It’s recently been reported that Imelda Staunton is in the running to succeed Claire Foy and Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II in seasons five and six of The Crown. Netflix has dismissed the rumors as premature, but let’s just say that if Staunton does land the role, we definitely won’t be mad about it. The British actress has received a massive 13 Olivier Award nominations for her work on the London stage, but she’s also well known for her stellar TV and movie work. Here’s a reminder of some of her most memorable performances.
Staunton won a BAFTA – and received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations – for her performance in this super-emotive British period drama. She plays the title character, a working-class woman living in 1950s London who performs illegal abortions for young girls who’ve “got themselves into trouble.” As poor Vera Drake, an incredibly kind-hearted woman brought down by her unselfish desire to help others, Staunton is simply devastating.
Before Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife, there was Cranford, a 2007 BBC period drama which delighted Emmy voters after airing on PBS. The cast is packed with classy British thesps including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins, and Lesley Manville, but Staunton is in scene-stealing form as Octavia Pole, a local gossip who makes it her business to know what’s going on in the fictional Victorian village of Cranford.
Remember the series six episode “The Girl Who Waited?” Staunton provides the voice of the “Interface,” a user interface at the Two Streams Facility on the planet Apalapucia which is reprogrammed by Karen Gillan‘s Amy Pond. It’s a small voice role, but definitely a fun one.
This rousing British film tells the remarkable true story of a group of LGBTQ activists who formed an unprecedented political alliance with Welsh families affected by the 1984 British miners’ strikes. Staunton earned a BAFTA nomination for her heartwarming performance as Hefina Headon, a Welsh activist who encourages her local community to embrace the “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” movement. Co-stars including Andrew Scott, Russell Tovey, and Bill Nighy also make Pride one to watch.
Potterphiles will always remember Staunton’s performance as Professor Dolores Umbridge, a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who arrives at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, clashes with Harry, and turns out to be a plant from the corrupt Ministry of Magic. Staunton is clearly having a lot of fun as the movie’s smug and scheming villain.
Staunton brings some extra zing to this year’s Downton Abbey movie as a foil for Dame Maggie Smith‘s Dowager Countess. She plays Lady Bagshaw, a formidable relative who – the Dowager Countess believes – is intent on cheating Hugh Bonneville‘s Earl of Grantham out of his rightful inheritance. Staunton’s real-life husband, Jim Carter, also stars as the family’s loyal butler, Carson.
This 2012 TV movie explores legendary director Alfred Hitchcock‘s alleged obsession with actress Tippi Hedren, the star of his classic 1963 film The Birds. Starring opposite Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Hedren, Staunton plays the director’s neglected wife, Alma, who chooses to overlook her husband’s infidelities. It’s a poignant performance for which she deservedly earned an Emmy nomination.
Staunton has a cute motion-capture role in this 2014 fantasy movie and its 2019 sequel as Knotgrass, the red fairy. Lesley Manville and Juno Temple join her as the green and blue fairies, respectively.
Finding Your Feet
This charming rom-com finds a fresh spin on the familiar “fish out of water” premise. Staunton plays an uptight middle-aged woman who goes to live with her bohemian sister (Celia Imrie) in London after discovering her husband is having an affair. It’s a gentle Brit-flick in the mold of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with typically winning performances from Staunton, Imrie, and co-stars Joanna Lumley and Timothy Spall.
My Family and Other Animals
Gerald Durrell‘s much-loved autobiographical book My Family and Other Animals has been adapted for the screen several times. In this 2005 TV movie, Staunton stars as Louise Durrell, the somewhat eccentric widow who takes her children to live on the Greek island of Corfu in the years preceding World War 2. It’s well worth seeking out for strong performances from Staunton and a young Russell Tovey and Matthew Goode, who play her sons.
What are your favorite Imelda Staunton roles?