One of the most luminous actresses to grace the British screen, as well as those of the rest of the world, Julie Christie is known for both her onscreen magnetism, which has not faded as she has grown older, and her offscreen reclusiveness. The daughter of an India-based British tea planter, she was born in Chukua, Assam, India, on April 14, 1941, and grew up on her father's tea plantation. Educated in England and on the Continent, she planned to become an artist or a linguist before she altered her life's goals by enrolling in the Central School of Speech Training in London. In 1957, she first stepped on-stage as a paid professional with the Frinton Repertory of Essex.
Celebrated less for her stage work than for her continuing role in a popular British TV serial, A for Andromeda, Christie made her film debut in a small role in Crooks Anonymous (1963). After a rather charming ingénue stint in The Fast Lady (1963) (the lady was a car, not the ingénue), she received her first prestige part in Billy Liar (1963), gaining critical acclaim for this and her subsequent supporting part in Young Cassidy (1965). Thus, Christie was not the "newcomer" that some perceived her to be when she shook film audiences to their foundations in Darling (1965), a poignant time capsule about a stylishly amoral sexual butterfly. Christie won numerous awards for Darling, not the least of which were the British Film Academy award and the American Oscar.
Her star further ascended into box-office heaven when she was cast in the big-budget Doctor Zhivago (1965), in which she gave a radiant performance as the tragic Lara. She followed this with a dual role in Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 (1967) and a starring turn in John Schlesinger's acclaimed 1967 adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. Roles of wildly varying quality followed, until in 1971 Christie began a professional and romantic liaison with Warren Beatty. The romance was over within a few years, but Beatty and Christie ultimately worked together on three major films of the 1970s: McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Shampoo (1975), and Heaven Can Wait (1978).
Few of Christie's films of the 1970s and 1980s seemed worthy of her talents -- The Go-Between (1971) and her cameo in Nashville (1975) being exceptions -- though, in fact, she was less interested in pursuing a career than in campaigning for various social and political causes. Christie's performance in the British TV movie The Railway Station Man (1992) was a choice example of her devotion to social issues -- in this case, the ongoing ideological (and shooting) war in Ireland. Indeed, Christie had become such an enigma that it was a surprise to many audiences when she turned up as Gertrude in Kenneth Branagh's 1996 adaptation of Hamlet. She won acclaim for the role, embellished the following year with her portrayal of Nick Nolte's estranged wife in Afterglow. Nominated for her third Best Actress Oscar for her performance, Christie convinced many that, although she had chosen to neglect the limelight for awhile, she hadn't chosen to neglect her talent.
Christie's fifth decade as a performer found her continuing to work with a variety of collaborators, earning a Screen Actors Guild nomination as part of the ensemble of Finding Neverland. She worked with the young Canadian actress Sarah Polley on The Secret Life of Words, a role that led directly to Christie being cast in Polley's directorial debut - the alzheimer's drama Away From Her. Christie's work in that film earned her some of the strongest reviews of her lengthy career and garnered her numerous year end accolades including Best Actress awards from the Golden Globes, the New York Film Critics, and the Screen Actors Guild, as well as a nomination from the Academy in that same category.
She was one of the many performers in the omnibus film New York, I Love You, and took the roll as Grandma in the modernized retelling of Red Riding Hood directed by Katherine Hardwicke. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi