Thin-lipped and statuesque Irish actress Fiona Shaw frequently takes the lead on the theatrical stage but steers her talents toward supporting roles in feature films. Born in County Cork, she studied philosophy before moving on to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. During the '80s she worked mainly on-stage as part of the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Some of her stage credits include As You Like It, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and a one-woman reading of T.S. Eliot's epic poem The Waste Land, just to name a few. She made her film debut in 1984 as one of the nuns in the WWII drama Sacred Hearts, but her breakthrough role came in 1989 as the doctor whom Christy Brown grows infatuated with in My Left Foot. The next year, she played the wife of an explorer in the British Empire film Mountains of the Moon. She also excelled at comedy with memorable roles in Three Men and a Little Lady, London Kills Me, Super Mario Bros., and Undercover Blues. In 1995, she turned to literary adaptations and costume dramas with Persuasion, Jane Eyre, and Anna Karenina. She then played Francie's sharp-tongued mother in Neil Jordan's childhood drama The Butcher Boy. Around this time, her longtime colleague Deborah Warner directed the controversial television adaptation of Richard II, with Shaw in the lead role of the young king. Also on television, she played Hedda Hopper in the HBO movie RKO 281 and Irma Prunesquallor in the BBC miniseries Gormenghast. She collaborated with director Warner again for The Last September, based on the novel by Irish author Elizabeth Bowen. In 2001, she received the honorary Companion of the British Empire award and portrayed the spinster scientist Leontine in Clare Peploe's The Triumph of Love. Returning to the stage to play Medea on Broadway, she found herself well-costumed once again as the wretched Aunt Petunia Dursely in the series of Harry Potter feature films. Though she returned as required for the many Potter films, she also appeared in The Triumph of Love, Catch and Release, and Terrence Malick's well-reviewed Tree of Life.
Biography by Andrea LeVasseur
- An acclaimed classical stage actress, she has worked with Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theater.
- Received the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art's Ronson Award for Most Promising Pupil in 1982.
- Turned heads when she starred as the title character in a controversial 1995 production of Richard II for London's National Theatre.
- Has starred in many plays directed by longtime friend/collaborator Deborah Warner, including Richard II, Electra, The Powerbook, The Wasteland and Medea.
- Was awarded an honorary CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2001.
- Received honorary doctorates from the National University of Ireland and Trinity College, Dublin.
- Has directed operas for the English National Opera, including Riders to the Sea in 2008 and The Marriage of Figaro in 2011.