Morton at the 2008 BAFTA Awards.
|Born||Samantha Jane Morton
13 May 1977 
|Partner(s)||Charlie Creed-Miles (1999–2000; 1 child)
Harry Holm (2005–present; 2 children)
Morton began her acting career with guest roles in television shows such as Soldier Soldier and Cracker, before appearing from 1995 to 1996 in the ITV drama Band of Gold. Her film debut was in 1997 in This Is the Sea. In 1999, she played Hattie in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She received a second Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Actress, for her performance as the young Irish mother, Sarah, coping with life in New York City in the 2003 film In America. For her role as Myra Hindley in 2006's Longford she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress (television).
Her other films include, Under the Skin (1997), Minority Report (2002), Morvern Callar (2002), Enduring Love (2004), The Libertine (2005), Lassie (2005), Control (2007), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), Mister Lonely (2007), Synecdoche, New York (2008) and The Messenger (2009). She made her directorial debut with the British television film The Unloved (2009), for which she won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Single Drama.
Morton was born in Nottingham, the third child of Peter Morton and Pamela Freebury, a factory worker. She has six half-siblings from her parents' relationships, subsequent to their 1979 divorce. At the age of seven, Morton was made a ward of court and never lived with her natural parents again. The next nine years were spent in and out of foster care and children's homes. She attended West Bridgford Comprehensive School.
Under the effects of drugs, she threatened an older girl who had been bullying her. She was convicted of making threats to kill. She served 18 weeks in an attendance centre. Morton said in an interview, "as a child I had a serious anger problem, but from the age of 16 I've been trying to turn bad things into positives."
Morton took up acting as a child. She joined the Central Junior Television Workshop when she was 13 and was soon being offered small-screen roles. In 1991, she was cast as Clare Anderson in the first series of Lucy Gannon's Soldier Soldier and also made an appearance, as Mandy, in an episode of Boon —both were Central TV productions.
Moving to London at sixteen, Morton applied to numerous drama schools, including RADA, without success. In 1991 she attended Clarendon College Of Performing Arts to gain a BTEC award but subsequently left for personal reasons. She made her stage début at the Royal Court Theatre, and continued her television career with appearances in Peak Practice and in an episode of Cracker called "The Big Crunch."
She had a role in the first two series of Kay Mellor's successful Band of Gold (1995). Further television roles followed, including parts in period dramas including Emma, Jane Eyre and The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. The well-received Under the Skin (1997) continued to raise her profile.
Impressed by her performance in Under the Skin, Woody Allen cast her in Sweet and Lowdown (1999). In the film, she gave an acclaimed performance and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2000. Critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote in her review "Rising star Samantha Morton shines in this charming, finely crafted film from Woody Allen" and that "Her performance is like nothing I’ve seen in recent years." Also, James Berardinelli praised the actress, by saying that she "overmatches her more experienced co-star with a luminous and heartbreaking performance."
She appeared in the film Jesus' Son (1999), which came out in a limited release in June 2000, after being screened at the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival. She received a nomination for Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for her performance in that film. She starred in the biographical independent film Pandaemonium, released 2000. She won a British Independent Film Award in the category of Best Actress. Morton played a mermaid opposite Larry Mullen in the Anton Corbijn-directed promotional video for U2's "Electrical Storm". She also provided the voice of Ruby for the Canadian animated series Max and Ruby from 2001 to 2003.
Morvern Callar, a British film starring Morton, received a limited release in 2002. In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Nick LaSalle stated that Morton "has moments of striking subtlety and detail. Her take upon receiving a major offer for her boyfriend's novel (which she claims as her own) is as satisfying a close-up as anyone could hope to see." Morton got a Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress.
She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for In America in 2004. Roger Ebert wrote that Morton "reveals the power of her silences, her quiet, her presence." She also appeared in Code 46 (2003) and Enduring Love (2004).
Morton played the Moors murderess Myra Hindley in a television film Longford (2006). Set between 1967 and 1997, the film depicts the relationship between the child murderer and Lord Longford, the politician who spent years campaigning (ultimately unsuccessfully) for her release. Morton was severely criticised by the relatives of the children who were killed by Hindley and Ian Brady, but she insisted, "It is my duty as a performer to raise issues...we're afraid to look at". Morton received a 2007 Emmy nomination and won a Golden Globe, both for Best Supporting Actress.
