Very few actors in the movie-making and broadcasting industry are able to sell any character, ranging from a hideous and obnoxious villain to an enchanted fairy. Among those artists is definitely Imelda Staunton, who managed to make a brilliant international film career by playing mostly well-chosen and well-resolved supporting roles. However, the talent of this actress, who is commonly associated with her role in the Harry Potter moviesis not limited only to films: she has worked in movies, TV shows, and even theater productions.
Staunton knew from a very young age that she wanted to be an actress, and as soon as she was old enough, she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she learned the craft before going on to make a name for herself among the most gifted actresses in British theater. Although the role that brought Staunton major recognition was her performance in Vera Drake, throughout her career, she has received several awards and nominations, including four Laurence Olivier Awards, a British Academy Film Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. She has also been nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award. Her talent is in fact so impressive that, in 2016, Staunton was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in honor of her services to drama.
It was recently confirmed that Staunton will join the cast of The Crown as Queen Elizabeth II for season 5 on Netflix, carrying on the torch from Claire Foy and Olivia Colman (both of whom played the Queen in seasons 1-2 and 3-4, respectively). While The Crown‘s premiere is scheduled for November this year, fans are already eager to see Staunton in this new feature role, especially after the pictures were recently revealed, showing her dressed in character. As we wait for this premiere, here is a look back at Imelda Staunton’s best performances, ranked.
Maleficent‘s story is exactly the same as the one in The Sleeping Beauty, but with a major alteration: the perspective from which the events are narrated. In Robert Stromberg’s film, the story is told from Maleficent’s point of view, the wicked villain portrayed by Angelina Jolie. In this movie, you get to see the reasons that led Maleficent to be who she is. She was not always as hard-hearted as depicted in the well-known children’s tale, but a series of events hardened her and led her to believe that cursing Aurora (Elle Fanning) was the best option.
Imelda Staunton has a small role in this 2019 fantasy film, and its sequel Maleficent 2, as Knotgrass, one of three fairies who look after Princess Aurora to protect her from her curse. Lesley Manville and Juno Temple join her as the green and blue fairies, respectively.
6 Finding Your Feet
In the 2018 Richard Loncraine movie Finding Your Feet, Imelda Staunton portrays Sandra, a woman nearing retirement who shares a well-to-do life with her husband Sir Mike (John Sessions). All this changes, however, when Sandra discovers that her husband is cheating on her with none other than Pamela (Josie Lawrence), her best friend. She then decides to leave the marital home and move in with her Bohemian sister Bif (Celia Imrie), who lives on the outskirts of town. Bif and Sandra are complete opposites, but this may be just what Sandra needs to gather courage and start over. Bif tries to help his sister, and for that she invites her to dance classes, where Sandra meets new friends and a potential new romance.
This heartwarming British movie is based on true events and was premiered as part of the Directors’ Fortnight at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Queer Palm Award. Pride recounts the extraordinary story of a group of LGBTQ + activists who formed an unprecedented political alliance with Welsh families affected by the 1984 British miners’ strikes. Imelda Staunton earned a BAFTA nomination for her moving portrayal of Hefina Headon, a Welsh activist who encourages her local community to embrace the “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” movement. Rounding out the cast of this movie are Andrew Scott, Russell Tovey, and Bill Nighy.
4 Downton Abbey
This 2019 film is a follow-up to the acclaimed television series under the same name directed by Michael Engler. The cast features Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Imelda Staunton, David Haig and Hugh Bonneville. In the Downton Abbey movie, the Crawley family and their staff prepare for a crucial moment in their lives. However, a visit from the King and Queen of England unleashes a scandalous and intriguing situation that puts Downton’s future in jeopardy.
Staunton’s role in this film is that of Lady Bagshaw, the nemesis of Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Lady Bagshaw is a relative who, as Violet believes, is trying to trick the Earl of Grantham out of his rightful inheritance. Something peculiar about this movie is that it also features Staunton’s husband, Jim Carter, as Charles Carson, the family’s loyal butler (and a regular series).
3 Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare in Love follows the love affair of a young, undiscovered William Shakespeare with Lady Viola de Lesseps as the playwright is writing Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare would use his experiences with Viola as inspiration for his play. In this movie, Imelda Staunton portrays Violet’s nurse, a character whose sole purpose is to help and support Violet. This nurse is kind and comical, a further demonstration of Staunton’s versatility when it comes to performing totally opposite roles. In fact, in 1998, this part won her a Best Supporting Actress Award from the Screen Actors Guild.
2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
This is definitely one of Imelda Staunton’s most remembered roles. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry discovers that the wizarding community disbelieves him regarding Voldemort’s return, and a large part of this is the result of a campaign that the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, is waging to discredit him. In order to keep an eye on Hogwarts, Fudge sends a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge. This woman is in charge of enforcing order at the school and supervising Dumbledore’s actions and gestures. Unfortunately, this person is cruel and has no interest in the well-being of students and, as a matter of fact, she is fully determined to do anything she can to humiliate Harry. Over several interviews, Staunton has stated that it was one of the roles she had the most fun playing, and that she hates Dolores just like everyone elsebut she believes that she was doing those things because she truly believed that her actions were right.
1 Vera Drake
Her role as Vera Drake is definitely Imelda Staunton’s best performance to this day. This 2004 film is one of Mike Leigh’s best moviesand garnered Staunton several awards for her performanceand even an Academy Award nomination for the director.
Vera Drake was set during 1950 in England. The eponmyous Vera is a kind and hardworking woman who lives with her husband and two children. Humble and big-hearted, Vera cares for her elderly mother, her family and even a sick neighbor. However, she is hiding a big secret: she helps local women who have unwanted pregnancies to get abortions. Although Vera does this as a kind gesture to her community, abortions are frowned upon in 1950, so if her secret were to be discovered, she could be in big trouble. Unfortunately, when one of her patients nearly loses her life in a procedure, Vera is held for questioning and is at risk of losing her freedom.
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