Damon’s English Girlfriend
Stunning British actress/musician Minnie Driver gathered international recognition when she was cast in the supporting role of English medical student Skylar, who romances a bothered young genius (Matt Damon), in the Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting (1997). Due to her spectacular performance, Driver took home a London Critics Circle Film Award, as well as a nomination at the Academy Awards. The same year, one of the most visible British actresses of the 1990s, Driver gave a memorable performance as John Cusack’s eccentric love interest Debi Newberry in the dark comedy Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), for which she was handed a 1998 London Critics Circle Film Award for British Supporting Actress of the Year. In 1996, Driver won a Chicago Film Critics Association Award for her bravura turn as the overweight Irish pupil Bernadette ‘Benny’ Hogan, who wins the heart of golden boy Jack Foley (Chris O’Donnell), in the sleeper-hit Circle of Friends (1995).
Additionally, Driver is well-known by her admirers for playing roles in films such as Campbell Scott‘s Big Night (1996), Sleepers (1996, with Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Brad Pitt), the James Bond film GoldenEye (1995, starring Pierce Brosnan), the adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (1999) and the romantic Return to Me (2000, opposite David Duchovny).
Her more recent film credits include High Heels and Low Lifes (2001), Owning Mahowny (2003), Hope Springs (2003), Ella Enchanted (2004) and The Phantom of the Opera (2004). Recently appearing in the drama The Virgin of Juarez (2005), Driver will soon play roles in the upcoming Ripple Effect (2006) and Delirious (2006).
As for a singer, the former member of a group band named Puff, Rocks and Brown, Driver launched her debut album Everything I’ve Got in My Pocket in 2004. She wrote ten of the eleven songs in the album and covered a single titled “Hungry Heart” from Bruce Springsteen’s The River.
“I swear to God, I would marry the first person who asked me, just because it seems so completely impossible that anyone would ask.” Minnie Driver
As for her romantic life, Driver, who has a tattoo of a rose on her right hip, became engaged to Barbra Streisand’s stepson Josh Brolin in April 2001. However, the couple’s relationship ended in separation six months later because of Brolin’s stepmother constantly attempting to take charge of the wedding. Driver was also linked with musician Taylor Hawkins (dated in 1998), actor Matt Damon (met while on the production of Good Will Hunting), magazine editor Spencer McLung and actor John Cusack (met in 1996 during filming Grosse Pointe Blank).
Childhood and Family:
In London, England, Amelia Driver was born on January 31, 1970, to parents of English, Irish, Scottish, Italian and French descent, Ronnie Driver and Gaynor Driver. With her older sister, Kate Driver, Amelia spent her childhood in Barbados until her parents divorced in 1976. Following the breakup, six-year-old Amelia returned to England with her mom and her older sister. She acquired the name “Minnie” from her sister, who had difficulty pronouncing Amelia.
Young Amelia was educated at finishing schools in Paris and Grenoble, before she was sent to the Bedales Boarding School in Hampshire, England, at age 10. Upon graduation, she switched to drama studies at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London and finished in 1991. With a drama degree in her pocket and her mother’s encouragement, Amelia decided to give acting a try. Meanwhile, she often performed as a guitarist and jazz singer in London clubs.
After finishing her drama studies, London-born actress/musician Minnie Driver got her start as a television actress in the early 1990s. Debuting on the made-for-TV movie God on the Rocks (1990), she managed to land more roles in British productions “Mr. Wroe’s Virgins” (1993), Royal Celebration (1993), That Sunday (1994) and Cruel Train (1995). She also appeared as a guest star in several shows like “The House of Eliott” (1991), “Casualty” (1991), “Lovejoy” (1991), “Maigret” (1993), “Peak Practice” (1994), ”The Day Today” (1994) and “Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge” (1994).
“Driver has a touchingly awkward prettiness. Her jaw may be as square as a picture frame, but her smile lights her up from within.” Owen Gliberman in Entertainment Weekly
In 1995, Driver made a big move to the big screen when she was cast as protagonist Bernadette ‘Benny’ Hogan, a frumpy Irish student who wins Chris O’Donnell’s heart, in the sleeper hit Circle of Friends (1995). Her total performance, in which she was required to gain over 20 pounds for the overweight and homely character, won Driver critical praise and wide attention. As a result, she netted a Chicago Film Critics Association for Most Promising Actress in 1996.
