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Biography

Billy Elliot

Following the fine short Bathtime, where Alan Cumming would obsess over goldfish and suicide, Walters would be back with Bleasdale, this time in his adaptation of Francis Durbridge's thriller Melissa, previously filmed by the BBC in the 1960s. Then would come more Alan Bennett in Talking Heads 2, a quick panto with Jack And The Beanstalk, and then another winner in Girls' Night.

 

Released in 1998, this had been made for TV the year before, but was considered good enough for a theatrical release. In it, Walters would star with Brenda Blethyn, the pair being lifelong friends who work in the same factory. Walters is brash, opinionated and sexually ferocious, while Blethyn
is meek, a slave to her family. There is much learning to do when Blethyn is diagnosed with cancer.


Walters would briefly reunite with Victoria Wood for the short spoof Wetty Hainthrop Investigates, and the comedy series Dinnerladies, for which she'd be BAFTA-nominated for the seventh time. But she'd also stick with the issues in Titanic Town, based on a true story, where she played a Belfast mother attempting to negotiate a day-time truce between the Brits and the IRA. She wants kids to be able to get to school safely, but must deal with bitter accusations of treachery from her friends and neighbours. Ever-faithful to her friends, Walters would then move on to Alan Bleasdale's adaptation of Oliver Twist (again featuring Robert Lindsay and Lindsay Duncan), as Mrs Mann raising young Oliver in her orphanage and forging a fine comic partnership with David Ross's Mr Bumble. Another literary adaptation would be All Forgotten, also known as Lover's Prayer, based on the works of Turgenev and Chekhov, where she'd play a broke and drunken Russian princess, her daughter Kirsten Dunst bossing and bullying a posse of suitors, including poor neighbour Nick Stahl.

 

The new millennium would see Walters enter a quite extraordinary run of success. First would come Billy Elliot, the tale of a young northerner battling hometown prejudice to become a professional ballet dancer. It was perfect fare for Walters, dealing with working-class and sexual politics, and being both grittily dramatic and funny. As the strict but supportive dance teacher, Mrs Wilkinson, she was brilliant, earning her second Oscar nomination and winning her first BAFTA since Educating Rita. Even better exposure would come when she scored the role of Ron Weasley's mother in Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, the franchise giving her employment for the best part of a decade.

Yet despite being touched by the wand of Potter, Julie continued to deliver excellent work in gritty working-class dramas. My Beautiful Son saw her touchingly attempt to build a relationship with Paul Reiser, a New York psychiatrist who, having discovered that he's dying of leukaemia, is informed that he's actually adopted and visits his birth-mum Walters in a down-at-heel area of Liverpool. Then there was the testing drama Murder, where Julie suffered all the torments of a bereaved mother. Both roles would win her a BAFTA, giving her three in consecutive years. She'd also pick up an Olivier when, in 2001, she made a triumphant return to the stage in Arthur Miller's All My Sons at the Cottesloe, clinging on to hope as her son goes missing in
action.

 

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