Edit
Janet Suzman Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (7) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (2)

Date of Birth 9 February 1939Johannesburg, South Africa
Height 5' 5½" (1.66 m)

Mini Bio (1)

This alert and classy Britisher seemed poised for Hollywood stardom in the early 1970s. Although it wasn't meant to be, Janet Suzman has remained one of the more respected classical stage actresses of her time. Born in 1939, she was raised in a staunch, liberal family household in South Africa at a time when the country was confronted with the horrors of apartheid. Janet studied languages at the multi-racial Witwatersrand University in the late 1950s and was an active member of the drama society. She left South Africa during the height of her country's oppression and moved to England in 1959.

Making her professional stage debut with "Billy Liar" in 1962, she almost immediately joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and received rave notices for her Joan of Arc in "The War of the Roses." She made her official London debut in a production of "A Comedy of Errors" in 1963. In the ensuing years Janet built up an impressive classical resumé portraying most of Shakespeare's illustrious heroines including Rosalind, Portia, Ophelia, Beatrice and the shrewish Kate. She also appeared in several BBC-TV versions of the classics.

In 1969 Janet married director Trevor Nunn and together they collaborated on some of England's finest stage productions during the early 1970s, notably "Antony and Cleopatra" (1972), "Titus Andronicus" (1972) and "Hello and Goodbye" (1973), which won Janet the Evening Standard award. She won a second for her role of Masha in the 1976 production of Chekhov's "The Three Sisters." They had a son, Joshua, before they divorced in the 1980s. Later work included notable roles in "She Stoops to Conquer," "The Good Woman of Setzuan" and her "Hedda Gabler."

In the early 1970s Janet branched out into films and, following an auspicious turn in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972), won the coveted role of Czarina Alexandra in the florid historical piece Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) co-starring Michael Jayston. With a sterling British cast in support, including Harry Andrews, Jack Hawkins, Ian Holm, John McEnery, Laurence Olivier and Michael Redgrave. Janet received an Oscar nomination for her performance and bigger things seemed inevitable. She went on to grace a number of films including Voyage of the Damned (1976), Nijinsky (1980) and Priest of Love (1981).

In a reprise of her real life family's activism, Suzman co-starred in the anti-apartheid film A Dry White Season (1989) portraying the wife of the Donald Sutherland character. The cast included other progressive activists such as Susan Sarandon and Marlon Brando (who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor). In a change-of-pace role, she played a Mother Superior in the hysterical farce Nuns on the Run (1990).

In the 1980s Janet was inspired to direct and coach. She was a visiting professor of drama at Westfield College, London, and later returned to South Africa to provide multi-ethnic castings in versions of Shakespearean plays. Making her directing bow in a production of "Othello" at the Market Theatre in 1987, some of her more notable assignments included "Death of a Salesman (1992) and a reworked politicized version of Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" called "The Free State" (1997), which is set in South Africa. In 2002 Janet returned to the RSC to perform in "The Hollow Crown," and most recently appeared in a London production of "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" (2005) starring Kim Cattrall.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Trevor Nunn (1969 - ?) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (4)

Flame hair and intense blue eyes
Often plays charismatic women with imperious screen presence
Often plays women of power
Shakespearean roles

Trivia (7)

Niece of the staunch South African anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman.
Trained at LAMDA, she was made an honorary associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has been awarded honorary degrees by the Universities of Warwick and Leicester, and by the Open University.
Received the Evening Standard acting stage awards for "Hello, Goodbye" in 1973 and "The Three Sisters" in 1976.
Her marriage to stage director was a prolific pairing personally and professionally for many years during the 70s. They later divorced. One son Joshua.
She was an active voice against the Extension of University Education Bill while a college student in South Africa. The bill was a means of introducing Apartheid into higher education, and when it was passed in 1959, Suzman decided to leave South Africa for England.
She was awarded the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to drama.
Hampstead, London, England [June 2011]

Personal Quotes (2)

We do have our exits and our entrances and we are perhaps mere, but I think if one keep a certain joyousness in life which should be in playing, then good for one, but it's slightly more serious than that. But I know what Shakespeare meant; he meant there's a kind of insignificance in our life which he can apply to the world.
[on 'Nicholas and Alexandra'] The film is entirely too long. What a gargantuan monster to condense into three hours! If I do more movies I'd like to have some fun, look great in tacky things, meeting spy boats in the fog in a trench coat and smoking lots of cigarettes. Like Bette Davis. But nobody seems to make those movies anymore.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page