Displaying talent both for acting and for appearing at awards ceremonies wearing dresses that attract more attention than the awards themselves, Minnie Driver rose from almost complete obscurity to her position as one of the most visible British actresses of the 1990s over the course of just a few years. Born Amelia Driver in London on January 31, 1971, she was christened "Minnie" by her sister, who was too young to pronounce her little sister's name correctly. Raised in Barbados and schooled in locales as diverse as Paris, Grenoble, and Hampshire, Driver attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where she studied drama.
Driver got her start on the stage and on television and made her big-screen debut in Circle of Friends in 1995. Playing the film's protagonist -- a "big, soft girl," as one of the film's characters calls her -- she was required to gain over 20 pounds for the role. She won critical acclaim for her performance, but had trouble finding more work until she lost the weight. Once she was revealed to be a statuesque beauty in the James Bond film GoldenEye (1995), she soon was being written up in a number of magazine articles that hailed her as one to watch. Critical appreciation for her work in Sleepers and Stanley Tucci's Big Night followed in 1996, and the next year, Driver proved herself capable of handling both comedy and a convincing Midwestern accent in Grosse Pointe Blank. That same year, she had what was possibly her most high-profile role to date in Gus Van Sant's Good Will Hunting. Starring as Matt Damon's brilliant girlfriend (a role she reportedly played offscreen as well), she earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance.
In 1998, Driver could be seen in The Governess and At Satchem Farm, a romantic comedy she executive produced with her sister, Kate, and actor Nigel Hawthorne. She also ventured into the action realm with Hard Rain. Driver then put her voice to lucrative use, voicing characters in Disney's Tarzan, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut in 1999, and Lady Eboshi in the 1999 English dubbed release of the Japanese film Princess Mononoke. That same year, she took a swing at Oscar Wilde, starring in Oliver Parker's adaptation of Wilde's An Ideal Husband with Rupert Everett, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, and Jeremy Northam. Driver then shed her corset and donned an American accent for her starring role in Bonnie Hunt's Return to Me (2000), a romantic comedy that cast the actress as a woman who falls in love with a widowed architect (David Duchovny) and discovers a surprising secret about the identity of his dead wife.
Driver returned to television in 2007, when she co-starred with Eddie Izzard for the FX Network's The Riches, a series following a family squatting in an upscale suburban community. The role earned her nominations for an Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series in both 2007 and 2008. In 2010, Driver joined actress Hilary Swank in Conviction, a film chronicling the real-life story of a single mother who obtains a law degree to represent her brother, who was wrongfully convicted of murder. The same year, Driver joined Paul Giamatti for which she would earn a Genie Award for Best Supporting Actress. The actress co-starred with a cast including Vera Farmiga and Will Arnett in the 2011 comedy Goats.