Kelly Macdonald

Active - 1996 - 2018  |   Born - Feb 23, 1976 in Glasgow, Scotland  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy Drama, Comedy

Share on

Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald was planning to go to drama school when director Danny Boyle cast her in Trainspotting (1996). A surprise international hit, it featured Macdonald, a native of Glasgow, as the acid-tongued schoolgirl who gives heroin junkie Ewan McGregor one of the more memorable nights -- and surprises -- of his young life.

Following the film's great success, Macdonald began finding steady work in a number of films as both a lead and supporting player. In the immediate wake of Trainspotting, she could be seen playing the title character, a teenage prostitute, in Stella Does Tricks. Subsequently, she nabbed a lead role in the period drama Cousin Bette (1997) and a small but memorable part in the lavish historical epic Elizabeth (1998). In 1999, Macdonald was featured in four very diverse films: the first, My Life So Far, cast her as a young girl growing up in 1920s Scotland, while Entropy featured the actress in the thoroughly modern milieu of the 20-something romantic angst drama. Later that year, Macdonald appeared in Mike Figgis' The Loss of Sexual Innocence, playing the young girlfriend of the film's protagonist; and in Gregg Araki's Splendor, a romantic comedy in which she played the blue-haired best friend of the film's heroine.

After a slew of similar supporting roles, including a memorable turn as the daughter of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Colin Firth in My Life So Far, MacDonald was given possibly her biggest break since Trainspotting when Robert Altman cast her as a lead (albeit one of many) in Gosford Park (2001). One-part comedy of manners, one-part murder mystery, the film featured MacDonald in the pivotal role of a young maid who finds herself caught up in a whirl of intrigue, deception, and exceedingly tiresome snobs over the course of a hectic weekend at a country estate.

She was the female lead in the highly-respected British miniseries State of Play in 2003, and the next year she was Peter Pan in the Oscar nominated Finding Neverland. In 2005 she was in The Girl in the Café, and she was the love interest in the hit children's film Nanny McPhee. She played the woman who gets to play scenes opposite all three of the leading men in the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men, and followed that up in the odd romantic black comedy Choke. In 2010 she was cast as the romantic interest for Nucky Thompson, the prohibition era gangster in the award-winning HBO series Boardwalk Empire. She became yet another luminary to join the Harry Potter franchise in 2011 and in 2012 she became part of the Pixar family voicing the lead role in Brave.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography


  • Worked as a barmaid before she began her acting career.
  • Landed her debut film role in 1996's Trainspotting through an open audition. 
  • Gained acclaim in the U.S. for her leading role in HBO's The Girl in the Café (2005), garnering a Golden Globe nomination and an Emmy win. 
  • Auditioned for roles in Shakespeare in Love, The Matrix and Moulin Rouge.
  • Impressed the Coen brothers with her facility for accents to land the role of Carla Jean Moss in 2007's No Country for Old Men.