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 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 00:50 GMT
Blethyn's gamble pays off
Blethyn has been awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours
Blethyn in the BBC's The Buddha Of Suburbia
Brenda Blethyn has been given an OBE in the New Year Honours list. BBC News Online looks at an actress who never expected to make the big time.

Brenda Blethyn was 27 when she took a chance on going to drama school at the Guildford drama college.

She had been working in a bank as a secretary and book-keeper and decided to apply after her marriage broke up.

She had not told her parents she had applied - thinking that if she did not get in she could always go back to her job.

But Blethyn - born Brenda Bootle in Kent in 1946 - won her place and has been working steadily ever since, both here and in the US.

Blethyn, who has become best known for her role as the neurotic mother in Mike Leigh's Secrets & Lies in 1996, for which she won awards both at the Golden Globes and the Baftas.

She joined the National Theatre in 1975 and has since worked with many top directors, including Tom Stoppard, Bill Bryden, Alan Ayckbourn and Sam Mendes.
I was a novice as far as film was concerned. I'd been working over 20 years at the time, and then all that happened

Blethyn on the success of Secrets & Lies

After the National she moved to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Her TV career broke in 1980 when she was cast in Mike Leigh's Grown Ups, before being featured in the BBC Shakespeare series, including the role of Cordelia in King Lear in 1982, and Joan in Henry VI, Part One a year later.

Hollywood came calling in 1990, when she was cast in the big screen adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches.

In 1992 she appeared in A River Runs Through It, the Robert Redford-directed film where she played the mother to Brad Pitt's character.
Blethyn has spent most of her recent career in film
Blethyn's biggest success was Secrets & Lies

In 1993 she appeared in the BBC mini-series The Buddha Of Suburbia.

After 1994, and a part in the ensemble TV comedy Outside Edge, she moved almost exclusively into film work for the next five years.

Secrets & Lies, Leigh's most successful film, came as a surprise. She had spent six months working on the script with the director.

When the acclaim came she said: "I was a novice as far as film was concerned. I'd been working over 20 years at the time, and then all that happened,"

Blethyn later received an Oscar nomination for her part as Jane Horrock's mother in the musical Little Voice, which also starred Michael Caine and Ewan McGregor.

In 2000 she starred in the quirky Saving Grace, where a woman who finds she is in debt by 300,000 after her husband dies grows marijuana to get her way out.

She has featured in several other films since, including Daddy And Them with Billy Bob Thornton, Jamie Lee Curtis and Ben Affleck.

Blethyn lives with Michael Mayhew, an art director from the National Theatre. The couple live in south east London.



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