Frances O'Connor: In the Limelight
After the jump, I have some information about her life, some filmography and some excerpts from interviews.
Gallery: Frances O'Connor
While Frances O'Connor was born in England, she spent most of her life in Australia (living there from the age of 2). She was raised in a Roman Catholic family and attended a convent school in Perth, Australia. In this interview, O'Connor talks about the strong foundation Catholicism gave her: "I am really glad I was raised Catholic. I like the fundamental aspects of that religion. I think they give you great grounding in terms of having a moral code. But I do not subscribe to any religion specifically now."
O'Connor attended Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts and has a B.A. in Literature from the Curtin University of Technology (also in Western Australia). She achieved screen success in Australia with her breakthrough role in the crime thriller Kiss or Kill (1997). This film earned her one of her two Australian Film Institute nominations for "Best Actress." The other film for which O'Connor was nominated for an AFI award was Thank God He Met Lizzie, a romantic comedy.
In addition to these AFI nods, O'Connor has received a Golden Globe nomination in 2000 for Best Actress in a Series / Miniseries / TV Movie for Madame Bovary. I've not seen Madame Bovary yet, but I think I might resurrect my Netflix list and add it. She also received critical acclaim for her role in Iron Jawed Angels, an HBO movie about the womens' suffrage movement that also starred Hillary Swank. The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival that year and got a standing ovation from the audience.
Also after the success of Kiss or Kill, Frances O'Connor landed the roll of Fanny in Mansfield Park in 1999. This was the first time I fell in love with her. Admittedly, I am mildly obsessed with all things Jane Austen but I was captivated by O'Connor's portrayal of the reserved and full of conviction Fanny. I highly recommend it to not only Austen geeks but also to anyone who enjoys a good period romance. Here Frances O'Connor explains why she likes period dramas: "Well I have only done three in about nine films. But what they all share are fantastically complex and interesting characters. That is the important thing to me rather than the period the piece is set in."
And Mansfield Park is not the only period drama O'Connor has appeared in. In 2002, she played Gwendolyn Fairfax in Oliver's Parker's screen adaptation of the comedy of manners The Importance of Being Ernest. Despite it's all-star cast which included Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon, and Judy Dench, the film didn't go over well, only grossing about 8.3 million dollars. Here O'Connor talks about the reaction in America to her appearance in what seemed like so many period films: "In Australia I was seen as somebody who did only very modern, contemporary stuff. Then as soon as I went overseas I did two period pieces so it was like, "When are you going to get out of the corsets?" And I was thinking I just got into them!"
While O'Connor has appeared in some flops (Windtalkers in 2002 with Nicholas Cage and Timeline in 2003 with Paul Walker), she also co-starred in one of my favorite guilty-pleasure films, Bedazzled with Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley. I know, I know. I shouldn't love Bedazzled but I do. I love how Brendan Fraser has to play all these different characters (the drug dealer is great, that nose!). Frances O'Connor follows suit appearing with Fraser in all the fantasies that the devil constructs for him after he makes a wish (or perhaps, I should say nightmares).
You may also recognize O'Connor from 2001's AI: Artificial Intelligence. Remember that movie with Jude Law and the little kid who sees dead people? It was Stanley Kubrick's last project that Steven Spielberg finished after Kubrick's death. O'Connor played Monica Swinton the mother whose child is suffering from an incurable disease and "frozen," so she adopts David (Haley Joel Osment). The film got mixed reviews, even from the actress herself: "I think it is flawed. But at the same time I think it was a very brave experiment."
Nowadays, you can see Frances O'Connor every week on ABC's new show Cashmere Mafia. The show is produced by Darren Star Productions, the same company responsible for Sex and the City. Another SATC alum who joined the crew of Cashmere Mafia is Patricia Field, famed costume designer. On Cashmere Mafia, O'Connor plays Zoe Burden, a successful woman who works in Mergers and Acquisitions by day and tries to be the best mommy she can at night and on the weekends. Not only is O'Connor's comedic timing the best on the show, but her American accent is surprisingly natural. How did she learn to "speak American"? She watched Sesame Street and learned from Grover.
You can catch Frances O'Connor in Cashmere Mafia, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.