A struggling stage actress when she was cast in the Kevin Costner epic The Postman (1997), British actress Olivia Williams survived the film's meltdown with her reputation relatively intact. The daughter of lawyers, Williams earned a degree in English at Cambridge University before studying acting for two years with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Her training led to several stage roles, as well as to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company in both Stratford-upon-Avon and London. A four-month tour of Richard III featuring Ian McKellen brought Williams to the United States, and, following a supporting role in the made-for-TV adaptation of Emma (1997), she again found herself stateside to work on The Postman. Fortunately for Williams, she rebounded from The Postman with her role as Miss Cross, the fought-over love interest of a precocious 15-year-old and an embittered millionaire in the acclaimed comedy Rushmore (1998). She could be seen the next year starring opposite Bruce Willis in the enormously successful supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense. She continued to work steadily in films such as Born Romantic, The Man from Elysian Fields, A Knight's Tale, and Peter Pan. She was excellent in An Education as a sympathetic teacher, appeared in short-lived Joss Whedon series Dollhouse, and starred in Roman Polanski's politically-tinged thriller The Ghost Writer. In 2011 she had a main role in the action film Hanna and appeared as Countess Vronsky in Joe Wright's 2012 adaptation of the classic Anna Karenina.
Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx
- Parents are both barristers, as is her sister.
- Attended the same high school as Helena Bonham Carter, with whom she later costarred in The Heart of Me (2002).
- Belonged to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
- Practices Bikram yoga.
- Considered quitting acting just prior to her big break, being cast opposite Kevin Costner in The Postman (1997).
- Guest starred on Friends in 1998 as a bridesmaid in Ross Geller's London wedding.
- Knew her husband Rhashan Stone for eight years before he asked her on a date.
- Never watched a Joss Whedon show prior to being cast in Dollhouse (2009).