Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Monday, 20 February 2006

Thandie Newton's unhurried success

Thandie Newton
Thandie Newton has a Zimbabwean mother and British father
Thandie Newton has won the best supporting actress Bafta for her role in Crash after developing her film career over 16 unhurried years.

Newton's portrayal of the forthright Christine, whose racial prejudices are challenged in Crash, further develops upon her arresting debut in 1991's Flirting.

She was born Thandiwe Newton in November 1972 in Zambia, to a Zimbabwean mother and a British father.

She has been known as Thandie - pronounced "tandy" - throughout her acting career.

Newton lived in a "cosmopolitan hippie community" in Lusaka, Zambia, until her family moved to Penzance in Cornwall when she was five.

"When we moved to England there were very few black people in the town," she told the New York Times. "We were almost a novelty."

Nevertheless Newton said she "never really experienced racial hassle" and went into the arts "where difference is celebrated".

Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon in Crash
2004 Crash
2000 Mission: Impossible II
1998 Beloved
1995 Jefferson in Paris
1991 Flirting
At 11 she studied modern dance at Hertfordshire's Arts Education School.

However, a back injury prevented her from pursuing a dance career and she won her first film role in Flirting after auditioning on a whim.

Set in 1960s Australia, it was the sequel to director John Duigan's The Year My Voice Broke.

It co-starred 19-year-old Newton as a student who arrives from Uganda and embarks upon a problematic romance with Noah Taylor's Danny.

A surprise hit, Flirting also featured Nicole Kidman as Newton's school friend Nicola.

Cambridge degree

Newton then moved to Los Angeles to try to break into Hollywood but returned to England after being turned away from roles because of her English accent.

After appearing in TV action movie Pirate Prince, Newton studied anthropology and architecture at Cambridge University, continuing to appear in movies during her holidays.

These included the poorly-received Young Americans, teenage drama Loaded and a small part in Interview with the Vampire.

Oliver Milburn and Thandie Newton in In Your Dreams
Newton played student Clare in 1997 BBC drama In Your Dreams
Newton completed her degree in 1995, when she co-starred in Merchant Ivory production Jefferson in Paris, playing the slave of ex-US president Thomas Jefferson.

Despite her growing celebrity, Newton said she was in no hurry to establish herself as a Hollywood star.

"Publicists are ringing up, saying 'come on, let's get you on magazine covers,'" she said in 1995. "Then I thought 'whoa, no, I have all the time in the world.'"

Two years later Newton starred alongside rapper Tupac Shakur in Gridlock'd but her performance was overshadowed by his death shortly before its release.

That year also saw Newton star as student Clare in BBC date rape drama In Your Dreams. A year later she married its writer, Oliver Parker, with whom she has a daughter.

In 1998 Newton also played Beloved in the movie of Toni Morrison's acclaimed novel of the same name. Oprah Winfrey's film adaptation was not as well received, however.

Oliver Parker and Thandie Newton
Writer Oliver Parker had a daughter with wife Newton in 2000
After starring in Bernardo Bertolucci's Besieged, Newton played jewel thief Nyah in the John Woo-directed action movie Mission: Impossible II, which co-starred Tom Cruise.

She appeared in another action movie, The Chronicles of Riddick, before joining the cast of Paul Haggis' ensemble drama Crash.

In addition to a Bafta, her performance earned Newton a London Critics Circle award and a shared Screen Actors Guild prize.

The acclaim and exposure will no doubt add extra momentum to her measured acting career.


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