Who is Francesca Annis?
Francesca Annis is a veteran actress from England. Over the course of her six-decade-long career, she has accumulated over a hundred film and TV credits. She has also been prominently active on stage and has portrayed various roles in plays by the likes of William Shakespeare, John Osbourne, and Ivan Turgenev. A native of London, Annis hails from a family of actors and singers. She started acting when she was still a teenager. In 1959, she made her big screen debut in the family crime film ‘The Cat Gang’. Her other memorable cinematic performances came in films like ‘Cleopatra’, ‘The Sky Pirate’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Under the Cherry Moon’, ‘Dune’, ‘The Debt Collector’, and ‘King of Thieves’. Annis is predominantly known for the undeniable impression her body of work has made on British television. Nominated six times, she won the BAFTA TV Award in 1979 in the Best Actress category for her outing as the titular character in the ITV serial ‘Lillie’. She has also portrayed Anna Fairley in ITV’s ‘Reckless’, Mrs Gibson in BBC’s ‘Wives and Daughters’, Ellen Richmond in BBC One’s ‘Deceit’, and Lady Ludlow in BBC One’s ‘Cranford’.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on May 14, 1945, in Kensington, London, England, Francesca Annis is the daughter of Lester William Anthony Annis and Mariquita (Mara) Purcell. Both of her parents were actors; her mother was additionally a singer.
Her English father and Brazilian-French mother spent the early years of their marriage in England. However, after Annis turned one, the family relocated to Brazil and lived there for the following six years before coming back to England. Annis grew up alongside her two brothers, Quenton and Tony.
Annis received her education at a convent school. She has been interested in performing since she was a child. Enrolled at the Corona Stage Academy, she was taught the Russian style of ballet dancing.
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Francesca Annis has been active in the entertainment industry since she was a teenager. After debuting on the big screen in ‘The Cat Gang’ (1959), she had an uncredited role in ‘Carry on Teacher’. In 1961, she portrayed Wanda in the comedy film ‘His and Hers’. She was cast as Eiras in the 1963 historical drama ‘Cleopatra’.
In Andrew Meyer’s low-budget drama film ‘The Sky Pirate’ (1970), she played a small role of an uptight girl. She essayed Lady Macbeth in the 1971 cinematic adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy. In the 1986 musical comedy-drama ‘Under the Cherry Moon’, she worked with Prince, Jerome Benton, and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Annis got the chance to work with the renowned filmmaker David Lynch in ‘Dune’ (1984). Unfortunately, the science fiction film ended up being one of the rare missteps in Lynch’s stellar career.
In 1999, she appeared in writer-director Anthony Neilson’s action crime thriller film ‘The Debt Collector’. Her most recent big screen appearance was in the 2018 crime-drama ‘King of Thieves’.
Francesca Annis’ first TV role was in a 1960 episode of ‘BBC Sunday-Night Play’. She earned her first nomination for BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Edith Thompson in ‘A Pin to See the Peepshow’ in 1974. Two years later, she received her second nomination for ‘Madame Bovary’.
In ITV’s miniseries ‘Reckless’ (1998), she portrayed Anna Fairley, a woman on the verge of infidelity. Her performance received much critical praise and she was nominated for two BAFTA TV Awards.
Based on a story by Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell, the BBC miniseries ‘Wives and Daughters’ (1999) features Annis as Mrs Kirkpatrick (later Gibson), the prim and proper stepmother of the protagonist Molly Gibson. This performance also garnered her a BAFTA TV Award nomination.
In 2000, she starred in BBC One’s mystery thriller miniseries ‘Deceit’, portraying a woman who has recently lost her husband. In ‘Cranford’, the 2007 BBC One miniseries, she was cast as the aristocrat Lady Ludlow, the owner of the Hanbury Court.
Annis was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival in 1977 for her performance in ‘Troilus and Cressida’. Her other notable theatre credits include ‘The Comedy of Errors’ (1976), ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (1977), ‘Hamlet’ (1995), Ivan Turgenev's ‘A Month in the Country’ (1981), and John Osborne and Anthony Creighton's ‘Epitaph for George Dillon’.
In ITV’s ‘Lillie’ (1978), Francesca Annis played the real-life 19th-century socialite Lillie Langtry. She had previously essayed the same role in the 1975 ATV serial ‘Edward the Seventh’. The 13-episode TV series brought her the only BAFTA TV Award of her career in 1979.
Family & Personal Life
Francesca Annis has been in two significant relationships in her life. In 1974, she began dating photographer Patrick Wiseman. The couple never married and had three children together: Charlotte, Taran, and Andreas, all of whom adopted their father’s surname.
She began a relationship with actor Ralph Fiennes after they worked together in ‘Hamlet’ in 1995. At the time, she was still with Wiseman while Fiennes was married to actress Alex Kingston. Annis and Wiseman parted ways in 1997.
She has since revealed that she has apologised to Wiseman. She and Fiennes underwent a bitter split amidst the speculations that was cheating on her with a Romanian singer.