She then starred in the independent comedy-drama film Expired (2007), which required her to move to Los Angeles during filming. The film opened to mixed responses from critics. New York magazine noted that Morton "is one of those tingly actresses whose skin barely covers her soul, and to watch her search for tender mercies in a crazy-hostile world is a gift."
She played Marilyn Monroe in the drama-comedy feature film Mister Lonely, which was first screened in 2007 at the Cannes Film Festival. During an interview, she said, "In Mister Lonely we all live in a commune as the characters we impersonate and support each other. I'm married to a Charlie Chaplin impersonator and we have a daughter who is a Shirley Temple impersonator." She had a supporting role in the 2007 film Elizabeth: The Golden Age, in which she played Mary, Queen of Scots.
In 2007, she was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Control (2007), again directed by Anton Corbijn. She played Deborah Curtis, wife of musician Ian Curtis, whose biography Touching from a Distance formed the basis of the film. Russell Edwards, from Variety magazine called her performance "astonishing" and "sympathetic".
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman cast Morton as Hazel in Synecdoche, New York, alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Williams and Emily Watson. The film was a box office bomb, but it was praised by critics, appearing on many top ten lists for 2008. In an interview with Movieline, Morton spoke about her experience of working with director Kaufman, saying, "it was like going to school, every time. You were constantly learning a different way of working, a different way of looking at my craft. And also I was giving as much as I can. It was very liberating to work with him."
She starred in the war drama The Messenger (2009) as Oliva Patterson, a widow whose husband was killed in Iraq. The film, co-starring Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Jena Malone, was the directorial debut of Oren Moverman. Claudia Puig of USA Today asserted that Morton, "as always, gives a subtle, excellent performance." She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 14th Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and the 25th Independent Spirit Awards.
Her directorial début, the semi-autobiographical Channel 4 drama The Unloved, written in collaboration with Tony Grisoni, was first broadcast on 17 May 2009. The film was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2009. Michael Deacon praised Morton on creating an 'intense' and 'vivid' dramatic film. Morton won a BAFTA for her direction in 2010.
In 2012, Morton co-starred in Cosmopolis, directed by David Cronenberg, and provided the voice of Sola in epic science fiction film John Carter. It was announced she will play the title role in the film Decoding Annie Parker.
She was the original voice of the artificially intelligent operating system in the 2013 film Her directed by Spike Jonze, but her voice was dubbed over in the final version by Scarlett Johannson. Morton was on set during the entire filming process and is credited as an Associate Producer.
Morton has urged people to volunteer help to smaller charities. In 2008, she was part of the Vodafone Foundation's World of Difference campaign, which gives people the opportunity to work for a charity of their choice. "It's very important to know that there's over two million people dissatisfied with their work life,: she said. "And a lot of people, I think about 70 per cent of people actually want to go and work for a charity. They don't know how and actually can't afford it. So I think this campaign is hugely important because it'll give these people an opportunity to go and do that. To probably make a dream come true and help someone in the process."
In March 2009, Morton returned to her hometown to show her support for its children's homes and protest against the threatened closure, by Nottingham City Council, of one of the four establishments with 24 social-care staff facing redundancy. She also fronted a TV advertising recruitment campaign for social workers in the UK in 2009.
Whilst attending a fundraiser for the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) in January 2009, she vowed never to work for the BBC again after their refusal to broadcast an emergency charity appeal for the victims of Israel's attack on Gaza on 27 December 2008. She was later joined by Tam Dean Burn, Pauline Goldmsith, Peter Mullan and Alison Peebles who also threatened to boycott the Corporation.
In 2012 Morton showed her support for the Fostering Network's annual campaign Foster Care Fortnight.
Morton had a short relationship with actor Charlie Creed-Miles from 1999 to 2000. They appeared together in The Last Yellow (1999). Their daughter, Esme, was born in London on 5 February 2000. In 2005, she started a relationship with filmmaker Harry Holm (the son of actor Ian Holm), shortly after she met him when Holm directed her in a video for the band The Victims. Their daughter Edie was born on 4 January 2008 in London. Their second child was born in 2012.
In early 2008, she revealed that she was 'close to death' after suffering a debilitating stroke due to being hit by a piece of 17th century plaster that fell on her head (damaging her vertebral artery) in 2006. She was in the hospital for three weeks and had to learn to walk again.
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