Samantha Morton

Active - 1996 - 2018  |   Born - May 13, 1977 in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England  |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

With only a handful of film credits to her name, British actress Samantha Morton earned a reputation as one of the most critically lauded up-and-comers of the late '90s. Small-boned and possessed of almost elfin features, Morton, who was born in Nottingham in 1977, began acting on television at the age of 13. She appeared in a number of series, including the popular crime drama Cracker and such costume extravaganzas as Jane Eyre and Emma.

Morton became known to an international film audience in 1997, when she won wide acclaim for her wrenching, fearless portrayal of a young woman driven to promiscuous behavior by the death of her mother in Carine Adler's Under the Skin. The following year, she did starring work in The Last Yellow and Dreaming of Joseph Lees, playing the girlfriend of a small-time crook in the former and a dissatisfied young woman harboring romantic feelings for her long-absent second cousin (Rupert Graves) in the latter.

In 1999, Morton's name became an increasingly familiar one to American filmgoers, thanks to starring roles in two very different films. The first, Jesus' Son, cast the actress as a heroin addict, while the second, Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown, featured her as a shy, mute woman who gets used and abused by a legendary jazz guitarist (Sean Penn) whose musical talent runs in inverse proportion to his qualities as a human being. Heralded for both films, Morton scored a surprise Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for the latter. Not resting on the laurel, the actress immediately set to work with a pair of venerable cineastes, directors Julien Temple (in Pandemonium) and Amos Gitai (in his first English-language production, Eden).

Director Steven Spielberg soon followed Allen's lead, casting Morton in a small but pivotal role as a shivering, near-mute, clairvoyant "Precog" in his Blade Runner-esque mystery Minority Report, which premiered in the summer of 2002. Though the film would introduce Morton to her largest audience yet, it was a pair of independent features released in late 2002 and 2003 that would garner her even more significant critical attention. Teaming with the maverick Scottish director Lynne Ramsay, the actress would essay the enigmatic, directionless title character in Morvern Callar, a dreamy, elliptical adaptation of Alan Warner's cult novel. About a year later, Morton would see the release of In America, Jim Sheridan's acclaimed slice-of-life tale of an Irish family immigrating to New York City's Hell's Kitchen, for which she would receive her second Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Actress.

Morton continued to take on challenging assignments such as the futuristic Code 46 opposite Tim Robbins and directed by British helmer Michael Winterbottom, and appearing opposite Johnny Depp in the little-seen The Libertine, and the period drama River Queen. Although Lassie may seem like a unusual film for Morton to appear in, she has a history of working in family friendly fare having provided the voice for Ruby in the Max and Ruby animated television series based on the popular children's books by Rosemary Wells.

In 2007 she appeared as Mary Stuart in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and appeared in the Ian Curtis biopic Control. She had a leading part as a suspected murderer in the superb Longford. She played one of the women in the life of the troubled writer at the center of Synecdoche, New York, and she was a war widow in Oren Moverman's The Messenger. In 2012 she provided one of the voices for the aliens in the big-budget flop John Carter, but also worked with David Cronenberg on his Cosmopolis.

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  • Dropped out of school at age 13 to study acting at the Central Junior Television Workshop in Nottingham.
  • In her teens, she worked in television and performed with the Royal Court Theatre in London.
  • Landed breakthrough role playing a teenage prostitute in the television drama Band of Gold.
  • Made her film debut in 1997's This Is the Sea.
  • Garnered international acclaim with a provocative role in Under the Skin. Her performance caught the eye of Woody Allen, who cast her opposite Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown (1999).
  • Appeared in music videos for U2 and the Horrors.
  • Revealed that she suffered a stroke after the ceiling in her home collapsed on her in early 2006.
  • Made her directorial debut in 2009's The Unloved, which is loosely based on her childhood in foster care.