Oscar Actors: Christie, Julie–Background, Career, Awards

Updated July 31, 2020
Julie Christie Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class:

Race/Ethnicity/Religion

Nationality: British

Family: parents divorced

Education:

Training: Central Drama

Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut:

Breakthrough Role: Billy Liar, 1962; age 22

Oscar Role: Darling! 1965; age 25

Other Noms: 3 more (4 Best Actress noms)

Other Awards: BAFTA; Globes

Frequent Collaborator: John Schlesinger (Billy Liar, Darling, Far from Madding Crowds)

Screen Image: lead actor

Last Film:

Career Output:

Film Career Span: 1962-present

Marriage: bonds with actors (Warren Beatty); married Brit journalist

Politics:

Death: NA

 

Julie Frances Christie (born 14 April 1940), a British actress and icon of the “swinging London” of the 1960s, has received the Oscar Award, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

She has appeared in six films that were ranked in the British Film Institute’s 100 greatest British films of the 20th century, and in 1997, she received the BAFTA Fellowship.

Christie’s breakthrough film role was in Billy Liar (1963). She came to international attention for her performances in Darling (1965), for which she won the Best Actress Oscar, and Doctor Zhivago (also 1965), the eighth highest-grossing film of all time after adjustment for inflation.

She has starred in Fahrenheit 451 (1966), Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), Petulia (1968), The Go-Between (1971), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), for which she received her second Oscar nomination, Don’t Look Now (1973), Shampoo (1975), and Heaven Can Wait (1978).

From the early 1980s, her appearances in mainstream films decreased, though she held roles as Thetis in Wolfgang Petersen’s historical epic Troy and as Madam Rosmerta in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (both 2004). She has received Oscar nominations for the indie films Afterglow (1997) and Away from Her (2007).

Christie was born on 14 April 1940 at Singlijan Tea Estate, Chabua, Assam, British India. She has a younger brother, Clive, and an older (now deceased) half-sister, June, from her father’s relationship with Indian woman, who worked as tea picker on his plantation. Her parents separated when Julie was a child.

She was baptised in the Church of England, and studied as a boarder at the independent Convent of Our Lady school in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, after being expelled from another convent school for telling a risqué joke. She later attended Wycombe Court School, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire; she lived with foster mother from the age of six.

After her parents’ divorce, Christie spent time with her mother in rural Wales. As a teenager at the all-girls’ Wycombe Court School, she played “the Dauphin” in a production of Shaw’s Saint Joan. She later studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Christie made her professional stage debut in 1957, and her first screen roles were on British TV. Her earliest role to gain attention was in BBC serial A for Andromeda (1961). She was a contender for the role of Honey Rider in the first James Bond film, Dr. No, but producer Albert R. Broccoli thought her breasts were too small.

Christie appeared in two comedies for Crooks Anonymous and The Fast Lady (both 1962). Her breakthrough role, however, was as Liz, the friend and would-be lover of the eponymous character played by Tom Courtenay in Billy Liar (1963), for which she received a BAFTA Award nomination. Director John Schlesinger cast Christie only after another actress, Topsy Jane, had dropped out of the film. Christie appeared as Daisy Battles in Young Cassidy (1965), a biopic of Irish playwright Seán O’Casey, co-directed by Jack Cardiff and (uncredited) John Ford.

Her role as an amoral model in Darling (also 1965) led to international fame. Directed by Schlesinger, and co-starring Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Harvey, Christie had only been cast in the lead role after Schlesinger insisted; the studio wanted Shirley MacLaine. She received the Best Actress Oscar and the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress in a Leading Role for her performance.

In David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (also 1965), adapted from the novel by Boris Pasternak, Christie’s role as Lara Antipova became her best known. The film was a major box-office success. As of 2019, Doctor Zhivago is the 9th highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation. According to Life magazine, 1965 was “The Year of Julie Christie.”

After dual roles in François Truffaut’s adaptation of the Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451 (1966), starring with Oskar Werner, she appeared as Thomas Hardy’s heroine Bathsheba Everdene in Schlesinger’s Far from the Madding Crowd (1967). After moving to Los Angeles in 1967 (“I was there because of a lot of American boyfriends”), she appeared in the title role of Richard Lester’s Petulia (1968), co-starring with George C. Scott.

Christie’s persona as the swinging sixties British woman she had embodied in Billy Liar and Darling was further cemented by her appearance in the docu Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London. In 1967, Time magazine said of her: “What Julie Christie wears has more real impact on fashion than all the clothes of the ten best-dressed women combined”.

In Joseph Losey’s romantic drama The Go-Between (1971), Christie had a lead role along with Alan Bates. The film won the Grand Prix, the main award at the Cannes Film Fest. She earned a second Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role as a brothel madame in Robert Altman’s postmodern western McCabe & Mrs. Miller (also 1971). The film was the first of three collaborations between Christie and Warren Beatty, who described her as “the most beautiful and at the same time the most nervous person I had ever known”. The couple had a high-profile but intermittent relationship between 1967 and 1974. After the relationship ended, they worked together again in the comedies Shampoo (1975) and Heaven Can Wait (1978).