Slimming down after the project, Driver was featured as hot Russian lounge singer Irina in the James Bond film GoldenEye (1995), starring Pierce Brosnan and Famke Janssen. Not only shocking moviegoers with her good Russian accent, the role also helped Driver change the typecast of a girl-next-door image. Following a starring role in her own BBC series” My Good Friend” (1995), Driver gave impressive performances as the struggling restaurateur’s sweetheart Phyllis in Campbell Scott‘s Big Night (1996) and as Brad Pitt’s street-smart girlfriend Carol Martinez in the drama Sleepers (1996, starring Hollywood veterans Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman).
1997 was Driver’s breakthrough year since she delivered high-profile performances in two motion pictures. In the dark comedy Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), Driver brilliantly played John Cusack’s eccentric girlfriend Debi Newberry, for which she nabbed a London Critics Circle Film Award for British Supporting Actress of the Year. In the Academy Award-winning Good Will Hunting (1997), Driver charmed the hearts of critics and audiences alike for her outstanding turn as medical school student and Matt Damon’s brilliant girlfriend Skylar. Additionally, her role in the Gus Van Sant-directed film handed Driver a London Critics Circle Film for British Supporting Actress of the Year and earned her a nomination at the Oscars for Best Supporting Actress.
After picking up a 1998 NATO/ShoWest for Star of Tomorrow, Driver ventured into the action-adventure genre with a costarring role opposite Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater in the unsuccessful Hard Rain (1998). The failure made Driver return to drama with The Governess (1998), where she starred as gentile Rosina da Silva. The same year, Driver and her sister created a production company called Two Drivers and she soon starred in and produced its first release At Satchem Farm (1998). The following year, Driver was seen as British aristocrat Miss Mabel Chiltern, opposite Rupert Everett, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore and Jeremy Northam, in Oliver Parker’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (1999) before lending her voice for characters in the Disney animated film Tarzan (1999) and South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999).
Starring as Grace Briggs, a woman who falls for a widowed architect (David Duchovny) in Bonnie Hunt’s romantic comedy Return to Me was Driver’s opening film in the new millennium before she teamed up with Oscar-winning actress Sally Field for her directorial debut Beautiful (2000), in which Driver was seen as a single mother competing in a beauty pageant. She then costarred with Josh Brolin in Slow Burn (2000). Following an appearance as a waitress in D.C. Smalls (2001), Driver starred opposite Mary McCormack and Kevin McNally in the British clunky caper comedy High Heels and Low Lifes (2001).
Returning to film after a two-year hiatus, Driver found herself acting with Philip Seymour Hoffman, as his faithful fiance Belinda, in the compulsive gambling drama Owning Mahowny (2003) and costarring alongside Colin Firth and Heather Graham in the little-seen romantic comedy Hope Springs (2003). 2004 saw roles in Ella Enchanted (2004, starring Anne Hathaway), the short film Portrait (2004) and the big screen version of the popular Broadway musical The Phantom of the Opera (2004, starring Emmy Rossum). From 2003-2004, Driver also played the recurring role of Karen Walker’s conceited nemesis Lorraine Finster on the hit NBC sit-com Will & Grace.
“People threw their hands up and said, 'Why is she doing this? Why does she think she is capable of becoming a singer?’” Minnie Driver
In addition to a film career, former jazz singer Driver branched out to music with the release of her debut album titled Everything I’ve Got in My Pocket, in 2004, an album backed by a group that includes members of the Wallflowers and Pete Yorn’s band. In the album, Driver penned ten of the eleven tracks and also covered “Hungry Heart” from Bruce Springsteen’s The River. Before receiving celebrity status, Driver was once a member of a band called Puff, Rocks and Brown. The group was signed to a development deal with Island Records, which ended without a release.
Driver recently appeared as a journalist in the Michael Fallon-scripted The Virgin of Juarez (2005) for director Kevin James Dobson. She is also scheduled to play roles in the drama Ripple Effect (2006), starring Philippe Caland and Forest Whitaker, and director Tom DiCillo’s drama/comedy Delirious (2006) alongside Steve Buscemi, Elvis Costello and Joe D'Onofrio.