Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton, OBE (born (1956-01-09)9 January 1956) is a British actress of stage and screen. A 1976 graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), she is a BAFTA Award winner and three-time Olivier Award winner.
Staunton began her career in repertory theatre, before joining the National Theatre in 1982. She won the 1985 Olivier Award for Best Supporting Performance for her work in A Chorus of Disapproval and The Corn is Green, and the 1991 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Into the Woods. On television, she starred in the sitcoms Up the Garden Path (1990–93) and Is it Legal? (1995–98).
She drew critical acclaim for the title role in the 2004 film Vera Drake, for which she won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress and the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. The role also earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Her other film roles include Nurse in Shakespeare in Love (1998), Mrs. Blatherwick in Nanny McPhee (2005), Dolores Jane Umbridge in two of the Harry Potter films (2007–10) and Hefina Headon in Pride (2014). In 2011, she starred as Mrs Lovett in the National Theatre’s revival of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, winning a third Olivier Award. Other London stage roles include Adelaide in Guys and Dolls (1982), Sonia in Uncle Vanya (1988), Claire in A Delicate Balance (2011) and Rose in Gypsy (2014).
Early Life and Education
Staunton was born in Archway, North London, the only child of Bridie (née McNicholas), a hairdresser, and Joseph Staunton, a road-worker and labourer. The family lived over Staunton’s mother’s hair dressing salon while Staunton’s father worked on the roads. Both of her parents were first-generation Catholic immigrants from County Mayo, Ireland, with her father coming from Ballyvary and her mother from Bohola. Staunton’s mother was a musician who could not read music, but could master almost any tune by ear on the accordion or fiddle and had played in Irish showbands.
Staunton attended La Sainte Union Convent School, an all-girls Catholic school on the edge of Parliament Hill, Highgate Road, from years 11 to 17. Her talent was spotted by Jacqueline Stoker, her elocution teacher.Before long she was starring as Polly Peachum in a school production of The Beggar’s Opera. Staunton studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
When she was 18, Staunton enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and studied alongside Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall and Juliet Stevenson. She graduated two years later in 1976, then spent six years in English repertory, including a period at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter where she had the title role in Shaw’s Saint Joan (1979). In 1982, she moved on to the National Theatre. She has stated that her first job was a play by Goldoni. She is also known for her performance as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz for the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has had a long and distinguished career in the theatre, performing in such diverse plays as A Man for all Seasons, Mack & Mabel, Side by Side, and Elektra.
Staunton also appeared in a National Theatre 80th birthday tribute to Lord Olivier, Happy Birthday, Sir Larry on 31 May 1987 in the presence of Olivier.
Staunton has won three Olivier Awards, Britain’s highest theatre honour, the first in 1985 for roles in two productions: A Chorus of Disapproval and The Corn Is Green. Her second was for the 1991 musical, Into the Woods. She was nominated for her performance as Miss Adelaide in the 1996 revival of Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre. More recently, she appeared in the premiere of Frank McGuinness’s There Came a Gypsy Riding at the Almeida in 2007 and opened in 2009 in English Touring Theatre’s production of Entertaining Mr Sloane alongside Mathew Horne at the Trafalgar Studios.
In October 2011 Staunton took the role of Mrs. Lovett in a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, starring opposite singer Michael Ball, at the Chichester Festival. The show was well received, and it transferred to the Adelphi Theatre in London from March to September 2012. Staunton won the Olivier Award for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ for this production.
Staunton’s first big-screen role came in a 1986 film Comrades. She then appeared in the 1992 film Peter’s Friends. Other film roles include performances in Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Deadly Advice (1993), Sense and Sensibility (1995) Twelfth Night (1996), Chicken Run (2000), Another Life (2001), Bright Young Things (2003), Nanny McPhee (2005), Freedom Writers (2007) and How About You (2007).
Staunton shared a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Performance by a Cast in 1998 for Shakespeare in Love. In 2004, she received the Best Actress honours at the European Film Awards, the BAFTAs, and the Venice Film Festival for her performance of the title role in Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake, which also won Best Picture. For the same role, she received Best Actress nominations for the 2004 Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
Staunton portrayed Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), a performance described as “coming close to stealing the show.” She was nominated in the “British Actress in a Supporting Role” category at the London Film Critics Circle Awards. Staunton reprised her role as Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One in 2010.
Recent film roles include the 2008 movie A Bunch of Amateurs, in which she starred alongside Burt Reynolds, Derek Jacobi and Samantha Bond, and the character of Sonia Teichberg in Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock (2009). She played one of the lead roles in the ghost film The Awakening in 2011. In 2014, she co-starred in Maleficent as well as the British comedy-drama Pride.
