Elizabeth McGovern

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Elizabeth McGovern
Elizabeth McGovern 2012.jpg
Elizabeth McGovern at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival
Born(1961-07-18) July 18, 1961 (age 53)
Evanston, Illinois, U.S.
Years active1979–present
Spouse(s)Simon Curtis (1992–present; 2 children)
Jump to: navigation, search
Elizabeth McGovern
Elizabeth McGovern 2012.jpg
Elizabeth McGovern at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival
Born(1961-07-18) July 18, 1961 (age 53)
Evanston, Illinois, U.S.
Years active1979–present
Spouse(s)Simon Curtis (1992–present; 2 children)

Elizabeth Lee McGovern (born July 18, 1961) is an American film, television, and theater actor, and musician. McGovern received an Academy Award nomination for her role as Evelyn Nesbit in the 1981 film Ragtime. She is also known for her performance as Cora, Countess of Grantham in the British drama series Downton Abbey, for which she has been nominated for an Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award. Her other films include Ordinary People (1980), Once Upon A Time In America (1984), The Handmaid's Tale (1990) and The Wings of the Dove (1997).

Early life[edit]

McGovern was born in Evanston, Illinois, the daughter of Katharine Wolcott (née Watts), a high school teacher, and William Montgomery McGovern, Jr., a university professor.[1] Her paternal grandfather was adventurer William Montgomery McGovern, her maternal great-grandfathers were U.S. diplomat Ethelbert Watts and Admiral Charles P. Snyder, and her maternal great-great-grandfather was congressman Charles P. Snyder.[2][3][4] The McGovern family moved to Los Angeles where her father accepted a teaching position with the law school at UCLA. Her younger sister is novelist Cammie McGovern.

Agent Joan Scott saw her performance in The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder, was impressed by her talent, and recommended she take acting lessons.[citation needed] McGovern studied at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, then at The Juilliard School in New York City.[5]


In 1980, while studying at Juilliard, McGovern was offered a part in what became her first film, Ordinary People, in which she played the girlfriend of troubled teenager Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton).

The following year she completed her acting education at the American Conservatory Theatre and Juilliard, and began to appear in plays, first Off-Broadway and later in famous theaters.

In 1981 she earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Evelyn Nesbit in the film Ragtime.[6]

In 1984, she starred in Sergio Leone's gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America as Robert De Niro's romantic interest Deborah Gelly. In 1989 she played Mickey Rourke's girlfriend in Johnny Handsome, directed by Walter Hill, and the same year she appeared as a rebellious lesbian in Volker Schlöndorff's thriller The Handmaid's Tale.


McGovern has also appeared in several television productions, mostly in the UK. In 1999 and 2000 McGovern played Marguerite St. Just in a BBC television series loosely based on the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel.

On American TV she appeared in a 2006 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit titled "Harm," in which her character of Dr. Faith Sutton was a psychiatrist accused of complicity in detainee abuse. Her other television work includes Broken Glass (Arthur Miller, 1996); Tales from the Crypt; The Changeling; Tales from Hollywood; the HBO series Men and Women; The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt; Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre ("Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"); and If Not For You (CBS 1995, own series).

In May 2007 she played Ellen Doubleday, Daphne du Maurier's paramour, in Daphne, a BBC2 television drama by Amy Jenkins, based on Margaret Forster's biography of the author.[7]

In December 2008 McGovern appeared as Dame Celia Westholme in "Appointment with Death", an episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot.

In the same year she appeared in the three-part BBC comedy series Freezing, written by James Wood and directed and co-produced by her husband Simon Curtis. First broadcast on BBC Four, it was also shown on BBC2 in February 2008. McGovern played an American expatriate actress named Elizabeth, living in Chiswick with her publisher husband, played by Hugh Bonneville, and co-starring Tom Hollander as her theatrical agent.

Since 2010, she has portrayed Cora, Countess of Grantham, wife of Robert, the Earl of Grantham (played by Hugh Bonneville), in the British TV series Downton Abbey.[8]


McGovern is also a singer-songwriter. In 2008 she began fronting the band Sadie and the Hotheads at The Castle pub venue in Portobello Road, London.[citation needed] The band released an album of songs she developed with The Nelson Brothers, who are now part of the band. The album also includes Ron Knights on bass and Rowan Oliver, borrowed from Goldfrapp, as drummer for the recording sessions.[6] Michelle Dockery, who plays McGovern's eldest daughter in Downton Abbey, has occasionally sung with the band.[9]


Roles in New York include:

In her theatre programme CVs (below), McGovern lists her other theatre work in the U.S. as including:

Since moving to London, McGovern's stage work has included:

