Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001)
“When I first started acting, and we would all sit down and talk about Shakespeare and how great it was, I thought well, I suppose it is. It is if you get to play Macbeth or Hamlet. But who wants to play bloody Lady Macbeth or Ophelia? And it struck me that most women seem to be required to pit themselves against men in dramatic situations, and the men got to pit themselves against ideas or God.” Judy Davis
An Australian comic and dramatic actress since the mid 1970s, petite Judy Davis is regarded as one of contemporary cinema’s best actresses and has gathered a reputation for her highly artistic standards and frank speech. During her three decades in the showbiz industry, the former singer of jazz and pop has consistently offered marvelous performances on stage, screen and TV.
The Oscar-nominated Davis gained worldwide fame with Academy Award nominated, scene-stealing roles such as Adela Quested in the David Lean-helmed A Passage to India (1984) and the mocking and bothered Sally in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (1992). Her virtuoso acting in the latter also handed Davis such awards as a Chicago Film Critics Association award, a Boston Society of Film Critics award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association award, a National Society of Film Critics award and a National Board of Review award. She is also well-remembered for playing headstrong, anti-heroine Sybylla Melvyn in Gillian Armstrong’s film version of the semi-autobiographical novel by Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career (1979), where she took home two BAFTA awards and an Australian Film Institute Award. She was also seen as an alcoholic mother of an abandoned daughter in Armstrong’s High Tide (1987, netted a National Society of Film Critics award), the William Faulkner-like author’s lover in Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink (1991) and the bug-spray addicted wife in Naked Lunch (1991). Davis also played a Stalinist in Children of the Revolution (1996, nabbed an Australian Film Institute award). In more recent projects, she was noticed as swimmer Tony Fingleton’s long-suffering mother in Swimming Upstream (2003). For her dazzling performance in the sport-themed film, Davis picked up a Critics Circle of Australia award.
On television, Davis received praise and recognition for her role as the cultural icon, singer/actress Judy Garland, in the ABC biopic Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001), wherein she nabbed countless awards like an Emmy award, an American Film Institute award, a Golden Globe award, a Broadcast Film Critics Association award, a Screen Actors Guild award and a Golden Satellite award. She also gained appreciation for performances in the made for-TV films A Woman Called Golda (1982), One Against the Wind (1991, won a Golden Globe award), The Echo of Thunder (1998), Dash & Lilly (1999), A Cooler Climate (1999) and The Reagans (2003).
Recently starring in the television movie A Little Thing Called Murder (2006) and appearing in the movie Marie-Antoinette (2006), Davis will soon play a role in Peyton Reed’s forthcoming comedy The Break-Up (2006).
Off screen, blue-eyed, left-handed Davis was a member of the jury for the Cannes Film Festival in 1993 and is an activist who has protested Australia’s involvement in the war with Iraq. As for her private life, Davis is married to Colin Friels. The couple has two children.
Childhood and Family:
“I was always terribly shy, so a great thing that acting has done for me has forced me out of myself and made me more generous.” Judy Davis
In Perth, Western Australia, Judy Davis was born on April 23, 1955. The youngest of three, Judy grew up in a Catholic household, where television and films were disfavored, and was educated in a Catholic convent school in Perth, Australia. She later left her studies and traveled throughout Asia as a vocalist for a rock and blues band. Back in Australia, Judy attended the same school as Mel Gibson, the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney, where the two later played Romeo and Juliet in a college production. Upon graduation in 1977, Judy began to pursue an acting career.
In 1984, Judy married actor Colin Friels, with whom she would costar in the films Kangaroo (1986) and High Tide (1987). The couple welcomed their first child, a son named Jack Friels, in 1987 and their second child, daughter Charlotte Friels, was born ten years later, in 1997.
Husbands and Wives
Australia-born actress Judy Davis began acting as a young girl in church, but didn’t recognize acting as a career until much later. While a college student, she gained stage exposure as Juliet to Mel Gibson’s Romeo and made her first film appearance in the 1977 Australian-produced comedy High Rolling, in which she had a one-line role as Lynn. After graduation, she joined the Adelaide State Theatre Company, where she had a role in such plays as Visions (1978).
Within two years, Davis delivered a breakthrough screen role when Aussie director Gillian Armstrong cast her in the starring role, opposite Sam Neill, in the big screen adaptation of Miles Franklin’s semi-autobiographical novel, My Brilliant Career (1979). As Sybylla Melvyn, the iron-willed anti-heroin, she was so wonderful that BAFTA garnered the actress a Best Actress and a Most Promising Newcomer award. She also received a Best Actress Award from the Australian Film Institute.
Following the success, Davis chose to commute between London and Sydney to continue working in theater. She also starred in a number of Australian projects. Among her memorable performances were a prostitute in the drama-romance Winter of Our Dreams (1981), a rebel in Heatwave (1982) and young Golda Meir in the television film A Woman Called Golda (1982), where she was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special. Davis’ first non-Australia screen credit was the English thriller Who Dares Wins/The Final Conflict, helmed by Ian Sharp.
