Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton, CBE, (born 9 January 1956 in London, England) is a British actor of stage and screen, a eleven-time Laurence Olivier Award nominee.
Born to Irish immigrants in North London, Staunton studied Drama at her school and, at the encouragement of her drama teacher, auditioned and enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts at 18. Upon graduating in 1976, Staunton spent several years in repertory theatre, earning many awards and nominations, including an Olivier Award win for playing the original Bakers Wife.
Staunton is perhaps best known to international audiences for her performance as Dolores Jane Umbridge in the Harry Potter film series, who many (including Stephen King) consider one of the best (and most universally despised) fictional villains of all time.
Her husband, Jim Carter, is an actor in his own right, best known for playing Carson on Downton Abbey.
Film & Television
- Peter's Friends (1992) as Mary
- Much Ado About Nothing (1993) as Margaret
- Deadly Advice (1994) as Beth Greenwood
- Sense and Sensibility (1995) as Charlotte Jennings Palmer
- Twelfth Night (1996) as Maria
- Shakespeare in Love (1998) as Nurse
- Chicken Run (2000) as Bunty
- Vera Drake (2004) as Vera Drake (Academy Award nomination for Best Actress)
- Nanny McPhee (2005) as Mrs. Blatherwick.
- Shakespeare Re-Told: A Midsummer Night's Dream (2005) as Polly
- My Family And Other Animals (2005) as Louisa Durrell
- Cranford as Octavia Pole (2007)
- Return to Cranford (2009)
- Harry Potter as Dolores Jane Umbridge
- Alice in Wonderland (2010) as the Tall Flowers
- Arthur Christmas (2011) as Margaret Clause
- The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) as Queen Victoria
- Paddington (2014) as Aunt Lucy
- Maleficent (2014) as Knotgrass
- Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)
- Downton Abbey (2019) as Lady Maud
- The Crown (Season 5 & 6) as Queen Elizabeth II (upcoming)
- Gypsy as Rose
- Into the Woods (London, 1990-1991) as the Baker's Wife
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (London, 2012-2013) as Mrs. Lovett
Tropes associated with her work:
- Ability over Appearance: She's noted to be far more attractive than how Umbridge is described in the books - like resembling a toad - but few will dispute that she absolutely nails the character. In fact, her being more attractive makes Umbridge seem even more evil - creating a contrast between her horrible deeds and her sweet, grandmotherly appearance.
- Casting Gag:
- In Shakespeare in Love her husband plays the actor who is going to be the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, while she plays the actual nurse.
- In Downton Abbey The Movie, she and Maggie Smith are once again at odds as they were in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. However this time Imelda's character is the sympathetic one.
- She and Bill Nighy were government officials in Harry Potter. In the film Pride, they play characters on the outside.
- Enforced Method Acting: To get her and the other actors playing fairies in Maleficent used to the feeling of being featherweight and agile - they were guided in motion capture by artists from the Cirque du Soleil.
- Fake American: In Freedom Writers. Played straight in Gypsy.
- I Am Not Spock: Despite her impressive stage resume, she is best known among a lot of people as Umbridge in the Harry Potter films - though this might change thanks to prominent roles as Aunt Lucy in Paddington and Knotgrass in Maleficent.
- Improvisation: In rehearsals for Vera Drake, this is how the characters were created. There was no screenplay.
- Playing Against Type:
- Real-Life Relative: She and Jim Carter have starred together in Shakespeare in Love and Downton Abbey.
- Star-Making Role: Her Oscar nominated performance in Vera Drake did it for film, and helped launch her into the Harry Potter franchise.
- Typecasting: Her role in Freedom Writers - an obstructive teacher - is basically Umbridge in a non-fantasy setting.