Why Are They Famous: Emily Watson

Main claim

ber-thesp. Exponent of the highly strung, weird-accented, nerves-so- raw-they're-almost-suppurating school of acting. The kind of British talent who marries the homely Crouch End look with deeply super-starry success (see Emma Thompson, Helen Mirren, Helena Bonham Carter). All grins and unexpected Oscar gowns, Watson is a turbo-charged actor, practising the cello for 9 hours a day until her fingers bled for her role as Jacqueline du Pre, and generally pushing the loony button for her Art. Now she has received her second Oscar nomination for said role in Hilary and Jackie. She stays silent on her Academy hopes: "All I know is that it will be the best party on earth."


Saucer-eyed toddler meets seen-it-all granny. Tortoiseshell cat peeping through pansies. North London drama teacher fond of roll-ups, coffee, the local swimming baths and the Poetry Cafe.

Spears to riches

Emily Watson, 32, has gone from spear-carrying micro-thesp to serious British export, ranked with Kristin Scott-Thomas, Kate Winslet and Minnie Driver in the new wave of internationally successful actresses. Work with the RSC led to an Oscar nomination for Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves and a role in Metroland. It was her weirdo role as a frenetically disturbed Scot in Breaking the Waves that meant we'd all suddenly heard of her. "I found myself emotionally stripped bare," she says of the film. And there we have a tiny clue as to the Watson method, readers.

Childhood drama

"I'm a solid English girl," explains Watson, who was born in Islington, north London to an architect and a teacher. She attended a progressive private school followed by Bristol University, was rejected twice for drama school and then accepted by the Drama Studio. Our supernova is married to a struggling actor called Jack Waters, whom she met at the RSC, and who looks somewhat hunky in photos of them clasping each other. "It's been tough for him - he's not had the breaks I've had," she says. Our heroine would seem artistically in line with Imelda Staunton, Juliet Stevenson and Harriet Walter (frowns, wool, cold London complexions, thespy authenticity), but her greater fame seems inevitable.

Fame prospects

Watson shows all the signs of being mantled with thundering "finest actor of her generation" status. Unless home life intervenes, she could become the Meryl Streep of Blighty. The only way is up - with a caterwaul, a rolling eye, and a funny accent.