British actress Suzanna Hamilton’s first major screen role was as Izz Huett in Roman Polanski’s “Tess” (1979). She went on to feature in many more motion-pictures and television dramas including Michael Radford’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1984) opposite John Hurt, and Sydney Pollack’s “Out of Africa” (1985) with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. More recently she has featured in the BBC’s long running TV series “Silent Witness” and UK independent feature film “My Feral Heart” (2016). As well as her work on screen, Suzanna continues to do theater and voice work.
Suzanna was discovered in the early 1970’s by filmmaker Claude Whatham, at age 12, in a children’s experimental theater in north London. She starred in her first feature, “Swallows and Amazons”, based on the popular Arthur Ransome children’s book, in 1974. Whatham also cast her as Princess Alexandra in the BBC miniseries, “Disraeli”. Hamilton first received training in acting at the Anna Scher Theatre School and later, at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
Suzanna’s first major screen role was Izz Huett, the lovesick dairymaid, in Roman Polanski’s 1979 film, “Tess”, based on the classic Thomas Hardy novel, “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”, which featured Nastassja Kinski in the title role.
Her next significant role was in Richard Loncraine’s 1982 film, “Brimstone and Treacle”, based on Dennis Potter’s play of the same name. In this film, Suzanna starred as Patricia Bates, the traumatized, catatonic daughter of a devoutly religious, middle-aged Home Counties couple whose lives are changed by a demonic drifter and con man portrayed by Sting. She was also featured the following year, in the BBC television mystery, “A Pattern of Roses”, with a young Helena Bonham Carter.
Suzanna’s next major motion-picture appearance is also her most famous and, arguably, her finest. In “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, she was perfectly cast as Julia in writer/director Michael Radford’s film adaptation of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel. Her uncommonly bold, affecting performance, opposite John Hurt’s Winston Smith, earned her some notoriety and a bit of a minor cult following over the years as the film’s reputation has steadily grown.
1985 was a very busy year. She starred opposite Vanessa Redgrave in British playwright David Hare’s film, “Wetherby”. As Karen Creasy, Hamilton’s character is the sullen former friend of a young man who committed suicide, and she represents the emotional void at the heart of contemporary British life with all its repressions, denials, and disaffection — “a central disfiguring blankness” as one character calls it. Her next role was as the equestrienne, Felicity, in Sydney Pollack’s Oscar-winning “Out of Africa”, based on the memoirs of the famed Danish writer, Karen Blixen (aka “Isak Dinesen”) opposite Meryl Streep; a role that was an amalgam based on Beryl Markham and others.
Her subsequent screen roles were mostly in European films made in exotic locations, as well as numerous British television dramas. She played a saxophonist in an all-woman band touring colonial dives in southeast Asia in the 1987 German film, “Devil’s Paradise”, shot in Thailand and based on a Joseph Conrad story. In 1988, she starred in another low-budget German film, a short called “The Voice”, opposite the British cult actor, Jon Finch (of Polanski’s “Macbeth” and Hitchcock’s “Frenzy” fame).
Hamilton also starred in the well-received 1986 television drama “Johnny Bull”, with Peter MacNichol, Jason Robards, Colleen Dewhurst, and Kathy Bates. She next played the winsome Anglo-French spy, Matty Firman, in “Wish Me Luck”, a British World War II miniseries, and starred in the miniseries based on Barbara Taylor Bradford’s “Hold the Dream.”
In the 1989 BBC miniseries “Never Come Back”, she made a striking appearance as the inscrutable femme fatale, Anna Raven, a murky, nourish conspiracy thriller set on the eve of the London blitz. Suzanna also turned in an admirable performance in the excellent 1990 British television film, “Small Zones”, as a strong-willed Russian poetess whose subversive writings have led to her indefinite imprisonment in a bleak Soviet holding cell. This was followed by a supporting role in a 1992 TV film of Barbara Cartland’s Regency-period bodice-ripper, “Duel of Hearts”.
1992’s low-budget Gothic horror romance, “Tale of a Vampire”, written and directed by Shimako Sato, a 27-year-old Japanese-British film student, features Suzanna in a dual appearance, as both Ann, a librarian mourning the death of her boyfriend, and as Virgina Clemm, the wife of Edgar Allan Poe and long-lost love of a lonely melancholic vampire played by Julian Sands.
Suzanna had a recurring role In the 1990s as Dr. Karen Goodliffe on the British TV hospital dramatic series, “Casualty”. Her character had to be written out of the show after Hamilton became pregnant in early 1993. In 1997’s “Island on Bird Street”, a Danish period drama made in the Dogme 95-style, concerning an orphaned Jewish boy who dodges the Nazis in occupied Europe during World War II, Suzanna has a brief cameo as the mother of a girl whom the boy befriends.
Suzanna Hamilton is also an accomplished theater and radio actress. She made her first West End appearance in 1982, starring in Tom Stoppard’s play, “The Real Thing”. In 1993, she played the lead as a Welsh maid who gets in over her head in the Bush Theater production of Lucinda Coxon’s “Waiting at the Water’s Edge”. She was cast as Creusa in a Gate Theater 2002 production of Euripides’ “Ion”, and in early 2005, Hamilton appeared as Dora, a tough, bereaved, guilt-ridden lesbian incarcerated in a 1920’s asylum in the production of Charlotte Jones’ chamber drama, “Airswimming”, at the Salisbury Playhouse. She also lent her voice to a 1991 audio-book recording of Julian Barnes’ novel about a love triangle called “Talking It Over”.
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