Elizabeth Alton
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The Hon. Elizabeth Lucy Adeline Gower-Alton CBE (born 11 February 1982), known professionally as Elizabeth Alton, is an English aristocrat, actress and film producer. Her first screen credit was in 2000 for the television miniseries In The Beginning and she came to attention when she was cast at age 21 in the ensemble romantic comedy Love Actually (2003). In 2007, Alton was awarded the BAFTA Rising Star Award after achieving international recognition for her role as Bond girl Vesper Lynd in the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006). Alton has also received several British Independent Film Award nominations for her performances in Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005), Dylan Thomas biopic The Edge Of Love (2008), the coming-of-age drama An Education (2009), and romantic drama Disobedience (2018).

Other film appearances include Jane Bennet in Pride & Prejudice (2005), Frost/Nixon (2008), Saving Mr. Banks (2013), as well as the comedies Get Him to the Greek, Bridesmaids, and The World's End. In 2014, her performance in the psychological thriller film Gone Girl was met with widespread critical acclaim and she was awarded the Saturn Award for Best Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role. Alton received further acclaim for her role as Ruth Williams Khama in the biographical drama A United Kingdom (2016) and for the biographical war drama A Private War (2018).

On television, Alton starred as Morgan Pendragon in the Starz historical fantasy series Camelot (2011), and has appeared as Irene Adler on the BBC's TV adaptation Sherlock, and as the wife of the Republican presidential nominee in the fourth and fifth season of the Netflix show House of Cards. Alton won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series in 2019 for her role in State of the Union. Alton is a five-time Olivier Award nominee and two-time winner, earning Best Actress for the titular role in Anna Christie, and Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire; she is also a Tony nominee for her Broadway debut in 2015.

Alton is the founder and president of the production company Greatgate Productions. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for her services to drama and to charity.

Alton is a close friend of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. She is godmother to Prince Louis of Cambridge.

Early life and education
Alton was born at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital in Hammersmith, London, and was raised in Chiswick. She was christened into the Church of England at All Saints' Church in Denstone, Staffordshire, on 2 July 1982; classicist Dame Mary Beard is her godmother. She is the only daughter of Edward Gower-Alton, 10th Baron Alton, and his second wife, Dr. Beatrix Thompson, Lady Alton. Alton's mother is currently a professor and head of the classics department at King's College London. Alton's father served in the Royal Navy for more than forty years before his retirement in 2003. Alton has an older half-brother, The Hon. Oliver (b. 1968), from her father's first marriage (from which he had been widowed). As the daughter of Baron Alton, she is accorded the courtesy style of The Honourable.

The family travelled around Europe during her childhood, following wherever her father's job with the Royal Navy took them so long as her mother's doctoral and postdoctoral schedule would allow. The family spent considerable time in Belgium during her father's posts with NATO, allowing Alton to immerse in French and German. Her early education was at Thomas's London Day Schools in Cadogan Gardens and Battersea. Alton was later a boarder at the prestigious Marlborough College in Wiltshire, where she was a classmate of Kate Middleton. She was a member of the National Youth Theatre in her teens, which inspired her to pursue a professional career.

After being turned down by every stage school to which she applied, she gained a place to read Classics at Wadham College, Oxford. She graduated with an Upper Second-class honours degree in 2005 having taken time off from her studies to pursue her acting career, including stage experience in Hitchcock Blonde and as Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet opposite Ben Whishaw, and several small film and television roles.

Career
2001-2007: Early roles and Bond breakthrough Alton's early career included little-seen thriller The Hole (2001) and the miniseries adaptation of Doctor Zhivago as Lara, alongside Scottish actor Hans Matheson in the title role, which first aired in 2002 to good reviews and high ratings. Her first major feature film was Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) as the handmaiden Dormé. Alton appeared in the $247 million grossing British romantic comedy Love Actually. The film had an ensemble cast, and opened in November 2003 to positive critical reception. Alton then spent the next several years in period drams, including Troy opposite Brad Pitt, and Vanity Fair, with Reese Witherspoon (who would later produce Gone Girl), in 2004.