Though resisting Hollywood, Davis received the offer to star in David Lean’s adventure A Passage to India (1984). The result was amazing and she earned a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her phenomenal portrayal of the courteous, cultural adventuress Adela Quested.
Now a rising star, Davis opted to return to Australia to costar with her husband, actor Colin Friels, in the film version of D H Lawrence’s semi-autobiographical novel, Kangaroo (1987). The same year, she re-teamed with Armstrong for the drama film High Tide, wherein she was cast as Lillie, an alcoholic mother reconnecting with the teenage daughter she deserted years earlier. Davis once again proved she was outstanding as she was handed a National Society of Film Critics for Best Actress for her efforts in the film. The next year, she was seen starring in the mystery/thriller Georgia (1988), opposite British actor John Bach.
Starting in the 90s, Davis began to work more often in projects outside of her native country of Australia. Her opening film in the new decade was the Woody Allen-directed Alice (1990), playing the small role of Vicki, before costarring opposite Huge Grant in the period drama Impromptu (1991). She won a New York Film Critics Circle for her bright supporting turn as the girlfriend of a William Faulkner-like author in Joel Coen’s Barton Fink (1991, starred John Turturro) and the William Burroughs’ bug-spray addicted spouse in director David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991, alongside Peter Weller). Still in 1991, Davis made a name for herself as an accomplished TV star when she picked up a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Made-For-Television Movie or Miniseries and an Emmy nomination as an English woman engrossed with the French Underground during WWII in CBS’s film One Against the Wind.
Davis’ film career gained even more momentum in 1992 when she rejoined Woody Allen in Husbands and Wives, playing cynical and disturbed Sally, who finds a new love while undergoing a divorce. Her scene-stealing performance was highly praised and Davis nabbed several awards, including a Chicago Film Critics Association, a Boston Society of Film Critics, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association, a National Society of Film Critics and a National Board of Review for Best Supporting Actress, and eventually earned a nomination for an Oscar. Additionally, she received a Golden Globe and a BAFTA nomination.
After the victory, Davis was scheduled to costar with Jonathan Pryce and River Phoenix in Dark Blood (1993), but after Phoenix’s death, the film was aborted. The subsequent years, the actress displayed her fearsome comic ability as the resentful wife of Kevin Spacey in the quirky comedy The Ref (1994), was paired once again with Peter Weller for the drama The New Age (1994) and was seen in the comedy Children of the Revolution (1996), costarring Sam Neill. Davis’ performance in the latter won an Australian Film Institute for Best Actress in a Lead Role. On TV, she offered a fine supporting turn as the tolerant, loyal and supportive lesbian lover of a US Army colonel in the NBC film Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story, for which she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie.
1996-1999 saw roles in the uneven Blood and Wine (1996, featured as Jack Nicholson’s former wife), the Clint Eastwood vehicle Absolute Power (1997, played a presidential chief of staff), and the Woody Allen films Deconstructing Harry (1997, portrayed the skittish sister-in-law of Allen’s title character) and Celebrity (1998, appeared as a wife of a journalist). On television, she gave Emmy nominated performances as a besieged farmer in the Australia’s Outback in the CBS The Echo of Thunder (1998), the Lillian Hellmam role, opposite Sam Shepard as Dashiell Hammett, in the A&E biopic Dash & Lilly (1999, also earned a Golden Globe nomination) and as a selfish, affluent woman whose marriage collapses, forcing her to relate more with her new housekeeper (Sally Field), in the Showtime A Cooler Climate (1999).
Still on the small screen, Davis achieved even more recognition in 2001 when director Robert Allan Ackerman tapped her to star as the cultural icon, singer/actress Judy Garland, in ABC’s biopic Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, which was based on Lorna Luft’s memoir. Davis’ performance was critically applauded and she was awarded countless awards such as the 2001 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, an American Film Institute for Female Actor of the Year-Movie or Miniseries, a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role--Mini-Series or Television Movie, a Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Actress in a Picture Made For Television, a Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries and a Golden Satellite for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television.
Davis made her return to the wide screen with the Spain film Gaudi Afternoon (2001) and then costarred in the Australian blockbuster hit The Man Who Sued God (2001). After playing Dora Fingleton, the long-suffering mother of champion swimmer Tony Fingleton (Jesse Spencer), in the true story Swimming Upstream (2003), a role that won her a 2003 Film Critics Circle of Australia for Best supporting Actor, Davis re-embarked on television with her Golden Globe and Emmy nominated starring turn as Nancy Reagan in the controversial television movie The Reagans (2003). She went on to undertake TV roles in the movies Coast to Coast (2004) and A Little Thing Called Murder (2006). Recently, the 51-year-old actress made a film acting comeback with the Sofia Coppola-directed Marie-Antoinette (2006), starring Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman. She is set to play a role in the upcoming comedy The Break-Up (2006), helmed by Peyton Reed.