Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton, OBE, (born January 9, 1956) is an Academy Award-nominated English actress best known for her performances in the British comedy television series Up the Garden Path and the films Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Vera Drake. For the latter, she drew wide sppread critical acclaim as Vera Drake, earning a number of awards including the Bafta and Venice Film Festival Awards for best
Staunton was born in Archway, North London, the daughter of Bridie (née McNicholas), a hairdresser, and Joseph Staunton, a road-worker and labourer. Both of her parents are first-generation Catholic immigrants from County Mayo, Ireland, with her father coming from Ballyvary and her mother from Bohola. She attended La Sainte Union Convent School, an all girls catholic school on the edge of Hampstead Heath, from years 7 to 11.
Staunton trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, then spent six years in English repertory, including a period at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter where she had the title role in Shaw's Saint Joan (1979), before moving back to London.
Staunton has stated that her first job was a play by Goldoni. Her most recent stage appearance was in the premiere of Frank McGuinness's There Came a Gypsy Riding at the Almeida in 2007.
She has twice received an Olivier Award, Britain's highest theatre honour, for roles in two 1985 productions: A Chorus of Disapproval and The Corn Is Green and for the 1991 Into the Woods. She was nominated for her performance as Miss Adelaide in the 1996 revival of Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre.
One of her first films was an appearance in the 1992 movie Peter's Friends. Other early roles include performances in Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Deadly Advice (1993), Sense and Sensibility (1995) Twelfth Night (1996), Chicken Run (2000), Another Life (2001), Bright Young Things (2003), and Freedom Writers (2007).
Staunton shared a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Performance by a Cast in 1998 for Shakespeare in Love. In 2004, she received the Best Actress honours at the European Film Awards, the BAFTAs, and the Venice Film Festival for her performance of the title role in Mike Leigh's Vera Drake, which also won Best Picture. For the same role, she received Best Actress nominations for the 2005 Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
Staunton portrayed Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), a performance described as "coming close to stealing the show." She was nominated in the "British Actress in a Supporting Role" category at the London Film Critics Circle Awards. She will most likely reprise the role for the final films of the series.
Her latest role was the lead in the British comedy, Three and Out, released on 25th April 2008.
In 1993 she appeared on the small screen alongside Richard Briers and Adrian Edmondson in If You See God, Tell Him. She has had other television parts in The Singing Detective (1986) and the comedy drama series Is it Legal? (1995-8). She was a voice artist on Mole's Christmas (1994). She had a guest role playing Mrs Mead in Little Britain in 2005, and in 2007 played the free-thinking gossip, Miss Pole, in the BBC1 five-part drama series based on Mrs Gaskell's Cranford novels.
On radio, she has appeared in the title role of detective drama series Julie Enfield Investigates, as the lead, Izzy Comyn, in the comedy Up the Garden Path (which later moved to ITV with Staunton reprising the role), as Mrs Blatherwick, the vile cook in Nanny McPhee, and in Diary of a Provincial Lady (from 1999) and Acropolis Now.
She was awarded the O.B.E. (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2006 New Year's Honours List for her services to drama.
Staunton is married to the English actor Jim Carter and they have a daughter, Bessie, born 1993. She is also long time friends with Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and best friends with Emma Thompson, whom she also lives next to.