maggie
1998 Hilary and Jackie Jackie
1999 Cradle Will Rock Olive Stanton
1999 Angela's Ashes Angela McCourt
2000 Trixie Trixie Zurbo
2000 The Luzhin Defence Natalia Katkov
2001 Gosford Park Elsie
2002 Punch-Drunk Love Lena Leonard
2002 Red Dragon Reba McClane
2002 Equilibrium Mary O'Brien
2004 Boo, Zino & the Snurks Atlanta Voice only
2004 The Life and Death of Peter Sellers Anne Sellers
2005 Separate Lies Anne Manning
2005 Wah-Wah Ruby Compton
2005 Corpse Bride Victoria Everglot Voice only
2005 The Proposition Martha Stanley
2006 Miss Potter Amelia "Millie" Warne
2006 Crusade in Jeans Mary Vega
2007 The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Anne MacMorrow
2008 Fireflies in the Garden Adult Jane Lawrence
2008 Synecdoche, New York Tammy
2009 Cold Souls Claire
2009 Within the Whirlwind Evgenia Ginzburg
2010 Cemetery Junction Mrs. Kendrick
2011 Oranges and Sunshine Margaret Humphreys
2011 War Horse Rose Narracott
2012 Anna Karenina Countess Lydia
2013 Some Girl(s) Lindsay
2013 The Book Thief Rosa Hubermann
2013 Belle Lady Mansfield
2014 The Theory of Everything Beryl Wilde
2014 Testament of Youth Mrs. Brittain
2015 Little Boy Emma Busbee
2015 A Royal Night Out Queen Elizabeth
2015 Everest Helen Wilton
2015 Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism Miss Trinklebury
2017 Kingsman: The Golden Circle White House Chief of Staff Fox
2017 On Chesil Beach Violet Ponting
2017 Monster Family Emma Wishbone Voice only
2018 The Happy Prince Constance Lloyd


Emily Watson television work
Year Title Role Notes
1994 A Summer Day's Dream Rosalie Television film
1997 The Mill on the Floss Maggie Tulliver Television film
2008 The Memory Keeper's Daughter Caroline Gil Television film
2011 Appropriate Adult Janet Leach 2 episodes
2013 The Politician's Husband Freya 3 episodes
2015 The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe Grace McKee 2 episodes
2015 A Song for Jenny Julie Nicholson Television film
2015 The Dresser Her Ladyship Television film
2017 Apple Tree Yard Yvonne Carmichael 4 episodes
2017 Genius Elsa Einstein 4 episodes
2017 Little Women Marmee 3 episodes
2018 King Lear Regan Television film
2019 Chernobyl Ulyana Khomyuk 4 episodes
2020 The Third Day Mrs. Martin 6 episodes
2021 Too Close Dr. Emma Robertson 3 episodes



Awards and nominations

Year Title Award Result
1996 Breaking the Waves Bodil Award for Best Actress Won
European Film Award for Best Actress Won
Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer Won
Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival President Award for Best Actress Won
London Film Critics' Award for Best British Newcomer of the Year Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association's New Generation Award Won
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress Won
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress Won
Robert Award for Best Actress Won
Academy Award for Best Actress Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Most Promising Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama Nominated
London Film Critics' Award for Best British Actress of the Year Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama Nominated
1998 Hilary and Jackie British Independent Film Award for Best Actress Won
London Film Critics' Award for Best British Actress of the Year (also for Angela's Ashes) Won
Academy Award for Best Actress Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
1999 Cradle Will Rock London Film Critics' Award for Best British Supporting Actress of the Year Nominated
Angela's Ashes London Film Critics' Award for Best British Actress of the Year (also for Hilary and Jackie) Won
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role Nominated
IFTA Award for Best Actress Nominated
2000 The Luzhin Defence British Independent Film Award for Best Actress Nominated
London Film Critics' Award for Best British Actress of the Year Nominated
2001 Gosford Park Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cast Won
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast Won
Satellite Award for Best Cast – Motion Picture Won
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Won
European Film Awards Audience Award for Best Actress Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated
2002 Punch-Drunk Love Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress Won
MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss (shared with Adam Sandler) Nominated
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Red Dragon Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actress (2nd place) Won
London Film Critics' Award for Best British Supporting Actress of the Year Won
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Empire Award for Best Actress Nominated
2004 The Life and Death of Peter Sellers Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2005 Separate Lies London Film Critics' Award for Best British Actress of the Year Nominated
Wah-Wah British Independent Film Award for Best Actress Nominated
The Proposition IF Award for Best Actress Nominated
London Film Critics' Award for Best British Supporting Actress of the Year Nominated
2008 Synecdoche, New York Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Ensemble Cast Won
Independent Spirit Award's Robert Altman Award Won
2009 Cold Souls Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Ensemble Cast Nominated
2011 Oranges and Sunshine AACTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role Won
Satellite Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Nominated
Appropriate Adult BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress Won
Golden Nymph for Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries Won
RTS Television Award for Best Actor (Female) Won
Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Movie/Miniseries Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Nominated
2013 The Book Thief Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture Drama Nominated
2014 The Theory of Everything Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
2017 Apple Tree Yard International Emmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress Nominated
2019 Chernobyl Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Nominated


