Photo: USA Today
Photo: USA Today

Helen Elizabeth McCrory OBE (17 August 1968 – 16 April 2021) was an English actress. After studying at the Drama Centre London, she made her stage debut in The Importance of Being Earnest in 1990. Other stage roles include playing Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at Shakespeare's Globe, Olivia in Twelfth Night and Rosalind in As You Like It in the West End.

McCrory portrayed Cherie Blair in both The Queen (2006) and The Special Relationship (2010). She also portrayed Françoise in the film Charlotte Gray (2001), Narcissa Malfoy in the final three Harry Potter films, Mama Jeanne in Martin Scorsese's family film Hugo (2011), Clair Dowar in the James Bond film Skyfall (2012), Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders (2013–2019), Emma Banville in Fearless (2017), and Kathryn Villiers in MotherFatherSon (2019).

Helen McCrory: Early life

Photo: The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

McCrory was born in Paddington in London. Her mother, Ann (née Morgans), is Welsh and her father, Iain McCrory (born 29 March 1940), is a diplomat from Glasgow; they married in 1974. She was the eldest of three children.

She was educated at Queenswood School near Hatfield, Hertfordshire, and then spent a year living in Italy. Upon her return to Britain, she began studying acting at the Drama Centre in London.

Helen McCrory: Career

Who is Helen McCrory: Bio, Acting Career, Personal Life
Helen McCrory in TV series "Peaky Blinders" (Photo: Getty Image)

McCrory won third prize at the Ian Charleson Awards for her 1993 performance as Rose Trelawny in Trelawny of the 'Wells' at the National Theatre. In 2002, she was nominated for a London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress (for playing Elena in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya at the Donmar Warehouse). She was later nominated for a 2006 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for her role as Rosalind in As You Like It in the West End. In April 2008, she made a "compelling" Rebecca West in a production of Ibsen's Rosmersholm at the Almeida Theatre, London.

She appeared in Charles II: The Power and The Passion (2003), as Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine, and in supporting roles in such films as Interview with the Vampire (1994), Charlotte Gray (2001), The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), and Casanova (2005). In The Queen (2006) she played Cherie Blair, a role she reprised in Peter Morgan's follow-up The Special Relationship (2010).

She appeared in a modernised television adaptation of Frankenstein. Her first pregnancy forced her to pull out of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), in which she had been cast as Bellatrix Lestrange (she was replaced by Helena Bonham Carter). McCrory was later cast as Bellatrix's sister Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, released in July 2009. McCrory reprised her role in the final films, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2; McCrory's performance was well received by fans of the books. She also played the principal villain role of Rosanna Calvierri in the episode "The Vampires of Venice" of the BBC television series Doctor Who.

McCrory starred in The Last of the Haussmans at the Royal National Theatre, which began 12 June 2012. The production was broadcast to cinemas around the world on 11 October 2012 through the National Theatre Live programme.

In 2013, McCrory narrated poetry for The Love Book App, an interactive anthology of love literature developed by Allie Byrne Esiri. Again in 2013, she played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Little Angel Theatre. The same year, she started playing Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders.

In 2014, McCrory played the title role in the National Theatre's production of Medea, directed by Carrie Cracknell. Also in 2014, McCrory made a guest appearance on the TV series Penny Dreadful. She returned as a regular for the show's second season, playing the main antagonist.

In August 2016, McCrory was confirmed to play Emma Banville in ITV drama series Fearless, which began airing in June 2017.

In 2021, Helen McCrory joined in "His Dark Meterial" TV series, voicing Stelmaria - daemon of the main character Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), and the series was based on the novels of British writer Phillip Pullman. This was also her last role.

Personal life

Photo: People
Photo: People

On 4 July 2007, McCrory married actor Damian Lewis; the couple had a daughter named Manon and a son named Gulliver. Their main home was in Tufnell Park, North London; and a second near Sudbury in Suffolk.

McCrory served as an honorary patron of the London children's charity Scene & Heard.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her husband supported Feed NHS, a programme to give food from high street restaurants to NHS staff, and had raised £1 million for the charity by early April of that year.

She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to drama.

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Peaky Blinders star Helen McCrory dies, aged 52

Helen McCrory OBE, star of stage and screen, has died.

Her husband Damian Lewis – to whom McCrory had been married since 2007 – confirmed the sad news in a statement today (16th April).

Peaky Blinders star McCrory, who was aged 52, had been diagnosed with cancer, with Lewis saying she had fought “an heroic battle” and had “died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family.”

Lewis wrote: “She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”

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