Francesca Annis

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Francesca Annis
Francesca Annis in trailer for Flipper's New Adventure (1964)
Born (1945-05-14) 14 May 1945 (age 70)
Kensington, London, England[1]
Occupation Actress
Years active 1959–present
Partner(s) Patrick Wiseman (1976–1990s)
Ralph Fiennes (1995–2006)
Children Charlotte Wiseman
Taran Wiseman
Andreas Wiseman

Francesca Annis[1] (born 14 May 1945)[2] is an English actress. She is known for films such as Dune (1984) and television series such as Reckless (1998), Wives and Daughters (1999), Cranford (2007), and Deceit (2000).

Early life and education[edit]

Annis was born in Kensington, London in 1945 to an English father, Lester William Anthony Annis (1914–2001) and a Brazilian-French mother, actress Mara Purcell (1913–2009). She has two brothers, Quentin and Tony. Her family moved to Brazil when Annis was a year old, spending six years there before returning to England when she was 7. She was educated at a convent school,[3] later training as a ballet dancer.


Annis began acting professionally in her teens, and made her film debut in The Cat Gang (1959). Her first major film role was as Elizabeth Taylor's handmaiden in Cleopatra (1963), which she was cast in while still studying Russian ballet at the Corona Stage Academy.[4] Her big break was as one of the leads in the 1965 West End stage musical Passion Flower Hotel.[4] She played Estella in a television adaptation of Great Expectations (1967) and presented children's television programmes. She garnered attention for her performance as Lady Macbeth in Roman Polanski's film version of Macbeth (1971) in which she performs the sleepwalking soliloquy in the nude. The critic Kenneth Tynan was present when the scene was shot:

"Francesca does it very sportingly and with no fuss ... though of course the set is closed, great curtains are drawn around the acting area ... and the wardrobe mistress rushes to cover Francesca with a dressing gown the instant Roman says, 'Cut'".[5]

Annis continued to be a leading television actress throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, appearing in series such as Edward the Seventh (1975) as Lillie Langtry, a role she reprised in Lillie (1978); Madame Bovary (1975); and Parnell and the Englishwoman (1991), in which she played Kitty O'Shea; as well as the miniseries Reckless (1998) and its 2000 sequel. Annis co-starred with Michael Gambon and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Ludlow (an aristocrat opposed to the education of the lower classes) in the BBC1 costume-drama series Cranford (2007).

Her films have included Krull (1983) and Dune (1984). She appeared as Tuppence with James Warwick as Tommy in Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (1983–84) stories as well as its preceding The Secret Adversary (1983). She appeared in Onassis: The Richest Man in the World (1988), in which she played Jacqueline Kennedy. She portrayed Mrs. Wellington in the second film and directorial debut by the musician Prince, Under The Cherry Moon (1986).

Annis has pursued a stage career also, playing leading roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company – Luciana in Trevor Nunn's musical version of The Comedy of Errors in 1976, and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet alongside Ian McKellen in 1977. At the National Theatre in 1981 she played Natalya Petrovna in Peter Gill's production of Ivan Turgenev's A Month in the Country. At the Comedy Theatre in September 2005, Annis starred in Epitaph for George Dillon with Joseph Fiennes.[6] She returned to the stage in April 2009 to star as Mrs. Conway in Rupert Goold's National Theatre revival of J. B. Priestley's Time and the Conways.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Annis has three children from a relationship with actor Patrick Wiseman that began in 1976. In 1994/1995, she began a relationship with actor Ralph Fiennes, who left and later divorced his wife, Alex Kingston, to be with Annis. They met while performing Hamlet, in which Annis portrayed Gertrude to Fiennes' Hamlet. On 7 February 2006, Fiennes and Annis announced their separation after 11 years together.[8]

Select filmography[edit]

Select television appearances[edit]

Awards & nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1974 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress A Pin to See the Peepshow Nominated
1976 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Madame Bovary Nominated
1977 Olivier Award Best Actress in a Revival Troilus and Cressida Nominated
1979 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Lillie Won
1998 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Reckless Nominated
1999 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Reckless Nominated
2000 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Wives and Daughters Nominated


  1. ^ a b Births England and Wales,
  2. ^ Birthdays,, 14 May 2008; accessed 12 August 2014.
  3. ^ "Fine without Fiennes", Irish Independent, 10 February 2008; retrieved 29 September 2010.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Diary, 16 February 1971: The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan (ed. John Lahr, 2001)
  6. ^ Review of Epitaph For George Dillon,; accessed 12 August 2014.
  7. ^ Review of Time and the Conways,; accessed 12 August 2014.
  8. ^

External links[edit]