Emily Margaret Watson is an English actress. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her debut film role as Bess McNeil in Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves (1996) and for her role as Jacqueline du Pré in Hilary and Jackie (1998), winning the BIFA Award for Best Actress for the latter. She won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for playing Janet Leach in the 2011 ITV television biopic Appropriat Adult.
Watson was born in Islington, London. Her father, Richard Watson, was an architect and her mother, Katharine (Venables), was an English teacher at St David's Girls' School, West London. She was brought up as an Anglican. Watson has described her childhood self as a "Nice middle class English girl ... I'd love to say I was a rebellious teenager but I wasn't"
Watson was educated at St James Independent Schools, in west London, which she has described as 'progressive'. She attended the University of Bristol, where she obtained a BA (1988, English). Following university, she trained at the Drama Studio London. She later received an MA (2003, honorary) from Bristol University.
Watson made her big screen debut in Lars von Trier's acclaimed 1996 film, Breaking The Waves. Her performance as the deeply religious and erotically obsessed Bess earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, as well as the undivided attention of many a casting director.
She followed her debut in Breaking the Waves with The Boxer (1997), a love story set against the troubles of Northern Ireland that paired her with Daniel Day-Lewis. The same year, she appeared in the critically lauded Metroland, portraying Christian Bale's straightlaced wife.
In 1998, Watson received her second Best Actress nomination for her performance as the doomed cellist Jaqueline Du Pre in Hilary And Jackie. Her work in high-profile films continued the following year, when she appeared in Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock, and as the titular matriarch in the film adaptation of Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela's Ashes. In 2002 she won a Toronto Film Critics Association Award as Best Supporting Actress for Punch-Drunk Love and the following year, she won a London Critics Circle Film Award as British Supporting Actress of the Year for her work in Red Dragon (2002). She also starred in The Book Thief (2013) and in the 2014 drama Belle.
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Watson married Jack Waters, whom she had met at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1995. Their daughter, Juliet, was born in autumn 2005, and their son Dylan in 2009. They live in Greenwich, London. Watson's mother fell ill with encephalitis shortly before filming commenced on Oranges and Sunshine. Watson returned home to Britain to attend to her, but she had died five minutes before she arrived in London.