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Emily Watson (born 14 January 1967) is an English actress. She made an acclaimed debut film performance in Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves.

Personal life

Watson was born in Islingtonmarker, London, England, the daughter of an architect father and an English professor mother. She was raised as an Anglican. Watson trained at Drama Studio Londonmarker and holds a B.A. (1988, English) as well as an M.A. (2003, honorary) from Bristol Universitymarker. Watson married Jack Waters, whom she had met at the Royal Shakespeare Company, in 1995. Their daughter, Juliet, was born in autumn 2005. The couple are currently expecting their second child together.


Watson is a committed supporter of the British 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. Receiving her award in the crowded House of Commonsmarker, she actively spoke out against the possibility that the Children's Commissioner become a figurehead with little real power.


Theatrical career

Although best known internationally for her film roles, Watson's career began on the stage. Her theatre credits include The Children's Hour (at the Royal National Theatremarker), Three Sisters, Much Ado about Nothing and The Lady From The Sea.

She has also worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company in such productions as A Jovial Crew, The Taming of the Shrew, All's Well That Ends Well and The Changeling.

In 2002 she took time off from cinema to play two roles in Sam Mendes's repertory productions of Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night, first at Mendes's Donmar Warehousemarker in London and later at the Brooklyn Academy of Musicmarker. Her performance was widely acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic and garnered her an Olivier Award nomination.

Film debut

Watson was virtually unknown until director Lars von Trier chose her to star in his controversial Breaking the Waves after Helena Bonham Carter, dropped out "at the very last minute." Her performance as Bess McNeill won Watson the Los Angeles, London and New York Critics Circle Awards, the US National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, and ultimately an Oscar nomination.

Subsequent career

Watson came to public notice again in another controversial role, as cellist Jacqueline du Pré in Hilary and Jackie, for which she learned to play the cello, 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 memoir, Angela's Ashes, the film underperformed. In 2001, she appeared alongside John Turturro in The Luzhin Defence and in Robert Altman's ensemble piece Gosford Park. 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 alongside Christian Bale.

In 2004, Watson received a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Peter Sellers's first wife, Anne Howe, in the HBO movie The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. 2005 saw Watson starring 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, alongside Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter; and Nick Cave's Australian-set western, The Proposition. In 2006, she took a supporting role in Miss Potter, a biopic of 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.

Watson starred with Julia Roberts and Carrie-Anne Moss in Fireflies in the Garden, and appears in the film Cold Souls, from first-time director Sophie Barthes. She also starred in screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York and Within the Whirlwind, a biopic of Russian poetess Evgenia Ginzburg, from Luzhin Defence director Marleen Gorris. She is slated to appear in Fellini Black and White, as the wife of film director Frederico Fellini. The film depicts a trip the director made to receive an award and also stars Antonio Banderas, Liv Tyler, Laurence Fishburne and Peter Dinklage.


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 World War II and concerns a young woman who falls in love with a pilot.

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. The role went on to make an international 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. She was also intended to be the lead in Miss Potter, but ended up with a supporting role.



  1. Emily Watson Biography (1967-)
  2. Metroactive Movies | Emily Watson
  3. The great pretender.
  4. NSPCC Hall of Fame 2004: Emily Watson
  5. Celebrating five years of FULL STOP campaign
  6. Emily Waston at Film Bug
  7. Emily Watson at Film Reference
  8. London Theatre Guide: Paltrow and Watson nominated for Best Actress Olivier
  10. IMDB: Awards for Emily Watson
  11. Emily Watson - IVTR
  12. Emily Watson joins Miss Potter and Shantaram
  13. Black Magic: The Waterhorse
  14. Julia Roberts and Carrie Ann Moss plant Fireflies in the Garden
  15. Watson, Giamatti join ARTE Cinema's 'Souls'
  16. Amelie Director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet – Je Voudrais Une Oscar
  17. 'Jackie' thesp sez she's no 'Elizabeth'

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