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Francesca Annis

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Francesca Annis
Annis in trailer for Flipper's New Adventure (1964)
Born (1945-05-14) 14 May 1945 (age 79)
Kensington, London, England
Years active1959–present
Partner(s)Patrick Wiseman (1976–1997)
Ralph Fiennes (1995–2006)

Francesca Annis (born 14 May 1945)[1] is an English actress. She is known for television roles in Reckless (1998), Wives and Daughters (1999), Deceit (2000), and Cranford (2007). A six-time BAFTA TV Award nominee, she won the 1979 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for the ITV serial Lillie. Her film appearances include Krull (1983), Dune (1984), The Debt Collector (1999), and The Libertine (2004).

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, Mariquita (Mara) Purcell (1913–2009). Both were sometime actors and Mara a sometime singer.[2] Mara was from a wealthy Brazilian family.[2] The Annises moved to Brazil when Francesca was one year old, and spent six years there,[2] returning to England when she was seven.[2] In recollecting the years in Brazil, she described her parents as running "a nightclub on Copacabana beach", and her mother Mara "performing as a blues singer".[2]

Annis was educated at a convent school, and trained in her early years as a ballet dancer,[2][3] with training in the Russian style at the Corona Stage Academy.[4]


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), in which she was cast at the age of 16 while still studying Russian ballet.[2] 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 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][full citation needed]

Annis played the "Widow of the Web" in the 1983 science fantasy film Krull,[6] and starred as Lady Jessica in the 1984 David Lynch science fiction film Dune.[7][8]

She appeared as Tuppence with James Warwick as Tommy Beresford in The Secret Adversary (1983) and the subsequent series, Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (1983–84).[9][10] Annis played Jacqueline Kennedy in Onassis: The Richest Man in the World in 1988. She portrayed Mrs Wellington in the second film and directorial debut by Prince, Under The Cherry Moon (1986).

Annis pursued a stage career, playing leading roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company, such as Luciana in Trevor Nunn's musical version of The Comedy of Errors (1976) and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet alongside Ian McKellen (1976).[11]

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 between September 2005 and January 2006, Annis starred as Ruth in Epitaph for George Dillon with Joseph Fiennes.[12] 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.[13]

She appeared in television productions in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s 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. She played a major role in J. C. Wilsher's police drama Between the Lines from 1993 to 1994, as well as the miniseries Reckless (1998) and its 2000 sequel. Annis co-starred with Sir 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). More recently, Annis played a leading role in the ITV drama Home Fires.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Annis was in a relationship with photographer Patrick Wiseman that began in 1974, raising three children, Charlotte, Taran, and Andreas.[2] Annis began a relationship with Hamlet co-star Ralph Fiennes in 1995, ending her 23-year relationship with Wiseman in 1997; Fiennes in turn divorced his wife of four years, Alex Kingston.[2][14] Annis is said to have "apologised to Wiseman" over their parting.[2] Annis and Fiennes announced their separation on 7 February 2006, after 11 years together, in a parting described as "acrimonious", following rumours that he had had an affair with the Romanian singer Cornelia Crisan.[2][15][16]

At age 64, in an interview with Tim Auld of The Telegraph in 2009, Annis described herself as being one that tends "to forget the bad things – I don't dwell on them. I think, 'Oh, f– it, life's too short'" and that though single, she "believes it is better to be with someone than alone", stating "I think you live a fuller life... to have someone else's input on anything – a book, a meal, your children, life, a walk – is fantastic" and expressing optimism as she looked to her future, stating "'I like to have a big open canvas. I am a glass-half-full person. Something will turn up, you know, and whatever it is it'll be fine'".[2]


Year Title Role
1958 The Cat Gang Sylvia
1959 Carry On Teacher Schoolgirl
1960 No Kidding Priscilla
His and Hers Wanda
1963 Cleopatra Eiras
West 11 Phyl
1964 Murder Most Foul Sheila Upward
Saturday Night Out Jean
Crooks in Cloisters June
The Eyes of Annie Jones Annie Jones
Flipper's New Adventure Gwen
1965 The Pleasure Girls Sally
1966 Run with the Wind Jean Packer
1970 The Walking Stick Arabella Dainton
1971 Macbeth Lady Macbeth
1973 Penny Gold Delphi / Diane
1978 The Comedy of Errors Luciana
1980 Why Didn't They Ask Evans? Lady Frances Derwent
1982 Coming Out of the Ice Galina
1983 Krull The Widow of The Web
1984 Dune Lady Jessica
1986 Under The Cherry Moon Mrs. Wellington
1994 Doomsday Gun Sophie
1999 The Debt Collector Val Dryden
2002 Copenhagen Margrethe Bohr
2004 The Libertine Countess
2005 Revolver Lily Walker
2008 Shifty Valerie
2012 Loving Miss Hatto Joyce
2018 King of Thieves Lynne Reader

