Lesley Manville: Life and Career of the Legendary English Thespian

Lesley Manville

Lesley Manville is a legendary English actress who became famous for her frequent collaborations with iconic director Mike Leigh. Some of her collaborations with Leigh include Grown-Ups (1980), High Hopes (1988), Secrets & Lies (1996), Topsy-Turvy (1999), Vera Drake (2004), All or Nothing (2002), Another Year (2010) and Mr. Turner (2014). Lesley Manville was also nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actress category for the 2017 historical drama Phantom Thread.

After making her debut with Dance with a Stranger (1985), she went on to appear in many movies such as High Season (1987), The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael (2005), Sparkle (2007), A Christmas Carol (2009), Womb (2010), Spike Island (2012), The Christmas Candle (2013), Maleficent (2014), Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism (2015), Hampstead (2017), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019), Ordinary Love (2019), and Misbehaviour (2020).

Lesley Manville has also had a stellar television career with roles in shows and TV movies like Emmerdale (1974–1976), A Bunch of Fives (1977), The Firm (1989), Soldier Soldier (1992), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1994), Holding On (1997), David Copperfield (2000), The Cazalets (2001), North & South (2004), Perfect Parents (2006), Cranford (2007), Mayday (2013), Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond (2014), River (2015), Mum (2016–2019), Harlots (2017–2019), World on Fire (2019) and Save Me (2020). She is also a five-time British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominee for Another Year, Mum, River and Phantom Thread.

Lesley Manville is also a very accomplished stage actress. She has appeared in plays such as I and Albert (1972), Chorus Girls (1981), Top Girls (1982), As You Like It (1985), Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1986), Three Sisters (1990), His Dark Materials (2005), The Alchemist (2006), All About My Mother (2007), Her Naked Skin (2008), Six Degrees of Separation (2010), and The Visit (2020). 

Lesley Manville: All You Need to Know

When was Lesley Manville born?

Lesley Manville was born in Brighton, East Sussex on March 12th, 1956. She is the daughter of Jean, a former ballet dancer, and Ron Manville, a taxi driver. She was brought up in nearby Hove, as one of three daughters. Training as a soprano singer from age 8, she twice became under-18 champion of Sussex. She began acting as a teenager, appearing in television series such as King Cinder. As a result, at age 15, she gained a place at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.

Lesley Manville: Acting Career

After turning down teacher Arlene Phillips’s invitation to join her new dance troupe Hot Gossip, she was taught improvisation by Italia Conti teacher Julia Carey. She made her professional stage debut in the 1972 West End musical I and Albert directed by John Schlesinger and paid for her first flat taking a part in the ITV soap opera Emmerdale Farm (1974–76), appearing in 80 episodes.

Manville built a career as a distinctive theatre actress, appearing in new plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Warehouse and Royal Court Theatre from 1978. She met Mike Leigh in 1979, when he was looking for RSC actors who could improvise. In the 1980s, her work for the Royal Court included Andrea Dunbar’s Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1981) and Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls (1982) and Serious Money (1987). Lesley Manville also starred in the Off Broadway Production of Top Girls in 1983. For the RSC, she starred in As You Like It (1985) and Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1985–86). Her first ever movie appearance was in Dance with a Stranger. The Mike Newell directed movie was released in 1985. She also went on to appear in Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987) directed by Stephen Frears, and High Season (1987). Back on the stage, she starred in The Cherry Orchard at the Aldwych Theatre in 1989, directed by Sam Mendes, and in Three Sisters at the Royal Court in 1990.

In 1994, Manville starred in the first series of the BBC sitcom Ain’t Misbehavin’. For her work in the 2000 miniseries Other People’s Children, and the 2002 TV film Bodily Harm, she received nominations for Best Female Actor at the Royal Television Society Awards. Her extensive television credits include prominent roles in the dramas Holding On (1997), Real Women (1998–99), The Cazalets (2001), North & South (2004) and Cranford (2007). She also starred in Cards on the Table, a 2006 feature-length episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Manville has appeared in numerous Mike Leigh films throughout her career, including High Hopes (1988), Secrets & Lies (1996), Topsy-Turvy (1999), All Or Nothing (2002) and Another Year (2010) Vera Drake (2004) and Mr. Turner (2014). 

What Awards has Lesley Manville Won?

Lesley Manville won the National Board of Review Award for Best Actress, and was nominated for the British Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actress and the European Film Award for Best Actress, as well as the Chicago Film Critics Award for Best Actress. The San Diego Film Critics Society also awarded her the Best Supporting Actress Award. On 18 January 2011, she received a BAFTA nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category. On 7 February 2011, former Charlie’s Angels stars Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd presented the Best Actress Award to her at the “Movies for Grownups Awards”. Lesley Manville also won the 2014 Oliver Award for Best Actress and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Helene Alving in the 2013 revival of the famous Ibsen Play, Ghost.

She also appeared in the films Romeo and Juliet (2013) and Maleficent (2014).

What are the honours that Lesley Manville has received?

Lesley Manville was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2015 Birthday Honours. She then starred opposite Peter Mullan in the BBC sitcom Mum, for which she was nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Female Comedy Performance in 2017 and 2019.

In the 2017 period film Phantom Thread, Manville played the sister of the dressmaker (Daniel Day-Lewis). For her role, she was nominated for the Academy Award and BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress.

Personal life

Manville’s first boyfriend was actor Peter Duncan whom she met at stage school while attending Italia Conti. They are still friends.

Was Lesley Manville married to Gary Oldman?

Yes, Lesley Manville’s first husband was actor Gary Oldman. The couple split in 1989, three months after their son, Alfie (born 1988), was born. The couple continued to stay friends after their marriage ended. She married Joe Dixon after her split with Oldman.

In 2007, Lesley Manville lived with her son in East Grinstead, West Sussex.

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