Kelly Macdonald Biography

Film Actor/Film Actress, Television Actress, Film Actress, Actress (1976–)
Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald has appeared on television in Broadwalk Empire and in such films as Gosford Park and Anna Karenina.


Born in Scotland in 1976, Kelly Macdonald started her career with a role in Danny Boyle's film Trainspotting (1996). More movies soon followed, including Gosford Park (2001). She won an Emmy Award in 2005 for the TV movie The Girl in the Cafe. In 2010, Macdonald began her run on the critically acclaimed TV series Boardwalk Empire. She also voiced the title character in the 2012 animated film Brave.

Early Life

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, on February 23, 1976, actress Kelly Macdonald idolized the strong women she saw on the big screen growing up. Doris Day's turn as the title character in the musical Calamity Jane was one of her early influences. Macdonald "used to watch the movie constantly, twice a day during the summer" when she was a child, she explained to USA Today.

Macdonald had a middle-class upbringing until her parents divorced. She was 9 years old when her parents split, and afterward, she and her brother stayed with their mother. Of her childhood, she told The Observer, "My mum always looked after us." Macdonald has remained largely estranged from her father.

Acting Career

Macdonald began her career with the acting equivalent of winning of a lottery. With no formal training at all, she landed a role in Danny Boyle's 1996 film Trainspotting after going to an open audition. At the time, Macdonald had been working at a bar. She beat out hundreds of other young women to play Ewan McGregor's love interest in the movie. Boyle told The Observer that "Kelly has that thing Ewan McGregor has, indefinable star quality, yet they're ordinary people."

That same year, Macdonald had a starring role as a young prostitute in Stella Does Tricks. She landed some small parts and supporting roles in such films as Elizabeth (1998) with Cate Blanchett and My Life So Far (1999) with Colin Firth. In Robert Altman's Gosford Park, Macdonald gave a memorable performance as a young maid to Maggie Smith's upper-class character.

In 2003, Macdonald took on a more substantial role in the British miniseries State of Play with John Simm and Bill Nighy. She played a young reporter who gets caught up in a political mystery. Two years later, Macdonald reunited with Bill Nighy for the American television movie The Girl in the Cafe. She received an Emmy Award for her turn and Nighy's love interest in the film.

Macdonald showed her rare talent for accents in 2007 with her role in No Country for Old Men, playing a West Texan in this crime drama by brothers Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. Once again in a supporting role, Macdonald proved to be quite the scene-stealer as Josh Brolin's wife. She enjoyed another wave of success on the small screen with the Prohibition era crime drama Boardwalk Empire. The series, which debuted in 2010, features Steve Buscemi as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, the man who controls Atlantic City and much of its criminal enterprises. Macdonald plays his love interest, the spirited young widow and mother Margaret Schroeder. She has received an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the critically acclaimed show.

On the big screen, Macdonald voiced the spunky and bold Merida, the lead heroine in the 2012 hit animated film Brave. Later that year, she had a supporting role in Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley, Aaron Johnson and Jude Law.

Personal Life

Macdonald is married to Dougie Payne, bassist of the band Travis. The couple has been married since 2003. They named their son "Freddie" after the late Freddie Mercury of the band Queen. The couple is expecting their second child in late 2012.

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