Biography

When Imogen Stubbs delighted worldwide audiences with her performance as Viola in a 1996 film production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Americans may have wondered who this talented newcomer was, when in fact Stubbs was no neophyte actress but a seasoned veteran well-known to British audiences. Highly regarded for her intelligence, versatility, and formidable acting skill, she had appeared previously, mostly in the U.K., in stage and radio plays, television series, and motion pictures. Among her credits were challenging roles in productions of Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, George Bernard Shaw, Anton Chekhov, and, for good measure, Monty Python. Stubbs was born on February 20, 1961, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in Northumberland, England. She and her family lived for a short time in Portsmouth, where her father served as a naval officer, then moved to London to an unusual address -- a barge on the River Thames. Her London environs and their rich theater heritage no doubt fed her acting fancies, and after graduating from Oxford, she received classical training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. When she was only 21, she launched her film career playing, coincidentally, the part of Imogen in Privileged, then appeared as Mrs. Gilbert in the TV series The Browning Version in 1985 and as Nanou in a film of the same name in 1986. As her talent matured, she took on a demanding schedule, making six more films -- including Erik the Viking -- between 1988 and 1991. While making these six films, she squeezed in stage performances, including a portrayal of Desdemona in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Othello under the supervision of acclaimed director Trevor Nunn, whom she later married. It was Nunn who directed her in the film version of Twelfth Night. In that film, she plays a young woman disguised as a man, who in her male garb, unwittingly attracts the attentions of another woman (Helena Bonham Carter). Stubbs' gender-bending role is a formidable test of her acting skill. On the one hand, she has to remain charming and feminine for filmgoers, who know she is really a woman, and bold and masculine for the characters in the play, who believe she is really a man. She passed the test, winning worldwide attention and the plaudits of critics. In fact, the 1990s were golden for Stubbs. Besides her triumph in Twelfth Night, she appeared in other popular films, including the 1995 film production of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, in which she played Lucy Steele. She also took to the stage as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Yelena in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, Joan in George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan, and Ellie Dunn in Shaw's Heartbreak House. In addition, she played a detective in a highly popular British television series, Anna Lee. During all this time, Stubbs managed to perform one other important role -- mother. She and Nunn have two children, Ellie and Jesse. ~ Mike Cummings, Rovi