Lesley Manville Biography

Actress (1956–)
Lesley Manville is a veteran British stage-and-screen actress who received her first-ever Oscar nomination in 2018 for the film 'Phantom Thread,' starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Who Is Lesley Manville?

Born in 1956, Lesley Manville has enjoyed a long career as an actress based in England. She has worked steadily in English television since the 1970s, while also appearing in movies, including seven directed by Mike Leigh – Mr. Turner (2014), Another Year (2010), Vera Drake (2004), All or Nothing (2002), Topsy-Turvy (1999), Secrets & Lies (1996) and High Hopes (1988).

Lesley Manville Photo

Lesley Manville from 'Another Year' poses for a portrait during The 54th BFI London Film Festival held at The Vue Leicester Square on October 18, 2010 in London, England.

‘Phantom Thread’ Oscar Nominee

In 2018, Manville was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the 2017 film Phantom Thread, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Daniel Day-Lewis in what was billed as the actor's final movie (after which he planned to retire from movie acting). It was Manville’s first-ever Academy Award nomination.

In the movie, Manville plays Cyril Woodcock, sister and confidant of Reynolds Woodcock, the British fashion designer played by Day-Lewis who was the focal point of the film. Cyril is also the co-owner of her brother’s couture fashion house.

The movie received six Oscar nominations, and Manville, along with the film, was critically acclaimed. “Manville brings surety to every scene, delivering lines with a sharp silver-tongue while remaining delightful company throughout. It’s no wonder she’s been nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar,” wrote The Independent.

Gary Oldman & Son

By coincidence, Manville’s ex-husband, actor Gary Oldman – to whom she was married from 1987 to 1990 – was also nominated for an Oscar in 2018, a Best Actor nomination for his role as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. The two had one child, a son, who is Manville’s only child. A subsequent marriage in 2000 to actor Joe Dixon ended in 2004.

As of 2018, Manville is single and living in London.


‘Another Year’

While Phantom Thread earned Manville her first Oscar nomination, her work in Another Year was something of a breakthrough for her, even though she was already a familiar face on British TV.

In Another Year, Manville played a middle-aged woman who was newly single after her husband left her. The character is a friend of the couple whose marriage is the focal point of the film (played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen).

Manville received a great deal of attention for Another Year, including nominations from BAFTA and a number of critics’ associations including the National Board of Review (which she won), London Critics Circle (which she also won), National Society of Film Critics (USA) and others. She also won a Best Supporting Actress award from the London Critics Circle for Phantom Thread.

Manville’s TV roles far outnumber her movies, and the seven movies she made with Mike Leigh make up a high percentage of her total credits. Nevertheless, she has been seen in a number of movies starting with her first one in 1985, Dance With a Stranger.

Besides the seven Leigh films, Manville’s other films include High Season (1987), Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987), Sparkle (2007), Womb (2010), Spike Island (2012), Maleficent (2014) and Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnosis (2015).

TV Roles

Manville has a long list of credits on British television in TV movies, miniseries and regular series (both comedies and dramas), including The Emigrants, Coronation Street, A Bunch of Fives, The Mushroom Picker, Goggle Eyes, Little Napoleons, Tears Before Bedtime, Holding On, Real Women, The Cazalets, Cranford, Mayday, Fleming and Harlots. Since 2016, she has had the leading, title role in the British situation comedy Mum.

On Stage

In addition to Manville’s long list of credits in TV and film, she has built a formidable reputation as a stage actress, beginning at the start of her acting career. “I did do a lot of theater in my 20s and 30s. I mean, I still do, but I did masses of it then,” she said in an interview in January 2018. “And it’s proved to be just the greatest backbone to my career ever.”

Her stage credits, primarily in London, include the 1981 musical Chorus Girls, the Caryl Churchill play Top Girls in 1991 and Neil Labute’s Some Girls in 2005. Other plays included productions of Miss Julie (by August Strindberg and The Three Sisters (Anton Chekhov).

Honored with a Prestigious OBE Award

In 2015, Manville received one of the highest national honors bestowed in the United Kingdom, She was awarded an OBE (officer of the Order of the British Empire) for her contributions to the arts.

Early Life

Lesley Ann Manville was born on March 12, 1956, in Brighton, East Sussex, England. Her father was a cab driver. Manville was a talented child who trained as a singer starting at age eight.

At 15, she was accepted by the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London where she received her first formal training in acting and performing. She has said in interviews that she lived independently starting at age 16.

Mike Leigh, Early Mentor

Manville first met Mike Leigh in 1979 when he was working at the Royal Shakespeare Company. By then, Manville had already begun her career as a television actress, including a recurring role in the long-running British TV soap Emmerdale Farm. She remained on the show through 80 episodes.

Leigh became an early acting mentor for Manville, who has said her training at the Italia Conti school was inadequate. “He was like the drama school I never had,” she said of Leigh in a 2007 interview.

No Fan of Social Media

As a veteran actress, Manville decries the role of social media today in determining the fates of young actors and actresses. “Some young actors don’t get to act on ridiculous television shows because they don’t have enough Twitter followers. It makes my blood boil,” she said in an interview in January 2018.

She advises young acting hopefuls to get off of social media. “Get off Twitter, get off Instagram. All that matters is acting and observing the world and being able to recreate that and look at characters in the real world and bring that to your work,” she said.

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