Known for her intense intelligence and the range of unconventional characters she has brought to life, Australian actress Judy Davis has had a fairly brilliant career. Born in Perth, Western Australia, on April 23, 1955, Davis rebelled against her Catholic upbringing by leaving home at the age of 17 to join a rock band, which toured across Asia for six months. Upon her return to Australia, she soon gave up her singing career to attend the Western Australia Institute of Technology and then concentrated on another branch of performing at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. At NIDA she trained with the likes of Mel Gibson, with whom she starred in a school production of Romeo and Juliet.
In her subsequent stage work, Davis gravitated toward characters whose significant traits alternated between steel-like strength and vacillating vulnerability: She played the title roles in Lulu and Piaf. In films from 1977, Davis ascended to stardom as Sybilla Melvin in director Gillian Armstrong's My Brilliant Career (1979), a performance that won her several awards, including the Australian and British equivalents of the Oscar. She was likewise showered with industry and film-festival honors for her work in Hoodwink (1981), The Winter of Our Dreams (1982), Heatwave (1982), and Kangaroo (1984), appearing in the latter film with her husband, Colin Friels. She was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of young Golda Meir in the TV miniseries A Woman Called Golda (1982), and earned her first Oscar nomination for her interpretation of the enigmatic Adela Quested in David Lean's A Passage to India in 1984.