Samantha Jane Morton (born 13 May 1977) is an English actress. During her career she has won a BAFTA TV Award, a Golden Globe Award and has been nominated twice for an Academy Award and once for an Emmy Award.
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. She then starred in the period dramas and coming-of-age features Emma, Jane Eyre and The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. The well-received Under the Skin (1997) made director Woody Allen cast Morton in Sweet and Lowdown (1999), which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She then went on to play critically praised roles in smaller and independent projects such as Morvern Callar (2002) and In America (2003). For the latter, 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. At this time, she also found commercial success with 2002's science fiction thriller Minority Report, opposite Tom Cruise. For her role as Myra Hindley in 2006's Longford, she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress (television) .
In 2007, Morton appeared in the biographical films Control (as Deborah Curtis), and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (as Mary, Queen of Scots). The same year, she also played a Marilyn Monroe impersonator in Mister Lonely. She went on to star in Synecdoche, New York (2008) and The Messenger (2009). She made her directorial debut with the 2009 British television film The Unloved, for which she won a BAFTA Television Award for Best Single Drama. After a three-year withdrawal from film, she appeared in John Carter (2012), Cosmopolis (2012), Decoding Annie Parker (2013), and the 2014 period film Miss Julie, directed by Liv Ullmann.
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. She lived with her father until she was eight when she was made a ward of court, because neither of her them could take care of her and her siblings as children. Her father was an abusive alcoholic and her mother was involved in a violent relationship with her second husband, and as a result, she never lived with her parents again. The next nine years were spent in and out of foster care and children's homes. During that time, she attended West Bridgford Comprehensive School and joined the Central Junior Television Workshop when she was 13, soon being offered small-screen roles in Soldier Soldier and Boon.
In September 2014, Morton, triggered by the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, discussed in a video interview the sexual abuse she experienced while in foster care system as a child in Nottingham and that the police took no action when she reported the abuse; she stated in the interview that she had felt curious about not being allowed to live with her parents: "I knew from when I was very little what care order I was on â" who owned me, why they owned me, and what rights I had. Because every little girl wants to live with her mummy, and I wasn't allowed, so I needed to understand why" and later on expressed devastation over the fact that she was "never allowed to go back to the home, so I didn't get to say goodbye to the people I loved." Morton had discussed the abuse previously while promoting the semi-autobiographical drama, The Unloved in an article for The Guardian. 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."
After joining the Central Junior Television Workshop at the age of 13, she was soon being offered small-screen roles such as Clare Anderson in the first series of Lucy Gannon's Soldier Soldier and also Mandy, in an episode of BoonÂ â"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 dÃ©but 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." At the time, 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 such as Emma and Jane Eyre. Emma was a film adaptation of the novel of the same name published in 1815 about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance. The movie received generally positive reviews from critics and was broadcast in late 1996 on ITV, garnering an estimated 12 million viewers. Jane Eyre, starring Morton, opened in 1997, and tells the story of a Yorkshire orphan who becomes a governess to a young French girl and finds love with the brooding lord of the manor. The independent drama Under the Skin (1997) continued to raise her profile. The movie gained extremely good reviews. John Hartl for Film.com called her performance "spooky, movie-dominating". Janet Maslin for the New York Times remarked that Morton "embodies the role with furious intensity and with a raw yet waifish presence" and James Berardinelli wrote in ReelViews that the actress "forces us to accept Iris as a living, breathing individual".