  1. ^ Piscini, Beatrice. "Emily Watson. Biografia e filmografia - Trovacinema". La Repubblica (in Italian). Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kate Kellaway (20 March 2011). "Emily Watson: 'I had to put a lid on my grief… bury it deep down'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  3. ^ Elaine Lipworth (21 February 2014). "Emily Watson - My family values". the Guardian.
  4. ^ "Metroactive Movies | Emily Watson". 4 December 1996. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  5. ^ James Mottram (25 March 2011). "Emily Watson – A woman of substance who's still making waves". The Independent. London. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  6. ^ Mark Kennedy (20 May 2021). "Too Close' bonds close friends Emily Watson, Clara Salaman". Associated Press. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  7. ^ "Not a total jumping loony" Catherine Shoard, The Telegraph, 19 January 2003 From The Telegraph Newspaper.
  8. ^ a b Potton, Ed. "Emily Watson: 'I saw incidents of cruelty that have been very scarring'". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  9. ^ Tyzack, Anna (18 February 2012). "My perfect weekend: Emily Watson". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  10. ^ "Emily Watson on her new TV drama, Chernobyl". Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Emily Watson on her new TV drama, Chernobyl". Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  12. ^ "Emily Watson at Film Bug". Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  13. ^ "Emily Watson at Film Reference". Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  14. ^ London Theatre Guide: Paltrow and Watson nominated for Best Actress Olivier Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Transcribed from Sight & Sound Magazine, October 1996 issue. – Translated by Alexander Keiller. "Lars Von Trier (Breaking The Waves)". Archived from the original on 1 March 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  16. ^ IMDB: Awards for Emily Watson
  17. ^ "Angela's Ashes". Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  18. ^ "Emily Watson – IVTR". 2 June 2009. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  19. ^ "Emily Watson joins Miss Potter and Shantaram". Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  20. ^ Black Magic: The Waterhorse Archived 16 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Julia Roberts and Carrie-Anne Moss Plant Fireflies in the Garden". 9 February 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  22. ^ "First Synecdoche Pic". Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  23. ^ "Watson, Giamatti join ARTE Cinema's 'Souls'". 23 January 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2010.[dead link]
  24. ^ "Emily Watson to Star as Russian Dissident Eugenia Ginsburg in Gorris' Within the Whirlwind". Emmanuel Levy. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  25. ^ a b Rees, Jasper (26 March 2011). "Emily Watson: 'I'm a character actor – who gets laid'". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  26. ^ Sam Wollaston (6 July 2015). "A Song for Jenny review – Utterly believable exploration of grief after 7/7". the Guardian.
  27. ^ "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N15.
  28. ^ 2015 New Year Honours List Archived 2 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "NY Honours for poppy duo, Joan Collins, and John Hurt". BBC News. 31 December 2014.
  30. ^ "Five things to know about Apple Tree Yard". Evening Standard. 22 January 2017.
  31. ^ Dawtrey, Adam (24 October 2007). "'Enemies,' 'Ranch' lead Capitol slate". Variety. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
  32. ^ "Amelie Director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet – Je Voudrais Une Oscar". 24 October 2006. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  33. ^ Archerd, Army (18 February 1999). "'Jackie' thesp sez she's no 'Elizabeth'". Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  34. ^ Chris Ryan. "Emily Watson, War Horse Star, is Not Emma Watson and has Never Appeared in a Harry Potter movie". moviefone. Archived from the original on 3 August 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  35. ^ Zutter, Natalie (2 January 2012). "Crushable Quotable: People Mistake War Horse's Emily Watson For Harry Potter Star Emma Watson". Crushable. Defy Media. Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  36. ^ "NSPCC Hall of Fame 2004: Emily Watson". Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  37. ^ "Celebrating five years of FULL STOP campaign". 13 October 2004. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  38. ^ "Scene & Heard – Who We Are". 2010. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  39. ^ "Maternity Worldwide". BBC Radio Four Appeal. 29 April 2018. BBC. Radio 4.
  40. ^ peoplestaff225 (20 March 2006). "Emily Watson welcomes a daughter". Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  41. ^ Kellaway, Kate (20 March 2011). "I had to put a lid on my grief… bury it deep down". The Guardian.
  42. ^ "Emily Watson on acting and family life". scotsman.
  43. ^ Writer: Deborah Levy, Contributors: Susie Orbach, Erin Sullivan, Fiona Lecky, Composer & arranger: Chris O'Shaughnessy (24 April 2010). "The Glass Piano". Between the Ears. BBC. Radio 3.

External links

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