Around the time of her graduation from Oxford, Alton appeared as Jane, the eldest Bennet sister, in Joe Wright's acclaimed adaptation of Pride & Prejudice (2005), as well as opposite Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins in Stephen Frears' Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005). Both roles were well-received, and she was nominated for several awards. She was cast at the last minute for the role of Vesper Lynd in the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006). Alton was approached in mid-2005 but turned it down; she eventually changed her mind when principal photography was underway and director Martin Campbell approached her again with a completed script. Alton's performance was well received: Entertainment Weekly called her the fourth-best Bond girl of all time; IGN named her the best femme fatale, stating, "This is the girl that broke – and therefore made – James Bond"; and she won a BAFTA and an Empire award for her performance. Both awards were voted for by the British public. Empire also listed her character Vesper Lynd as the ninth-sexiest female character in cinema history.

Alton's stage credits include Hitchcock Blonde by Terry Johnson (in a role requiring her to appear completely nude on stage with only a pair of high heels) and Gaslight at London's Old Vic Theatre. She was nominated for her first Olivier Award for playing Desdemona in the Donmar Warehouse's acclaimed sold-out run of Othello in 2007. She was later nominated again, and won, for her role as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Rachel Weisz, and for the title role in Anna Christie.

In 2007, Alton had a small role in Matthew Vaughn's adaptation Stardust, and joined Woody Allen's film Cassandra's Dream, playing stage actress Angela Stark.

2008-2013: Critical recognition and transition to comedy In 2008, Alton appeared in the film The Duchess as Bess Foster and The Edge of Love, a biopic of Dylan Thomas in which she plays his wife Caitlin. She also appeared in Ron Howard's acclaimed historical drama Frost/Nixon as the girlfriend of Michael Sheen's David Frost.

Starting in 2009 with a lauded supporting role in Lone Scherfig's coming-of-age drama An Education, Alton made a turn toward comedy. She appeared in the 2010 buddy comedy Get Him To The Greek with Russell Brand and Jonah Hill. Alton also starred in the Kristen Wiig comedy Bridesmaids (2011). She received overwhelmingly positive reviews for her portrayal of Helen, Kristen Wiig's rival. She later re-teamed with Joe Wright to play a supporting role in his adaptation of Anna Karenina (2012).

Alton's television credits during this time include the successful Channel 4 adaptation of William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart (2010), and the first and only season of Starz's Camelot (2011) as the sorceress Morgan Le Fay. She played Irene Adler in "A Scandal in Belgravia", the first episode of the second series of Sherlock.

In 2013, Alton had well-received supporting roles in comedy The World's End, period drama Saving Mr. Banks, and controversial Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side.

2014-2016: Gone Girl and rise to prominence 2014 was a banner year for Alton. She played the eponymous protagonist in Miss Julie, a film adaptation of August Strindberg's 1888 play of the same name, from director Liv Ullmann. Miss Julie tells the tragic tale of a sexually repressed Anglo-Irish aristocrat who wishes to sleep with her father's valet (played by Colin Farrell). Alton was attracted to Ullmann's feminist take on the subject. The film only received a limited theatrical release.

While filming Miss Julie in Ireland, Alton received the script for the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn's thriller novel Gone Girl, and won the part after several hours-long video calls with director David Fincher. Featuring opposite Henry Dessner, Alton was cast as Amy Dunne, a woman who goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary. According to Fincher, Alton was his first choice for the role because he wanted someone who was not widely known, and because he found her enigmatic and couldn't easily read her. The film emerged as a box office hit, earning over $356 million in global ticket sales. The movie and Alton's performance both earned widespread acclaim from critics.

Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair wrote that the film is "Smartly shot, detailed ... and performed" and called Alton's portrayal "a star-makingly good performance, spellbinding in its operatic mix of tones and temperatures." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter reviewed that she "is powerful and commanding ... Physically and emotionally, Alton looks to have immersed herself in this profoundly calculating character, and the results are impressive." She received numerous awards and nominations, including for the Academy Award for Best Actress, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.

Amidst the success of Gone Girl, Alton made her Broadway debut in Nick Payne's Constellations opposite Jake Gyllenhaal. The play was well-received and Alton was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play. She had small roles (filmed prior to Gone Girl) in both Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella (2015) and Ron Howard's In The Heart Of The Sea (2015). That spring, she was selected to be on the jury for the main competition section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Also that year, Alton played a countess who plots with her brother (played by Tom Hiddleston) to terrorize his new bride (played by Minna Marks) in Guillermo del Toro's gothic romance Crimson Peak. She approached the villainous part with empathy, and in preparation read graveyard poetry, learned to play piano, and watched the films Rebecca (1940) and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Del Toro cast her to lend accessibility to a part he considered "psychopathic", but Peter Debruge of Variety found her "alarmingly miscast" and criticized her for failing to effectively convey her character's insecurity and ruthlessness. Conversely, David Sims of Slate praised her for portraying her character's "jealous intensity to the hilt".

