Lindsay Duncan

Active - 1980 - 2020  |   Born - Nov 7, 1950 in Edinburgh, Scotland  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy Drama, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

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Biography by Mike Cummings

All that glitters is not Hollywood gold, Scottish actress Lindsay Duncan believes. Although she could easily command million-dollar paychecks for performing in big-budget American films, she prefers acting in new or vintage stage plays and in screen adaptations of classic novels. So she does Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Henry Fielding, and Oscar Wilde. But her loyalty to literary giants such as these is not without its rewards: She won the 2002 Olivier Award as best actress for her performance in Noël Coward's Private Lives, a 1988 London Evening Standard Award as best actress for her performance in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and a 1987 Tony nomination as leading actress for her performance in Pierre Cholderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses. However, she is not averse to accepting an occasional fun role in a major Hollywood film. For example, she was the voice of protocol droid TC-14 in Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. For her ability to bring to life characters of every description, whether futuristic robots or here-and-now reprobates, critics agree that she is one of Britain's most talented actresses.

Duncan was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 7, 1950. After studying at London's Central School of Drama, she labored in mostly unheralded theater roles before graduating to television productions in the 1980s. These productions included On Approval (1982), Reilly: The Ace of Spies (1983), Dead Head (1985), and Traffik (1989). In the 1990s, well seasoned and ready for limelight drama, Duncan picked herself a bouquet of choice roles that put her on prestigious London stages, in movie theaters from Liverpool to Los Angeles, and in the living rooms of television viewers throughout the English-speaking world. One well-known production that exhibits her talents is the 1999 TV miniseries Oliver Twist, in which she portrays Elizabeth Leeford, a woman so evil that the devil himself would fear her. Duncan also appears in the 1999 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park in dual roles as the heroine's mother and drug-addicted aunt, in the 1997 TV miniseries A History of Tom Jones: A Foundling as Lady Ballaston, in the 1996 film adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream as Hippolyta and Titania, and in the 1993 TV miniseries A Year in Provence as the wife of author Peter Mayle. Her real-life husband, Hilton McRae, is also an actor. They have one son, born in 1990.

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  • Began her stage career at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England 
  • Joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985, where she met her future husband, Hilton Mcrae, when they were both cast in Troilus and Cressida.
  • Won both an Olivier Award and a Tony Award for Best Actress in 2002 for her role in Noël Coward's Private Lives.
  • Appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2009.
  • Gave an introductory talk on Alzheimer's at The Royal Institution in support of the Alzheimer's Research UK charity.