Olivia Williams

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Olivia Williams
Olivia Williams July 9, 2014 (cropped).jpg
Williams in July 2014
Olivia Haigh Williams

(1968-07-26) 26 July 1968 (age 51)
North London, England
Years active1992–present
Rhashan Stone
(m. 2003)

Olivia Haigh Williams (born 26 July 1968) is a British actress who has appeared in British and American films and television.

After studying drama at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School for two years followed by three years at the Royal Shakespeare Company, her first significant role was as Jane Fairfax in the British television film Emma (1996), based on Jane Austen's novel. She made her film debut in 1997's The Postman, followed by Rushmore (1998) and The Sixth Sense (1999). Williams then appeared in several British films, including Lucky Break (2001), The Heart of Me (2002) and An Education (2009). In 2010, she won acclaim for her performance as Ruth Lang in Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer. Since 2017, she has played Emily Silk(s), on the television series Counterpart.

Early life[edit]

Williams was born in North London.[1] Both her parents are barristers. Williams was educated at South Hampstead High School, an independent school for girls in Hampstead in north London, followed by Newnham College, Cambridge, from which she graduated with a degree in English literature. She then studied drama at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School for two years and spent three years at the Royal Shakespeare Company.[2]


After graduation, Williams worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company in both Stratford-upon-Avon and London. In 1995, she toured the United States in a production of Shakespeare's Richard III starring Ian McKellen. Her first significant appearance before the cameras was as Jane Fairfax in the British TV film Emma (1996), based on Jane Austen's 1816 novel.[2]

Williams made her film debut in the 1997 movie The Postman, after doing a screen test for Kevin Costner.[2] She later won the lead role of Rosemary Cross in Wes Anderson's Rushmore (1998).[3] She then starred as Bruce Willis' wife in the blockbuster The Sixth Sense (1999),[4] a film she would later parody during her brief appearance in the British sitcom Spaced. Since then, Williams has appeared in several British films, including Lucky Break (2001), The Heart of Me (2002), for which she won the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress,[5] and An Education (2009). She played Mrs. Darling in the 2003 film adaptation of Peter Pan. Williams was uncredited for her role as Dr. Moira MacTaggert in the 2006 film X-Men: The Last Stand.

On TV, Williams portrayed British author Jane Austen in Miss Austen Regrets (2008) and was cast as Adelle DeWitt in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, which ran on Fox from 2009 to 2010.[6]

In 2010, she won acclaim for her performance as Ruth Lang in Roman Polanski's Ghost Writer, winning the National Society of Film Critics Award, London Critics Circle Film Award for best supporting actress and was runner-up for best supporting actress at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards 2010.

In Hanna (2011), she played Rachel, a bohemian mother travelling across North Africa and Europe, who comes into contact with the eponymous teen assassin, who is on the run. The film starred Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, and was a critical and sleeper hit. In 2014, Williams co-starred in David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, a dark comic look at Hollywood excess.[7] In 2014 she portrayed Meg Hamilton in the British mystery film Altar.[4]

In 2017 Williams began appearing in the Starz science-fiction series, Counterpart, playing Emily, the (ex)wife of lead character Howard Silk. In one universe she is still married to him, but her counterpart in the other universe is divorced from him.

In 2000, Williams wrote the short story "The Significance of Hair" for BBC Radio, and read it on the air.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Williams had a seven-year relationship and then engagement to the actor Jonathan Cake which ended two weeks before their planned wedding. In 2003, she married the actor and playwright Rhashan Stone, with whom she has two daughters.[9]

After filming The Postman, she spent time in Bolivia studying spectacled bears in the rainforest.[10][11]


Williams at the Berlin Film Festival 2010


Year Film Role Notes
1997 Beck Karen Quinn
1997 Gaston's War Nicky
1997 The Postman Abby
1998 Rushmore Rosemary Cross
1999 The Sixth Sense Anna Crowe
2000 Four Dogs Playing Poker Audrey
2000 Born Romantic Eleanor
2000 Dead Babies Diana aka Mood Swingers
2001 The Body Sharon Golban
2001 Lucky Break Annabel Sweep/Lady Hamilton in show
2001 The Man from Elysian Fields Andrea
2002 The Heart of Me Madeleine
2002 Below Claire
2003 To Kill a King Lady Anne Fairfax
2003 Peter Pan Mrs. Darling
2005 Valiant Victoria (voice)
2005 Tara Road Ria
2005 Mockingbird Mother
2006 X-Men: The Last Stand Moira MacTaggert Uncredited
2008 Flashbacks of a Fool Grace Scott
2008 Broken Lines Zoe
2009 An Education Miss Stubbs
2010 The Ghost Writer Ruth Lang
2010 Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Betty Dury
2011 Collaborator Emma Stiles
2011 Hanna Rachel
2011 Wild Bill Kelly
2012 Anna Karenina Countess Vronskaya
2012 Now Is Good Mother
2012 Hyde Park on Hudson Eleanor Roosevelt
2013 The Last Days on Mars Kim Aldrich
2013 Justin and the Knights of Valour Queen (voice)
2014 Sabotage Investigator Caroline Brentwood
2014 Maps to the Stars Cristina Weiss
2014 Altar Meg Hamilton
2015 Seventh Son Mam Ward
2015 Man Up Hilary
2016 The White King Sophia (voice)
2017 Victoria & Abdul Jane Spencer, Baroness Churchill
2019 Nyet! Ms Pyke Short film
2020 The Father Catherine


