20 Awesome English Roses
The Rose: The daughter of a barrister, 27-year-old Blunt knew exactly where she wanted her life to go when she signed up for a sixth form college with a renowned arts programme. The hard work paid off, and Blunt is now answering international calls from Hollywood – not bad for a born-and-bred Londoner.
The Awesome: Not many actresses can attest to holding their own against Meryl Streep, but Blunt’s anorexic, snippy assistant in The Devil Wears Prada near did just that. Meanwhile, The Young Victoria showed she’s got leading lady bravada.
American Equivalent: Mate Amy Adams played her sister in Sunshine Cleaning , and it’s not hard to see why. Both possess the ability to funnel their pale, ethereal beauty into ice queens or characters as timid as a winter sun.
The Rose: Christopher Plummer may have hated her guts (“Working with Julie Andrews is like getting hit over the head with a valentine,” he grumbled of filming The Sound Of Music together), but Andrews is as beloved the world over as that very movie.
The Awesome: A true English Rose, Andrews is the epitome of class and poise. She’s the kind of woman you can’t imagine ever goes to the loo. Her refined turns in The Sound Of Music and Mary Poppins , combined with that ineffable elegant demeanour, helped shape her into a star.
American Equivalent: Before all the craziness, Judy Garland is probably the closest our cousins over t' pond ever got to their own Julie Andrews.
The Rose: Literally playing a damed named Rose in tearaway hit Titanic , previous Biggest Movie Like Ever, Winslet has since challenged the movie industry’s attempt to box her in with luminous, bold career choices that have seen her play everything from a young Iris Murdoch to a multi-hair-coloured waif called Clementine.
The Awesome: Hideous Kinky is a flawed but fearless runaway delight, while Winslet’s double-whammy offerings in 2008 of The Reader and Revolutionary Road both proved she’s not going anywhere soon.
American Equivalent: Michelle Williams boasts the same spirited verve, not to mention a predilection toward challenging indie roles that aren’t too fussed about mainstream appeal. Both fantastic in everything they do.
The Rose: Essex-born ‘40s sweetheart who was best known by her nickname ‘Duchess’. She came to fame with 1939’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips after being discovered by legendary producer Louis B. Mayer and whisked off to the States.
The Awesome: Garson managed to buoy spirits during World War II – even as the bombs whistled from the sky, she was splashing grins across the faces of weary audience members. Those seven Oscar nods were a well-deserved Academy thank you.
American Equivalent: Marlene Dietrich may have been born in Germany, but after attaining US citizenship she became a frontline entertainer. Attagirl.
The Rose: Daughter to director Peter Hall and opera singer Maria Ewing, Hall broke into acting at full pelt. Her first ever stage performance grabbed her an Ian Charleson Award, while every one of her films to date has blown our figurative minds (aside from well-intentioned failure Dorian Gray ).
The Awesome: Witness the ease with which Hall tackles the typical Woody Allen role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona as a neurotic, stupidly-intelligent worrier. Then watch her in The Prestige and Frost/Nixon . See where we’re coming from?
American Equivalent: Liv Tyler’s a close physical match, with the same willowy frame, milk-coloured skin and dark hair. Hall’s more skilled in the drama stakes, though.
The Rose: It was when she uprooted to Hollywood that this Somerset lass hit the payload. Having appeared in both the BBC and film versions of The Railway Children , Ms Agutter jumped a jet to Hollywood. Not before, thanks to new laws on film nudity, she stripped off at just 16 in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout .
The Awesome: Best-known for her early flirtations with sci-fi and horror, Agutter cut an iconic figure in Logan’s Run before appearing in the cult classic An American Werewolf In London .
American Equivalent: Farrah Fawcett found similar success in television (which Agutter has stuck to post-'80s), and achieved superstar icon status - though she never quite had the film success that Agutter enjoyed.
The Rose: Fresh-faced Poots is already setting about making her mark on the movie landscape. Her first film role in 28 Weeks Later impressed, she’s just shot her first costume drama with Jane Eyre , and is currently filming the Fright Night remake alongside Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin. TF can also attest that she's just really nice.
