Two-time Oscar nominated and Golden Globe Award winning British actress Julie Walters first came to fame with her role as the hairdresser on the 1980 stage production of “Educating Rita” (1980) and the 1983 film version in which she was handed her Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award and her first Oscar nomination. Immediately adored by audiences after the film’s release, the outspoken performer avoided Hollywood in favor of working in British productions. Almost two decades later, the well-known character player took home a second Academy Award nomination for her scene-stealing role as the supportive dance teacher of the title character in “Billy Elliot” (2000), from which she also nabbed a BAFTA Award, a London Critics Circle Film Award, an Empire Award and an Evening Standard British Film Award. Other credits included a Golden Globe nomination and a SAG nomination. She stated, “I was very touched by it. It's moving on all sorts of levels. It was a diamond in the sand. Different from all the middle-of-the-road crap that I get sent. I loved the character and the fact that she was disappointed on every level possible. She was so grim and jaded. Her relationship with the boy was so unusual: she was so un-maternal and he's a boy without a mother. She treated him not like a child, but more like a lover, a man. I found that very interesting.”
Walters won BAFTA TV Awards for her spectacular work in the television films “My Beautiful Son” (2001) and “Murder” (2002, also won a Royal Television Society Award) as well as the series “The Canterbury Tales” (2003, also won a Broadcasting Press Guild Award). More recently, in 2006, the spirited performer was awarded a Silver St. George award at the Moscow International Film Festival for her starring turn in “Driving Lesson” (2006). Walters is also memorable for playing roles in such films as “Personal Services” (1987), “Buster” (1988), “Mack the Knife” (1990), “Wide-Eyed and Legless” (1993, TV), “Sister My Sister” (1994), “Titanic Town” (1998), “Calendar Girls” (2003) and the “Harry Potter” series: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” (2001), “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002), “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004) and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007).
Outside the limelight, Walters is married to and has a daughter with Grant Roffey. The family currently lives on a 70-acre organic farm run by Roffey in Sussex. The actress' love life was also once linked to Pete Postlethwaite, her co-worker at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre. In 2003, Walters published a biography called “Julie Walters: Seriously Funny.” Walters has been honored with an OBE for her service to drama.
Childhood and Family:
The youngest of three and the only daughter, Julia Mary Walters was born on February 22, 1950, in Smethwick, West Midlands, England, to Thomas Walters, a builder and decorator, and Mary Bridget, an Irish Catholic postal employee. She showed an early interest in the performing arts but her iron-willed mother sent her to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to become a nurse. When acting called, she decided to abandon nursing school and transferred to Manchester Polytechnic in Manchester to study English and Drama.
Julie gave birth to a daughter named Maisie Roffey in 1988. Julie finally married her long-time companion, Grant Roffey, in 1997 after having been together for 12 years.
West Midlands-born Julie Walters quit nursing school and switched to acting despite the objections of her parents. After finishing at Manchester Polytechnic, she spent a year with Granada's Stable Theatre and made her stage debut in Liverpool in a production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” While in Liverpool, she also played pubs and clubs on the Liverpool tough docks with acts comprising of songs, dance and comic imitations. Walters, however, did not hit the London stage until the mid-1970s when she debuted with 1976's “Funny Peculiar.” She continued to build her career on the cabaret circuit.
Moving to the small screen, Walters made her TV series debut on the BBC short-lived series “Empire Road” in 1978 and later that same year appeared with Victoria Wood in “Me! I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” as a woman in a waiting room. Walters first met the aspiring writer/comedienne while at Manchester and they soon became friends and performed together in sketch comedies. Some of their work, “Talent” and “Nearly a Happy Ending,” were transferred to TV in 1979 and 1981, respectively. They were eventually given their own TV series, “Wood and Walters” (1982). Still in the early 1980s, Walters enjoyed a massive solo victory on stage when she starred in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Willy Russell's play “Educating Rita” (1980). For her performance, she picked up a Variety Critic's and a London Critic's Circle for Best Actress.
After starring in the award-winning British miniseries “Boys from the Black Stuff” (1982), in which she was nominated for a Best Actress BAFTA TV, Walters received even a bigger triumph when she reprised her acclaimed stage role for the 1983 feature version of “Educating Rita,” opposite Michael Caine. Under the direction of Lewis Gilbert, the actress' performance was critically applauded and she was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical, a BAFTA Film for Best Actress and received a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
Next, Walters teamed up with Ian Charleson for a British stage production of Sam Shepard's “Fool for Love” (1984), rejoined Victoria Wood in BBC's variety series “Victoria Wood--As Seen on TV” (1985) and was cast as the mother in the TV series “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole” (1985). After starring in the movies “She'll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas” (1984) and “Car Trouble” (1985), which both were considered unsuccessful, she chose better roles in such projects as “Personal Services” (1987, as an innocent working woman named Christine), Stephen Frears' “Prick Up Your Ears” (also 1987, as Gary Oldman's working-class mother), David Green's “Buster” (1988, as a train robber's adoring wife), “Killing Dad or How to Love Your Mother” (1989, as a drunken, man-chasing mother) and “Mack the Knife” (1990, as Mrs. Peachum). The actress revisited the stage in 1989 to have a leading role in the British production of Terrence McNally's “Frankie and Johnnie in the Clair de Lune.”