Ms McGovern was awarded the 2013 Will Award by the Shakespeare Theatre Company.[10]

Personal life[edit]

When she was 23, McGovern was engaged to actor Sean Penn whom she met on the set of Racing with the Moon. In 1992 she married British film director and producer Simon Curtis, and the couple have two children.[11][12]



1980Ordinary PeopleJeannine Pratt
1980Last Year's ModelUnknownShort film
1981RagtimeEvelyn NesbitNominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress
1983LovesickChloe Allen
1984Once Upon a Time in AmericaDeborah Gelly (adult)
1984Racing with the MoonCaddie Winger
1986Native SonMary Dalton
1987The Bedroom WindowDenise
1988She's Having a BabyKristy Briggs
1989Johnny HandsomeDonna McCarty
1990The Handmaid's TaleMoira
1990A Shock to the SystemStella Anderson
1990Tune in Tomorrow...Elena Quince
1993King of the HillLydia
1993Me and VeronicaFanny
1994The FavorEmily
1995Wings of CourageNoelle GuillaumetShort film
1997The Wings of the DoveSusie "Sue" Stringham
1998The Man with Rain in His ShoesDiane
1998The Misadventures of MargaretTill Turner
2000The House of MirthMrs. Carry Fisher
2001Buffalo SoldiersMrs. Berman
2006The TruthDonna
2008InconceivableTallulah "Tutu" Williams
2010Kick-AssMrs. Lizewski
2010Clash of the TitansMarmara
2011Angel's CrestJane
2012Cheerful Weather for the WeddingMrs. Thatcham
2015The Woman in GoldFilming


1979California FeverLisa BannisterEpisode: "The Girl from Somewhere"
1984Faerie Tale TheatreSnow WhiteEpisode: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
1990Women and Men: Stories of SeductionVickiTelevision film
1991AshendenAileen SomervilleTelevision film
Nominated—CableACE Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1992Tales from HollywoodHelen SchwartzTelevision film
1993PerformanceBeatrice-JoannaEpisode: "The Changeling"
1995If Not for YouJessie Kent8 episodes
1995Broken TrustJanice DillonTelevision film
1996Broken GlassMargaret HymenTelevision film
1996The Summer of Ben TylerCelia RayburnTelevision film
1996Tracey Takes On...Judge LoringEpisode: "Vanity"
1996Tales from the CryptLaura KendallEpisode: "Horror in the Night"
1997CloverSara KateTelevision film
1999The Scarlet PimpernelLady Margaret Blakeney3 episodes
2000Thursday the 12thCandice HopperTelevision film
2001The Flamingo RisingEdna LeeTelevision film
2001HawkSusie HawkinsTelevision film
2001Table 12MelEpisode: "Preserves"
2003The Brotherhood of Poland, New HampshireHelen Shaw7 episodes
2006Three Moons over MilfordLaura Davis8 episodes
2007DaphneEllen DoubledayTelevision film
2007A Room with a ViewMrs. HoneychurchTelevision film
2007Law and Order: Special Victims UnitDr. Faith SuttonEpisode: "Harm"
2007–08FreezingElizabeth3 episodes
2008Agatha Christie: PoirotDame Celia WestholmeEpisode: "Appointment with Death"
200910 Minute TalesThe Ex-WifeEpisode: "The Running of the Deer"
2010–presentDownton AbbeyCora, Countess of Grantham34 episodes
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series


  1. ^ "Katharine Watts Is Future Bride Of Law Alumnus; Engaged to William M. McGovern Jr., Who Is Harvard Graduate". The New York Times. 1958-06-22. 
  2. ^ "Marriage Announcement 1 -- No Title". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1958-09-19. 
  3. ^ Cass, Judith (1958-06-18). "Burnhams to Celebrate in West". Chicago Daily Tribune. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Hoggard, Liz (1 November 2010). "Elizabeth McGovern is the real dame of Downtown". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Heawood, Sophie (2008-02-08). "Elizabeth McGovern: from Hollywood to a South London pub". Times Online. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  7. ^ "Last night on television". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2007-05-14. 
  8. ^ Downton Abbey at ITV.com
  9. ^ The Times, interview with Michelle Dockery, 6 November 2010
  10. ^ Goldstein,, Jessica (7 August 2013). "Backstage: Rorschach and Synetic thrilled with Kickstarter campaigns". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  11. ^ "Why I had to escape Hollywood's clutches: Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern on why she had to leave fiance Sean Penn". dailymail.co.uk. 29 October 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  12. ^ Gilbert, Gerard (18 December 2010). "'Hollywood never suited me': Elizabeth McGovern on fleeing LA and Downton Abbey’s Lady Cora". independent.co.uk. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 

External links[edit]