Judy Davis Biography


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Birth Name: Judy Davis
Born: 04/23/1955
Birth Place: Australia


Born on Apr. 23, 1955 the youngest of three, Davis has admitted to suffering a repressed childhood, in part due to her family's staunch Catholicism but also tempered by the remoteness of Perth, Australia, where she was raised. After dropping out of convent school, she joined a rock and blues band and toured Asia. Returning home, Davis eventually enrolled at Sydney's National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), where she appeared as Juliet to Mel Gibson's Romeo. With stage experience and a one-line role in 1977's "High Rolling," she auditioned for and won the star-making role of Sybylla Melvyn, the headstrong anti-heroine, of "My Brilliant Career" (1978). Davis later admitted she had difficulties with the neurotic character and occasionally clashed with director Gillian Armstrong, but her performance was undeniably forceful and earned her numerous accolades including Best Actress citations from the British Film Academy and the Australian Film Institute.

Sybylla Melvyn may not have been an appealing personage to portray but she represented what became a typical Judy Davis role - a strong, plain-speaking woman who shatters social mores. The actress was nothing short of astonishing as a desperate prostitute seeking a way out of her life in "The Winter of Our Dreams" and as an anarchist in "Heatwave" (both 1981) and proved stunning as the young incarnation of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in an Emmy-nominated turn in the syndicated 1982 miniseries "A Woman Called Golda." Davis resisted Hollywood but did accept the leading role of the genteel cultural adventuress Adela Quested in "A Passage to India" (1984). Again, there were reports of conflict with aged director David Lean, but the ultimate onscreen result was a rich performance of grace and skill that earned her a Best Actress Academy Award nomination.

Although her career was on the ascent and she undoubtedly could have taken on American parts, Davis returned to Australia to co-star with her husband, actor Colin Friels, in "Kangaroo" (1987), based on the semi-autobiographical novel by D.H. Lawrence. She then delivered what is arguably her best leading performance as a footloose singer who reconnects with the daughter she abandoned years earlier in "High Tide" (1987), directed by Gillian Armstrong.

Beginning in the 1990s, Davis did begin to work more in projects outside of her homeland. At the start of the decade, she inaugurated a relationship with Woody Allen with a small role in "Alice" (1990). Since that less than auspicious collaboration, Allen has provided her with rich characters to play. Davis received a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination playing a cynical, neurotic woman who sabotages her relationships in "Husbands and Wives" (1992) until she discovers true love. "Deconstructing Harry" (1997) posited her as the high-strung sister-in-law of Allen's title character while "Celebrity" (1998) cast her as the schoolteacher wife of a journalist who blossoms into a TV star after their divorce.

In 1991 alone, Davis lent her careworn but attractive presence and edgy performance style to a series of intriguingly uptight but sympathetic characters. The Coen brothers tapped her to play the lover of a William Faulkner-like author in their study of Hollywood "Barton Fink" while David Cronenberg cast her as the bug-spray addicted wife of William Burroughs in the film adaptation of "Naked Lunch." On the small screen, Davis reunited with "Brilliant Career" co-star Sam Neill for "One Against the Wind" (CBS), a based-on-fact drama about a British woman active in the French Resistance movement during WWII.

Davis demonstrated her formidable comic capabilities with a deft turn as Kevin Spacey's embittered, shrewish wife perpetually engaging in battles with her spouse in the black comedy "The Ref" (1994). That same year, she essayed a similar role, paired with Peter Weller as a feuding, jobless L.A. couple who open an upscale boutique to finance their divorce in "The New Age." Shifting gears, Davis won an Emmy as the patient, loyal and supportive lesbian lover of a US Army colonel who discloses her sexual orientation in the fact-based "Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story" (NBC, 1995).

The actress returned to Australia to star as a Stalinist with more than a passing acquaintance with the Russian leader in the farcical comedy "Children of the Revolution" (1996). Davis played a presidential chief of staff in the Clint Eastwood vehicle "Absolute Power" and portrayed Jack Nicholson's ex-wife in the uneven "Blood & Wine" (both 1997). She then offered a trio of Emmy nominated performances that continued to showcase her extraordinary range. In "The Echo of Thunder" (CBS, 1998), she was cast as a stoic palm tree farmer in the Australian Outback who objects to raising her husband's child by his first wife. 1999's "Dash & Lilly" (A&E) paired her with Sam Shepard in a portrait of the dysfunctional, co-dependant relationship between authors Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman. Davis also excelled as a self-centered wealthy woman whose marriage falls apart forcing her to interact more with her new housekeeper (Sally Field) in "A Cooler Climate" (Showtime, 1999). She then bravely tackled a portrayal of a cultural icon - singer-actress Judy Garland - in the 2001 ABC miniseries adapted from Lorna Luft's memoir "Me and My Shadows." Her portrayal was so dead-on and letter-perfect, Davis garnered critical praise and a much deserved Emmy Award. She was back on the big screen in the Australian feature "The Man Who Sued God" (2001).

Two years later, she co-starred alongside Marcia Gay Harden and Lili Taylor in the comedy feature "Gaudi Afternoon" (2003). After playing a quiet, long-suffering mother of an Olympic swimmer (Jesse Spencer) married to an overbearing, alcoholic husband (Geoffrey Rush) in the triumphant "Swimming Upstream" (2005), Davis gave a fine performance as a flask-sipping, high-society type who sticks by her best friend (Debra Messing) who divorces her Hollywood bigwig husband (Peter Jacobson) and must learn to live life on her own. After playing the first lady of honor to "Marie Antoinette" (2007), the oft-nominated Davis took home the gold once again at the 2007 Emmy awards, this time for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her performance as an alcoholic socialite and best friend to a woman (Debra Messing) abandoned by her wealthy husband in the USA Network miniseries, "The Starter Wife" (2007).




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