Birthday: June 16, 1934
Age: 86 Years, 86 Year Old Females
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Dame Eileen June Atkins
Born in: London, England
Famous as: Actress
Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Females
Spouse/Ex-: Bill Shepherd (m. 1978 – died. 2016), Julian Glover (m. 1957 – div. 1966)
father: Arthur Thomas Atkins
mother: Annie Ellen Atkins
City: London, England
education: Latymer's Grammar School (1945–1950), Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1950–1953)
Eileen Atkins is one of the most prolific stage and screen actresses in Britain. Her journey from humble beginnings to attaining an iconic status in the world of entertainment has been nothing short of impressive, and so is the fact that she has managed to dominate all mediums of performing arts – be it stage, TV or films. Atkins has won the ‘Olivier Award’ three times for her performances in plays like ‘Cymbeline’, ‘The Unexpected Man’ and ‘Honour’. In her splendid acting career, she also won a ‘BAFTA’ and an ‘Emmy Award’ for her role in the TV series ‘Cranford’. Her other notable performances were seen in series like ‘Psychoville’, ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, ‘Doc Martin’ and ‘The Crown’. Some of her best-known movies include ‘The Dresser’, ‘Gosford Park’, ‘Vanity Fair’, ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Paddington 2’. In recognition to her achievements, the British royal family made her a ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (CBE). Later, she received one of the highest honors from the British Empire when she was made ‘Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (DBE). She received many more awards and honors in her career spanning more than five decades.
Childhood & Early Life
Eileen Atkins was born in Clapton, London, UK, on June 16, 1934. Her father Arthur Thomas Atkins worked as a gas meter reader, while her mother Annie Ellen (née Elkins) worked in a factory all day and as a barmaid in the evening. Eileen grew up with an elder brother and a sister.
When Eileen was three, her mother enrolled her in a dancing class, which she resented. From 1941 until 1945, she danced as ‘Baby Eileen’ in working men’s clubs. By the age of 12, she had begun to make a name for herself in pantomime in the areas of Kilburn and Clapham.
Apart from working in pantomime, she also attended ‘Parkside Preparatory School’ in Tottenham. She then went to ‘The Latymer School’ in Edmonton, London. A teacher called Rev. Michael Burton not only helped her get rid of her cockney accent, but also introduced her to drama and theatre.
Burton convinced her parents to let her stay at school until she was 16, so that she could get a scholarship to a drama school. Unfortunately, Eileen failed to get the ‘RADA’ scholarship and enrolled in a teaching course at the ‘Guildhall School of Music and Drama’ instead.
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After graduating from the ‘Guildhall School of Music and Drama’ in 1953, Eileen Atkins began her acting career on stage. She landed her first role as Jaquenetta in the play ‘Love's Labour's Lost’, performed at the ‘Open Air Theatre’ in Regent’s Park.
From 1962 onward, she began playing many prominent roles in plays like ‘The Tempest’ (1962), ‘The Sleepers Den’ (1965), and ‘The Killing of Sister George’ (1964 – 1966).
She won the ‘Drama Desk Award’ in 1972 for her performance in ‘Vivat! Vivat Regina!’. She repeated the feat with ‘The Night of the Tribades’ in 1978, and then again with ‘A Room of One’s Own’ in 1991.
Atkins won the ‘Olivier’ award for ‘Cymbeline’ in 1988. She won it again for ‘The Unexpected Man’ in 1999 and ‘Honour’ in 2004. In 2018, she was nominated for another ‘Olivier’ award for her performance in the play ‘The Height of the Storm’.
She made her TV debut with the role of Maggie Clayhanger in the series ‘Hilda Lessways’ in 1959. She then appeared in small roles on shows like ‘An Age of Kings’ (1960) and ‘Knock on Any Door’ (1965).
Atkins made her movie debut in ‘Inadmissible Evidence’ in 1968, although she had earlier worked in the TV movie ‘Major Barbara’ in 1966. Now onwards, she began to act in movies, TV and stage productions, simultaneously.
She gave praiseworthy performances in movies like ‘Equus’ (1977) and ‘Nelly’s Version’ (1983). She also had a recurring role in the TV series ‘Smiley’s People’ (1982) around this time.
Her performance as Madge in the 1983 movie ‘The Dresser’ went on to earn her a ‘BAFTA’ nomination. In 2001, she starred in the award-winning role of Mrs. Croft in the movie ‘Gosford Park’.
In the 2000s, Atkins was seen in movies like ‘Vanity Fair’ (2004) and ‘Scenes of a Sexual Nature’ (2006), none of which performed well at the box office. In 2007, she received one of the most important roles of her TV career when she was asked to star in ‘Cranford’, a series created by Sue Birtwistle and Ben Smithard.
Some of her better-known movie roles in recent years have been in ‘Robin Hood’ (2010), ‘The Scapegoat’ (2012), ‘Magic in the Moonlight’ (2014), and ‘Paddington 2’ (2017).
She has delivered some critically acclaimed performances in TV series like ‘Psychoville’ (2009 – 2011), ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ (2010), ‘Doc Martin’ (2011 – present), and ‘The Crown’ (2016).
Awards & Achievements
Eileen Atkins was made ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)’ by the British Monarchy in 1990. She then became ‘Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE)’ on June 16, 2001.
For her contributions to the world of theatre and acting, she was inducted into the ‘American Theater Hall of Fame’ in 1998.
Atkins received the honoris causa, a doctorate degree, from the ‘City University London’ on December 5, 2005. The ‘Oxford University’ bestowed upon her the degree of Doctor of Letters on June 23, 2010.
Family & Personal Life
Eileen Atkins met actor Julian Glover while working in a repertory theatre in Billy Butlin’s holiday camp in Skegness, Lincolnshire. They married in 1957 and divorced in 1966.
She fell in love with Bill Shepherd and married him on February 2, 1978. They were happily married until his death on June 24, 2016.