In 2016, Alton played Hannah Conway, wife of New York Governor and Republican presidential nominee Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman) in the fourth and fifth season of the Netflix show House of Cards. Also in 2016, she launched a production company called Greatgate Productions, headed by a team of female executives. She earned generally positive reviews for her role as Ruth Williams Khama in Amma Asante's historical romance A United Kingdom opposite David Oyelowo, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival and was released in the United States in early 2017. From December 2016 to February 2017, Alton starred in the title role of Hedda Gabler in a new version by Patrick Marber at the Royal National Theatre. The play, and Alton's performance in particular, received critical acclaim.

2017 - present Alton began 2017 with the announcement that she and the rest of the cast of Love Actually would reunite for a short film sequel in support of Comic Relief's Red Nose Day. Red Nose Day Actually was first broadcast on the BBC on March 24, 2017, and in the United States on May 25. Alton co-starred with Jason Clarke in HHhH (in some markets titled The Man With The Iron Heart), a biographical war drama by French director Cédric Jimenez. In the film, Alton plays Lina, the aristocratic wife of Nazi commander Reinhard Heydrich (Clarke). She later co-starred in Tomas Alfredson's crime thriller The Snowman, opposite Michael Fassbender and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Alton served on the Tribeca Film Festival International Narrative Competition jury in the spring of 2017. In November of that year, Alton began starring with Bryan Cranston in the stage adaptation of Network, again at the National Theatre directed by Ivo Van Hove. Alton won rave reviews for her interpretation of the ruthless television executive Faye Dunaway portrayed on screen.

In 2018, Alton starred in the science fiction horror film Annihilation, as a biologist and former soldier. Benjamin Lee of The Guardian called Alton "a strong, fiercely compelling presence, investing us in both her mission and her interlinked marriage (flashbacks to her relationship with Oscar Isaac are surprisingly sweet, witty and sexy), providing an emotional center without the need for sentimentality." She also portrayed German hijacker Brigitte Kuhlmann in José Padilha's historical 7 Days In Entebbe with Daniel Brühl. Later in 2018, Alton starred opposite Rachel Weisz in Sebastián Lelio's romantic drama Disobedience, based on Naomi Alderman's novel of the same name. The film received positive reviews, which praised Alton's performance. For her role as the late war correspondent Marie Colvin in documentarian Matthew Heineman's debut narrative feature A Private War, Alton was nominated for her second Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama.

In 2019, Alton co-starred in Jordan Peele's psychological horror film Us alongside Lupita Nyong'o. The film is certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, receiving a 95% with the consensus reading, "With Jordan Peele's second inventive, ambitious horror film, we have seen how to beat the sophomore jinx, and it is Us." She also stars in the SundanceTV abbreviated TV comedy State of the Union, reunting her with both writer Nick Hornby and director Stephen Frears; the ten 10-minute episodes follow a couple and their weekly meetings in a bar before they head off to couples' therapy. Both Alton and O'Dowd won Primetime Emmy Awards for the series. Alton next agreed to a villainous part in the superhero film Dark Phoenix, which marked the twelfth installment in the X-Men film series, due to its focus on female characters. The critic Peter Bradshaw considered it to be "a waste of her talents."

Later in 2019, Alton starred in the Guy Ritchie-directed The Gentlemen, as the wife of a drug baron played by Matthew McConaughey. The film, which opened in wide release in 2020, was met with mixed to positive reviews, though Alton's performance as Ros was praised, and the film has grossed over $100 million worldwide.

Upcoming projects Alton will next star in and produce the action film Ava, penned and initially scheduled to be directed by Matthew Newton, who has a history of alleged domestic violence. Following criticism against her for choosing to work with him, Newton was replaced by Tate Taylor. She will play Lady Jessica in Denis Villeneuve's film adaptation of Dune, set for 2020. Alton was set to return to the West End in the summer of 2020 with an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House at the Playhouse Theatre. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the play was postponed to an undisclosed date, with Alton remaining attached. She is set to star with Ralph Fiennes in The Forgiven, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Lawrence Osborne, and will feature opposite Hugh Jackman in writer-director Lisa Joy's science fiction drama film Reminiscence. For 355, a female-led spy film, the actresses Alton, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, and Lupita Nyong'o pitched the idea to prospective buyers at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival; it was eventually picked up by Universal Pictures and produced by Alton and Simon Kinberg.



