Known for her vibrant, intelligent portrayals of women who run the gamut from cold-blooded killers to long-suffering wives, Miranda Richardson is one of the British cinema's foremost purveyors of elegant, energetic dysfunction. Born in Southport, Lancashire, on March 3, 1958, Richardson began acting in school plays and left school at the age of 17 to study drama at the Bristol Old Vic Theatres School. Following her graduation, she acted in repertory theatre, becoming affiliated with Manchester's Liberty Theatre in 1979. Obtaining her Equity card, Richardson performed in a number of regional productions before moving on to the London stage in 1981. While performing on the stage, she also began acting on television and then in film. Her first big break came when she was cast as the real-life Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed for murder in Britain, in Mike Newell's Dance with a Stranger (1985). Her astonishing performance as a woman destroyed by her dependence on her loutish lover (played by a sulky Rupert Everett) earned wide critical acclaim, but Richardson remained fairly unknown outside of Britain. In 1987, having turned down the opportunity to play the role that went to Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, the actress appeared in her first American outing, Steven Spielberg's adaptation of J.G. Ballard's Empire of the Sun. Richardson's portrayal of a doctor's wife interned in a Japanese prison camp provided what little sensual heat there was to be found in the film, but it was not until five years later that American audiences finally took notice of her.
In 1992, Richardson had substantial roles in both Damage and The Crying Game. Playing the long-suffering wife of a philandering MP (Jeremy Irons) in the former and a murderous IRA operative in the latter, she impressed both critics and audiences with the spellbinding range and depth of her performances. Her work in both films received a number of honors, including a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her work in Damage and a BAFTA award in the same category for her portrayal of The Crying Game's Jude. In addition, Richardson won a Golden Globe for her work in another film that year, Mike Newell's Enchanted April, in which she played one of a group of British women who find liberation in the hills of Tuscany.
Richardson received her second Oscar nomination and third BAFTA nomination two years later, for her vivid, full-blooded performance in Tom and Viv, in which she played the aristocratic, unstable wife of T.S. Eliot. She subsequently did starring work in films of widely varying quality, turning in particularly memorable performances in Robert Altman's Kansas City (1996) and Robert Duvall's The Apostle (1997). In the first, she demonstrated great wit as a politician's drug-addicted wife, while in the second, she made her small role as a radio station secretary one of the film's most memorable features.
Following a turn in David Hare's The Designated Mourner (which was filmed in 1997 as the actors were also performing in its original production on the London stage) and a delightfully nasty stint as the evil queen in Merlin (1998), Richardson could be seen in a number of projects in 1999. Two of these were particularly high-profile, the first being Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, in which Richardson did time in a bodice and fright wig to portray a mysterious woman of questionable intention. The second, George Hickenlooper's The Big Brass Ring, was a political drama that featured the actress as the wife of a gubernatorial candidate (William Hurt) whose campaign is severely threatened by his past indiscretions.
Richardson ushered in the new millenium with a role in the remake of the classic British crime-thriller Get Carter and by lending her voice to the claymation family film Chicken Run. In 2002, she wowed critics both with her performance in The Hours as well as in David Cronenberg's Spider, a film that had Richardson playing three different characters opposite Ralph Fiennes. After a handful of small films in 2003, the actress returned to the megaplexes as the Queen of Denmark in 2004's The Prince & Me.
Miranda Jane Richardson was born in England on March 3rd 1958. She comes from Southport in Lancashire (near Liverpool), and has one sister, eight years her senior. Her parents and sister are not involved in the performing arts. At an early age, she performed in school plays, having shown a talent and desire to 'turn herself into' other people. She has referred to it as 'an emotional fusion; you think yourself into them'. This mimicry could be of school friends or film stars. She left school (Southport High School for Girls) at the age of 17, and originally intended becoming a vet. She also considered studying English literature in College, but decided to concentrate on drama and enrolled at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (as did many well-known British actors). After three years she graduated and moved into repertory theatre. She became affiliated with the Library Theatre in Manchester in 1979, where she became an assistant stage manager. She obtained her Equity card, and after several regional productions, first appeared on the London stage (Moving at Queens Theatre) in 1981. British television roles soon followed, and then film. Since then, Miranda has moved into the international arena, and has made films in America, France and Spain. Television work (on both sides of the Atlantic) continues, as does some stage work. Her roles are diverse, but powerful and engaging. She has been quoted as stating "what I basically like is doing things I haven't done before" and this continually comes through in the variety of roles she has played in her career. She is also selective in the roles she takes, being uninterested in performing in the standard Hollywood fare, and preferring more offbeat roles. She was approached to play the Glenn Close role in 'Fatal Attraction', but found it 'regressive in its attitudes'. Her attitude is summed up by a quote from an interview that appeared in the New York Times (Dec 27 1992) "I would rather do many small roles on TV, stage or film than one blockbuster that made me rich but had no acting. And if that's the choice I have to make, I think I've already made it".
