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Dame Eileen Atkins was born on June 16, 1934 in London, England. She is a three-time Olivier Award-winning, four-time Tony Award-nominated, and Emmy Award-winning actress who has also appeared in a wide range of films from Wolf to Gosford Park.
Atkins attended Parkside Preparatory School in Tottenham, North London, and the Latymer School nearby in Edmonton. She eventually took a three-year teaching course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating in 1953.
Her prolific stage career began in the early 1950s, with her London stage debut occurring in the 1953 production of Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park. Over the next six decades, she has become one of the most recognized and celebrated stars of the British stage. She has won three Olivier Awards – for Best Supporting Performance for various roles in Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and Mountain Language in 1988, for Best Actress for An Unexpected Man in 1999, and for Best Actress for Honour in 2004. She has also earned Olivier nominations for Twelfth Night (1978), Passion Play (1981), The Night of the Iguana (1992), John Gabriel Borkman (1997), and The Height of the Storm (2018). She has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and the Old Vic, and her London stage credits also include A Delicate Balance (1997), The Birthday Party (2005), and The Female of the Species (2008), among many others.
Atkins made her Broadway debut as Alice "Childie" McNaught in The Killing of Sister George at the Belasco Theatre in October 1966, earning her first Tony Award nomination in 1967. She has gone on to receive a further three Tony nominations: for Vivat! Vivat Regina! in 1972, for Indiscretions in 1995, and for The Retreat From Moscow in 2004. Her other Broadway credits include The Promise (1967), The Night of the Tribades (1977), and Doubt, assuming the role of Sister Aloysius in 2006.
She made her Off-Broadway debut for Manhattan Theatre Club in 1990’s Prin at New York City Center. She has played Virginia Woolf twice off Broadway — with Obie and Lucille Lortel Award-winning performances in 1991’s A Room of One’s Own and in her 1994 self-penned work Vita & Virginia — and has starred in The Unexpected Man in 2000 and All That Fall in 2013.
On screen, Atkins won an Emmy Award and a BAFTA in 2008 (and received a Golden Globe nomination in 2009) for her performance as Deborah Jenkyns in the BBC/PBS series Cranford, and she also earned an Emmy Award nomination in 2011 for Upstairs Downstairs, which she originally co-created in the 1970s. She starred as Queen Mary in the hit Netflix series The Crown in 2016, and her most notable film credits include Magic in the Moonlight (2014), Robin Hood (2010), Last Chance Harvey (2008), Vanity Fair (2004), Cold Mountain (2003), What a Girl Wants (2003), Gosford Park (2001), Wolf (1994), a BAFTA-nominated performance in The Dresser (1983), and Equus (1977), among others.
In October 2018, Atkins returned to the West End stage to star as Madeleine alongside Jonathan Pryce in Florian Zeller’s The Height of the Storm, which closed in December 2018. Courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club, the production transferred to Broadway to play the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre from September 10 through November 24, 2019.