1991 saw Walters travel to Canada for “Stepping Out,” a lackluster movie in which she was cast as a tap student of Liza Minnelli. The same year, she also starred with Ken Stott in a West End revival of Tennessee Williams' “The Rose Tattoo,” playing Serafina. She went on to act in a number of TV projects like the Channel 4 miniseries “GBH” (1991, as the mother of Robert Lindsay), the TV special “Julie Walters and Friends” (1991), “Just Like a Woman” (1992), “Wide-Eyed and Legless” (1993, USA release 1994) and “The Summer House” (1993). Returning to the big screen after taking time off to care for her sick little girl, Walters received praise for playing Madame Danzard in “Sister My Sister” (1994), directed by Nancy Meckler. In “Intimate Relations” (1996, released in the USA in 1997), she portrayed a calculating 1950s housewife who seduces the character played by Rupert Graves.
Walters was featured as Paula Hepburn in the British TV miniseries “Melissa” (1997), appeared as a fairy Godmother in the made-for-TV film “Jack and the Beanstalk” (1998), had a tough turn as a 1970s Belfast housewife in the drama film “Titanic Town” (1998) and portrayed Mrs. Mann in the British TV version of “Oliver Twist” (1999). Walters also played the mother of Victoria Wood in the comedy series “Dinnerladies,” which ran on BBC from 1998 to 2000.
Entering the new millennium, Walters secured another huge breakthrough when she was cast in the role of the title character's encouraging ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, in the Stephen Daldry-helmed favorite “Billy Elliot” (2000). For her bright effort, the actress was handed a BAFTA for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, a London Critics Circle Film for British Actress of the Year, an Empire for Best British Actress and an Evening Standard British Film for Best Actress. The role also brought Walters her next Oscar nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actress, as well as a Golden Globe nomination and a Screen Actors Guild nomination. She followed it up by making a cameo appearance as Ron's mother, Mrs. Weasley, on the eagerly anticipated “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” (2001), a gig she later reprised for 2002's “Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets,” 2004's “Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban” and 2007's “Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix.”
Walters continued to earn praise on television. In the British television movie “My Beautiful Son” (2001), she netted a BAFTA TV for her turn as terminal leukemia patient Paul Reiser's British birth mother, and for her role as Angela Maurer in the Emmy-nominated TV film “Murder” (2002), she again took home a BAFTA TV, in addition to a Royal Television Society for Best Actress. After a return to the silver screen in 2003's “Calendar Girls,” opposite Helen Mirren and Ciarán Hinds, the talented actress picked up a third consecutive BAFTA TV and a Broadcasting Press Guild for her role as the Wife of Bath in an episode of “The Canterbury Tales” (2003). 2004-2006 saw roles in “Mickybo and Me,” “Ahead of the Class” (TV), Richard E. Grant's directorial debut “Wah-Wah,” “Driving Lessons” (earned a Moscow International Film Festival for Best Actress) and “The Ruby in the Smoke” (TV).
Recently portraying Jane Austin's mother in the period film “Becoming Jane” (2007), Walters will team up with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth for the musical “Mamma Mia!” (2008). She is also scheduled to star as Diane in the action film “Sleeper” (2009). On TV, she will play Mary Whitehouse in the British television drama “Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story” (2007).
Moscow International Film Festival: Silver St. George, Best Actress, “Driving Lessons,” 2006
Broadcasting Press Guild: Best Actress, “The Canterbury Tales,” 2004
BAFTA TV: Best Actress, “The Canterbury Tales,” episode “The Wife of Bath," 2004
BAFTA TV: Best Actress, “Murder,” 2003
Royal Television Society: Best Actor – Female, “Murder,” 2003
BAFTA TV: Best Actress, “My Beautiful Son,” 2002
BAFTA Film: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, “Billy Elliot,” 2001
Empire: Best British Actress, “Billy Elliot,” 2001
Evening Standard British Film: Best Actress, “Billy Elliot,” 2001
London Critics Circle Film: British Actress of the Year, “Billy Elliot,” 2001
BAFTA Film: Best Actress, “Educating Rita,” 1984
Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical, “Educating Rita,” 1984