British actress of Hungarian descent Romola Garai received a Golden Globe nomination for her starring turn in the BBC adaptation of “Emma” (2009). Her other TV credits include “Daniel Deronda” (2002), “The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant” (2005, earned an AFI nomination and a Silver Logie nomination), “The Hour” (2011) and “The Crimson Petal and the White” (2011). She has appeared in many films, including “Nicholas Nickleby” (2002, received an National Board of Review Award) and a European Film nomination), “I Capture the Castle” (2003, received a British Independent Film nomination and an ALFS nomination), “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” (2004), “Rory O'Shea Was Here” (2004, received a London Critics Circle Film's ALFS Award), “Vanity Fair” (2004), “Scoop” (2006), “As You Like It” (2006), “Amazing Grace” (2006), “Angel” (2007), “Atonement” (2008, earned an Evening Standard British Film nomination), “Glorious 39” (2009) and “One Day” (2011).
Currently, Garai resides in London. In her spate time, she enjoys cooking and traveling. She has visited Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta, Venice, Australia, Italy, Belgium and Indonesia. She can play the violin. She is good friends with Jamie Bell and Charlie Hunnam, whom she met while filming “Nicholas Nickleby.”
Childhood and Family:
Romola Sadie Garai was born on August 6, 1982, in Hong Kong, to British parents Janet (journalist) and Adrian Garai (banker). Her first name is the female version of Romulus, one of the founders of Rome. Her great grandfather, Bert Garai, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, founded the Keystone Press. When she was 5 years old, her family moved to Singapore, before they returned to England three years later. Romola went on to spend the reminder of her childhood in Wiltshire, and later at age 16, she moved to London to live with her older, adopted sister Rosie. Romola attended City of London School for Girls, in which she finished her A-Levels, and then completed her degree in English Literature from Queen Mary, University of London in 2008. She graduated with a first in MA English Literature from Open University, in Milton Keynes , Buckinghamshire in 2010. She also attended the National Youth Theatre, where she was discovered by an agent.
Romola also has two more siblings, an adopted brother named Ralph and a younger sister named Roxy.
Romola Garai made her professional acting debut as Young Elizabeth in the made for TV film “The Last of the Blonde Bombshells” (2000), starring Judi Dench. The film premiered in the US on August 26, 2000 and in the UK on September 3, 2000. She went on to play Zoe Atkins in the BBC TV series “Attachments” (2000) and co-star with Michelle Collins and Barbara Flynn in the TV film “Perfect” (ITV, 2001), which was directed by John Strickland. In 2002, she was cast as the aristocratic Gwendolen Harleth in the BBC miniseries “Daniel Deronda,” which was adapted by Andrew Davies from the George Eliot novel of the same name and was directed by Tom Hooper. The cast also included Hugh Dancy, Hugh Bonneville and Jodhi May.
Still in 2002, Garai made her feature debut in “Nicholas Nickleby,” a comedy/drama wcripted and helmed by Douglas McGrath. Portraying younger sister Kate Nickleby, she was nominated for European Film's Audience Award for Best Actress and jointly nabbed a National Board of Review for Best Acting by an Ensemble. Garai enjoyed further recognition with her portrayal of Cassandra Mortmain on the critically acclaimed drama “I Capture the Castle” (2003), which was based on the 1948 novel of the same title by Dodie Smith. The role brought her a British Independent Film nomination for Most Promising Newcomer and London Critics Circle Film's ALFS nomination for British Newcomer of the Year. Costars in the film included Bill Nighy, Rose Byrne and Tara FitzGerald.
In 2004, Garai was cast in the leading role of Katey Miller in the American musical/romance film “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” a re-imagining of the 1987 blockbuster “Dirty Dancing,” helmed by Guy Ferland. The film earned most;y negative reviews from critics. The same year, she also played Reese Witherspoon's kind best friend, Amelia Sedley Osborne, on the British/American costume drama film “Vanity Fair,” which was directed by Mira Nair and adapted from William Makepeace Thackeray's novel of the same name, and co-starred with James McAvoy, Steven Robertson and Brenda Fricker in “Rory O'Shea Was Here” (aka. “Inside I'm Dancing”), for director Damien O'Donnell. As Siobhan, she received London Critics Circle Film's ALFS Award for British Supporting Actress of the Year and a British Independent Film nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actor/Actress for her work in the latter.
Garai was cast as real life convict Mary Bryan in the Australian miniseries “The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant” (2005), helmed by Peter Andrikidis. The role earned her an AFI nomination for Best Lead Actress in Television and a Silver Logie nomination for Most Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. 2005 also saw he provided the voice English version of Helena in “Midsummer Dream.” In the following year, she played Ilona Tasuiev in the black and white animated film “Renaissance,” was cast in the supporting role of Vivian in Woody Allen's “Scoop,” starring Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane and Allen, and portrayed Celia in Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of William Shakespeare's “As You Like It,” opposite Kevin Kline, Bryce Dallas Howard, Alfred Molina, Brian Blessed and David Oyelowo. She also was cast as Barbara Spooner on the Michael Apted film “Amazing Grace” (2006), opposite Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce.
In 2007, Garai gained praised for her portrayal of Angel Deverell in François Ozon's “Angel,” based on novel of the same name by Elizabeth Taylor, about the life of a fiery and passionate young writer. On playing Angel, she stated, “I think the main challenge is that she's essentially a pretty unattractive person in many ways but you have to approach a character like that believing in them, liking them, trying to understand them and appreciating what their world view is, and so I think that was a challenge occasionally because she wasn't always an easy character to like.”
The same year, the actress also played the teenaged Briony Tallis on the film adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel, “Atonement,” directed by Joy Wright, and was nominated for an Evening Standard British Film for Best Actress for her work in “Atonement.” On playing the role, she stated, “There has to be a real ambiguity about which way her life is going to go.It's a genuine crossroads at the point that I play it. So I think it's important for people to know that she is deeply struggling with this moral conundrum, but not necessarily know whether she is going to find the strength of character to truly absolve herself of this responsibility and find 'Atonement.'”
Garai portrayed Liam Neeson's embittered daughter, Abigail, in Richard Eyre's infidelity drama “The Other Man” (2008), appeared as Cordelia in “King Liar” (2008) of “ Great Performances” and was cast as the daughter of Tory cabinet minister Bill Nighy in the British thriller movie “Glorious 39” (2009), directed by Stephen Poliakoff. She had the title role in the four part BBC television series adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, “Emma,” which originally broadcast on BBC One from October 4 to 25, 2009. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television for her bright performance.
Recently, in 2011, Garai starred as Sugar in the four part television miniseries adaptation of Michel Faber's novel, “The Crimson Petal and the White” (BBC Two), opposite Chris O'Dowd as William Rackham, and played Bel Rowley in the drama series “The Hour,” along side Ben Whishaw and Dominic West. On the big screen, she supported Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in the film adaptation of David Nicholls' novel, “One Day” (2011), helmed by Lone Scherfig. She has completed filming a short called “Whitelands.” Garai is also set to play Maggie in the short “ Babysitting” (2011) and Christine in the film “Junkhearts” (2011), directed by Tinge Krishnan. She is rumored to star as Ursula in the forthcoming British film “Virtuoso” (2011).
London Critics Circle Film: ALFS Award, British Supporting Actress of the Year, “Rory O'Shea Was Here,” 2005
National Board of Review (NBR) : Best Acting by an Ensemble, “Nicholas Nickleby,” 2002