“Most actors try to do as many different things as possible. I like the encouragement I get from doing new things. I like to feel scared or challenged in the hope that I can pull it off. That little bit of fear creates an energy that I can channel into the performance. And you have to keep tapping new parts of yourself, keep working or you never improve. The only way to improve is to set yourself harder goals.” Joanne Whalley
British actress Joanne Whalley first came to public attention on the London stage and in the English TV miniseries “Edge of Darkness” (1985), from which she took home a BAFTA nomination, before gaining international prominence with her role as the beautiful Nurse Mills in the award-winning miniseries “The Singing Detective” (1986). However, the doe-eyed Whalley is probably best known for her portrayal of Christine Keeler in the movie “Scandal” (1989), a performance that subsequently rocketed her status in mainstream Hollywood.
One of People magazine's “50 Most Beautiful People in the World (1991), Whalley continued to appear in such films as “Navy Seals” (1990), “Shattered” (1991), “Trial by Jury” (1994), “A Good Man in Africa” (1994), “The Man Who Knew Too Little” (1997), “The Guilty” (2000), “Virginia's Run” (2002), “The Californians” (2005) and more recently, “Played” (2006). On the small screen, she is know for playing roles in the miniseries “Scarlett” (1994), as Scarlett O'Hara, “Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis” (2000), starring in the title character, and “The Virgin Queen” (2005), as Queen Mary. More recently, in 2007, she portrayed Katy Adair in the BBC film “Life Line.”
Off camera, Whalley was known for her spotlight marriage to actor Val Kilmer from 1988 to 1996. They have two children together, Mercedes and Jack.
Childhood and Family:
Joanne Whalley was born on August 25, 1964, in Manchester, England. She grew up in Stockport. Joanne's parents encouraged their daughter to pursue an acting career.
On February 28, Joanne tied the knot with Californian-born actor Val Kilmer, whom she met on the set of 1988's “Willow.” Their first child, daughter Mercedes Kilmer, was born on October 29, 1991, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Four years later, in June 1995, the couple welcomed a son named Jack Kilmer. Shortly after the birth of their son, the pair separated and Joanne filed for divorce on July 21, 1995, stating inconsistent differences. The divorce was legalized in February 1996. During her marriage, Joanne used the name Joanne Whalley-Kilmer.
The Singing Detective
With her parents' support, Joanne Whalley began acting in school plays as a child and went on to perform on the British stage when she was a teenager. Her first television role arrived at age 10 when she landed a recurring role on the well-liked long-running British series “Coronation Street” (1974-1976). From there, the girl appeared in such TV series as “Emmerdale Farm” (1977) and the 1982 based-on-novel drama “A Kind of Loving,” in which she gained attention for portraying cunning, intelligent girls. Whalley also acted in the British educational drama “How We Used to Live” (1976 to 1978).
Whalley auditioned for and earned a place at the British Royal Court Theatre, with which she performed classical ingénue roles in such standards as “The Three Sisters.” In 1982, the actress made her feature acting debut with a bit part as a groupie in the Alan Parker-directed “Pink Floyd The Wall” and collected some attention for her performance in the musical movie. She continued to receive critical reviews in second leads in such vehicles as Mike Newell's stylish 50s period drama “Dance with a Stranger” (1985), opposite Miranda Richardson, Ian Holm and Rupert Everett, Peter Smith's comedy “No Surrender” (1985), with Ray McAnally, and the bitter-edged social drama “The Good Father” (1985), alongside Anthony Hopkins and Jim Broadbent. Meanwhile, on television, she offered fine turns in projects like the miniseries “Reilly: Ace of Spies” (1983), as Ulla Glass, and the television drama A “Christmas Carol” (1984), as a young fan. She was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actress for her role as Emma Craven in the miniseries “Edge of Darkness” (1985), opposite Bob Peck.
However, Whalley did not gain worldwide recognition until she portrayed the joyful Nurse Mills in the Dennis Potter-penned award-winning miniseries “The Singing Detective” (1986). Following a starring role in the BBC film “Will You Love Me Tomorrow“ (1987), she broke into the American market as Sorsha in the Ron Howard directed fantasy adventure “Willow” (1988), a project that introduced her to leading man Val Kilmer, whom she fell in love with and married in 1988. She rejoined Kilmer for John Dahl's “Kill Me Again” in 1989, where she portrayed a con artist named Fay Forrester.
It was also in 1989 that Whalley scored a huge breakthrough when director Michael Caton-Jones cast the actress in her star-making role of Christine Keeler in “Scandal” (1989). The sensational performance became Whalley's Hollywood calling card. Later that same year, she made her U.S. stage debut in the off-Broadway production of Joe Orton's “What the Butler Saw.”
The early 1990s saw Whalley star alongside Hollywood's top-draw male stars like Charlie Sheen in “Navy Seals” (1990), Tom Berenger in “Shattered” (1991), James Spader in “Storyville” (1992), Peter Gallagher in “Mother's Boys” (1994), which also starred Jamie Lee Curtis, and the respected Scottish actor Sean Connery in “A Good Man in Africa” (1994). She also starred with Armand Assante in the movie “Trial by Jury” in 1994, the same year she also picked up the desirable role of Scarlett O'Hara in the CBS-TV miniseries sequel to the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind,” “Scarlet.” Costarring with Timothy Dalton, Whalley's performance impressed both critics and audiences alike although the drama itself received lackluster reviews.
After “Scarlet,” Whalley withdrew from acting for a time because of marital problems and did not resurface until after she divorced Val Kilmer. She costarred with Bill Murray in the comedy film “The Man Who Knew Too Little” in 1997 and was seen as Miranda in 1999's “A Texas Funeral.” 2000 to 2003 saw roles in the Showtime original “Run the Wild Fields” (2000, starred as Ruby Miller), “The Guilty” (2000), “Breathtaking” (2000, as Caroline Henshow), the CBS miniseries “Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis” (2000, played the titular role), “Virginia's Run” (2002, opposite Gabriel Byrne) and the drama-made-for-TV “40” (2003). In 2005, the actress shared the screen with Noah Wyle and Illeana Douglas in the movie “The Californians,” starred as Queen Mary in the TV miniseries “The Virgin Queen” and appeared as Tess Palmer in the British TV film “Child of Mine,” starring Hannah Lochner.
Recently, she was seen in the U.K crime/thriller “Played” (2006), costarring with ex-husband Kilmer. She also played Katy Adair in the new BBC production “Life Line” (2007), helmed by Jamie Payne.