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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 December 2007, 01:06 GMT
Walters' role as national treasure
Julie Walters with her lifetime achievement Bafta award
Walters has five Baftas, and received a special tribute in 2003
Julie Walters has been appointed a CBE in the New Year Honours, further endorsing her credentials as one of Britain's best-loved actresses.

Her career spans theatre, film and TV, with highlights including Educating Rita, Billy Elliot and Harry Potter, where she plays Mrs Weasley.

But Walters says she is most often recognised as Mrs Overall, the cleaner with the wrinkly tights and coconut macaroons from Victoria Wood's spoof soap Acorn Antiques.

Born in Smethwick, near Birmingham, in 1950, Walters dreamed of becoming an actress but trained as a nurse to please her mother, Mary.

The call of the stage was too strong, however, and Walters quit her job to study for a teaching certificate in English and drama at Manchester Polytechnic.

"My mother hated me abandoning it," Walters told the Sunday Times in 2006.

"I had to get my two brothers and father to stand between me and her when I gave my notice.

"She then said if I took up acting I'd be in the gutter by the time I was 20."

Julie Walters and Victoria Wood
I have always liked variety and that's what I have got
Julie Walters in 2006

In 1980, Walters created the role of Susan White - a Liverpudlian hairdresser determined to better herself - in Willy Russell's stage play Educating Rita.

She won the Variety Club's best newcomer award for her efforts, and three years later took the chance to repeat her performance opposite Michael Caine on film.

Her sexy, sassy performance more than measured up to the dominating screen presence of her co-star, and earned Walters the first of two Oscar nominations in 1984.

The prize that time went to Shirley MacLaine, but Walters was subsequently inundated with lucrative offers from Hollywood studios.

Instead, she returned home to continue her work in TV and theatre with long-time collaborators such as Victoria Wood and Alan Bleasdale.

Harry Potter

Her best-loved characters are often ordinary women in extraordinary situations - such as the dance instructor in Billy Elliot (her other Oscar-nominated role), or a widow who poses nude to raise money in Calendar Girls.

Walters also excels in hard-hitting dramas such as Boys from the Blackstuff, GBH and Arthur Miller's All My Sons - for which she won a Laurence Olivier award in 2001.

But younger audiences will know her best as Ron Weasley's fussy, over-protective mother in the Harry Potter film franchise.

Jamie Bell and Julie Walters
Walters, who is 57, appeared alongside Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot
"I have always liked variety," she said of her career in 2006, "and that's what I have got."

Her ability to turn her hand to every aspect of acting has resulted in numerous accolades, including an OBE for services to drama in 1999.

She won the best actress award at the Baftas three years in a row for her TV roles in My Beautiful Son, Murder and The Canterbury Tales.

In 2005, she picked up an outstanding contribution trophy at the British Comedy Awards alongside her long-time collaborator Victoria Wood.

Among their comedy credits are Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV, Pat and Margaret, Dinnerladies and a theatre production of Acorn Antiques.

Walters said the hardest thing about the musical, which played in the West End in 2005, was learning to tap-dance.

"I nearly kicked myself to death," she joked.

National treasure

True to her British roots, the star lives on a 70-acre organic farm in Sussex with her husband of 10 years, Grant Roffey - whom she met in 1986.

They have one daughter, Maisie, who was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was three and was ill for several years - a period when Walters all but abandoned her career.

Ruby In The Smoke
Walters recently starred with Billie Piper in The Ruby in the Smoke
Some of her experiences from this time were echoed in the actress's first book, Maggie's Tree, in 2006.

The success of the novel led to a record-breaking 1.6m book deal for her autobiography, which is due to be published in 2008.

But despite the awards, accolades and personal triumphs, it is Walters' humour and modesty that marks her as a national treasure.

The actress, who has successfully breathed life into characters of all social classes and backgrounds, once remarked of her repertoire of accents: "I can do Irish, Welsh, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Cockney, and New York Jewish lesbian."

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