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Eileen Atkins

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Years active  1953–present
Name  Eileen Atkins

Role  Actress
Plays  Vita And Virginia
Eileen Atkins Eileen Atkins rejoins RSC as company raises curtain on

Full Name  Eileen June Atkins
Born  16 June 1934 (age 81) (1934-06-16) London, England, UK
Education  Latymer's Grammar School (1945–50)Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1950–53)
Spouse  Bill Shepherd (m. 1978), Julian Glover (m. 1957–1966)
Awards  Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie
Parents  Arthur Thomas Atkins, Annie Ellen Atkins
Movies and TV shows  Magic in the Moonlight, Upstairs - Downstairs, Doc Martin, Cranford, Cold Mountain
Similar People  Jean Marsh, Julian Glover, Selina Cadell, Jessica Ransom, Simon McBurney

Eileen atkins

Dame Eileen June Atkins, DBE (born 16 June 1934) is an English actress and occasional screenwriter. She has worked in the theatre, film, and television consistently since 1953. In 2008, she won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Cranford. She is also a three-time Olivier Award winner, winning Best Supporting Performance in 1988 (for Multiple roles) and Best Actress for The Unexpected Man (1999) and Honour (2004). She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1990 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2001.


Eileen Atkins Dame Eileen Atkins interview From Baby Eileen to a tough

Atkins joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1957 and made her Broadway debut in the 1966 production of The Killing of Sister George, for which she received the first of four Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Play in 1967. She received subsequent nominations for, Vivat! Vivat Regina! (1972), Indiscretions (1995) and The Retreat from Moscow (2004). Other stage credits include The Tempest (Old Vic 1962), Exit the King (Edinburgh Festival and Royal Court 1963), The Promise (New York 1967), The Night of the Tribades (New York 1977), Medea (Young Vic 1985), A Delicate Balance (Haymarket, West End 1997) and Doubt (New York 2006).

Eileen Atkins Eileen Atkins Its great being paid to have so much fun Telegraph

Atkins co-created the television dramas Upstairs, Downstairs (1971–75) and The House of Elliot (1991–93) with Jean Marsh. She also wrote the screenplay for the 1997 film Mrs Dalloway. Her film appearances include Equus (1977), The Dresser (1983), Let Him Have It (1991), Wolf (1994), Jack and Sarah (1995), Gosford Park (2001), Evening (2005), Last Chance Harvey (2008), Robin Hood (2010) and Magic in the Moonlight (2014).

Eileen Atkins Eileen Atkins Celeb Pinterest


Early life

Eileen Atkins Dame Eileen Atkins Some women desire subjugation Telegraph

Atkins was born in the Mothers' Hospital in Clapton, a Salvation Army maternity hospital in East London. Her mother, Annie Ellen (née Elkins), was a barmaid who was 46 when Eileen was born, and her father, Arthur Thomas Atkins, was a gas meter reader who was previously under-chauffeur to the Portuguese Ambassador. She was the third child in the family and when she was born the family moved to a council home in Tottenham. Her father did not, in fact, know how to drive and was responsible, as under-chauffeur, mainly for cleaning the car. At the time Eileen was born, her mother worked in a factory the whole day and then as a barmaid in the Elephant & Castle at night. When Eileen was three, a Gypsy woman came to their door selling lucky heather and clothes pegs. She saw little Eileen and told her mother that her daughter would be a famous dancer. Her mother promptly enrolled her in a dance class. Although she hated it, she studied dancing from age 3 to 15 or 16. From age 7 to 15, which covered the last four years of the Second World War (1941–45), she danced in working men's club circuits for 15 shillings a time as "Baby Eileen". During the war, she performed as well at London's Stage Door canteen for American troops and sang songs like "Yankee Doodle." At one time she was attending dance class four or five times a week.

By 12, she was a professional in panto in Clapham and Kilburn. Once, when she was given a line to recite, someone told her mother that she had a Cockney accent. Her mother was appalled but speech lessons were too expensive for the family. Fortunately, a woman took interest in her and paid for her to be educated at Parkside Preparatory School in Tottenham. Eileen Atkins has since publicly credited the Principal, Miss D. M. Hall, for the wise and firm guidance under which her character developed. From Parkside she went on to The Latymer School, a grammar school in Edmonton, London. One of her grammar school teachers who used to give them religious instruction, a Rev. Michael Burton, spotted her potential and rigorously drilled away her Cockney accent without charge. He also introduced her to the works of William Shakespeare. She studied under him for two years.

