Long known for her luxuriant romanticism and uncanny ability to find just the right chord between onscreen drama and viewer emotions, composer/songwriter Rachel Portman has been scoring films consistently and tirelessly since 1982. With more than 30 credits to her name, and work in both television and film, Portman became an important figure in the history of film in 1997 when she became the first female composer to win an Academy award for her score to director Douglas McGrath's adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma.
Born on December 11, 1960, in Haslemere, England, Portman showed an avid interest in music when she began to play a variety of instruments from a very early age. By the time she had reached her early teens, Portman had taken a strong affection towards the piano and begun composing original music. Drawn to the more naturalistic musical instruments rather than electronic synthesizers, Portman decided to pursue her career in music with an education at the University of Oxford.
It wasn't until her enrollment at Oxford that Portman began to take an interest in the relation of music to film, scoring Privileged (1982), a successful student film also featuring an early appearance by Hugh Grant. A small theatrical release of the film found Portman with her first success as a film composer, an ability she would continue to refine with steady work for the BBC in the coming years, winning the British Film Institute's Young Composer of the Year award in 1988.
A frequent collaborator of filmmaker Beeban Kidron (for whom she scored Used People (1992) and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995) to name a few), Portman steadily gained recognition for her lush and emotional style, distinguishing herself with her moving compositions and richly organic scores. In 2000 Portman received her second Academy nomination for her score to Chocolat.