Lesley Manville’s recent flourish put cherry on top of already stellar career

Keiran Southern, PA
·3-min read

Lesley Manville has enjoyed a stellar career on stage and screen, combining a formidable acting talent with an equally impressive work ethic.

One of her early roles was in what was then known as Emmerdale Farm, appearing in the ITV soap in the mid-1970s.

Manville has since done it all – starring in prestige theatre productions, British kitchen-sink dramas, popular TV shows and Hollywood blockbusters.

Lesley Manville
Lesley Manville will join the cast of The Crown for the drama’s final two seasons (Ian West/PA)

The 64-year-old, who has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours list for services to drama and charity, earned an Oscar nomination for 2017’s Phantom Thread.

Known for her association with director Mike Leigh, she has starred in his films High Hopes, Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake, Mr Turner, All Or Nothing and Another Year.

Her starring role in the BBC comedy Mum brought further acclaim and she will replace Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret in the final two seasons of The Crown.

Born in Brighton, Manville’s mother was a ballet dancer while her father held multiple jobs – including plumber, printer and a cab driver.

She grew up in a council house in Hove and by 17 was living away in Plymouth where she presented a Blue Peter-style show.

After gaining her big break in Emmerdale, Manville returned to the stage and met Leigh when she was 22 while working at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Their working relationship had an inauspicious start and Manville later joked he was “forced” to take her on.

She made her film debut in Mike Newell’s 1985 tragedy Dance With A Stranger, which also starred Rupert Everett and the late Sir Ian Holm.

Her other movie roles include Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, in which she starred alongside Sir Daniel Day-Lewis and earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.

Lesley Manville
Lesley Manville is an Oscar nominee for her work on Phantom Thread (Isabel Infantes/PA)

She is a best actress Olivier Award winner and a five-time Bafta nominee across film and TV.

Manville was married to her fellow actor Gary Oldman from 1987 to 1990 and they have a son named Alfie.

At the 90th Academy Awards in 2018 the former married couple were both nominated, with Oldman winning best actor for his portrayal of Sir Winston Churchill in Dunkirk.

Manville was also married to actor Joe Dixon from 2000 to 2004.

After a long and varied career, her lauded role as the recently widowed Cathy in BBC sitcom Mum introduced her to a new generation.

Speaking last year, Manville said older women wanted to see themselves represented on screen.

“It’s not game over just because you’re over 50,” she said.

“I think the shift has been quite slow, but I think the shift is beginning to be quite significant.”