Samantha Jane Morton (born 13 May 1977) is an English actress and film director. She began her performing career with guest roles in television shows such as Soldier Soldier, Crackerand Boon before making her film debut in the 1997 drama film This Is the Sea, playing the character of Hazel Stokes. After a string of roles in low-budget films and television, she landed the role of Hattie in 1999's Sweet and Lowdown, for which she received attention from Hollywood, critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Morton subsequently starred in 2002's Minority Report and Morvern Callar. She received her second Academy Award nomination for her performance as the young Irish mother, Sarah, coping with life in New York City in 2003's In America. Morton starred in 2004's Enduring Love and The Libertine and 2005's Lassie. She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Film for her role as Myra Hindley in 2006's Longford. She appeared in the 2007 biographical films Control, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Mister Lonely. She then starred in 2008's Synecdoche, New York. Morton appeared in the 2009 critically acclaimed The Messenger. She made her directorial debut in the British television film The Unloved.
Morton was born in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, the third child to Peter Morton and Pamela Freebury, a factory worker. She has a brother and a sister — Marcus (born 1971) is a Royal Marine, Penny (born 1972), who works with children with learning disabilities; and six half-siblings from her parents' relationships, subsequent to their 1979 divorce. At the age of seven, Morton was made a ward of court and never lived with her natural parents again. The next nine years were spent in and out of foster care and children's homes. She attended West Bridgford Comprehensive School. Under the effects of drugs, she threatened an older girl who had been bullying her. She was convicted of making threats to kill. She served 18 weeks in an attendance centre. Morton said in an interview, "as a child I had a serious anger problem, but from the age of 16 I've been trying to turn bad things into positives." After leaving care, she lived in a hostel for the homeless and worked on a Youth Training Scheme in hairdressing.
Morton took up acting as a child. She joined the Central Junior Television Workshop when she was 13 and was soon being offered small-screen roles. In 1991, she was cast as Clare Anderson in the first series of Lucy Gannon's Soldier Soldier and also made a guest appearance, as Mandy, in an episode of Boon —both were Central TV productions.
Moving to London at sixteen, Morton applied to numerous drama schools, including RADA, without success. In 1991 she attended Clarendon College Of Performing Arts to gain a BTEC award but subsequently left for personal reasons. She made her stage debut at the Royal Court Theatre, and continued her television career with a guest appearance on Peak Practice and in an episode of Cracker called "The Big Crunch."
A controversial role in the first two series of Kay Mellor's successful Band of Gold (1995) resulted in a lot of tabloid interest, some of which focused on Morton's upbringing and personal life.Further television roles followed, including parts in period dramas including Emma, Jane Eyre and The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. The well-received Under the Skin (1997) continued to raise her profile.
Impressed by her performance in Under the Skin, Woody Allen cast her in Sweet and Lowdown (1999). In the film, she gave an acclaimed performance and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2000. Critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote in her review "Rising star Samantha Morton shines in this charming, finely crafted film from Woody Allen" and that "Her performance is like nothing I’ve seen in recent years."Also, James Berardinelli praised the actress, by saying that she "overmatches her more experienced co-star with a luminous and heartbreaking performance."
She appeared in the film Jesus' Son (1999), which came out in a limited release in June 2000, after being screened at the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival. She received a nomination for Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for her performance in that film. She starred in the biographical independent film Pandaemonium, released 2000. She won a British Independent Film Award in the category of Best Actress. Morton played amermaid opposite Larry Mullen in the Anton Corbijn-directed promotional video for U2's "Electrical Storm". She also provided the voice of Ruby for the Canadian animated series Max and Ruby from 2001 to 2003.
Morvern Callar, a British film starring Morton, received a limited release in 2002. The film gained many positive reviews after its premiere and Morton's brilliant performance was critically acclaimed. In his review, Nick LaSalle stated that Morton "has moments of striking subtlety and detail. Her take upon receiving a major offer for her boyfriend's novel (which she claims as her own) is as satisfying a close-up as anyone could hope to see."
Morton got a Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress.
Also in 2002, she got a part in the Steven Spielberg-directed film Minority Report, opposite Tom Cruise. She actually was the third choice to play the role of Agatha; actresses Cate Blanchett and Jenna Elfman both turned it down.She won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress.
She got a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for In America in 2004. The film was widely praised and critics liked her performance in the film; Roger Ebert wrote that Morton "reveals the power of her silences, her quiet, her presence." She also appeared in Code 46 (2003) and Enduring Love (2004).
Morton played the Moors murderess Myra Hindley in a television film Longford (2006). Set between 1967 and 1997, the film depicts the relationship between the infamous child killer and Lord Longford, the politician who spent years campaigning (ultimately unsuccessfully) for her release. Morton was severely criticised by the relatives of the children who were killed by Hindley and Ian Brady but she insisted, "It is my duty as a performer to raise issues...we're afraid to look at". Morton received a 2007 Emmy nomination and won a Golden Globe, both for Best Supporting Actress.
She then starred in the independent comedy-drama film Expired, for which she had to move on to Los Angeles while shooting the film. The film opened to mixed responses from critics. New York magazine noted that Morton "is one of those tingly actresses whose skin barely covers her soul, and to watch her search for tender mercies in a crazy-hostile world is a gift."
She played the blonde icon Marilyn Monroe in the drama-comedy feature film Mister Lonely, which was first screened in 2007 at the Cannes Film Festival. During an interview, she talked about the film, by saying that "In Mister Lonely we all live in a commune as the characters we impersonate and support each other. I'm married to a Charlie Chaplin impersonator and we have a daughter who is a Shirley Temple impersonator." She had a supporting role in the 2007 filmElizabeth: The Golden Age, in which she played Mary, Queen of Scots.
A BAFTA Best Supporting Actress nomination also followed for her role in Control (2007), again directed by Anton Corbijn. She played Deborah Curtis, wife of musician Ian Curtis, whose biography Touching from a Distance formed the basis of the film. Control was widely acclaimed and, once again, Morton gave a sensational performance in the film.Russell Edwards, from Variety magazine called her performance "astonishing" and "sympathetic".
She starred in the war drama The Messenger (2009) as Oliva Patterson, a single mother, whose husband was killed in Iraq. The film, co-starring Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Jena Malone, was the directorial debut of Oren Moverman. Claudia Puig of USA Today asserted that Morton, "as always, gives a subtle, excellent performance." She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the14th Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and the 25th Independent Spirit Awards.Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman cast Morton as Hazel in Synecdoche, New York, with a cast featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Williams and Emily Watson. A box office bomb, it was praised in the media, appearing on many top ten critic's lists for 2008.The individual performances of the actors in the film were also praised. Synecdoche, New York opened at the Cannes Film Festival on 23 May 2008. In an interview with Movieline, Morton spoke about her experience of working with director Kaufman and said "it was like going to school, every time. You were constantly learning a different way of working, a different way of looking at my craft. And also I was giving as much as I can. It was very liberating to work with him."
Her directorial debut, the semi-autobiographical Channel 4 drama The Unloved, written in collaboration with Tony Grisoni, was first broadcast on 17 May 2009. The film was premiered at theToronto International Film Festival in September 2009. The Unloved received favourable reviews after its premiere and critics admired Morton's directing skills; Michael Deacon praised Morton on creating an 'Intense' and 'Vivid' dramatic film.Morton won a BAFTA for her direction in 2010.
In 2012, Morton co-starred in Cosmopolis, directed by David Cronenberg, and provided the voice of Sola in epic science fiction film John Carter. It was announced she will star as the title role in the film Decoding Annie Parker.