Page last updated at 00:03 GMT, Saturday, 31 December 2005

Actress Staunton's many characters

Imelda Staunton
Imelda Staunton won a best actress Bafta earlier this year

Imelda Staunton, star of the Oscar-nominated film Vera Drake, has been made an OBE in the New Year Honours list.

Imelda Staunton, one of the UK's hardest working character actresses, has been a mainstay of British drama and independent films for 29 years.

A career built on solid, down-to-earth roles, has served her well, but has often left her overlooked when it came to success in bigger roles.

But 2005 has proved to be a stellar year for Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton, who was born in Archway, north London, in January 1956.

She won a Bafta for the role as post-war backstreet abortionist Vera Drake in January, and attended the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild awards, and the Oscars, where she was nominated for best actress.

Roles in box office hits like Nanny McPhee and Mrs Durrell in the TV film My Family and Other Animals have added to the successful year, which has culminated in her OBE for services to drama.

Big screen

Staunton's successful career as an actress first beckoned when she was just 17 with offer of a place at Rada.

A variety of successful stage roles followed, including A Chorus of Disapproval and The Corn is Green for which she won Laurence Olivier Awards for best supporting actress.

She also won an Olivier Award in 1991 for best actress in a musical for Into the Woods.

One of her early screen roles was in the critically acclaimed 1986 series of Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective, playing Nurse White.

Much of her work after this was on the small screen, with a big screen outing in the black comedy Peter's Friends, playing alongside some of the UK's best-known talent including Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.

Vera Drake
Vera Drake was critically acclaimed across the world

But it was in 1993 that Staunton captured international attention when she appeared in Branagh's Hollywood version of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, playing the naive yet lusty maid Margaret.

The same year saw her celebrated on the small screen alongside Richard Briers and Adrian Edmondson in If You See God, Tell Him.

Since then, Staunton has firmly placed numerous dramas, plays and films under her belt, including Sense And Sensibility alongside Thompson, Waiting For Godot and Grease.

Her vocals have also been called into action, lending her voice to Chicken Run.

'Long career'

In 2003 she appeared in two British films, Stephen Fry's Bright Young Things and I'll Be There, which starred Charlotte Church, although neither were starring roles.

But it was her powerful role in Vera Drake that brought Staunton worldwide acclaim in 2004 when she won awards at the European Film Awards and the Venice Film Festival

Director Mike Leigh described Staunton as "exactly the right person for the job".

"She is brilliant. She has great warmth, compassion and humanity and a great sense of humour," Leigh added.

"Also she has not a grain of sentimentality, she is very rooted in the real world."

Although it may have taken nearly three decades to receive the level of adulation she is getting now, Staunton is satisfied with the path her career has taken.

"I've always wanted a long career, not an instant one - a long career.

"And I'm having it, you know, I work all the time in England. I've got theatre awards, I have a career, a good career," she said.


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