Frances de la Tour (born 30 July 1944) is an English actress of French descent perhaps best known for her role as Miss Ruth Jones in the British sitcom Rising Damp, Mrs Lintott in The History Boys both on-stage and in the film, and as Madame Olympe Maxime in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.
On leaving drama school she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1965 where she studied with Michel Saint-Denis. Over the next six years, she played many small roles with the RSC in a variety of plays, gradually building up to larger parts such as Hoyden in The Relapse and culminating in Peter Brook's acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in which she played Helena as a comic "tour de force". In the 1970s, she worked steadily both on the stage and on television. Some of her notable appearances were Rosalind in As You Like It at the Playhouse, Oxford in 1975 and Isabella in The White Devil at the Old Vic in 1976. She enjoyed a collaboration with Stepney's Half Moon Theatre, appearing in the London première of Dario Fo's We Can't Pay? We Won't Pay (1978), Eleanor Marx's Landscape of Exile (1979), and in the title role of Hamlet (1980).
In 1980, she played Stephanie, the violinist with MS in Duet for One, a play written for her by Kempinski, for which she won the Olivier for Best Actress. She played Sonya in Uncle Vanya opposite Donald Sinden at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in 1982. Her performance as Josie in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten won her another Olivier for Best Actress in 1983. She joined the Royal National Theatre for the title role in Saint Joan in 1984 and appeared there in Brighton Beach Memoirs in 1986. She again won the Olivier for Best Supporting Actress for Martin Sherman's play about Isadora Duncan, When She Danced with Vanessa Redgrave at the Globe Theatre in 1991 and played Leo in Les Parents terribles at the Royal National Theatre in 1994.
She co-starred with Maggie Smith in Edward Albee's Three Tall Women at the Wyndham's in 1994 and with Alan Howard in Albee's The Play About the Baby at the Almeida in 1998. In 1999, she returned to the RSC to play Cleopatra opposite Alan Bates in Antony and Cleopatra in which she did a nude walk across the stage. In 2004, she played Mrs Lintott in Alan Bennett's The History Boys at the National, later on Broadway and in the film version (2006). In 2007 she appeared in a West End revival of the farce Boeing-Boeing. In 2009 she appeared in Alan Bennett's new play The Habit of Art at the National. In 2012 she returned to the National in her third Bennett premiere, People.
Her many television appearances include the 1980 miniseries Flickers alongside Bob Hoskins, the TV version of Duet for One, the series A Kind of Living, Tom Jones, episodes of Poirot, Marple and Waking the Dead. Of all her TV roles, however, she is best known for playing spinster Ruth Jones in the successful Yorkshire Television comedy Rising Damp. De la Tour told Richard Webber, who penned a 2001 book about the series, that Ruth Jones "was an interesting character to play. We laughed a lot on set, but comedy is a serious business and Leonard took it particularly seriously, and rightly so. Comedy, which is so much down to timing, is exhausting work. But it was a happy time."
In the mid-1980s, de la Tour was considered, along with Joanna Lumley and Dawn French, as a replacement for Colin Baker in Doctor Who. The idea was scrapped, and the job was given to Sylvester McCoy. In 2005 she appeared inblack comedy Sensitive Skin (TV series) alongside Joanna Lumley and Denis Lawson. In 2006 she appeared in New Tricks (Series 3) as a rather morbid Egyptologist.
In 2003, de la Tour played a terminally ill gay woman in the film Love Actually, although her scenes were cut from the film's theatrical release, and appear only on the DVD.
In 2005 she played Olympe Maxime, headmistress of Beauxbaton's Academy, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a role she reprised in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (notable in that her character was not present in the novel). In December 2005 she starred in the London production of the highly acclaimed anti-Iraq War one-woman play Peace Mom by Dario Fo, based on the writings of Cindy Sheehan.
In 2012 she was in the film Hugo.
She was nominated for the 2006 BAFTA Award for Actress in a Supporting Role for her work on the film version of The History Boys.
She appeared in Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland as Aunt Imogene, a delusional aunt of Alice's, opposite Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Mia Wasikowska. Also that year, she had a supporting role in the film The Book of Eli, directed by the Hughes brothers.
Up until 2012, she was also a Patron for the Performing Arts group Theatretrain.
Politically, de la Tour is a socialist and was a member of the Workers' Revolutionary Party in the 1970s.
- 1980: Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a New Play – Duet for One
- 1983: Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival – A Moon for the Misbegotten
- 1992: Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role – When She Danced
- 2006: Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play – The History Boys
- 2006: Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play – The History Boys
|Our Miss Fred (1972)||Miss Lockhart|
|Rising Damp (TV) (1974–1978)||Miss Ruth Jones|
|Maggie: It's Me (1977)||Maggie|
|Rising Damp (1980)||Miss Ruth Jones||Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress|
|Flickers (1980)||Maud Cole|
|Duet for One (TV) (1981)||Stephanie Anderson|
|Cold Lazarus (1996)||Emma Porlock||Nominated – British Academy Television Award for Best Actress|
|The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1997)||Aunt Western|
|The Cherry Orchard (1999)||Charlotte Ivanova|
|Agatha Christie's Poirot (2004)||Salome Otterbourne||Episode Death on the Nile|
|Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)||Madame Olympe Maxime|
|Sensitive Skin (TV series) (2005)||Sarah Thorne|
|Agatha Christie's Marple (2006)||Mrs. Maud Dane Calthrop||Episode The Moving Finger|
|The History Boys (2006)||Dorothy Lintott||Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated – British Independent Film Awards
|The Book of Eli (2010)||Martha||The wife of George (Michael Gambon).|
|Alice in Wonderland (2010)||Aunt Imogene|
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010)||Madame Olympe Maxime|
|The Nutcracker in 3D (2010)||The Rat Queen|
|Hugo (2011)||Madame Emile|
|Private Peaceful (2012)||Grandma Wolf|
|Vicious (2013) (TV series)||Violet||(7 episodes)|