Impressed by her performance in Under the Skin, Woody Allen cast her in Sweet and Lowdown (1999), a movie that opened to extremely positive reactions from film critics and writers and was a modest profit at the box office in its limited release. 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 Iâve seen in recent years." Also, James Berardinelli said that Morton "overmatches her more experienced co-star with a luminous and heartbreaking performance" and George Perry for BBC.com called her "extraodinary" and remarked that she "has no need to fake an American accent. She plays an adoring mute who suffers. Denied speech, she uses her eyes to convey meaning, reviving techniques of silent cinema". In a 2007 interview with UK's The Guardian, she commented that her Oscar nomination for her part in Sweet and Lowdown "did incredible things for me in the States. I'm grateful for that. It means that I'm able to get an independent movie financed. My name can raise money on a small-budget film. It means I'm able to support the industry". She appeared in the film Jesus' Son, which came out theatrically in June 2000, after being screened at the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival. The motion-picture failed to recoup its low budget of $2 million and grossed $1.3 million in selected theaters. She received a nomination for Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress â" Motion Picture for her performance. She starred in the biographical independent film Pandaemonium, released 2000 to average reviews. She was nominated for 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. She received generally favorable notes for her part as she "quietly makes this quirky, enigmatic mood piece a compelling watch." 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." And while Peter Travers wrote for Rolling Stone that she "fill this character study with poetic force and buoyant feeling", Globe and Mail's Rick Groen stated that Samantha "still manages to suggest the internal struggle, and to slowly reveal a fierce toughness that flies in the face of conventional morality". Morton got a Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress. That year, she appeared in the Steven Spielberg-directed film Minority Report, opposite Tom Cruise. The movie gained positive reviews and was a major box office success with a worldwide gross of $358,372,926. The review of the movie for the New York Times noted that if Morton "is asked to play a feral, near-mute victim one more time, she may be pushed beyond the range of her immense talents to find a different wrinkle". She won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Morton had the starring role in the British drama Code 46, a movie that came out in September 2003. Reviewers praised her portrayal in the picture. She was cast to play one of the lead roles in the independent drama In America, which was released also in September that year, at the Toronto International Film Festival. With moslty positive reviews and a successful run at the domestic box office in its limited release, the movie focuses on an immigrant Irish family's struggle to start a new life in New York City, as seen through the eyes of the elder daughter. Her performance was critically acclaimed and as a result, she received nominations for the Academy Award, the Independent Spirit Award, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award in the category of "Best Actress", among others. Roger Ebert wrote that Morton "reveals the power of her silences, her quiet, her presence". Enduring Love â" another project involving Morton â" was released in late 2004, getting a mixed feedback from critics and audiences alike. Although co-stars Rhys Ifans and Daniel Craig's roles got favorable comments, few reviews like those for Jam! and Seattle Times suggested she did not have enough time on screen.
Morton's first role of 2005 was in the film River Queen, which was a commercial success, opening at number one at the box office in New Zealand, where it was made. It eventually grossed around $1 million in the country. For her part in the movie, she received a nomination for the New Zealand Screen Award for Best Leading Actress. She then starred alongside Johnny Depp in the period drama The Libertine, that opened to negative reviews and was a box office bomb, failing to cover its $22 million budget with a total gross of $10 million. Her final film of the year was Lassie, a family feature based on Eric Knight's 1940 novel Lassie Come-Home about the profound bond between Joe Carraclough and his rough collie, Lassie. The reception for the film was highly favorable but it was a commercial failure. The following year, she 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. Longford premiered with 1.7 million viewers. 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 "Best Supporting Actress" nomination at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards and a win at the 65th Golden Globe Awards in 2007 and 2008 respectively for her part in the movie.
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." Other critics were impressed by Morton and co-star Jason Patric's performances. She played Marilyn Monroe in the drama-comedy feature film Mister Lonely, which was first screened in 2007 at the Cannes Film Festival and later released in selected theaters to modest earnings. During an interview with newspaper The Guardian, she expressed that in the movie "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." Morton appeared in 2007's biographical film Control, again directed by Anton Corbijn. She played Deborah Curtis, wife of musician Ian Curtis from the band Joy Division, whose biography Touching from a Distance formed the basis of the film. After its premiere, the motion-picture along with the cast's performance generated positive feedback from film experts. While Roger Ebert wrote in his website that she was "absolutely convincing as a plucky teenage bride", Andrea Gronvall of Chicago Reader found Morton "poignant". Variety magazine called her performance "astonishing" and "sympathetic". Washington Post, Dark Horizons, Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer also expressed praise for Morton's part in their reviews for the movie. For Control, she was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 2008.
Her last film in 2007 was the another biopic feature, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (playing Mary, Queen of Scots), which came out in December that year. The movie gained mediocre reviews and, unlike the first Elizabeth, the follow-up was not a success at the box office. 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 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." Morton along with her co-stars were eventually nominated for the "Best Emsemble Performance" award at the 18th Gotham Independent Film Awards. The same year, she starred in the Irish indie horror The Daisy Chain, a movie about a couple who after the death of their daughter, take in an orphaned girl, only to become involved in a series of strange occurrences. For her role, she got a British Independent Film Award nomination for Best Actress.
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. Though it was not a commercial success with a total gross of $1,521,261 on a budget of $6 million, the reception for The Messenger was unanimously favorable. As the movie itself, Morton also generated positive notes from critics; Pet Howell of Toronto Star called her "an asset to any movie she's in" and wrote that she "personifies the interior disarray of a woman forced to contemplate a new life even as she mourns the one suddenly taken from her. If there were awards given for brave choices, she'd be in line: she gained pounds and dimmed her usual lustre for this unflattering but essential performance". 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. Morton's other project of 2009 was her directorial dÃ©but, the semi-autobiographical Channel 4 drama The Unloved, which written in collaboration with Tony Grisoni, and that was first broadcast on 17 May 2009, drawing nearly 2 million viewers. The film was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2009. Michael Deacon, for the Daily Telegraph, praised Morton on creating an "intense" and "vivid" dramatic film. Morton won a BAFTA for her direction in 2010.