In late 2014, she had a voice role in Paddington, a film based on the Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond. Staunton and her Harry Potter co-star Michael Gambon voiced Paddington’s Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo, respectively.
In 1993, she appeared on television alongside Richard Briers and Adrian Edmondson in If You See God, Tell Him. Staunton also played the wife of Detective Burakov in the 1995 HBO movie, “Citizen X,” which recounted the pursuit and capture of Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo. She has had other television parts in The Singing Detective (1986), Midsomer Murders, and the comedy drama series Is It Legal? (1995–98), as well as A Bit of Fry and Laurie. She was a voice artist on Mole’s Christmas (1994). She had a guest role playing Mrs. Mead in Little Britain in 2005, and in 2007 played the free-thinking gossip, Miss Pole, in Cranford, the five-part BBC series based on Mrs Gaskell’s novels. In 2011, she played Grace Andrews in the second series of Psychoville. In 2011, she was the Voice of the Interface in the highly acclaimed and nominee for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) episode of Doctor Who – The Girl Who Waited
On radio, she has appeared in the title role of detective drama series Julie Enfield Investigates, as the lead, Izzy Comyn, in the comedy Up the Garden Path (which later moved to ITV with Staunton reprising the role), in Diary of a Provincial Lady (from 1999) and Acropolis Now.
She starred opposite Anna Massey in the post-World War II mystery series Daunt and Dervish, and opposite Patrick Barlow in The Patrick and Maureen Maybe Music Experience. She played the role of a schoolboy as the lead character in the five part (15 minutes each): “The Skool Days of Nigel Molesworth” for BBC Radio 4.
Staunton has narrated The Gruffalo for an unabridged audio book of Julia Donaldson’s children’s book. In 2014 she collaborated with her husband Jim Carter and Show of Hands on Centenary: Words and Music of the Great War, an album of songs and poetry from and inspired by World War One.
Staunton is also a patron for the Milton Rooms, a new arts centre in Malton, North Yorkshire along with Bill Nighy, Jools Holland and Kathy Burke.
Staunton met her husband, English actor Jim Carter, in Richard Eyre’s landmark early 1980s production of Guys And Dolls at the National Theatre. They have a daughter, Bessie, born in 1993. In 2007, the couple, together with Bessie, appeared in the BBC series Cranford (Carter was Captain Brown and Bessie a maid). Staunton was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2006 New Year Honours for her services to drama.
- Waiting for Godot (Lucky, 1976), Birmingham Rep
- Hay Fever, Watermill, Newbury
- Grease, York Theatre Royal
- Henry V, Leeds Playhouse
- The Gingerbread Man, Leeds Playhouse
Two seasons at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter:
- Travesties (1978) Northcott Exeter
- A Man for All Seasons (1978) Northcott Exeter
- Elektra (Elektra, 1978) Northcott Exeter
- Dear Daddy (1978) Northcott Exeter
- Cinderella (1978) Northcott Exeter
- ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (1978) Northcott Exeter:
- Macbeth (1978) Northcott Exeter
- Cabaret (1978) Northcott Exeter
- As You Like It (1978) Northcott Exeter
- Saint Joan (Saint Joan, 1979) Northcott Exeter
- The Beggar’s Opera (1979) Northcott Exeter
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1979) Northcott Exeter
- Side by Side by Sondheim (1979) Northcott Exeter
Two seasons at the Nottingham Playhouse (1980–81?):
- Pam Gems’ Piaf (Piaf) Nottingham Playhouse
- Mack and Mabel (Mabel) Nottingham Playhouse
- Mrs Warren’s Profession, Nottingham Playhouse
- A Little Night Music, Nottingham Playhouse
- She Stoops to Conquer (Kate Hardcastle) Oxford Stage Company UK tour
Theatre roles in London:
- Guys and Dolls (Mimi, Hotbox Girl, 1982), Royal National Theatre Olivier
- The Beggar’s Opera (Lucy Lockit, 1982), Royal National Theatre Cottesloe
- Schweyk in the Second World War (Anna, 1982) National Olivier
- Guys and Dolls (Miss Adelaide, 1983) National Olivier
- A Mad World, My Masters (Janet Cloughton, 1984) Theatre Royal Stratford East
- Us Good Girls (Paulette, 1984) Soho Poly
- The Corn Is Green (Bessie Watty, 1985), Old Vic – Olivier award
- A Chorus of Disapproval (Hannah Llewellyn, 1985) National Olivier – Olivier award
- The Fair Maid of the West (Bess Bridges, 1987) RSC Mermaid Theatre
