Miriam Margolyes OBE
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Miriam Margolyes OBEBorn: Sunday 18th May 1941 (age: 82)
Miriam Margolyes, OBE is an English-Australian character actress and voice artist. Her earliest roles were in theatre and after several supporting roles in film and television she won a BAFTA Award for her role in The Age of Innocence (1993) and went on to play the role of Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series. For many years she has divided her time between Britain and Australia and she has starred in a number of critically acclaimed shows, including I'll Eat You Last. Her latest show The Importance of Being Miriam is to debut in March 2015.
Margolyes was born in Oxford, England, the daughter of Ruth (née Walters; 1905–1974), a property investor and developer, and Joseph Margolyes (1899–1996), a physician from Glasgow. She grew up in a Jewish family; her ancstors immigrated to England from Belarus. She attended Oxford High School from 1945 until 1959, and later Newnham College, Cambridge, where she read English. There, she began acting in her twenties, and also appeared in productions of the comedy troupe the Cambridge Footlights.
With her distinctive voice, Margolyes first gained recognition for her work as a voice artist. She recorded a soft-porn audio called Sexy Sonia: Leaves from my Schoolgirl Notebook. She performed most of the supporting female characters in the dubbed Japanese action TV series Monkey. She also worked with the theatre company Gay Sweatshop and provided voiceovers in the Japanese TV series The Water Margin (credited as Mirium Margolyes).
Margolyes' first major role in a film was as Elephant Ethel in Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers (1977). In the 1980s, she made appearances in Blackadder opposite Rowan Atkinson: these roles include the Spanish Infanta in The Black Adder, Lady Whiteadder in Blackadder II and Queen Victoria in Blackadder's Christmas Carol. In 1986 she played a major supporting role in the BBC drama The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. She won the 1989 LA Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Flora Finching in the 1988 film Little Dorrit. On American television, she headlined the short-lived 1992 CBS sitcom Frannie's Turn. In 1994 she won the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mrs Mingott in Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993).
Margolyes came to the notice of younger audiences when she starred as Aunt Sponge in James and the Giant Peach (1996); she also provided the voice of the Glowworm in the same film. During the same time she played the Nurse in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996). Around this time, she voiced the rabbit character in the animated commercials for Cadbury's Caramel bars and provided the voice of Fly the dog in the Australian family film Babe (1995). She played Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002.
She was one of the original cast of the London production of the musical Wicked in 2006, playing Madame Morrible opposite Idina Menzel, a role she also played on Broadway in 2008.
In 2009, she appeared in a new production of Endgame by Samuel Beckett at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End.
Margolyes reprised her role as Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2011.
In 2014 she voiced Nana in the Disney Junior animated series for preschoolers Nina Needs to Go!
Margolyes is a supporter of Sense (the National Deafblind and Rubella Association) and was the host at the first Sense Creative Writing Awards, held at the Charles Dickens Museum in London in December 2006, where she read a number of works written by talented deafblind people.
In 2011, Margolyes recorded a narrative for the album The Devil's Brides by klezmer musician-ethnographer Yale Strom. It was announced in January 2014 that Margolyes was to record the narration for "Magic in the Skies" – the summer season of firework displays held at Land's End.
Margolyes has been with her partner Heather for more than 40 years. She mentioned her relationships with women on several occasions when she appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in September 2008. On becoming an Australian citizen, on Australia Day 2013, Margolyes referred to herself as a "dyke" live on national television and in front of the then prime minister Julia Gillard.
She is a campaigner for a respite care charity, Crossroads.
She appeared on the British television quiz University Challenge in 1963, whilst at Cambridge University. As part of a BBC documentary University Challenge: The Story so Far she claimed that during her appearance, she swore after getting a question wrong, although the actual word was bleeped out of the recording.
Margolyes is a lifelong admirer of the works of Charles Dickens and has performed all over the world a one-woman show, Dickens' Women, in which she plays 23 characters from Dickens' novels.
Margolyes is a Palestinian human rights activist, having been a member of the British-based ENOUGH! coalition that seeks to end the "Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank." She is also a signatory of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
Margolyes divides her time between homes in London, Tuscany and Robertson, New South Wales.
Author and comedian David Walliams says he used Margoyles as a model for the title character in his children's book Awful Auntie after a rude exchange with the actress during a stage production. He stresses however that he has nothing against Margoyles and is a fan of her work.