Lancashire, England, 3 March 1958.
Studied acting at the Bristol Old Vic Drama School.
Married to and divorced from the actor Rowan Atkinson.
Began her career appearing with a small theater in Manchester, England,
late 1970s; toured in repertory, then moved to London and began appearing
in stage and TV productions, early 1980s; earned raves for her debut
screen role in
Dance with a Stranger
, 1985; appeared as Queen Elizabeth I on the popular BBC series
The Black Adder
, 1986; furthered her reputation as a world-class actress by giving three
award-caliber performances, in
Damage, The Crying Game
Royal Television Society Best Actress Award, for
Sweet as You Are
, 1987; Best Supporting Actress British Academy Award, for
, 1992; Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical
Golden Globe, for
, 1992; New York Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actress, for
The Crying Game
, 1992; National Board of Review Best Actress, for
Tom & Viv
, 1994; Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series,
Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Golden Globe, for
Kerry Gardner, 15 Kensington High Street, London W8 5NP, England.
A Woman of Substance (Sharp—for TV) (as Paula)
Dance with a Stranger (Newell) (as Ruth Ellis); The Innocent (Mackenzie) (as Mary Turner); Underworld ( Transmutations ) (Pavlou) (as Oriel); The Death of the Heart (Hammond—for TV) (as Daphne Heccomb)
Empire of the Sun (Spielberg) (as Mrs. Victor); Eat the Rich (Peter Richardson) (as DHSS Blond); After Pilkington (Morahan—for TV) (as Penny); Sweet as You Are (Angela Pope—for TV) (as Julia Perry)
Black Adder's Christmas Carol (Boden—for TV) (as Queen Elizabeth/Asphyxia)
El Sueno del Mono Loco ( The Mad Monkey ; Twisted Obsession ) (Trueba) (as Marilyn); Ball-Trap on the Cote Sauvage (Jack Gold—for TV) (as Early Bird)
Mio Caro Dr. Graessler ( The Bachelor ) (Faenza) (as Frederica/The Widow)
Enchanted April (Newell) (as Rose Arbuthnot); The Crying Game (Neil Jordan) (as Jude); Damage (Malle) (as Ingrid)
Century (Poliakoff) (as Clara); The Line, the Cross, and the Curve (Kate Bush—short) (as mysterious woman); Old Times (for TV) (as Anna)
The Night and the Moment (Tato) (as Julie); Tom & Viv (Gilbert) (as Vivienne Haigh-Wood); Fatherland (Menaul—for TV) (as Charlie Maguire)
Kansas City (Altman) (as Carolyn Stilton); Evening Star (Harling) (as Patsy Carpenter); Swann (Gyles) (as Sarah Maloney)
Saint-Ex (Tucker) (as Consuelo de Saint-Exepury); The Designated Mourner (Hare) (as Judy); The Apostle (Duvall) (as Tootsie); A Dance to the Music of Time (Morahan, Rakoff—TV mini-series) (as Pamela Flitton)
St. Ives (Hook) (as Miss Gilchrist); The Scold's Bride (Thacker) (as Dr. Sarah Blakeney); Merlin (Barron—for TV) (as Queen Mab, Lady of the Lake); Ted & Ralph (Gernon—for TV) (as Henrietta Blough-Pendleton)
The Miracle Maker (Hayes, Sokolov—for TV) (as Mary Magdeline); Johnny Hit and Run Pauline (Lellios); The James Bond Story (for TV) (doc) (as Narrator); Alice in Wonderland (Willing—for TV) (as Queen of Hearts); The King and I (Rich) (as voice of Anna Leonowens); Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang (Bloomfield) (as Miss Fowl); The Big Brass Ring (Hickenlooper) (as Dinah Pellarin); Sleepy Hollow (Burton) (as Lady Van Tassle)
Blackadder Back and Forth (Weiland) (as Lady Elizabeth/Queen Elizabeth); Chicken Run (Lord, Peck) (as voice of Mrs. Tweedy); Get Carter (Kay)
"New Face: Miranda Richardson: From Bristol Old Vic to Ruth Ellis on Film," interview with N. Robertson, in New York Times , 16 August 1985.
McAsh, L. F., "Introducing Miranda Richardson," in Photoplay Movies and Video (London), May 1985.
Canby, Vincent, "Spectacular Debuts Create Worry about the Future," in New York Times , 18 August 1985.
