With soulful, saucer-like eyes and a coy smile that hints at playfulness, Oscar-nominated actress Emily Watson burst onto the scene with her shattering performance in Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves, a role that almost went to period-piece queen Helena Bonham Carter. Born the daughter of an architect and an English professor in Islington, a borough of London, England, in January 1967, a sheltered upbringing initially led Watson to seek studies in English Literature. After studying in Bristol for three years, Watson made her first bid for drama school only to face disheartening rejection. After three years of working as a waitress and a secretary, she was eventually accepted into the London Drama Studio. It was during this early phase in her career that Watson would meet future husband Jack Waters.
Launching her career upon joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1992, Watson soon set her sights on film. Fate intervened when actress Helena Bonham Carter pulled out of director Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves at the last minute due to the film's explicit sexuality. Despite her lack of big-screen experience, Watson landed the female lead in the film after only one brief screen test. Playing a spiritually driven woman whose oil-rig worker husband (Stellan Saarsgaard) becomes paralized, she exhibited a brash, religiously transcendent sexuality, stunning art-house audiences and recieving an Oscar nomination in the process. Though the subsequent marriage dramedy Metroland proved to be a nostalgia trip by comparison, Watson's honest performance again earned accolades. Watson's reputation continued to grow with her intimate, conflicted portrayal of the Multiple Sclerosis-stricken concert cellist Jacqueline Du Pre in Hilary and Jackie (1998), for which she was again Oscar-nominated, as well as when she played the love interest of an eccentric chess champion in The Luzhin Defence (2000).