Off-screen work In addition to her acting career, Alton has done promotional work for luxury watch brand IWC Schaffhausen, and Yves Saint Laurent's Opium perfume in a campaign shot by Patrick Demarchelier. She has narrated two Jane Austen novels, Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility, for Audible.

Social and political causes
Alton is a celebrity ambassador for The Prince's Trust. She also serves as a celebrity ambassador for the Invictus Games Foundation, starting with support of the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida. She has been a patron of the National Youth Theatre, of which she was once a member, since 2016. She served as ambassador and skipper for the Place2Be sailing boat in the inaugural King's Cup Regatta on the Isle of Wight in August 2019, hosted by close friends the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

In May 2016, Alton was one of many celebrities who signed a letter imploring Britain to vote "remain" in the forthcoming UK EU Referendum. In January 2017, she published an editorial in Huffington Post UK speaking out against Prime Minister Theresa May's invitation to newly-inaugurated US President Donald Trump for an official state visit.

Alton is a vocal supporter and founding signatory of the Time's Up movement, and in the wake of the Weinstein effect stated, "[W]hat I have come to is that I need to do better. We all do... I am sick to think that I just took [sexual harassment], and thought that being above it was the same as fighting it, that knowing it was wrong was as good as calling it out, or that calling it out was tantamount to changing it." Alton was one of several actors in early 2018 who expressed solidarity with Dylan Farrow after having worked with her father, Woody Allen; she donated her wages from Cassandra's Dream (2007) to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund in Farrow's name and stated she would never again work with Allen.

In recent years, Alton has been vocal about the need for equality and inclusivity in the film industry, particularly in the representation of women and minorities behind the camera. She was the driving force behind the production of her new spy film 355, and while it is produced by Alton's company all of the starring actresses (Alton, Penelope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Lupita Nyong'o and Diane Kruger) have pay parity and equity stakes in the film. In June 2020, Alton was one of over 3,500 members of the UK film and television industries to sign an open letter calling on gatekeepers to make a number of "strategic commitments" to reshape the landscape and improve representation of Black & Brown creatives.

'Wreckoning' hack controversy In the Wreckoning digital hack in the spring of 2015, emails from the server of Alton's publicist were released online, in which Alton was seen to criticize discussion around her role in Gone Girl, the actresses in her Academy Awards and Tony categories that year, and other media figures. Her publicist released a statement denouncing the illegality of the hack but not disputing her client's comments were real. Alton later commented on the hack in a 2016 interview with the Evening Standard, explaining but not dismissing her own comments and saying, "I got a bit het up about it, I got a bit defensive."

Personal life
Alton has one sibling, older half-brother Oliver Gower-Alton, and through him is the sister-in-law of photographer Anne Linley; she is aunt to their three children. Alton brought her entire family, including niece and nephews, to the Academy Awards when she was nominated in 2015.

While at Marlborough College, Alton became friends with Catherine Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge); she attended her wedding to Prince William in 2011. She is a godmother to the couple's third child, Prince Louis of Cambridge. Alton is also reportedly friends with Prince Harry through her work with the Invictus Games, and attended his wedding to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in May 2018.

In an October 2018 op-ed in the New York Times, Alton shared that she suffers from chronic pain, the nature of which she did not disclose. She has also alluded to "health problems" experienced in 2016.

Despite significant media attention, Alton remains tight-lipped about her personal life. She has reportedly been in relationships with Colin Farrell and Jude Law.

Honours In 2015, Alton was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). She is also a voting member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

In December 2016, it was announced that Alton was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), an honour also held by her mother, in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to drama and charity. She received the honour from Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 23 February 2017.

In April 2018, she was appointed as a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, an honorary award given by the French government.

