May 14, 1945
London, England, United Kingdom
Patrick Wiseman, Ralph Fiennes
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Attractive and seemingly ageless, Francesca Annis was an aspiring dancer when she began her film acting career in the late 1950s in teen roles, receiving her first major exposure as a handmaiden of Elizabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra" (1963). She was fashionably radical during London's swinging 60s, befriending such scenesters as guitar legend Jimi Hendrix before portraying Ophelia to Nicol Williamson's "Hamlet" on Broadway in 1969. As Lady Macbeth, Annis appeared nude in the sleepwalking scene in Roman Polanski's extra-gruesome "Macbeth" (1971), but when Hugh Hefner (one of the film's backers) asked her to pose for PLAYBOY, she replied, "I'm an actress, not a pinup." While a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1975-1978, she also starred as "Madame Bovary" (1976) and portrayed Lillie Langtry in "Lillie" (1978), with both acclaimed British productions broadcast later as segments of "Masterpiece Theatre" (PBS).Perhaps Annis' strongest film performance to date was as the Karen Silkwood-like main character attempting to expose a radioactive leak in Michael Apted's "Stronger Than the Sun" (1979). Fans of PBS' "Mystery!" may remember her as Agatha Christie's Prudence 'Tuppance' Beresford in the "Partners in Crime" series (Part I 1984, Part II 1986) and "The Secret Adversary" (1987), the world premiere movie that preceded the series in England. Annis made headlines in 1995 both onstage as Gertrude to Ralph Fiennes' "Hamlet" and offstage when their romance signaled the end of Fiennes' marriage to Alex Kingston. She then starred in the British serial "Reckless" (1997), shown on "Masterpiece Theatre" in 1998, playing the art-imitating-life role of an older woman falling for a younger man.