When she was 14 or 15 and still at Latymer's, she also attended "drama demonstration" sessions twice a year with this same teacher. At around this time (though some sources say she was 12), her first encounter with Robert Atkins took place. She was taken to see Atkins' production of King John at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. She wrote to him saying that the boy who played Prince Arthur was not good enough and that she could do better. Robert Atkins wrote back and asked that she come to see him. On the day they met, Atkins thought she was a shop girl and not a school girl. She gave a little prince speech and he told her to go to drama school and come back when she was grown up.

Rev. Burton came to an agreement with Eileen's parents that he would try to get her a scholarship for one drama school and that if she did not get the scholarship he would arrange for her to do a teaching course in some other drama school. Her parents were not at all keen on the fact that she would stay in school until 16 as her sister had left at 14 and her brother at 15 but somehow they were convinced. Eileen was in Latymer's until 16. Out of 300 applicants for a RADA scholarship, she got down to the last three but was not selected, so she did a three-year course on teaching at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. But, although she was taking the teaching course, she also attended drama classes and in fact performed in three plays in her last year. This was in the early 1950s. In her third and last year she had to teach once a week, an experience she later said she hated. She graduated from Guildhall in 1953.

As soon as she left Guildhall she got her first job with Robert Atkins in 1953: as Jaquenetta in Love's Labour's Lost at the same Regent's Park Open Air Theatre where she was brought to see Robert Atkins' King John production years before. She was also, very briefly, an assistant stage manager at the Oxford Playhouse until Peter Hall fired her for impudence. She was also part of repertory companies performing in Billy Butlin's holiday camp in Skegness, Lincolnshire. It was there when she met Julian Glover.

It took nine years (1953–62) before she was working steadily.


She joined the Guild Players Repertory Company in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland as a professional actress in 1952. She appeared as the nurse in Harvey at the Repertory Theatre, Bangor, in 1952. In 1953 she appeared as an attendant in Love's Labours Lost at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. Her London stage debut was in 1953 as Jaquenetta in Robert Atkins's staging of Love's Labour's Lost at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park.

Atkins has regularly returned to the life and work of Virginia Woolf for professional inspiration. She has played the writer on stage in Patrick Garland's adaptation of A Room of One's Own and also in Vita and Virginia, winning the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show for the former and screen (the 1990 television version of Room); she also provided the screenplay for the 1997 film adaptation of Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway, and made a cameo appearance in the 2002 film version of Michael Cunningham's Woolf-themed novel, The Hours.

Atkins joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1957 and stayed for two seasons. She was with the Old Vic in its 1961–62 season (she appeared in the Old Vic's Repertoire Leaflets of February–April 1962 and April–May 1962). Her stage performances from 1957 include:

