British Icon of the Week: Julie Christie, the Elusive Actress Who Always Brings a Touch of Class
Happy birthday, Julie Christie! The acclaimed actress is super-selective about her projects these days – her last film role came in Robert Redford's 2012 political thriller The Company You Keep – but there's no doubt she's made a lot of great movies over the years. To celebrate her special day, we're rounding up 10 of the roles that have made her a true screen legend.
Billy Liar (1963)
One of the defining British "kitchen sink" dramas of the '60s, Billy Liar offers a gritty and realistic depiction of northern England and a star-making performance from Tom Courtenay. It also features a breakout turn from Christie, who makes a luminous impression as Liz, the scheming title character's modern and self-confident girlfriend.
This film's once-edgy depiction of Swinging London is now considered rather dated, but Christie's dazzlingly cool performance stands up. Just 25 at the time, she cemented her rise by winning an Oscar for her portrayal of Diana Scott, an alluring but shallow model-actress who pays the price for her impulsive life choices.
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Christie stars opposite Omar Sharif in this epic romantic movie about an unlikely love affair that blossoms during the Russian Revolution. Some critics felt it was a triumph of spectacle over characterization from director David Lean, but this didn't dent its box office takings; adjusting for inflation, it's still one of the ten highest-grossing movies of all time.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
This Western from director Robert Altman offers an ironic vision of the American dream. In an Oscar-nominated performance, Christie plays Constance Miller, a Cockney brothel owner who joins forces with charismatic gambler John McCabe (Warren Beatty) to form a lucrative money-making racket in a sleepy small town. It's the first of three movies she and Beatty – who dated in the late '60s and early '70s – would make together.
The Go-Between (1971)
Adapted by Harold Pinter from a novel by L. P. Hartley, this beautifully observed British film won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Christie stars as Lady Marian Maudsley, an upper-crust woman conducting a secret affair with a local farmer (Alan Bates) she can never marry. We see their relationship unfold through the eyes of a 13-year-old house guest (Dominic Guard) who is deeply affected by what goes down between the couple.
Don't Look Now (1973)
Christie and Donald Sutherland star in this highly influential thriller based on a Daphne du Maurier short story. They play a married couple who travel to Venice following a tragedy, only to find themselves haunted by mysterious visions and an ominous warning from a clairvoyant who claims to be in contact with their dead daughter. It's a sinister and sophisticated classic which really lingers in the mind.
Beatty and Christie re-team for this salty comedy about a womanizing male hairdresser, George Roundy (Beatty), who has trouble staying faithful to his wife (Goldie Hawn). Christie is on seductive and self-assured form as Jackie, an ex of George's who is happy to reignite their relationship from time to time, but less keen on the idea of marrying him.
Produced by Altman, this clever comedy-drama centers on two married couples who end up creating a tangled web of infidelity. Nick Nolte, Jonny Lee Miller, and Lara Flynn Boyle are on fine form, but Christie is very much the MVP. Her performance as Phyllis, a faded actress who's steelier than she seems, deservedly earned Christie her third Oscar nomination – a mere 26 years after her second.
Finding Neverland (2004)
This biographical movie follows writer J. M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) as he forms a close but platonic bond with lonely widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four sons. It's a rather strange relationship which reinvigorates Barrie's career by inspiring him to create Peter Pan; Christie provides a suitably disapproving presence as Sylvia's mother Emma du Maurier.
Away from Her (2006)
Christie won a Golden Globe and earned her fourth Oscar nomination for her quietly devastating performance in this Canadian indie film. She plays Fiona, a retired woman with Alzheimer's who seems to forget her husband of 45 years, Grant (Gordon Pinsent), after moving into a care home. Based on a short story by Alice Munro, it's subtle and supremely moving stuff.
Have we missed out on one of your favorite Julie Christie performances?