Judith "Judy" Davis (born 23 April 1955) is an Australian actress. With a career spanning over 40 years she is commended for her versatility and is regarded as one of the finest actresses of her generation with Woody Allen describing her as "one of the most exciting actresses in the world". She is the recipient of eight AACTA Awards, three Emmy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and has twice been nominated for an Academy Award.
Davis is a 1977 graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art, where she starred opposite Mel Gibson in Romeo and Juliet. Most of Davis's stage work has been in Australia, including Piaf (1980), Hedda Gabler (1986), Victory (2004) and The Seagull (2011), but she also starred in the 1982 London production of Insignificance, for which she was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Actress, and the 1989 Los Angeles production of Hapgood. She returned to the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2017 to direct the play Love and Money.
She went on to win the BAFTA Awards for both Best Actress and Most Promising Newcomer for the 1979 film My Brilliant Career, two AACTA Awards for the 1981 films Winter of Our Dreams and Hoodwink, and later went onto receive Academy Award nominations for A Passage to India (1984) and Husbands and Wives (1992). Her other films include High Rolling (1977), Heatwave (1983), High Tide (1987), Impromptu (1991), Barton Fink (1991), Dark Blood (1993), Absolute Power (1997), The Break-up (2006), Marie Antoinette (2006), The Eye of the Storm (2011), The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013) and The Dressmaker (2015).
For her television work, Davis won Emmy Awards for Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story (1995), Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001) and The Starter Wife (2007) and Golden Globes for Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows and One Against the Wind (1991). Other television roles include A Woman Called Golda (1982), A Cooler Climate (1999), The Reagans (2003), A Little Thing Called Murder (2006), Page Eight (2011) and Feud: Bette and Joan (2017).
Davis was born in Perth, Western Australia, and had a strict Catholic upbringing. She was educated at Loreto Convent and the Western Australian Institute of Technology and graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 1977. She has been married to actor and fellow NIDA graduate Colin Friels since 1984. They have two children, son Jack and daughter Charlotte. The relationship was briefly in the media when an argument led to a court order against Friels – however, they remained together at that time. They live in the Sydney area of Birchgrove, New South Wales.
Davis first came to prominence for her role as Sybylla Melvyn in the coming-of-age saga My Brilliant Career (1979), for which she won BAFTA Awards for Best Actress and Best Newcomer. Davis also played the lead in the Australian New Wave classics Winter of Our Dreams (1981) (as a waif-like heroin addict) and Heatwave (1982) (as a radical tenant organizer).
Her international film career began in 1981 when she played the younger version of Ingrid Bergman's Golda Meir in the television docudrama A Woman Called Golda, followed by the role of a terrorist in the British film Who Dares Wins (1982).
In 1984, she was cast as Adela Quested in David Lean's final film A Passage to India, an adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She returned to Australian cinema for her next two films, Kangaroo, as a German-born writer's wife, and Hightide, as a foot-loose mother who attempts to reunite with her teenage daughter who is being raised by the paternal grandmother. She earned Australian Film Institute Awards for both roles, and a National Society of Film Critics award for Hightide's brief American theatrical run. In 1990, she played a cameo in Woody Allen's Alice.
In 1991, she was featured in Joel Coen's Barton Fink, which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and in David Cronenberg's adaptation of the hallucinogenic novel Naked Lunch. She won an Independent Spirit Award for her work as mannish woman author George Sand in Impromptu and returned to E. M. Forster territory in Where Angels Fear to Tread. She portrayed real-life Second World War heroine Mary Lindell in the CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation One Against the Wind. In 1992, she played a major role in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives as one half of a divorcing couple. For this performance she earned both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress.
Other roles have included the mysterious, schizophrenic mother of a teenager in boarding school in On My Own (1993), the lifelong Australian Communist Party member reacting to the downfall of the Soviet Union in Children of the Revolution (1996), two more Allen films, Deconstructing Harry (1997) and Celebrity (1998), a highly-strung White House chief of staff in Absolute Power (1997), a supportive mother in Swimming Upstream (2003) and supporting roles in two 2006 films, The Break-Up and Marie-Antoinette.
She co-starred with Kevin Spacey in the 1994 comedy film The Ref, portraying a married couple whose relationship is on the rocks, with Denis Leary playing a thief who counsels their marriage.
Much of her recent work has been on television, where she has a collection of Emmy Award nominations. She won her first Emmy for portraying the woman who gently coaxes rigid militarywoman Glenn Close out of the closet in Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story, with subsequent nominations for her repressed Australian outback mother in The Echo of Thunder (1998), her portrayal of Lillian Hellman in Dash and Lilly (1999), her frigid society matron in A Cooler Climate (1999) and her interpretation of Nancy Reagan in the controversial biopic The Reagans (2003).
She earned a second Emmy for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the 2001 television biographical film Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows. In July 2006, she received her ninth Emmy nomination for her performance in the television film A Little Thing Called Murder. Her tenth nomination came in 2007 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in the U.S. miniseries The Starter Wife for which she was awarded the Emmy. In August 2007, she appeared opposite Sam Waterston in an episode of ABC's anthology series Masters of Science Fiction. She appeared on the TV mini-series, Diamonds from 2008–2009.
In 2011, Davis appeared as Jill Tankard in a television drama film, Page Eight, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. She played Dorothy de Lascabanes in The Eye of the Storm, an adaptation of Patrick White's novel of the same title, for which, in 2012, she won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She has a major role as Woody Allen's psychiatrist wife in his To Rome with Love.
In 2013, Davis co-starred with Helena Bonham Carter and Callum Keith Rennie in The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. She reprised her role of Jill Tankard in 2014's Salting the Battlefield. She is also due to star in "The Surrealist" which is about Salvador Dalí. She co-stars with Kate Winslet in The Dressmaker which began filming in 2014.
Davis's stage work has been mostly confined to Australia. Early in her career, she played Juliet opposite Mel Gibson's Romeo. In 1978, she appeared in Visions by Louis Nowra at the Paris Theatre Company in Sydney. In 1980, she portrayed French chanteuse Edith Piaf in Stephen Barry's production of the Pam Gems play Piaf at the Perth Playhouse. She played both Cordelia and the Fool in a 1984 staging of King Lear by the Nimrod Theatre Company, and also starred in its productions of Strindberg's Miss Julie, Chekhov's The Bear, Louis Nowra's Inside The Island and, in 1986, the title role of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler for the Sydney Theatre Company
In 2004, she starred in and co-directed Howard Barker's play Victory, as a Puritan woman determined to locate her husband's dismembered corpse. Other stage directorial efforts include Sheridan's The School For Scandal and Barrymore by William Luce (all three for the Sydney Theatre Company). She created the role of The Actress in Terry Johnson's Insignificance at the Royal Court in London, receiving an Olivier Award nomination, and appeared in a brief 1989 Los Angeles production of Tom Stoppard's Hapgood.
In 2011, she portrayed the role of fading actress Irina Arkadina in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull at Sydney's Belvoir St Theatre.1994 Film Critics Circle of Australia Award Special Achievement Award ("* For her outstanding body of Australian and international work and for her considerable contribution to the profession of screen acting.")
1982 Laurence Olivier Award for Actress of the Year in a New Play (Insignificance)
2004 Helpmann Award for Best Female Actor in a Play (Victory)
2017 Helpmann Award for Best Direction of a Play (Faith Healer)