Her other films during the decade were Nicolas Roeg’s thriller Don’t Look Now (1973), in which she co-starred with Donald Sutherland, and the science-fiction/horror film Demon Seed (1977), based on the novel of the same name by Dean Koontz and directed by Donald Cammell. Don’t Look Now in particular has received acclaim, with Christie nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and in 2017 a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine ranked it the greatest British film ever.

Christie returned to the UK in 1977, living on a farm in Wales. In 1979, she was a member of the jury at the 29th Berlin Film Fest. Never a prolific actress, even at the height of her career, Christie turned down high-profile film roles, including Anne of the Thousand Days, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Reds, all of which earned Oscar nominations for the actresses who eventually played them.

In the 1980s, Christie appeared in non-mainstream films such as The Return of the Soldier (1982) and Heat and Dust (1983). She had a supporting role in Sidney Lumet’s Power (1986) alongside Richard Gere and Gene Hackman, but apart from that, she avoided large budget films. She starred in the TV film Dadah Is Death (1988), based on the Barlow and Chambers execution, as Barlow’s mother Barbara, who desperately fought to save her son from being hanged for drug trafficking in Malaysia.

After lengthy absence from the screen, Christie co-starred in the fantasy adventure film DragonHeart (1996), and appeared as Gertrude in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet (also 1996). Her next critically acclaimed role was the unhappy wife in Alan Rudolph’s domestic comedy-drama Afterglow (1997) with Nick Nolte, Jonny Lee Miller and Lara Flynn Boyle, for which she received a third Oscar nomination.

Appearing in six films that were ranked in the British Film Institute’s 100 greatest British films of the 20th century, in recognition of her contribution to British cinema Christie received BAFTA’s highest honor, the Fellowship in 1997. In 1994, she had been awarded the title Doctor of Letters from the University of Warwick.

Christie made a brief cameo appearance in the third Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), playing Madam Rosmerta. Around the same time, she also appeared in two other high-profile films: Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy and Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland (both 2004), playing mother to Brad Pitt and Kate Winslet, respectively. The latter performance earned Christie a BAFTA nomination as supporting actress in film.

Christie portrayed the female lead in Away from Her (2006), a film about a long-married Canadian couple coping with the wife’s Alzheimer’s disease. Based on the Alice Munro short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”, the movie was the first feature film directed by Christie’s sometime co-star, Canadian actress Sarah Polley. She took the role only because Polley is her friend. Polley has said Christie liked the script but initially turned it down as she was ambivalent about acting. It took several months of persuasion by Polley before Christie finally accepted the role.

In July 2006 she was a member of the jury at the 28th Moscow Film Fest. Debuting at the Toronto Film Festival on 11 September 2006 as part of the TIFF’s Gala showcase, Away from Her drew rave reviews. Critics singled out her performances as well as that of her co-star, Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent, and Polley’s direction. Christie’s performance generated Oscar buzz, leading the distributor, Lions Gate Entertainment, to buy the film at the festival and to release it in 2007 to build momentum during the awards season.

On 5 December 2007, she won the Best Actress Award from the National Board of Review for her performance in Away from Her. She won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role and the Genie Award for Best Actress for the same film. On 22 January 2008, Christie received her fourth Oscar nomination. She appeared at the ceremony wearing a pin calling for the closure of the prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Christie narrated Uncontacted Tribes (2008), a short film for the British-based charity Survival International, featuring previously unseen footage of remote and endangered peoples.[29] She has been a long-standing supporter of the charity, and in February 2008, was named as its first ‘Ambassador’.[30] She appeared in a segment of the film, New York, I Love You (also 2008), written by Anthony Minghella, directed by Shekhar Kapur and co-starring Shia LaBeouf, as well as in Glorious 39 (2009), about a British family at the start of World War II.

Christie played a “sexy, bohemian” version of the grandmother role in Catherine Hardwicke’s gothic retelling of Red Riding Hood (2011). Her most recent role was in the political thriller The Company You Keep (2012), co-starring with Robert Redford and Sam Elliott.

Christie is married to journalist Duncan Campbell; they have lived together since 1979, but the date they married is disputed.

In the early 1960s, Christie dated actor Terence Stamp. She was engaged to Don Bessant, a lithographer and art teacher, in 1965, before dating actor Warren Beatty for several years.

In the late 1960s, her advisers adopted a very complex scheme in an attempt to reduce her tax liability, giving rise to the leading case of Black Nominees Ltd v Nicol (Inspector of Taxes). The case was heard by Templeman J (who later became Lord Templeman), who gave judgment in favour of the Inland Revenue, ruling that the scheme was ineffective.

She is also active in animal rights, environmental protection, anti-nuclear power movement and is also a Patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, as well as Reprieve, and CFS/ME charity Action.

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