Elizabeth McGovern

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Elizabeth Lee McGovern

Birthdate: (53)
Birthplace: Evanston, Cook County, Illinois, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of <private> McGovern and Katharine Wolcott Watts
Sister of <private> McGovern and <private> McGovern

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Elizabeth McGovern


Elizabeth McGovern (born July 18, 1961) is an American film, television, and theater actor, and musician.

Early life

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. Her paternal grandfather was adventurer William Montgomery McGovern and her maternal great-grandfather was U.S. diplomat Ethelbert Watts. 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.

McGovern started acting in plays while attending The Oakwood School in North Hollywood.[citation needed] 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. McGovern studied at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, then at The Juilliard School in New York City.


In 1980, while studying at Juilliard, McGovern was offered a part in 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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).


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. Michelle Dockery, who plays McGovern's eldest daughter in Downton Abbey, has occasionally sung with the band.

Personal life

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





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Elizabeth McGovern's Timeline

July 18, 1961
Evanston, Cook County, Illinois, United States