Family & Companions
South African-born actress Janet Suzman became an established star of the London stage from the late 1960s through her association with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She made occasional film appearances since her debut as the mother of an autistic child in "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" (1970; released in the USA in 1972). Perhaps Suzman's most notable role was her Oscar-nominated portrayal of the Russian Czarina in "Nicholas and Alexandra" (1971). The granddaughter and niece of politically active South Africans, Suzman decided to pursue an acting career while attending the University of the Witwatersrand in her native Johannesburg. Accepted into several British drama schools, she opted to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where she trained under Iris Watson. Upon graduation, Suzman spent five months appearing with various regional repertory company (i.e., Ipswich, Manchester) where she was spotted by John Barton who invited the up-and-coming performer to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. Almost immediately, Suzman distinguished herself in "The Comedy of Errors" and was tapped to participate in the company's mammoth undertaking of what came to be know as "The War of the Roses" (1962-64). She won further praise in 1965 for her Portia in "The Merchant of Venice" and her Ophelia in "Hamlet." When her contract with the RSC expired, Suzman decided to concentrate on television work, debuting in the BBC series "Lord Raingo" in 1966. When Suzman rejoined the RSC in 1967, she soon became one of its leading players. (Among those she appeared alongside were Ben Kingsley, Patrick Stewart and Alan Howard.) She toured the USA as Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing" (1968-69) and appeared with the RSC in BBC productions of "Three Sisters" (1969), "Macbeth" and "Hedda Gabler" (both 1970). (Those three productions aired in the USA on PBS in 1975). By this time, Suzman had starred with Alan Bates in "Joe Egg." After earning a surprise Academy Award nomination, the actress triumphed onstage in "Antony and Cleopatra" which was filmed and aired in the USA on ABC in 1974. Suzman continued to concentrate on stage work, although she accepted the occasional film role. She was the distraught mother of a kidnapped child in "The Black Windmill" (1974) and was one of the passengers in the all-star melodrama "Voyage of the Damned" (1976). Suzman was excellent as Frieda Lawrence to Ian McKellen's D H Lawrence in the biopic "Priest of Love" (1981). After a brief respite to give birth to her son, she returned to films as a Restoration aristocrat who hires an artist in Peter Greenaway's "The Draughtsman's Contract" (1982). As the decade wore on, Suzman began a secondary career as a stage director, helming a South African production of "Othello" in 1987 (later filmed for broadcast) and most recently, a well-received production of "The Cherry Orchard" (1997). As her directing work increased, she has made fewer onscreen appearances, although she was excellent in support of Michael Gambon in the Dennis Potter-scripted British miniseries "The Singing Detective" (1988) and as Donald Sutherland's wife in Euzhan Palcy's anti-apartheid drama "A Dry White Season" (1989).
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Joined Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in December
Stage debut, "Billy Liar" in Ipswich, England
London stage debut with the RSC, "The Comedy of Errors"
Won praise for her Portia in "The Merchant of Venice" and Ophelia in "Hamlet"
Made British TV debut in the BBC series "Lord Raingo" opposite Kenneth More
Appeared with the Oxford Playhouse
Left the RSC to concentrate on her TV career
Rejoined the RSC
Traveled to the USA to appear at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles; later toured USA in "Much Ado About Nothing"
Starred in a British TV adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan"
Screen debut "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" (US release, 1972)
Co-starred in "Nicholas and Alexandra", playing the Czarina; earned Oscar nomination as Best Actress
Played the Egyptian queen in "Anthony and Cleopatra" (ABC)
Co-starred in "Voyage of the Damned"
Hade featured role in Herbert Ross' "Nijinsky"
Played Frieda Lawrence in the biopic "Priest of Love", opposite Ian McKellen
Starred in Peter Greenaway's "The Draughtsman's Contract"
Had featured role in Federico Fellini's "And the Ship Sails On"
Returned to stage acting after taking time off after the birth of her son; co-starred with Ian McKellen in Sean Mathias' play "Cowardice"
Played Eleanorof Aquitaine in the CBS TV-movie "The ZAny Adventures of Robin Hood"
Cast as Lady Edwina Mountbatten in the six-part biography "Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy" (PBS)
Stage directorial debut, "Othello" for the Market Theatre in South Africa (also broadcast on TV)
Co-starred in the acclaimed British TV series "The Singing Detective", starring Michael Gambon and written by Dennis Potter
Won plaudits for her turn in "A Dry White Season"
Played the Mother Superior in the comedy "Nuns on the Run"
Last feature role to date in "Leon, the Pig Farmer"
Appeared in the British TV adapation of Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Agent" (BBC and PBS)
Made guest appearance in an episode of "Inspector Morse" (PBS)