  • Cymbeline (unnamed parts) at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 2 July 1957 press night
  • The Tempest (unnamed parts) at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 13 August 1957 press night
  • The Vigil (Magdalen) at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 21 October 1957 press night
  • The Tempest (unnamed parts) at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, 5 December 1957 press night
  • Romeo and Juliet (unnamed parts) at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 8 April 1958 press night
  • Hamlet (Lady) at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 3 June 1958 press night
  • Pericles (Diana) at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 8 July 1958 press night
  • Much Ado About Nothing (unnamed parts) at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 26 August 1958 press night
  • Romeo and Juliet (unnamed parts) and Hamlet (Lady) on Tour, 12 December 1958 – 5 January 1959
  • Roots (Beattie), Bristol Old Vic, February 1961 (for the Bristol Old Vic Company, with Stephanie Cole)
  • The Square (girl), Bromley Little Theatre, Kent, April 1961 (by Merguerite, for a professional company run by David Korda, with Prunella Scales, June Brown, Jeremy Brett and Windsor Davies)
  • Twelfth Night (Viola), Old Vic, 2 October 1961 press night (scenes from this performance were featured in the March 1962 issue of Theatre World magazine)
  • Richard III (Queen), Old Vic, 6 March 1962 press night (with Paul Daneman, she was on the cover page of the April 1962 issue of Plays and Players magazine for her performance here)
  • The Tempest (Miranda), Old Vic, 29 May 1962 press night
  • Semi-Detached (Eileen Midway), Saville Theatre, London, 5 December 1962 press night (with Laurence Olivier)
  • The Provok'd Wife (Lady Brute), Georgian Theatre (Richmond, Yorkshire) and Vaudeville Theatre (London), July 1963 (a play by Vanbrugh, for the Prospect Theatre Company)
  • Exit The King (Juliette), Edinburgh Festival and Royal Court Theatre, 1963 (with Alec Guinness, scenes from this performance were featured in the November 1963 issue of Plays and Players magazine with Alec Guinness on the cover page)
  • The Sleepers' Den (Mrs. Shannon), Royal Court Theatre, 28 February 1965 opening night (directed by Peter Gill)
  • The Killing of Sister George (Alice "Childie" McNaught), Bristol Old Vic, 1964–66; Duke of York's, 1965 (she was on the cover page of the September 1965 issue of Theatre World magazine for this performance); St. Martin's, 1966 (by Frank Marcus)
  • The Killing of Sister George (Alice "Childie" McNaught), Belasco Theatre, New York, 5 October 1966 – 1 April 1967 (with Beryl Reid)
  • The Restoration of Arnold Middleton (Joan Middleton, the wife), Royal Court, 1966–67
  • The Promise (Lika), Henry Miller's Theatre, New York, 14 November – 2 December 1967 (with Ian McKellen and Ian McShane; on opening night the audience was picketed by local Equity members chanting that only American actors should be allowed on Broadway. Their wish was soon granted as this play closed after 23 performances.
  • The Cocktail Party (Celia Coplestone), Chichester Festival Theatre, 1968 (with Alec Guinness as co-performer and director)
  • Vivat! Vivat Regina! (Elizabeth I), Piccadilly, 8 October 1970 (opening night) – 1971 (by Robert Bolt, with Sarah Miles)
  • Vivat! Vivat Regina! (Elizabeth I), Broadhurst Theatre, New York, 20 January – 29 April 1972 (with Claire Bloom as Mary, Queen of Scots)
  • Suzanna Andler (Suzanna Andler), Aldwych Theatre, London, 7 March 1973 press night
  • As You Like It (Rosalind), Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 12 June 1973 press night
  • Heartbreak House (Hesione Husbaye), Old Vic, 20 February 1975 opening night
  • The Night of the Tribades (Marie Caroline David), Helen Hayes Theatre, New York, 13–22 October 1977 (with Max von Sydow)
  • St. Joan (St. Joan), Old Vic, tour and Liverpool Playhouse, 1977–78 (for the Prospect Theatre Company)
  • The Lady's Not For Burning (Jennet Jourdemayne), 1978 (for the Prospect Theatre Company with Derek Jacobi)
  • Twelfth Night (Viola), Old Vic, 1978 (for the Prospect Theatre Company)