The Awesome: At the centre of brawny subtlety-vacuum Centurion , Poots cut an affable, likeable sketch of a banished young woman. She also showed she had guts when it came to firearms in 28 Weeks Later. Awesome promise of great things to come.
American Equivalent: Claire Danes, who Poots appeared alongside in Me And Orson Welles , has similar on-screen virtues – a girl-next-door, grounded appeal and a smart head screwed onto her shoulders.
The Rose: Nottingham-born lovely Samantha Jane Morton has earned acclaim for her chameleon ability to transform almost beyond recognition - from the bald-headed psychic in Minority Report to her turn as serial killer Myra Hindley.
The Awesome: Magnetic in everything she does, Morton smashes barriers with every performance she undertakes – nudity isn’t a problem, and the scruffier the role the better. See In America, Control and Synecdoche, NY .
American Equivalent: For shaved-head comparisons alone, it has to be Natalie Portman. But the two opposite-sides-of-the-pond darlings are similar in their strange, universal sex appeal, not to mention their presence in front of the camera.
The Rose: Theatre-trained and still going strong after a career that has spanned almost 60 years. Smith's best known to nippers as the no-nonsense Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter series, and is enjoying late-life success that near eclipses the already-stellar work of her early career.
The Awesome: With the kind of mesmeric screen presence that hypnotises and bewitches, Smith’s early Oscar-winning role in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is one that could’ve been hard to beat. But Smith has remained consistently absorbing since, dividing her time between beloved comedies like Sister Act and fierce dramas like Washington Square .
American Equivalent: Katharine Hepburn was made of similar stuff – equal parts shrewd, haughty and decisive, while also imbued with the ability to own the screen completely.
The Rose: Born in the London neighbourhood of Islington, Watson is a dedicated charity fundraiser and has a BA in English. She made her film debut in Lars von Trier’s Breaking The Waves , a performance that garnered her massive critical acclaim.
The Awesome: A fantastic all-rounder, Watson often lends her saucer-eyes and spirited affability to family roles. Synecdoche, NY remains an offbeat standout, while Watson’s fantastic turn in Red Dragon as a blind woman contributed to that movie’s success.
American Equivalent: Michelle Pfeiffer possesses that same outer-fragility-concealing-inner-steel quality.
The Rose: Perhaps the most treasured of England’s treasures, Walters is adored the world over thanks to her quick wit, unflinching assaults on intriguing material and generally likeability that makes you wish she was your aunt/mum/mate.
The Awesome: Raucously entertaining in Educating Rita (the original Legally Blonde ), movingly measured in Billy Elliot , just the right side of fussy mum in the Harry Potter franchise. Not forgetting that ballsy appearance in TV's Dinnerladies. The list goes on…
American Equivalent: Sally Field has mined similar filmic depths, poving equally adept at drama as comedy, and even straying into award-winning TV terrain (with Brothers & Sisters ).
The Rose: She may have acquired American citizenship through her parents, but we take full responsibility for Taylor's infamous glamour, considering she was born on British soil. Fitting that Taylor's legendary beauty was most famously put to use in the biopic of real-life legend Cleopatra, arguably Taylor’s most renowned role.
The Awesome: It may have been critically panned, but Cleopatra is forever synonymous with the name Elizabeth Taylor. The catalogue of Taylor’s awesome achievements also extends to Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof .
American Equivalent: For sheer easy glamour and celebrated beauty alone, Angelina Jolie is arguably Taylor’s modern American counterpart.
The Rose: Dench probably has so many acting awards in her house she’s probably had to build a whole wing for them. Adored the world over, the York native is considered the crowning jewel in England’s filmic crown.
The Awesome: Despite being a trained thesp and all that, Dench likes a bit of action as much as the rest of us – hence her turns in Bond and (ahem) The Chronicles Of Riddick . Which is why we love her. Also – have you seen her performance in Nine ?!
American Equivalent: Anne Bancroft enjoyed a comparable decade-spanning career that began with early success ( The Graduate ), and continued with both light-hearted capers ( Heartbreakers ) and more austere productions ( Great Expectations ).