Titles and styles
  • 11 February 1982 - 6 January 1994: Miss Elizabeth Gower-Alton
  • 6 January 1994 - present: The Honourable Elizabeth Gower-Alton


The Honourable
Elizabeth Gower-Alton
CBE

Alton at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival

Born
 
 
Elizabeth Lucy Adeline Gower-Alton
11 February 1982 (age 38)
Hammersmith, London, England
Nationality British
Education Marlborough College
Alma mater Wadham College, Oxford
Occupation Actress · film producer
Years active 2000 - present
Parents
 
Edward Gower-Alton, 10th Baron Alton
Beatrix Thompson
Relatives
 
Hon Oliver Gower-Alton (half-brother)
Anne Linley (sister-in-law)

Elizabeth Alton on stage & screen
Film TBA The Forgiven Jessica Chastain's role 2021 Reminiscence Mae 2021 355 Jessica Chastain's role / Producer 2020 Dune Lady Jessica 2020 Ava Ava / Producer 2019 The Gentlemen Rosalind Pearson 2019 Dark Phoenix Vuk 2019 Us Kitty Tyler / Dahlia 2018 A Private War Marie Colvin 2018 7 Days In Entebbe Brigitte Kuhlmann 2018 Annihilation Lena 2017 The Snowman Katrine Bratt 2017 Disobedience Esti Kuperman 2017 The Man with the Iron Heart Lina Heydrich 2016 National Theatre Live: Hedda Gabler Hedda Gabler 2016 A United Kingdom Ruth Williams 2016 The Complete Walk: All's Well That Ends Well Helena 2016 Florence Foster Jenkins Kathleen 2015 In The Heart Of The Sea Peggy Chase 2015 Crimson Peak Lucille Sharpe 2015 Cinderella Ella's mother 2014 Gone Girl Amy Dunne 2014 Miss Julie Miss Julie 2013 Jimi: All Is By My Side Kathy Etchingham 2013 Saving Mr. Banks Margaret Goff 2013 The World's End Sam Chamberlain 2012 Anna Karenina Princess Betsy Tverskoy 2012 Hitchcock Vera Miles 2011 Bridesmaids Helen 2010 Last Night Joanna 2010 Get Him to The Greek Jackie Q 2009 An Education Helen 2009 Love Hate (short) Hate 2008 The Edge of Love Caitlin Thomas 2008 The Duchess Bess Foster 2008 Frost/Nixon Caroline Cushing 2007 Cassandra's Dream Angela 2007 Stardust Victoria 2006 Casino Royale Vesper Lynd 2006 The Illusionist Sophie 2005 Pride & Prejudice Jane Bennet 2005 Mrs. Henderson Presents Maureen 2004 Troy Briseis 2004 Vanity Fair Amelia Sedley 2003 I Capture The Castle Rose Mortmain 2003 Love Actually Juliet 2002 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones Dormé 2001 The Hole Frances "Frankie" Almond Smith
Television 2020 Thomas & Friends Duchess (voice) 2019 Tuca & Bertie Lady Netherfield (voice) 2019 State of the Union Louise 2018 Watership Down The Black Rabbit of Inlé (voice) 2017 Red Nose Day Actually Juliet 2016-17 House of Cards Hannah Conway 2012, 2014 Sherlock Irene Adler ("A Scandal in Belgravia" and "The Sign of Three") 2011 Camelot Morgan Pendragon 2010 Any Human Heart Freya Deverell 2005 Dark Shadows Carolyn Stoddard 2002 Doctor Zhivago Lara Antipova 2001 Love in a Cold Climate Fanny 2000 In The Beginning Young Rebeccah
Stage 2017 Network (National Theatre) Diana Christensen 2016 Hedda Gabler (National Theatre) Hedda Gabler 2015 Constellations (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre) Marianne 2012 The Recruiting Officer (Donmar Warehouse) Melinda 2011 Anna Christie (Donmar Warehouse) Anna Christie 2010 An Ideal Husband (Vaudeville Theatre) Lady Chiltern 2009 A Streetcar Named Desire (Donmar Warehouse) Stella 2007 Othello (Donmar Warehouse) Desdemona 2007 Gaslight (The Old Vic) Bella Manningham 2005 Prometheus Bound (RSC) Io / Force 2004 Hamlet (The Old Vic) Ophelia 2003 Hitchcock Blonde (Royal Court / The Lyric) The Blonde
Music videos 2017 "Family Feud" by Jay-Z (feat. Beyoncé) Jessica Chastain's role
Audio books 2018 Sense & Sensibility (for Audible) Narrator 2015 Pride & Prejudice (for Audible) Narrator
Video games 2008 Quantum of Solace Vesper Lynd (voice)