Julie Frances Christie in Chukua, Assam, India, 14 April 1941.
Studied art in France, attended Brighton Technical College and Central
School for Music and Drama, London.
1957—acting debut on stage with Frinton Repertory Company, Essex;
early 1960s—on British TV, including title role in serial
A for Andromeda
; 1962—film debut in small part in
; 1963—first lead role in Schlesinger's
; 1984—in TV mini-series
Entscheidung am Kap Horn
Best Actress Academy Award, Best Actress, New York Film Critics, and Best
British Actress, British Academy, for
International Creative Management, 40 West 57th Street, New York, NY
Crooks Anonymous (Annakin) (as Babette La Vern)
The Fast Lady (Annakin) (as Claire Chingford); Billy Liar (Schlesinger) (as Liz)
Young Cassidy (Cardiff and Ford) (as Daisy Battles); Darling (Schlesinger) (as Diana Scott); Doctor Zhivago (Lean) (as Lara)
Fahrenheit 451 (Truffaut) (as Linda/Clarisse)
Far from the Madding Crowd (Schlesinger) (as Bathsheba Everdene); Tonite Let's All Make Love in London (Whitehead—doc)
Petulia (Lester) (title role)
In Search of Gregory (Peter Wood) (as Catherine)
The Go-Between (Losey) (as Marian Maudsley); McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman) (as Mrs. Miller)
Don't Look Now (Roeg) (as Laura Baxter)
Shampoo (Ashby) (as Jackie Shawn); Nashville (Altman) (as herself)
The Demon Seed (Cammell) (as Susan Harris)
Heaven Can Wait (Beatty and Henry) (as Betty Logan)
Memoirs of a Survivor (Gladwell) (as "D"); The Animals Film (Schonfeld and Alaux) (as narrator)
The Return of the Soldier (Bridges) (as Kirry Baldry); Les Quarantièmes Rugissants (de Chalonges)
Heat and Dust (Ivory) (as Anne)
The Gold Diggers ( Women Make Movies ) (Potter) (as Ruby); Separate Tables (Schlesinger—for TV) (as Mrs. Shankland/Miss Railton-Bell); Broadside: Taking on the Bomb (doc for TV) (as narrator); Why Their News Is Bad News (for TV) (as narrator)
Champagne amer (Vert)
Miss Mary (Bemberg) (as Mary Mulligan); Power (Lumet) (as Ellen Freeman)
Agent Orange: Policy of Poison (Iverson—doc) (as narrator); Yilmaz Güney: His Life, His Films (Cousins-Mills—for TV) (as narrator); Secret Obsession (Vart)
La Memoire Tatouée (Behi) (as Betty); Dadah Is Death ( Deadly Decision ) (London—for TV) (as Barbara Barlow); Vater und Sonhe ( Fathers and Sons ; Sins of the Fathers ) (Sinkel—for TV)
Fools of Fortune (O'Connor) (as Mrs. Quinton)
Short Step (Babenco)
The Railway Station Man (Whyte—for TV) (as Helen Cuffe)
Hamlet (Branagh) (as Gertrude); Dragonheart (Cohen) (as Aislinn)
Afterglow (Rudolph) (as Phyllis Mann)
The Miracle Maker (Hayer, Sokolov—for TV) (as God)
Belphégor ( Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre ) (Salomé)
Interview in Photoplay (New York), September 1971.
Interview with B. R. Rich, in American Film (New York), May 1983.
Interview with Karen Jaehne, in Cineaste (New York), vol. 15, no. 2, 1986.
Interview with A. Cockburn, in American Film (New York), January/February 1986.
Interview with Brian Case, in Time Out (London), 12 February 1997.
Callan, Michael Feeney, Julie Christie , London, 1984.
Murphy, Robert, Sixties British Cinema , London, 1992.
Focus on Film (London), Autumn 1973.
McCreadie, M., "Valuelessness and Vacillation in the Films of Julie Christie," in Journal of Popular Film (Bowling Green, Ohio), vol. 6, no. 3, 1978.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 30 August 1979 and 2 July 1981.