The Rose: A true London lady, Weisz likes to split her time between theatre and film. It was her role in the remake of The Mummy and its sequel that really got the ball rolling, though she’s been known to tip her hat to both comedy and drama since. She married one of TF ’s favourite directors Darren Aronofsky in 2002.
The Awesome: Not only can she kick some booty ( The Mummy Returns , ho mama!), but bring the emotion in a hailstorm of raw feeling ( The Constant Gardener, The Fountain ).
American Equivalent: Maggie Gyllenhaal likes to mix the indie with the family fanfare, too.
The Rose: Painfully English without ever being painful to watchful, Thompson IS England – she's adapted so many adored tomes for the screen that seeing her in modern day attire is still something of a shock to the system.
The Awesome: Despite costume dramas being predisposed to a stuffy air, Thompson works well in them because she takes the rule of Austin (sly humour behind the frantic fan wafts) and applies it brilliantly. See: Thompson's entire CV.
American Equivalent: Thompson is so quintessentially English it’s difficult to find her an American counterpart. But if we’re looking at her as a purveyor of British period dramas, Doris Day was best-known for getting trussed up in historical garb for American yarns – and then, alright, warbling her heart out.
The Rose: Another fresh face, reformed polydactyl Arterton has kept busy being chased by monsters in Clash Of The Titans , Jake Gyllenhall in Prince Of Persia and various members of a poky village in Tamara Drewe .
The Awesome: Arterton’s real break-out role came with The Disappearance Of Alice Creed , in which she suffers all manner of indignities before brilliantly turning the tables on her captors. Outstanding stuff.
American Equivalent: Reese Witherspoon’s got that same wholesome charm and winsome personality. No airs and graces here.
The Rose: First wife to Laurence Olivier, born in Darjeeling to a British officer and raised in the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton.
The Awesome: To this day, Leigh’s Oscar-winning turn in Gone With The Wind remains a static resident of many Best Performance lists. That she managed to bring to dazzling life so many fantastic characters (among them Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire ) despite crippling depression is a testament to her talent.
American Equivalent: Bette Davis suffered a similar reputation for being difficult to work with (though sadly not the same reputation for beauty), and both actress’ careers often died inglorious deaths before effecting stunning filmic resurrections. Both actresses died after prolonged ill health: Davis from breast cancer, Leigh from tuberculosis.
The Rose: After kick-starting her movie career like a true Brit with a role in costume drama Pride & Prejudice , Mulligan’s been touted as Britain’s next breakout star – not least because of her Oscar-nominated role in An Education . Next on the cards is finance follow-up Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps .
The Awesome: Look no further than An Education , Mulligan’s breakout performance and one that had her tipped for awards glory. In the end she settled for a Bafta, missing out on the Golden Globe and Oscar – but you've got to start somewhere, eh love?
American Equivalent: Appearances aside, Mulligan's competition for this year's Best Actress Oscar - Gabourey Sidibe - has a similar story. Both young ladies made it big with their first lead roles, both were nominated for that all important baldie. The battle lines have been drawn - you'll get her next time, Mulls.
The Rose: Another theatre-qualified actress, Mirren is of the same mould as Judi Dench – beloved by millions and all the more so because she never quite takes herself with the seriousness you’d expect.
The Awesome: Mirren’s taken the duffs with the delectable, eclipsing the former with dazzling turns in The Madness Of King George, The Last Station and – most remarkably, if only because of her staggeringly authentic transformation – in The Queen .
American Equivalent: Meryl Streep is certainly growing old just as gracefully as Mirren, and both handle their dramatic roles with the ease of the seasoned professionals that they are.
The Rose: Stick-thin and pouty as Angelina Jolie on a bad day, Knightley first caught our attention as a gangly football-lover in Bend It Like Beckham before buckling Johnny Depp’s swash (er, or something) in the Pirates Of The Caribbean series.
The Awesome: Naysayers were well and truly silenced when Knightley ignited Atonement with a career-best performance. It’s a show she’s yet to match, though something tells us that the upcoming Never Let Me Go could be the one to do it.
American Equivalent: Winona Ryder may be more of an unpredictable wild child, but she’s Knightley’s kindred movie spirit – both have sported pixie cuts and taken risks with unusual projects, despite success in more mainstream affairs.