  • Passion Play (Nell), Aldwych Theatre, London, 13 January 1981 press night
  • Serjeant Musgrave's Dance (Mrs. Hitchcock), Old Vic, 1983–84 (with Albert Finney as Sgt Musgrave, there was a performance on 23 May 1984 at the Old Vic)
  • Medea (Medea), Young Vic Theatre, 1985–86
  • The Winter's Tale (Paulina, wife to Antigonus), Cottesloe Theatre, 5 February 1988 opening night
  • Cymbeline (Queen, wife to Cymbeline), Cottesloe Theatre, 5 October 1988 opening night
  • Mountain Language (Elderly Woman), Lyttelton Theatre, 17 October 1988 opening night
  • Exclusive (Sally Kershaw), Theatre Royal in Bath, 1988–89
  • A Room of One's Own (Virginia Woolf), adapted by Patrick Garland, Theatre Royal in Bath, 1990–91
  • The Night of the Iguana (Hannah Jelkes), Lyttelton Theatre, 31 January 1992 opening night
  • Vita and Virginia (Virginia Woolf), Minerva Theatre, August–September 1992 (original production for the Chichester Festival Theatre, with Penelope Wilton as Vita Sackville-West), Ambassador's Theatre, London, 1993–94, and Union Square Theatre (Off-Broadway), 1994 (with Vanessa Redgrave as Vita) — this play was written by Atkins based on the letters and diaries of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West
  • Indiscretions (Leonie), Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 27 April – 4 November 1995 (by Jean Cocteau, directed by Sean Mathias, with Kathleen Turner and Broadway debutant Jude Law)
  • John Gabriel Borkman (Mrs. Gunhild Borkman), Lyttelton Theatre, 15 July 1996 opening night
  • Hermione Lee on Virginia Woolf (Reader), Cottesloe Theatre, 18 October 1996 opening night
  • A Delicate Balance (Agnes), Haymarket Theatre, 21 October 1997 – 4 April 1998 (with Maggie Smith, written by Edward Albee and directed by Anthony Page)
  • The Unexpected Man (Woman), The Pit, London, 15 April 1998 press night (by Yasmina Reza, with Michael Gambon)
  • The Unexpected Man (Woman), Duchess Theatre, London, 15 June 1998 press night
  • The Unexpected Man (Woman), Promenade (Off-Broadway), New York, 24 October 2000 opening night (with Alan Bates)
  • Honour (Honor), Cottesloe Theatre, 21 February 2003 opening night
  • The Retreat From Moscow (Alice), Booth Theatre, New York, 23 October 2003 – 29 February 2004 (by William Nicholson, with John Lithgow and Ben Chaplin)
  • The Birthday Party (Meg), Duchess Theatre, London, 20 April – 25 June 2005 (by Harold Pinter)
  • Doubt (Sister Aloysius), Walter Kerr Theatre, New York, 17 January – 2 July 2006 (by John Patrick Shanley, with Ron Eldard and Jena Malone; Atkins, who replaced Cherry Jones, was supposed to debut on 10 January but was down with flu and so the performance was delayed for a week)
  • The Sea (Mrs Rafi), Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 21 January – 19 April 2008 (by Edward Bond, directed by Jonathan Kent)
  • The Female of the Species (Margot), Vaudeville Theatre, 16 July – 4 October 2008 (by Joanna Murray-Smith; this play outraged the feminist Germaine Greer because of its connection with an incident in her life. It was, however, generally very well received, with The Sunday Telegraph reviewer Tim Walker giving it five stars and describing it as "great theatre.")
  • Harold Pinter: A Celebration, Olivier Theatre, 7 June 2009 (for the National Theatre)
  • All That Fall (Mrs. Rooney) by Samuel Beckett, Jermyn Street Theatre, 11 October – 3 November 2012, transfer to the Arts Theatre, 6–24 November 2012 (for this she won an Off West End theatre best actress award in February 2013
  • All That Fall (Mrs. Rooney) by Samuel Beckett, 59E59 Theatre, New York City, 12 November – 8 December 2013
  • Ellen Terry with Eileen Atkins (Ellen Terry), Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 12 January – 23 February 2014
  • The Witch of Edmonton (Elizabeth Sawyer), directed by Gregory Doran, Swan Theatre, 23 October – 29 November 2014
  • Ellen Terry with Eileen Atkins (Ellen Terry), Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 11 January – 13 February 2016
  • "An Evening of short stories with Pin Drop featuring Sian Phillips and Eileen Atkins - Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932." 17 February 2017, Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts
  • Film and television