In March 2012, the epic science fiction film John Carter, where Morton provided the voice of Sola, was released. The movie, based on A Princess of Mars, the first book in the Barsoom series of novels, opened to mixed reactions; it made back less than a third of its budget domestically, and worldwide grosses barely recouped its production and marketing costs. However, in an interview with Collider, Morton expressed pride for the project, stating that she "was really exciting to realize that weâre making a classic in the same way that someone might say, âYouâre making âJane Eyreâ. Youâre doing Charlotte Bronte". I think that should be really something that really gets shouted about. Weâre making a classic from a piece of literature. Not many people can say that when theyâre making something like this. I feel very privileged to be part of a classic. The same way as when I played Jane Eyre". Later that year, she had a supporting character in the dramatic thriller Cosmopolis, directed by David Cronenberg. The movie premiered in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and was then released in selected theaters. She was the original voice of the artificially intelligent operating system in the 2013 film Her directed by Spike Jonze, but, with her blessing, Morton was replaced by Scarlett Johansson. Jonze explained: "It was only in post production, when we started editing, that we realized that what the character/movie needed was different from what Samantha and I had created together. So we recast." Despite this, Morton was on set during the entire filming process and is credited as an associate producer.
She starred in the low-budget horror film The Harvest, that was first screened at the 2013 Chicago International Film Festival and later released in a limited theatrical run on April 10, 2015. The motion-picture centers on a couple who keeps their sick son in a secluded environment and find their controlled lives challenged by a young girl who moves in next door. She earned mostly favorable comments for her part, with several critics such as Peter Debruge (Variety) and Nikola Grozdanovic (Indie Wire) comparing her role of Katherine to Kathy Bates' Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990);. The Hollywood Reporter concluded that there are strong echoes to Bates' as Morton's character "walks the line between fiercely overprotective mother and psychotic tyran". Meanwhile, Jeannette Catsoulis for The New York Times wrote: "thereâs quite a lot to enjoy, with Ms. Morton heading the list. Swaddled in thick cardis and shapeless scrubs, she makes Katherine a well of overanxious care and castrating comments". She later got a Best Actress Award nomination at the 2014 BloodGuts UK Horror Awards. She played the title role in the independent drama Decoding Annie Parker, co-starring Helen Hunt, which tells the story of Annie Parker and the almost discovery of the cure for cancer. The film opened in selected theaters in May 2014, and simultaneously was released on video-on-demand. Morton received generally positive feedback. Arizona Republic and Cinemalogue.com found her performance "wonderfully nuanced" and "audacious", respectively. Glenn Kenny also noted that the movie's main point of value is in Morton' portrayal. As a result of acclaim, she was awarded the Best Actress Golden Space Needle Award at the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival. Miss Julie, an adaptation of August Strindberg's play, directed by Liv Ullmann and starring Morton, Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell, was screened at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival in September.
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. At the time, she stated in an interview with Nottingham Evening Post that she felt she would not be "where I am today without the support of my residential social workers. Living in a children's home for me was a positive experience. I beg the council to reconsider cutting these vital services to children in care, who are already as we know amongst the most vulnerable members of society". 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, which was aimed at raising awareness towards the work foster carers do in helping children to turn their lives around.
From 1999 to 2000, Morton dated actor Charlie Creed-Miles, with whom she worked on the film The Last Yellow released the year they started dating. Their daughter Esme was born in London on 5 February, 2000. After her relationship with Creed-Miles ended, she began dating South band member Brett Shaw in 2002 until 2005. The same year, she worked with filmmaker Harry Holm (the son of actor Ian Holm) when Holm directed her in a video for the band The Vitamins; shortly thereafter they began dating. Their daughter Edie was born on 4 January 2008, in London. Their second child was born in 2012. The family lives in the Spitalfields area of London.
In early 2008, she revealed that she had been '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 hospital for three weeks after the incident. She withdrew from public spotlight and took a 18-month hiatus from film acting in order to learn to walk again. In 2011, Morton wrote an open letter hoping her stepfather would get back in touch with her after being estranged for several years. She remarked in the note: "I keep thinking that I should not be writing to you, as you may not want to hear from me. I'm imagining everything is well and that you are angry and don't want to speak with me and that's why you haven't tried to contact me in all these years". Morton also stated that she would hire a private detective to track him down. However, it was revealed shortly afterwards that her stepfather had died of prostate cancer four years prior to the letter.
On 20 July 2011, Morton received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from Nottingham Trent University "in recognition of her internationally successful acting career".
- Samantha Morton at the Internet Movie Database
- Samantha Morton at the British Film Institute's Screenonline