According to '1994 Current Biography Yearbook', Ms Richardson resides in South London with her two Siamese cats, Otis and Waldo. She has now moved to West London. Her hobbies include drawing, walking, gardening, fashion, falconry, and music. She, by her own admission is a loner and lives rather modestly. An actor who studied with Ms Richardson at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre in the late seventies described her as "a strong minded, specially gifted, rather pretty young woman who enjoys wearing jewelry. She wore toe rings, which in the late seventies and especially in England, were a rarity and considered rather racy." He also remarked on her drive, even then, to be an actress of the highest calibre.
More fun stuff about Miranda Richardson
Turned down the role, subsequently taken by Glenn Close, in Fatal Attraction (1987)
Played roles in four unrelated movies in which her character was in charge of having heads cut off: Alice in Wonderland (1999) (TV), as the Queen of Hearts; Sleepy Hollow (1999), as the Western Woods Crone; "Blackadder II" (1986), as Queen Elizabeth; and Chicken Run (2000), as Mrs. Tweedy.
Attended Southport High School for Girls (Southport, England). Later attended Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Father: William Alan Richardson (Marketing Executive). Mother: Marian Georgina Richardson. Sister: Lesley Richardson (Chiropodist, born in 1949).
Gave up smoking after being hypnotised.
Grew up in Southport, Merseyside
Wanted to become a vet.
One critic wrote that "Miranda Richardson has a face like an English sky".
In one of the sketches on "Saturday Night Live" (1975) (20 March 1993), The Rain People, her character tells Phil Hartman's character that she draws inspiration for a particularly emotional scene from a childhood experience. She awoke after a bad crash, saw her father's face, and told him that she was alright. Then, she saw that it was just her father's severed head in her lap. This makes both actors cry, and produces a great scene for which Phil Hartman's character wins the Oscar. He takes credit for the scene and claims the story as his own (and messes up the details). Miranda's character is so angry she screams, "I want his severed head in my lap!" several times.
Cast, ironically, as Rita Skeeter, Hermione Granger's least favourite person in the world, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), because she did a particularly insulting impersonation of Hermione in "Harry Potter and the Secret Chamberpot of Azibaijan", a Comic Relief sketch, in 2003.
She trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the late seventies with Daniel Day-Lewis, Amanda Redman, Jenny Seagrove and Greta Scacchi.
When Richardson was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in Tom and Viv (1994) she was seen as the least likely nominee to actually win. She was so unlikely and the film was so seldom heard of that a TNT public telephone poll cited her film as "Tom and Vic".
Her personal quotes:
"I like people to be surprised by the turn of events. I don't want things just to be pat and formulaic. If there's some sort of internal combustion in the character or a desire to change the way things are going, that makes for conflict, which is the essence of drama."
Miranda Richardson thinks Daniel Radcliffe is adorable
Miranda is also scheduled to star in the fourth Harry Potter movie later this year. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Richardson plays reporter Rita Skeeter, the vicious, fashion-victim reporter who haunts Harry and his friends for sensationalized stories.
The one thing Richardson could say about the kids of Harry Potter is "They’re amazing. They are unbelievably professional and adorable. Yeah, it’s crazy, I know but yes, Daniel (Radcliffe) is just adorable. He loves music and they’re all a pleasure to work with."
Miranda Richardson: Spider
Last heard playing the shrewish Mrs Tweedy in Aardman's "Chicken Run", British actress Miranda Richardson makes a welcome return to the big screen playing three roles in David Cronenberg's unsettling "Spider"...
You once did a one-woman theatre production. Did you see playing three roles in "Spider" as a chance to do a one-woman film?
[Laughing] No, no - team player me, team player!
How come you were attached to the film before David Cronenberg?
The producer, Catherine Bailey, approached me. I'd worked with her doing a radio production for the BBC and she'd mentioned the script. We read it at [screenwriter] Patrick McGrath's house a couple of years prior to doing the film. Ralph [Fiennes] was also involved in that reading, but David wasn't attached at that point.
Everything then went very quiet. But further down the line, it suddenly was all happening. Catherine had approached David - who she thought was the right man for the job. He loved the project and she said, "This is who we're thinking about casting,". He said great, and the rest is history.
How was your experience of working with David Cronenberg? Is he very controlling?
No, I felt very free - you come to the set in a spirit of play. You know what the script is and you're not going to depart radically from it, but David is always fascinated, delighted, and interested in what the actors are doing. He notices everything - it's very gratifying.
What did you bring to your performance that wasn't originally there?
Well, David kept a lot of the improv stuff. When Gabriel Byrne and I are messing about and falling over each other walking down the street - we made that stuff up. It made its way into the movie so he obviously felt it was appropriate. It's always fun; to feel you've contributed in that way.
The last time I felt like that was in [Robert Altman's 1996 drama] "Kansas City". Rob told me to go away and think about this scene for a few days. I had to write a speech for my character and it was included in the movie. It's great to feel like you've made a very muscular contribution to what you're doing.