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Jessica Chastain

Samantha Morton Biography


Home > Actresses > M > Morton, Samantha > Biography


Birth Name: Samantha Morton
Born: 05/13/1977
Birth Place: Nottingham, England, GB


Samantha Morton was born on May 13, 1977, into a hardscrabble life in working class Nottingham, England. Her parents had a tumultuous split when she was young, and subsequently Morton and siblings were raised in a series of homes, including a foster home. A wildly imaginative and outspoken girl, she loved writing and performing short plays from the time she was seven years old. With the encouragement of a school drama teacher, she applied to the Junior Television workshop, a performing arts school, where she studied drama and playwriting from ages 13-16. When she was 16, the fiercely independent teen packed up and moved to London, emerging from a difficult and penniless period of time, determined to succeed as a professional actress.

At the same time Morton began to appear regularly onstage with the Royal Court Theater, she also landed an agent and, in a relatively quick amount of time, found herself on television in guest spots on prime time British dramas like "Peak Practice" and "Cracker." In 1995, she caught her first big break when she was cast as a troubled young prostitute in the miniseries "Band of Gold," a British production that also aired in the States on HBO. This led to a run of successful small screen roles in BBC/A&E period dramas including turns as the charmingly artless Harriet Smith in "Jane Austen's 'Emma'" (1997); in the title role of "Jane Eyre" (BBC/A&E, 1997); and as an especially staunch Sophia Western in the miniseries adaptation of "Tom Jones" (1998).

While her television work proved her a capable actress with a strong presence, more impressive were Morton's big screen roles. She debuted in "This Is the Sea" (1997), as a teenaged Protestant who falls in love with a Catholic boy from Belfast. But "Under the Skin" (1997) marked her breakthrough. As Iris Kelley, an endearing and needy girl who spirals into self-destructive sexual encounters following her mother's death, she delivered a critically-lauded, powerful and uncompromising performance in an often disturbing film. The film caught the attention of Woody Allen, who handpicked Morton to play a mute laundress and the great love of an egocentric guitarist (Sean Penn) in the jazz age drama, "Sweet and Lowdown." Morton earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her highly unusual and highly captivating performance.

The busy actress also played a feisty hostage in the comedy "The Last Yellow" and demonstrated her versatility by morphing into a 1970s Midwestern drug addict (opposite Billy Crudup) in the stark, affecting "Jesus' Son" (2000) - named one of the top 10 films of the year by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Roger Ebert. Then art imitated life when a pregnant Morton was cast as an expectant Sara Coleridge in Julien Temple's "Pandemonium" (2000). Morton's dedication to substantive, offbeat roles had kept her out of the mainstream multiplexes so far, but in the summer of 2002, she appeared opposite Tom Cruise as Agatha, one of a triumvirate of bald, semi-alien precognitives who predict future murders, in Steven Spielberg's blockbuster, "Minority Report." Later that year, she won the British Independent Film Best Actress Award for her starring role in "Morvern Callar," an introspective piece about a vacant supermarket checker who finds rebirth in the death of her boyfriend. Continuing to make a name for herself Stateside, the actress delivered a powerful, yet understated, performance in Jim Sheridan's emotionally gripping autobiographical film, "In America" (2003), playing the mother of a family of Irish immigrants struggling to establish themselves in New York City. Her sensitive, emotional portrayal earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Following the Academy Awards nomination, the busy single mom was inundated with offers, but maintained her loyalty to well-written characters with an interesting point of view. Naturally, independent film remained the bulk of her work and her bread and butter. In 2004, she appeared in the adaptation of the British novel "Enduring Love" and the futuristic love story "Code 46," before taking on a role as a 17th century actress tutored by Johnny Depp in the racy but little-seen "The Libertine" (2005). In 2006, Morton starred as one of England's most notorious criminals, the Moors Murderess, in the TV film "Longford," scripted by Academy Award-winning scribe, Peter Morgan and co-starring Academy Award-winning actor, Jim Broadbent. "Longford" was named Official Selection for Best Dramatic Picture at Sundance in 2007, with Morton earning an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her work in the project. She would also go on to win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or TV Movie in early 2008.

Morton's reputation continued to build up force with the well-received Cannes premiere of "Control," a biopic of ill-fated musician Ian Curtis of post-punk band Joy Division, in which Morton was cast as his wife. Later in 2007, Morton appeared in a supporting role as Mary Queen of Scots in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," the sequel to "Elizabeth," as well as in "Mister Lonely," the latest offering from boldly experimental filmmaker Harmony Korine. She next had a supporting role in writer Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut, "Synecdoche, New York" (2008), playing a box office employee who bizarrely purchases a house that is perpetually on fire while striking up a romance with an eccentric playwright (Philip Seymour Hoffman). In "The Messenger" (2009), Morton was a wife grieving over the loss of her husband who had served in and died in Iraq, but finds the sergeant who delivered the news (Ben Foster) drawn to her. Morton earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Female for her performance.