Sally Hawkins will always be Sue from the TV adaptation of Sarah Water’s Fingersmith. Well she will be to me anyway, sorry Sue, Sally, I mean Sally.
Born in 1976, Hawkins was raised in London by parents who wrote children’s books. It was, she admits, an “idyllic childhood”:
My parents are lovely people and I have enormous respect for them, as naff as that sounds. Being surrounded by artists was very inspirational, and it had a huge influence on me.
Sally went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, (RADA darling) graduating in 1998 and appearing two years later in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as Much Ado About Nothing. However, it was Mike Leigh’s All or Nothing in 2002 that brought her into the spotlight.
She put on a corset for the first of Sarah Waters’ adaptations, when she played the small part of Zina in Tipping the Velvet. In 2004, she tipped some more velvet with the divine Elaine Cassidy in Fingersmith. Fingersmith is my favourite book of all time. No exaggerating. I have to say I had my heart in my mouth when I heard they were making it into a TV drama. Would it be a disastrous bodice-ripper? My fears couldn’t have been assuaged more beautifully, however, as Hawkins was wonderful as Sue and Elaine Cassidy’s Maud was breathtaking. Literally. The chemistry between the two made the story come to life in a way we could have only hoped.
Hawkins is not only a talented dramatic actress though, far from it. Not everyone would be brave enough to be in Little Britain but she rose to the challenge and appeared in three episodes of the hit comedy. Sally also voices radio characters on BBC 4’s Concrete Cow. She’s good in those corsets, though, and starred to great acclaim in 2007’s Persuasion.
It was, however, when she teamed up with Mike Leigh again on Happy-Go-Lucky that Hawkins made the big time and I mean big time. She took home the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, a host of critic association awards as well as a Golden Globe.
It was wonderful to see her grab one of the big international awards, with many critical that she was passed over for the Academy Award nominations when they were announced that year.
When asked about her, interviewers always say she is shy and nervous – don’t you just love genuine modesty. Thankfully her shyness hasn’t set her back professionally and if anything I think it makes her endearing in an age of Hollywood divas.
She followed Happy Go Lucky, with Happy Ever Afters, in which she managed a very credible Irish accent. Out this week is It’s a Wonderful Afterlife about an English Indian mother who’s obsession with marriage goes a little overboard, well actually goes well-overboard – she becomes a serial murder. Made by Gurinder Chadha who brought us gems like Bend It Like Beckham, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife promises to have a funny mix of characters, including Hawkins as Linda, a woman who has returned from India under the impression that she is physic. When asked about her character she says;
I know Linda is fairly two-dimensional, but I always feel I have this tremendous responsibility both to the character and to the fil…( Suddenly she breaks off and looks appalled) ‘Oh God, I can’t possibly say that. It’s such a terrible cliché.’
The next couple of years look like they’ll be busy ones for Sally. She will star with Kiera “I’m so skinny I’m transparant” Knightely and next big thing Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go. Then she joins Rosamund Pike and Miranda Richardson for Made in Dagenham, about female workers who go on strike after suffering sexual descrimination. Following that, it’s back to the corset in a star-studded adaptation of Jane Eyre, which is due out next year. Then it’s back to modern drama as Sally is set to play Bernadette Devlin, a Northern Irish politician who in 1969, aged 21, became the youngest ever female MP. Busy bee eh?
So, what do you make of the multi-talented, gorgeous, ego-less Sally Hawkins?