Born in London in 1968, Olivia Williams landed her first big-screen role in the epic The Postman, with Kevin Costner. While the film was a disaster, it proved to be a launching point for Williams's career. Her next role, in the comedy Rushmore (1998), would endear her to everyone who saw it, as would her appearance in the smash The Sixth Sense, a supernatural thriller whose success Williams couldn't seem to repeat. The year 2009 marked a welcome change of pace with a starring role on the TV series Doll House, and roles in films such as A Knight's Tale, The Ghost Writer and Hanna followed. More recently, Williams earned parts in the films Anna Karenina and Hyde Park on Hudson, among others.
Olivia Williams was born in London on January 1, 1968, and grew up intending to become a lawyer, the profession of both of her parents. She entered Newnham College, Cambridge, and left four years later with an English degree. After graduation, an opportunity arose for her to attend the Bristol Old Vic Theater School and study drama for two years. This marked the beginning of the end for her legal career, as she pursued theater professionally from this point.
While she vowed to give up the dream of acting if she hadn't "made it" by age 30, this concern would soon prove irrelevant, as she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and spent years performing in London and Shakespeare's home of Stratford-Upon-Avon. After making a few appearances on such British television shows as Van Der Valk, The Ruth Mendell Mysteries and Beck, she crossed the pond to appear in a TV version of Jane Austen's Emma (1996).
Olivia Williams's first break came in the form of Hollywood disaster The Postman, Kevin Costner's ill-fated sci-fi epic. The film's message was dead on arrival, but it gave Williams the exposure she needed to begin a film career on the big screen. After the actress originally cast dropped out, Olivia Williams stepped into the role of Miss Cross in the Wes Anderson comedy Rushmore, where she shined, playing smart and beautiful on equal footing.
With the attention Rushmore had garnered her, Williams quickly began working on her next role: Playing Bruce Willis's wife in The Sixth Sense (1999), which would go on to massive international success.
But blockbuster success would not be in the cards for Williams over the course of the first decade of the 2000s, as she bounced from TV roles (such as playing Hera in the NBC miniseries Jason and the Argonauts; 2000) to roles in smaller films (such as 2001's Lucky Break and Dead Babies). Williams certainly stayed busy during the decade, but films such as Below (2002), The Man from Elysian Fields (2002) and 2003's The Heart of Me, To Kill a King and Peter Pan, would do little to increase her star power.
In 2003, Williams returned to the stage, appearing in Love's Labor's Lost at London's National Theater, and married stage actor and playwright Rhashan Stone. She didn't remain missing from the big screen for long; from 2005 to 2010, Williams appeared in 10 films, both on the silver screen and on TV. Among them are the Disney animated feature Valiant (2005), Flashbacks of a Fool (2008) and Miss Austen Regrets (2008).
'Dollhouse' and Beyond
In 2009, Williams was cast in the sci-fi series Dollhouse, which ran for a season and a half to solid critical and audience reception. Following film roles included An Education (2009), Roman Polanski's The Ghostwriter (2010) and the sweeping period romance Anna Karenina (2012). Also in 2012, Williams played Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson, a film featuring Bill Murray and Laura Linney; and performed in the film Now Is Good with Dakota Fanning. With at least five more films slated for release in 2013 and beyond, Olivia Williams is keeping as busy as ever.
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