Selected stage appearances[edit]

Selected television appearances[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1960 BBC Sunday-Night Play Anne Miller (Episode: "The Wind and the Sun")
Probation Officer Judy Bealle 1 episode
1962 ITV Play of the Week Margery Hamilton (Episode: "The Gentle Assassi")
Sir Francis Drake Princess Mariella (Episode "Visit to Spain")
1964 Danger Man Sheila / Judy (Episodes: "No Marks For Servility"
"That's Two of Us Sorry")
The Human Jungle Mary (Episode: "Wild Goose Chase")
1965 ITV Play of the Week Christine Burrows (Episode: "An Aspidistra in Babylon")
1966 The Saint Maria Lopez (Episode: "Locate and Destroy")
ITV Play of the Week Catherine (Episode: "A View from the Bridge")
1967 Great Expectations Estella
1970 Saturday Night Theatre Hilary (Episode: "The Family Is a Vicious Circle")
1972 Stage 2 Solveig
1973 A Pin to See the Peepshow Julia Almond
1974 The Wood Demon Helen
1975 Madame Bovary Emma Bovary
1975 Edward the Seventh Lillie Langtry (Episodes 7 "Dearest Prince" and 8 "The Royal Quadrille")
1977 Play for Today Kate Crowley (Episode: "Stronger than the Sun")
1978 Lillie Lillie Langtry
1980 Why Didn't They Ask Evans? Lady Frances "Frankie" Derwent
1983 The Secret Adversary Prudence Cowley
Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime Prudence "Tuppence" Beresford
1983 Shades of Darkness Catherine Frode (Episode: "The Maze")
1985 Magnum P.I. Penelope St. Clair (Episode: "Deja Vu")
1986 Inside Story Paula Croxley
1987 I'll Take Manhattan Lily Davina-Amberville
1991 Parnell and the Englishwoman Katharine O'Shea
1993 Between the Lines Angela Berridge
1996 Dalziel and Pascoe Bonnie Fielding (Episode: "An Autumn Shroud")
1997 Reckless Anna Fairley
1999 Wives and Daughters Hyacinth Gibson
2000 Deceit Ellen Richmond
2005 Jericho Lady Clare Wellesley
2006 Jane Eyre Lady Ingram
2007 Agatha Christie's Marple Lady Selina Hazy (Episode: At Bertram's Hotel)
Cranford Lady Ludlow
2009 Return to Cranford Lady Ludlow
2010 The Little House Elizabeth
2015–2016 Home Fires Joyce Cameron 11 episodes
2020 Flesh and Blood Vivien

Awards and 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[18]
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. ^ Birthdays, Timesonline.co.uk, 14 May 2008; accessed 12 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Auld, Tim (14 April 2009). "Francesca Annis interview". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  3. ^ Dwyer, Ciara. "Fine without Fiennes". Independent. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b Barnett, Laura. "Francesca Annis, actor – portrait of the artist | Film". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  5. ^ Diary, 16 February 1971: The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan (ed. John Lahr, 2001)
  6. ^ Maslin, Janet (29 July 1983). "Krull, Adventure with Magic and a Beast". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (14 December 1984). "Movie Review: Dune (1984)". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
  8. ^ Corliss, Richard (17 December 1984). "Cinema: The Fantasy Film as Final Exam". Time. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
  9. ^ Shields, Danielle (4 September 2013). "The Sleuths in Tommy & Tuppence: Partners in Crime are Intimately Acquainted". PopMatters. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  10. ^ Pitts, Michael R. (25 May 2004). Famous Movie Detectives III. Scarecrow Press. pp. 255–256. ISBN 9780810836907. Retrieved 24 May 2020 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ .https://www.rsc.org.uk/romeo-and-juliet/past-productions/in-focus-trevor-nunn-1976
  12. ^ a b Matt Wolf (4 October 2005). "Epitaph for George Dillon". Variety. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  13. ^ a b Michael Billington (5 May 2009). "Theatre review: Time and the Conways / Lyttelton, London | Stage". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  14. ^ Sheldon, Michael (14 August 2003). "'I'm not afraid to take risks'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  15. ^ Hoggard, Liz (12 February 2006). "Francesca Annis: Pretty woman – Profiles – People". The Independent. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  16. ^ Hoggard, Liz (12 February 2006). "Francesca Annis: Pretty woman – Profiles – People – The Independent". www.independent.co.uk. Archived from the original on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-30.
  17. ^ "Romeo and Juliet in focus - Trevor Nunn production 1976 | Royal Shakespeare Company". www.rsc.org.uk.
  18. ^ "1979 Television Actress". British Academy Film Awards. Archived from the original on 2 November 2022. Retrieved 22 May 2024 – via awards.bafta.org.

External links[edit]