- They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (Gloria Beatty, 1987) RSC Mermaid
- The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy, 1987) RSC Barbican Theatre
- Uncle Vanya (Sonya, 1988) Vaudeville Theatre
- The Lady and the Clarinet (Luba, 1989) The King’s Head Theatre, Islington
- Into the Woods (Baker’s Wife, 1990) Phoenix Theatre – Olivier award
- Rona Munro’s Bold Girls (Cassie, 1991) Hampstead Theatre
- Tony Kushner’s Slavs! (Bonfila, 1994) Hampstead Theatre
- Habeas Corpus (play) (Mrs Swabb, 1996) Donmar Warehouse
- Guys and Dolls (Miss Adelaide, 1996) National Olivier – Olivier nomination
- Divas at the Donmar 
- Yasmina Reza’s Life X Three (Ines, 2000) National Cottesloe, then transferring to the Old Vic (2001)
- Michael Hastings’ Calico (Nora Barnacle, 2004) Duke of York’s Theatre
- Frank McGuinness’s There Came a Gypsy Riding (Margaret, 2007) Almeida
- Joe Orton‘s Entertaining Mr Sloane (Kath, 2009) Trafalgar Studios
- Edward Albee‘s A Delicate Balance (Claire, 2011) Almeida Theatre
- Sweeney Todd (Mrs Lovett, 2011), Chichester Festival Theatre
- Sweeney Todd (Mrs Lovett, 2012), Adelphi Theatre – Olivier award
- Good People (Margie, 2014), Hampstead Theatre and Noël Coward Theatre
- Gypsy (Rose, 2014), Chichester Festival Theatre
- Gypsy (Rose, 2015), Savoy Theatre
Awards and Nominations
- 1982 – Olivier Award, Nominee, Best Actress in a Musical for The Beggar’s Opera
- 1988 – Olivier Award, Nominee, Best Actress in a Musical for The Wizard of Oz
- 1985 – Olivier Award, Winner, Outstanding Performance of the Year in a Supporting Role for A Chorus of Disapproval, at the NT Olivier, and The Corn Is Green, at The Old Vic
- 1991 – Olivier Award, Winner, Outstanding Performance of the Year by an Actress in a Musical for Into The Woods, at the Phoenix
- 1997 – Olivier Award, Nominee, Best Actress in a Musical for Guys and Dolls
- 2010 – Olivier Award, Nominee, Best Actress for Entertaining Mr. Sloane, at Trafalgar Studio 1
- 2012 – Theatre Awards UK, Winner, Best performance in a Musical as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd
- 2013 – Olivier Awards, Winner, Best Actress in a Musical for “Sweeney Todd”
- Lawley, Sue (15 May 2005). “This Week’s Guest: Imelda Staunton”. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 6 January 2007.
- Imelda Staunton profile at BBC Radio 4 “Desert island Discs”
- “Imelda Staunton Biography”. Tiscali Film and TV. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
- “Imelda Staunton: My Career Is Not About Looks” The Telegraph, 8 December 2008
- Irish News UK – News from the Irish Community in Britain
- “Imelda Staunton’s surprising confession: I might have nibbled the odd hash brownie and I’d love to have been a hippy Chris Sullivan, 19 November 2009, the Daily Mail
- The prime of Miss Imelda Staunton
- Raymond, Kurt. “We’re Off To Stage The Wizard of Oz”. Beyond the Rainbow to Oz website. Retrieved 15 July 2007.
- “Wizard of Oz (MUNY 1945)”. Tams–Witmark Music Library, Inc. 2005. Retrieved 15 July 2007.
- Happy Birthday, Sir Larry theatre programme, 31 May 1987
- “Staunton, Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette”. Who’s Who. A & C Black. 2012.
- Olivier Awards winners
- Billington, Michael (2 February 2009). “Theatre review: Entertaining Mr Sloane / Trafalgar Studios, London”. The Guardian (London). Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- Billington, Michael (21 March 2012). “Sweeney Todd – review”. The Guardian. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- McCurry, Justin (29 June 2007). “Japan goes wild about Harry”. The Guardian (London). Retrieved 17 May 2008.
- Dawtrey, Adam (13 December 2007). “London critics love ‘Control,’ ‘Atonement’”. Variety. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
- Ghostly Art From ‘The Awakening’
- The Milton Rooms homepage
- “Imelda Staunton on acting naturally” The Sunday Times, 21 June 2008
- “New Year Honours—United Kingdom”. The London Gazette (57855): N12. 31 December 2005.
- Imelda Staunton and Her Big Band (1–5 September 1998) Donmar Warehouse
- Billington, Michael (13 May 2011). “A Delicate Balance”. The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
- Imelda Staunton at the Internet Movie Database
- The Prime of Miss Imelda Staunton , Sunday Telegraph interview 15 July 2007
- Imelda Staunton on the Red Carpet at the 77th Annual Academy Awards on YouTube
- The Telegraph: Imelda Staunton interview
- Imelda Staunton in Conversation, filmed BAFTA event, March 2009