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Van der Valk Irene Kortman 1 episode: "Still Waters"
1992 The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Jennifer Norris 1 episode: "The Speaker of Mandarin"
1996 Emma Jane Fairfax
1998 Friends Felicity 2 episodes
2000 Jason and the Argonauts Hera
2001 Spaced Knocked-down Cyclist 1 episode: "Help"
2004 Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures Agatha Christie
2006 Krakatoa: The Last Days Johanna Beijerinck
2007 Damage Michelle Cahill
2008 Miss Austen Regrets Jane Austen
2009–2010 Dollhouse Adelle DeWitt Series regular
2010 Terriers Miriam Foster
2011–2012 Case Sensitive DS Charlie Zailer
2014 Salting the Battlefield Belinda Kay
2014–2015 Manhattan Liza Winter Series regular
2017 The Halcyon Lady Hamilton
2017–2019 Counterpart Emily Burton Silk Series regular
2021 The Nevers Lavinia Bidlow Main cast


Year Production Role Venue
1995 Richard III
2003 Love's Labour's Lost[12] The Princess Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, London
2003 The Hotel in Amsterdam[13] Annie Donmar Warehouse, London
2006 The Changeling[14] Beatrice-Joanna Cheek by Jowl production at the Barbican Centre, London
2011 In a Forest, Dark and Deep[15] Betty Vaudeville Theatre, London
2015 Waste Amy O'Connell Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London
2017 Mosquitoes[16] Alice Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre, London
2019 Tartuffe Elmire Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London

Awards and nominations[edit]

Nominated: Empire Award for Best Actress

Won: British Independent Film Award for Best Actress

Nominated: London Film Critics Circle Award for British Supporting Actress of the Year
Nominated: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Won: London Film Critics Circle Award for British Supporting Actress of the Year
Won: National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated: Empire Award for Best Actress
Nominated: Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress


  1. ^ "Olivia Williams: The actor on poor pay for women in Hollywood, Bill Murray, and Bolivian spectacled bears". The independent. Retrieved 24 May 2015
  2. ^ a b c Gilbert, Gerard (15 November 2009). "Olivia Williams: 'I just do what I'm told'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
  3. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (20 January 2001). "Dead good : Returning from Hollywood to star in British movies would be a step back for most, but Sixth Sense star Olivia Williams was tempted by sex, drugs and cruelty". The Guardian. London.
  4. ^ a b Altar
  5. ^ British Independent Film Awards - 2003 Winners Archived 13 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (3 April 2008). "Olivia Williams cast in 'Dollhouse'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 10 May 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  7. ^ "Mia Wasikowska & More Join David Cronenberg's 'Maps To The Stars,' Some Story Details Revealed". Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  8. ^ Opening Lines
  9. ^ Costa, Maddy (9 January 2008). "Maddy Costa talks to actor Olivia Williams". The Guardian. London.
  10. ^ Hoggard, Liz (13 April 2003). "How we met? Olivia Williams & Susanna Paisley". The Independent on Sunday (republished on LookSmart).
  11. ^ Ojumu, Akin (4 July 1999). "Everyone's talking about... Olivia Williams". The Observer. London.
  12. ^ Bassett, Kate (2 March 2003). "Love's Labour's Lost, NT Olivier, London; Honour, NT Cottesloe, London; The Green Man, Bush, London; Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Donmar Warehouse, London : Parting is such sugary sorrow". The Independent.
  13. ^ Bassett, Kate (21 September 2003). "The Hotel in Amsterdam, Donmar Warehouse, London; A Woman of No Importance, Haymarket Theatre Royal, London; The Recruiting Officer, Garrick, Lichfield : Charming, funny... and totally vile". The Independent. Taylor, Paul (22 September 2003). "The Hotel In Amsterdam, Donmar Warehouse, London : Lounging around can be highly entertaining". The Independent.
  14. ^ Williams, Olivia (4 May 2006). "Diary of a nervous star : Olivia Williams, star of The Sixth Sense, is appearing on stage in The Changeling. In her tour diary, she says it's scarier than Hollywood". The Independent. London. Coveney, Michael (17 May 2006). "The Changeling, Barbican, London". The Independent. Bassett, Kate (21 May 2006). "The Changeling, Barbican, London : Lost in the labyrinth". The Independent.
  15. ^ Billington, Michael (14 March 2011). "In a Forest Dark and Deep - review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.
  16. ^ Billington, Michael (26 July 2017). "Mosquitoes review – sparring sisters collide in Lucy Kirkwood's science stormer". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.

Further reading[edit]

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