    She appeared as Maggie Clayhanger in all six episodes of Arnold Bennett's Hilda Lessways from 15 May to 19 June 1959, produced by the BBC Midlands with Judi Dench and Brian Smith. In the 1960 Shakespeare production An Age of Kings she played Joan of Arc.

    She helped create two television series. Along with fellow actress, Jean Marsh, she created the concept for an original television series, Behind the Green Baize Door, which became the award-winning ITV series Upstairs, Downstairs (1971–75). Marsh played maid Rose for the duration of the series but Atkins was unable to accept a part because of stage commitments. The same team was also responsible for the BBC series The House of Eliott (1991–93).

    Her film and television work includes Sons and Lovers (1981), Oliver Twist (1982), Titus Andronicus (1985), A Better Class of Person (1985), Roman Holiday (1987), The Lost Language of Cranes (1991), Cold Comfort Farm (1995), Talking Heads (1998), Madame Bovary (2000), David Copperfield (2000), Wit (2001) and Bertie and Elizabeth (2002), Cold Mountain (2003), What a Girl Wants (2003), Vanity Fair (2004), Ballet Shoes (2005) and Ask the Dust (2006).

    In the autumn of 2007, she co-starred with Judi Dench and Michael Gambon in the BBC One drama Cranford playing the central role of Miss Deborah Jenkyns. This performance earned her the 2008 BAFTA Award for best actress, as well as the Emmy Award.

    In 2009 Atkins played the evil Nurse Edwina Kenchington in the BBC Two black comedy Psychoville. Atkins replaced Vanessa Redgrave as Eleanor of Aquitaine in the blockbuster movie Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe, which was released in the UK in May 2010. The same year, she played Louisa in the dark comedy film, Wild Target.

    Atkins and Jean Marsh, creators of the original 1970s series of Upstairs, Downstairs, were among the cast of a new BBC adaptation, shown over the winter of 2010–11. The new series is set in 1936. Marsh again played Rose while Atkins was cast as the redoubtable Maud, Lady Holland. In August 2011, it was revealed that Atkins had decided not to continue to take part as she was unhappy with the scripts. In September 2011, Atkins joined the cast of ITV comedy-drama series Doc Martin playing the title character's aunt, Ruth Ellingham. She returned as Aunt Ruth for the show's 6th series in September 2013 and the 7th in September 2015.

    Atkins starred as Lady Spence with Matthew Rhys in an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's The Scapegoat, shown in September 2012.

    She has portrayed Queen Mary on two occasions, in the 2002 television film Bertie and Elizabeth and in the 2016 Netflix-produced TV series The Crown.

    Atkins portrayed graduate school professor Evelyn Ashford to Vivian Bearing (Emma Thompson) in the film Wit. Wit is a 2001 American television movie directed by Mike Nichols. The teleplay by Nichols and Emma Thompson is based on the 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same title by Margaret Edson. The film was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 9, 2001 before being broadcast by HBO on March 24. It was shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival and the Warsaw Film Festival later in the year.


    Atkins had a guest role in BBC Radio 4's long-running rural soap The Archers in September 2016, playing Jacqui, the juror who persuades her fellow jurors to acquit Helen Titchener (née Archer) of the charge of attempted murder and wounding with intent of her abusive husband, Rob.

    Personal life

    Atkins was married to actor Julian Glover in 1957; they divorced in 1966. (A day after his divorce, Glover married actress Isla Blair.) She married her second husband, Bill Shepherd, on 2 February 1978. Shepherd died on 24 June 2016. Atkins claims to have been propositioned by Colin Farrell on location in 2004, shortly before she turned 70; she said the incident helped her pass that milestone far more easily than she otherwise would have expected. The Oldie magazine awarded her the 'Refusenik of the Year' award for this incident.

    In 1997, she wrote the screenplay for Mrs. Dalloway, starring Vanessa Redgrave. It received rave reviews but was a box-office failure. It was a financial disaster for Atkins and her husband who had invested in the film. She said about this incident: "I have to work. I was nearly bankrupted over Mrs. Dalloway, and if you are nearly bankrupted, you are in trouble for the rest of your life. I don't have a pension. In any case, it doesn't hurt me to work. I think it's quite good, actually."

    "All through my career, I have tried to do new work, but there is a problem in the West End as far as new work is concerned. As a theatregoer, I get bored with seeing the same old plays again and again. I felt terrible the other night because I bumped into Greta Scacchi and she asked me if I was coming to see her in The Deep Blue Sea. I said, 'Greta, I'm so old, I've seen it so many times. I've seen it with Peggy Ashcroft, with Vivien Leigh, with Googie Withers, with Penelope Wilton and I played it myself when I was 19. I can't bring myself to see it again. She was very sweet about it."


    In 1995, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, treated and has recovered.


    Atkins was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1990. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on her 67th birthday, 16 June 2001. On 23 June 2010, she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, by Oxford University. On 5 December 2005 she received the degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa, from City University London. She is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame. She was inducted in 1998.

    Awards & nominations

    Note: Atkins also received an Honorary Drama Desk Award in 1995.


    Eileen Atkins Wikipedia