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Christie, Julie (1941-)


Main image of Christie, Julie (1941-)

Arguably the most genuinely glamorous, and one of the most intelligent, of all British stars, Julie Christie brought a gust of new, sensual life into British cinema when she swung insouciantly down a drab northern street in John Schlesinger's Billy Liar (1963).

Trained for the stage at Central School, after an Indian childhood and English education, she first became known as the artificially created girl in TV's A for Andromeda (1961), before making her cinema debut in 1962 in two amusing, lightweight comedies directed by Ken Annakin, Crooks Anonymous and The Fast Lady.

Schlesinger cast her as the silly, superficial, morally threadbare Diana of Darling (1965), for which she won the Oscar, the British Academy Award and New York Critics' award, and which is now powerfully resonant of its period, and again as Thomas Hardy's wilful Bathsheba, in Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), with other 60s icons, Terence Stamp and Alan Bates. Her Lara intermittently illuminates David Lean's lumbering Dr Zhivago (UK/US, 1965) and the colour cameras adored her.

Notwithstanding her beauty, she continued to make the running as a serious actress in demanding films such as Joseph Losey's The Go-Between (1971), as the bored upper-class woman who ruins a boy's life by involving him in her sexual duplicities; Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (UK/Italy, 1973), with its famously erotic love scenes between Christie and Donald Sutherland; and in three US films with Warren Beatty (with whom she was romantically linked): Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971), as a tough Cockney madame out west, Shampoo (d. Hal Ashby, 1975) and Heaven Can Wait (d. Beatty, 1978).

She was greatly in demand, but became much more choosy about her roles as her own political awareness increased ("All you can do is make people more aware of the realities", she said in 1994). This means that some of her later films - Memoirs of a Survivor (d. David Gladwell, 1980) and the documentary The Animals Film (d. Victor Schonfeld, 1981), The Gold Diggers (1984), Sally Potter's feminist take on several Hollywood genres - were seen by comparatively few people.

However, the talent and the beauty remained undimmed in such British films as Return of the Soldier (d. Alan Bridges, 1982), Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (UK/US, 1996) as Gertrude, and, in the US, Afterglow (d. Alan Rudolph, 1997), for which she was Oscar-nominated. In 1995, she returned to the stage in a revival of Harold Pinter's Old Times, to laudatory reviews.

Biography: Julie Christie by Michael Feeney Callan (1984).

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Animals Film, The (1981)Animals Film, The (1981)

Controversial, often harrowing film about our exploitation of other species

Thumbnail image of Billy Liar (1963)Billy Liar (1963)

Kitchen-sink realism meets airy fantasy in this much-loved Sixties comedy

Thumbnail image of Darling (1965)Darling (1965)

Julie Christie gives an Oscar-winning performance as an amoral socialite

Thumbnail image of Doctor Zhivago (1965)Doctor Zhivago (1965)

David Lean's epic version of Boris Pasternak's novel

Thumbnail image of Don't Look Now (1973)Don't Look Now (1973)

Dazzling psychological thriller about grief and loss set in wintry Venice

Thumbnail image of Go-Between, The (1971)Go-Between, The (1971)

Acclaimed adaptation of L.P. Hartley's novel about a boy's loss of innocence

Thumbnail image of Gold Diggers, The (1983)Gold Diggers, The (1983)

Sally Potter's debut feature, a feminist reinterpretation of cinema history

Thumbnail image of Heat and Dust (1982)Heat and Dust (1982)

The lives of two English women in India separated by two generations

Thumbnail image of A For Andromeda (1961)A For Andromeda (1961)

BBC sci-fi series co-starring a young Julie Christie

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