Linfield, Susan, "Close-up: Miranda Richardson," in American Film (New York), December 1987.
Ver Meulen, M., "Miranda's Brave New World," in Premiere (New York), December 1987.
Wolf, M., "Miranda Richardson Is at Home with the Extreme," in New York Times , 7 April 1991.
Specter, M., "Miranda Richardson: Running from Typecasters," in New York Times , 27 December 1992.
Kroll, Jack, and others, "Inheriting the Crown," in Newsweek (New York), 4 January 1993.
Current Biography 1994 , New York, 1994.
Biskind, Peter, "Viv a Little," in Premiere (New York), March 1995.
* * *
Nineteen ninety-two certainly was Miranda Richardson's year. She dazzled movie audiences by giving eye-popping performances as three very different characters. Any actress would have been delighted to earn attention for any one of these roles. The fact that she scored a trifecta is especially impressive.
Richardson is blessed with the chameleon-like ability to completely transform her appearance from role to role; if you look at stills from her various films, you will find it hard to connect all of the characters depicted in each as being played by the same person. Richardson can play characters out of different eras, characters who are victims and victimizers, characters who are soft or tough, all with equal aplomb. Her three 1992 releases are Neil Jordan's The Crying Game , in which she plays a cold-blooded Irish Republican Army terrorist; Mike Newell's Enchanted April , in which she is an emotionally repressed Englishwoman who is one of a quartet who rents a picturesque Italian villa for a month; and Louis Malle's Damage , in which she is the wife of a high-powered member of Parliament, who is betrayed when he enters into a liaison with their son's girlfriend. Richardson might have earned Oscar nominations for any one of these roles but she was cited for Damage , in the Best Supporting Actress category. In this film, she has never been better as her character reacts upon realizing the full extent of her husband's infidelity.
Prior to 1992, Richardson was best-known to moviegoers for her star-making performance in Newell's Dance with a Stranger. This based-on-fact melodrama is set during the 1950s, with the actress playing Ruth Ellis, a divorcee and prostitute turned nightclub manager who was found guilty of murdering her lover and became the last woman ever to be hanged in England. And she has offered fine performances in films not nearly as hyped as her 1992 releases. In The Bachelor , a subtle, thoughtful story of repressed emotion, Richardson even plays two roles. The first is Frederica, the unmarried longtime companion of her staid, middle-aged doctor-brother (Keith Carradine). As the film opens, Frederica seems bored, even disturbed. It is no surprise, then, that she promptly commits suicide. Richardson reappears later in the story as the last of several women with whom the doctor comes in contact. She is The Widow, a tactless, gossipy woman with the brattiest of daughters this side of The Children's Hour —and a character totally unlike Frederica.
Richardson was to further her standing as an actress willing to play fiercely complicated characters, picking up another Oscar nomination, this one as Best Actress, for Tom & Viv. The film is an austere, up-close-and-personal drama detailing the relationship between two deeply intertwined personalities: the writer-poet T. S. Eliot (Willem Dafoe) and his deeply troubled wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood (Richardson). The two meet in 1914, and court in what seems like record time. But none of Viv's relatives informs Tom that she suffers from what her concerned brother calls "women's troubles . . . a shameful family secret." She is a fragile, delicate soul who actually is afflicted with a hormonal imbalance. Tom & Viv may love each other passionately, but end up being akin to two trains speeding down two vastly different tracks.
The second half of the 1990s found Richardson busily appearing in television and theatrical films. Among her highest-profile roles was the kidnapped socialite in Robert Altman's Kansas City ; this easily was her best part of the period. She made an all-too-brief appearance as a radio station receptionist in Robert Duvall's The Apostle , and was a wealthy Texas divorcee in Robert Harling's The Evening Star , an ill-advised sequel to Terms of Endearment. She played Lady Van Tassel in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow , and was one of three characters in David Hare's The Designated Mourner , more a filmed reading of Wallace Shawn's play than a full-blown screen adaptation . While a welcome presence in all these films, none of her parts matched those she played earlier in the decade.
All of Richardson's best roles have been united in that they are psychologically complex. She is at her strongest when playing individuals who, either because of their own inner demons or the manner in which they have been treated by others, are forced to deal with deep, unrelenting emotion. One hopes that, in the future, she will find similar parts that fully utilize her considerable talent.