♦ English actress
Born in Ilford, Essex, she was a student at the Oxford Playhouse School before making her stage debut with the Oxford University Dramatic Society in Twelfth Night (1952) and appearing in New York as one of the New Faces of '56. After her critically acclaimed performances in The Rehearsal (1961) and Mary, Mary (1963), she joined the National Theatre to appear in Othello (1963), Hay Fever (1966), The Three Sisters (1970) and other plays. Her film debut in Nowhere to Go (1958) was followed by scene-stealing turns in such films as The V.I.P.s (1963) and The Pumpkin Eater (1964), but her tour de force was in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969, Academy Award). Subsequent film roles show a penchant for eccentric comedy and the portrayal of acidic spinsters, and include award-winning performances in California Suite (1978, Academy Award), A Private Function (1984, BAFTA Award), A Room With a View (1985) and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987). Other films include Sister Act (1992), Tea with Mussolini (1999) and the Harry Potter series of films (2001- ). Her later stage work includes Lettice and Lovage (1987, Tony award 1990), The Importance of Being Earnest (1993) and David Hare's The Breath of Life (2002). Her television roles include Suddenly Last Summer (1993). She was made a DBE in 1990.