Also Credited As:Amelia Fiona Driver
|Actor, Producer, Music|
|Amelia Fiona Driver on January 31, 1970 in London, England, GB|
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Amelia Fiona Driver was born in London, England on Jan. 31, 1971. She and her older sister Kate spent their early years in Barbados where their wealthy financier father and former fashion model mother owned an estate. When the couple split in 1976, daughters and mother moved to England, where a teenage Driver began singing and playing guitar in London restaurants. The emerging creative talent also began writing songs and enrolled at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts. Following graduation, she began landing guest spots on British TV, mostly in period and medical dramas and miniseries. In the early 1990s, Driver's electronica-tinged band Puff, Rocks and Brown landed a recording deal with Island records, but following an unfruitful attempt to produce a debut album, Driver decided to leave London and bum around the beaches of South America. She and sister Kate were scraping by, selling second-hand clothes in Uruguay when Driver got a message that EMI was interested in signing her as a solo artist. She flew to London to meet with the record label and while there, happened to land an audition that would unwittingly launch her film career.
In "Circle of Friends" (1995), Driver charmed audiences as 'Benny' Hogan, a small-town girl who heads to a Dublin university and wins Chris O'Donnell's heart, despite being on the portly side. Owen Gliberman in Entertainment Weekly wrote "[Driver's] smile lights her up from within," leading the unknown actress to suddenly attract the notice of film directors of all stripes. She showcased both her music and acting abilities by playing a Russian country-western singer in the 1995 James Bond offering, "GoldenEye." Following several more British TV films, she was subsequently wooed by filmmakers across the pond, starring as the girlfriend of struggling Italian restaurateur Stanley Tucci in "Big Night" (1996), Tucci and Campbell Scott's indie gem and Grand Jury Prize nominee at Sundance. Driver next landed a key role in Barry Levinson's gritty New York chronicle "Sleepers" (1996), before donning a Chicago accent to play opposite John Cusack in the dark comedy "Grosse Point Blank" (1997), about a hit man attending his high school reunion.
However, what truly put the British actress on the Tinseltown map was her Academy-Award nominated performance as a Harvard medical student who romances a troubled young underachieving genius (Matt Damon). Popular with audiences as well as critics, the film was among the most nominated films of the year and generated a buzz around this breakout British actress with the fun, feisty spirit. Unfortunately, her set romance with a pre-famous Damon went south upon the film's release, with the actor rumored to have broken up with his co-star while announcing his single status on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (syndicated, 1986-2011) in 1997 - the year he and co-star and co-scribe Ben Affleck became the biggest stars in the world for a brief period.
Despite her private heartbreak, film offers poured in, providing Driver with one of her few big studio production appearances, playing opposite Christian Slater in the soggy actioner "Hard Rain" (1998). The same year, she returned to the British fold with a starring role in the period film "The Governess" (1998), and as part of the powerhouse ensemble of the Oscar Wilde adaptation of "An Ideal Husband" (1999), playing the sweet love interest of idle bachelor Lord Goring (Rupert Everett). Driver's versatile voicing talent was tapped for the animated films "Tarzan" (1999), "Princess Mononoke" (1999) and "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" (1999), before she successfully revisited romantic comedy with "Return to Me" (2000), starring opposite David Duchovny as a heart transplant patient who falls for the husband of her organ donor. Unfortunately, a string of disappointing films failed to capture Driver's appeal, including Sally Field's overly-earnest "Beautiful" (2000) and the clunky caper comedy "High Heels and Low Lifes" (2001).
In 2003, Driver began a hilarious recurring role on the hit NBC sitcom "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006), playing Karen Walker's haughty nemesis Lorraine Finster at a campy high pitch. She also turned in a strong performance as Philip Seymour Hoffman's devoted fiancée in "Owning Mahowny" (2003), a powerful tale of gambling addiction. Her big screen rebound continued with the endearing fable update "Ella Enchanted" (2004) and the film adaptation of Broadway's "The Phantom of the Opera" (2004), where Driver gave a bravura supporting turn as the Italian opera diva Carlotta, stealing virtually every scene she appeared in. The "Phantom" role required that a full-voiced opera singer dub her singing voice, however off screen, Driver was simultaneously resuming her own stalled music career, releasing her debut album Everything I've Got in My Pocket on Rounder Records' Zoe imprint in 2004. The album was an appealing blend of self-penned folk-pop, with a pair of singles denting the U.K. charts and earning nods from critics wary of actors-turned-musicians. This musician-turned-actress promoted the album by touring in support of acts including R.E.M., Chris Martin, and the Finn Brothers. Her follow-up album, Seastories was released to glowing reviews in the summer of 2007.
The respected feature actress and singer-songwriter made another unexpected career shift in 2007 when she landed on the darkly comic drama series, "The Riches" (FX, 2007-08 ). Driver starred as a newly-released ex-con and matriarch of a family of con artists (including husband Eddie Izzard) who assume the identity of a well-to-do suburban Louisiana family in an attempt to live a straight life. The show was a hit with FX audiences, and critics particularly hailed the performances of Izzard and Driver, who received both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her lead acting role. But ratings were the ultimate arbiter of the show's fate and "The Riches" was duly canceled in 2008 - the same year she gave birth to her son, Henry, whose father remained a mystery to the public. Returning to features, Driver joined Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Juliette Lewis and Melissa Leo for the indie drama "Conviction" (2010), and next played a compulsive shopper and second wife to Paul Giamatti in the seriocomic "Barney's Version" (2010).