Judith "Judy" Davis is an Australian actress. With a career spanning over 30 years, she is commended for her versatility and is regarded as one of the finest actresses of her generation. She is the recipient of eight AACTA Awards, two BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, three Emmy Awards, and has been nominated twice for an Academy Award.
Davis was born in Perth, Western Australia on April 23, 1955, and had a strict Catholic upbringing. However, at age 14, she lost her Catholic faith after she read a book that suggested a metaphorical rather than a literal interpretation of the story of Jesus and the miracle of the loaves and fishes. She was educated at Loreto Convent in Claremont and the Western Australian Institute of Technology, but decided to drop out at 17 to travel the world. She became singer for a band that toured throughout Asia, including Taiwan and Japan. She later graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 1977.
The two-time Emmy Award-winner is best known for portraying formidable real-life women on TV, including the notorious felon Sante Kimes in A Little Thing Called Murder and Hollywood legend Judy Garland in the miniseries Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows. Davis made television history when Life With Judy Garland received the most nominations for a single performance and won every award she was nominated for, including the Emmy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and the American Film Institute Award. She was also nominated for her portrayal of Lillian Hellman in Dash and Lilly, her frigid society matron in A Cooler Climate, and her interpretation of Nancy Reagan in the controversial biopic The Reagans. She was most recently seen in Salting The Battlefield, the final installment in the Jonny Worricker trilogy, including the TV movies Turks & Caicos and Page Eight.
Additional film credits include Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker starring opposite Kate Winslet, The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, Marie Antoinette, The Break-Up, Kangaroo, Impromptu, Naked Lunch, Barton Fink, The Ref, On My Own, Blood and Wine, Children of the Revolution, and Absolute Power. Australian productions include Swimming Upstream, opposite her Eye Of The Storm co-star Geoffrey Rush, and AFI award-winning roles in Kangaroo and High Tide. She also received Academy Award nominations for her roles in A Passage To India and Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives. Woody Allen is a great admirer of Davis’ work and has cast her in five films: Husbands and Wives, To Rome With Love, Celebrity, Deconstructing Harry, and Alice.
In theatre, Davis made her professional debut as Juliet, opposite Mel Gibson's Romeo. She also played both Cordelia and the Fool in a 1984 staging of King Lear for the Nimrod Theatre Company. Her other credits for the company include their productions of Miss Julie, The Bear, Inside The Island, and in 1986 the title role in Hedda Gabler, a landmark performance in Australian theatre. In the early '80s, she portrayed French chanteuse Édith Piaf in the play PIAF at the Perth Playhouse, and also starred in Visions (Paris Theatre Company). She made a return to stage and starred in and co-directed Victory, as a Puritan woman determined to locate her husband's dismembered corpse. Other stage directorial credits include The School for Scandal and Barrymore, all three of which were for the Sydney Theatre Company. Most recently, she portrayed the role of fading actress Irina Arkadina in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull at Sydney's Belvoir St Theatre to critical acclaim and sold out audiences.
Davis has been married to actor and fellow NIDA graduate Colin Friels since 1984. They have two children, son Jack (born 1987) and daughter Charlotte (born 1997). In 1998, Friels contracted pancreatic cancer and nearly died. 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 currently reside in the Sydney area of Birchgrove, New South Wales. The couple have also appeared in several films together, including Hoodwink (1981), Kangaroo (1987), High Tide (1987), and The Man Who Sued God (2001). They have also frequently appeared together on stage.
- Davis was forbidden to see movies as a child.
- Her family can trace its ancestry back to the original 1831 British settlement in Perth.
- She intensely dislikes being interviewed, and does so only as a gesture of goodwill toward the directors of her films.
- Although most of her work is in American films, she has steadfastly refused to move to the United States, preferring to live in Australia.
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