Born December 29, 1969, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the home of her novelist father John Ehle, Ehle was raised largely in nearby Asheville. She spent a great deal of her childhood following her mother's career engagements back and forth between the States and the U.K., attending over 18 schools in the process. Ehle eventually settled in London to study drama at the Central School, but dropped out in 1991 to take the part of Calypso in Peter Hall's lauded TV adaptation of The Chamomile Lawn.
Further television and stage roles followed, and in 1993, Ehle made her screen debut with a small role in Iain Softley's Backbeat as Cynthia Powell, John Lennon's first wife. Ehle's career entered a new and more lucrative phase with her award-winning turn as Pride and Prejudice's heroine, Elizabeth Bennett; in addition to its success in Britain, the miniseries -- which also launched Colin Firth to international fame in his role as Mr. Darcy -- proved to be a runaway hit in the States. More film work duly came Ehle's way: she could be seen playing Oscar Wilde's wife, Constance, in Wilde (1997); a prisoner of war alongside Glenn Close, Frances McDormand, Cate Blanchett, and Julianna Margulies in Paradise Road (1997); and a woman who finds herself becoming involved with her supposedly gay former boyfriend in Bedrooms & Hallways (1998). Ehle was cast in perhaps her most high-profile screen role to date in 1999, when she starred as the wife of a Hungarian lawyer (Ralph Fiennes) in István Szabó's epic Sunshine, a historical drama tracing the fortunes of three generations of a Hungarian Jewish family. However, the actress' involvement in the film, which also starred real-life mother Harris as the older version of her character, was overshadowed in theatrical circles by her work on the stage that same year. For her performance as Annie, the wife of a brilliant but emotionally evasive playwright (Stephen Dillane) in the Broadway production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, Ehle found herself up against her mother, who starred in Waiting in the Wings, for a 2000 Best Actress Tony Award. Ehle ultimately won the award, the latest honor in what looked to be, like her mother's, a very long and vibrant career. Indeed, as the years rolled by, Ehle would continue to appear regularly on screen in films like The King's Speech, Contagion, The Adjustment Bureau, and on the series A Gifted Man.