British character actress Julie Walters has made a career out of playing working-class women with good hearts and sharp tongues -- which should come as no surprise, given her background. Born in Birmingham, England, on February 22, 1950, Walters was raised in a strong, practical family where she was encouraged to study nursing. Walters did in fact enroll in the nursing program at Manchester Polytechnic, but in her second year of studies she developed an interest in acting, and eventually changed her major to theater. Walters soon made friends with fellow theater student Pete Postlethwaite, and they joined a small theater troupe with Matthew Kelly; Walters made her legitimate stage debut not long after in a Liverpool production of The Taming of the Shrew. Walters also began moonlighting as a comedian, performing as a standup act and with an improvisational troupe called Van Load. In 1976, Walters made her London stage debut in Funny Peculiar, and in 1980, she was cast in the title role of the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Willy Russell's play Educating Rita. Walters won rave reviews for her performance, and the comedy-drama became a major success; following her appearances in several well-received television productions, Walters was cast in the film version of Educating Rita opposite Michael Caine, and the movie was a solid critical and financial success in both Europe and the United States. Walters' budding film career seemed to have gotten off to a solid start when she was nominated for an Academy Award for her work in Educating Rita; while she didn't win, she did receive Golden Globe and British Film Academy awards for her performance. However, Walters opted to continue living and working in Britain, and while she maintained a busy schedule of television and stage work, it would be a few years before Walters became a regular presence in films. In 1987, she won the leading role in the fact-based comedy Personal Services, as well as a major supporting role in the Joe Orton biopic Prick up Your Ears, and the following year she starred opposite pop star Phil Collins in another comedy-drama drawn from real life, Buster. Over the next ten years, Walters continued to work steadily in British television (both in dramatic roles and in comedic appearances, frequently with English comedy star Victoria Wood), but her next major screen success wouldn't arrive until 2000, when she played dance instructor Mrs. Wilkinson in the international hit Billy Elliot; the role earned her another Academy Award nomination, as well as a British Film Academy nomination. The following year, Walters appeared in a small role in one of the year's biggest box-office blockbusters, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, as well as a number of TV projects. Offscreen, Walters is married to Grant Roffey, who operates a successful organic farm; they're the parents of a daughter, Maisie. In 1999, Walters received special recognition for her work in the arts when she was presented an Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for her services to British drama. In the years to come, Walters would remain active on screen, appearing in moviesl ike Mama Mia!.