Klein, Andy, filmography in American Film , February 1990.
Stars (Mariembourg), Autumn 1993.
Sight & Sound (London), May 1996.
Star , short directed by Alan Lovell, 1966.
* * *
Julie Christie became an international star in the decade her performances seemed to celebrate. (And a lot of Christie's star appeal was tied into her youth and associated with the rebellious youth of the 1960s.) Her characters defied convention, joyfully reveling in zoom-lensed sensuality in Billy Liar , selfishly courting the high life in Darling , impetuously pursuing dangerous whims in Petulia . But in the morally schizoid world of 1960s cinema, screenwriters often exacted a high price for their characters' sexual liberation. For such films—epitomized by her Oscar-winning Darling —Julie Christie was the perfect actress.
Her particular talent appeared double-edged. Her model's beauty and the slick style in which she was photographed (especially by John
Starring roles in three prestigious but overproduced adaptations of novels—two historical (Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago and Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd ), the third futuristic (Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 )—reflect Christie's career-long resistance to typecasting. Dual performances as Oskar Werner's dreadful, book-hating wife and his magnificent, book-loving mistress in Fahrenheit 451 might have broadened public perception of her acting range, but fade into the film's pretentious moralizing, and are smothered by Truffaut's apparent discomfort with an English-language film.
Three roles in early 1970s pictures underline more vividly her rejection of glamorous roles in favor of challenging, literate scripts filmed by brilliantly quirky directors. All three movies—Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller , Losey's The Go-Between , and Roeg's Don't Look Now —thrive on narrative ambiguity, and rebel against the filmic genres from which they are derived—Western, English romance, and gothic thriller, respectively—through consistent frustration of audience expectations. In all three, her identity as a star is submerged. In The Go-Between and McCabe and Mrs. Miller (a second Oscar nomination), Christie disappears from view for considerable stretches of time; in Don't Look Now she is offscreen for more than a quarter of the film. In the movie The Go-Between , adapted by Harold Pinter from L. P. Hartley's complex novel, her performance is integrated with the remarkable ensemble playing of its all-British cast. Yet in all three films, Christie dominates the frame when she is in it, and she displays a depth and range of acting skill, that in her 1960s work, seemed almost secondary to her beauty.
With enviable control, inner torment pokes through to disclose the characteristic Christie embodiment of the clash between illusion and reality in all three women: frizzy-headed prostitute Mrs. Miller (opposite Warren Beatty's McCabe) in the eccentric, elliptical world of Robert Altman; radiant aristocrat Marian Maudsley who, by The Go-Between 's end, reveals unforgivable streaks of cruelty; and Laura Baxter, haunted by her husband's and daughter's deaths in the terrifying, fractured universe of Don't Look Now , but regal as she musters her emotional resources. More recently, Christie played a mother in the 1988 television movie Dadah Is Death . It was a part most would not identify with her early screen persona. She starred in this fact-based story about an Australian woman's efforts to clear her son of drug charges in Malaysia. It was not a glamorous or offbeat role, but Christie played it with the same kind of intensity.
Christie is committed to political and social causes which, since Heaven Can Wait , have increasingly determined the roles she accepts: nuclear disarmament ( Memoirs of a Survivor ; Broadside: Taking on the Bomb , a television documentary); animal experimentation ( The Animals Film ); and feminism ( The Gold Diggers , directed by Sally Potter and produced by a crew comprised entirely of women). The specialized, uncommercial nature of the films she tends to select, and her conscious shedding of the star image, have combined in recent years to limit Christie's audience to that of art houses and cinema societies. The single exception is Heat and Dust , in which the actress portrays a young woman searching for clues to her great-aunt's life in India, where Christie herself was born. Like The Go-Between , it uses the past to reflect upon the present; as in the three films of the early 1970s, Christie is offscreen for long periods. And like other Christie films, its source is a rich literary text, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's novel of the same name, a further example of the actress's discriminating taste.
—Mark W. Estrin, updated by Linda J. Stewart