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Shirley Henderson (b. 24 November, 1965) is a Scottish singer and award-winning stage and film actress, known for her childlike voice. She played Moaning Myrtle in the film adaptations of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.[1] Being 5' 0½" (1.54 m) and 36 years old when she first played Moaning Myrtle, she is the oldest actor to play a teenage Hogwarts student in the Harry Potter films.[2]


Initial years

Shirley Henderson was born in 1965 in the village of Kincardine, Fife, in Scotland. She grew up there in a working-class family, where she was the older of three sisters.[1]

In the late 1970s, teenage Henderson noticed a singer in TV talent programme Opportunity Knocks, and decided that singing was not beyond her capabilities. She took part in a talent competition in Butlins Holiday Camp, and won the first prize. She then began singing in a boxing ring between bouts and in local music club gigs, and singing Gladys Knight and Barbra Streisand songs in local working men's clubs during Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.[1]

In 1983, deciding that she wanted to study theatre and begin a career in acting, she opted and was accepted in London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama.[1] Three years later, she graduated in the School and began a stage career.[1][3]

Late 1980s: Stage

Although Henderson did not reject any TV or movie project in her first acting years, she obtained a greater success in theatre. For instance, in 1987, she performed both in a TV series and in a stage play. The former was Leonard White's child drama for Scottish Television Shadow of the Stone, a short series about a young girl and her alter ego from the past, who had been burned at the stake as a witch.[1][4]

The stage play was David Edgar's Entertaining Strangers, written the previous year. She performed in the National Theatre and Cottsloe Theatre (London), under the direction of Peter Hall.[4][5][6] Satisfied with Henderson's performance, Hall cast her again for two more plays the following year, both of them written by William Shakespeare in 1623 and to be performed in the same scenarios: The Tempest, with Henderson as Miranda, and The Winter's Tale, with Henderson as Perdita.[4][5][6]

In 1989, Henderson performed in a different theatre in London, the Royal Court Theatre, when Michael Attenborough directed her as Rosie in Charlotte Keatly's My Mother Said I Never Should[4][6][5] The three-act play, which had premièred in Manchester two years earlier with a different cast, talks about the difficult relationship between mothers and daughters, and is minimalistic and deliberately unrealistic.[7]

1990-1995: Stage and TV

During the early 1990s, Henderson combined her stage work with the filming of TV movies and series. In 1990 alone, she appeared in one episode of Casualty[1][4], five consecutive episodes of the third season of Wish Me Luck[1], and the title role in the stage version of Sarah Ruhl's Euridyce', directed by Michael Rudman for the Chichester Festival in the Chichester and Minerva Theatres, both of them in Chichester, England.[6][4]

Leaving theatre for two years, Henderson concentrated in TV movies, acting in Advocates I for Scottish Television, Dreaming for PolyGramme Video, and the miniseries Clarissa for BBC (also broadcast on Masterpiece Theatre, PBS, on 1992), co-starring Sean Bean, all of them in 1991.[1][4] In 1992, she performed in German-Canadian-French co-production Salt on Our Skin, known in the USA as Desire, for VCL Communications.[1][4]

Returning to theatre in 1993, and in fact to Shakespeare, Henderson played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow (Scotland), directed by Giles Havergal.[6][4] That same year, she also acted under Matthew Lloyd[5] (sometimes mistakenly billed as "Michael Lloyd" at the Hampstead Theatre, in London, in the play Lions in the Street,[6][4] and the following year in George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss, directed by Nancy Meckler as a part of the Shared Experience Theatre Company.[6][5]

Also in 1994, she appeared in one episode of the TV series The Bill[1] But most importantly, she co-starred with Robert Carlyle in the three-season, twenty-episode TV series Hamish Macbeth for BBC.[1][4][6] The series, based in M.C. Beaton's novels, featured Henderson as Isobel Sutherland, a journalist and the main character's love interest, and is considered Henderson's first on-screen break. Unconfirmed sources suggest that Henderson got the role because of her Shakespearian performance in the National Theatre, and that her collaboration with Carlyle led to her further roles[3] in Rob Roy (1995, a project featuring John Hurt but in which Carlyle was officially not involved).[1][4][6]

1996-2000: Stage, TV and cinema

It is also believed[3] that Henderson's work with Robert Carlyle led to her role as Spud's girlfriend Gail in Trainspotting (1996), co-starring Carlyle, Peter Mullan, and Kelly Macdonald.[1][6][4][3]. During the premiere, Henderson returned to theatre for Simon Donald's The Life of stuff, directed by John Mitchell[5] in the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.[6][4]

In 1997, Henderson appeared in TV movie Bumping the Odds, again for BBC[1][6][4], and also at the Old Vic Theatre of London to perform in Shining Souls, written and directed by Chris Hannan[6][4] She also appeared as Adela in Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca's masterpice The House of Bernarda alba, produced by Robbie Allen and directed by Hamish Macbeth director Stuart Davids (who cast several actresses from the series).[6][8][9]

In 1998, Henderson only performed an uncredited role as the "woman in dream" in the British Film Institute movie Speak like a child[1][4] - but 1999 would be a very interesting year for her.

In 1999, Henderson performed in no less than two mainstream (as opposed to TV) movies and two stage plays with directors she had previously worked with. The plays were The Maiden Stone, at Hampstead Theatre[6][4] under Matthew Lloyd[5] and Anna Weiss at Whitehall Theatre.[6][4] under Michael Attenborough[5]

The first of her two 1999 movies were Michael Winterbottom's drama Wonderland for Paramount Pictures (also featuring Abby Ford and Ian Hart), in which she got the top billing.[1][6][4]. The other movie was Mike Leigh's musical biography Topsy-Turvy (featuring Ashley Artus, Jim Broadbent and Timothy Spall), in which Henderson played historical soprano Leonora Braham and performed no less than four songs. The movie, although not a commercial success, received favourable reviews from the critics and won a number of awards; Henderson herself was nominated as the British Supporting Actress of the Year for the London Critics Circle, but lost to Samantha Morton for Sweet and Lowdown. Henderson would also be later nominated for the 2001 Bowmore/Scottish Screen/Sunday Times Actress of the Year, for her work in both Topsy-Turvy and Wonderland, but again she did not win.

In 2000, she acted in The Claim for United Artists,[1][4][6] and she also performed voiced work for the animated short The Green Man of Knowledge: A Story for Scotland, which would later be broadcasted by HBO as an episode of Animated Tales of the World.[1][4]

2001-2004: Cinema, nominations and awards

Forfeiting theatre for a while, Shirley Henderson concentrated in TV and cinema during the first years of the 21th century. In 2001, she acted in TV series In a Land of Plenty for BBC[1][4] and in mini-series The Way We Live Now[1][4], Andrew Davies adaptation of Anthony Trollope's work[3] which is considered one of her most notable performances for TV[6] and which earned her a new nomination, this time to the Royal Television Society award for Best Actor - Female (lost to Diane Parish for Babyfather)[1].

In 2001, Henderson also appeared in the Miramax blockbuster Bridget Jones's Diary (also featuring Jim Broadbent, Campbell Graham and Gemma Jones). In what could be considered a premonitory role, Henderson plays Jude, Bridget's weepy friend who is frequently in the ladies' room crying about her boyfriend - which is similar to her role of Moaning Myrtle.[1][6][4][3] Henderson was again nominated to the Bowmore/Scottish Screen/Sunday Times Actress of the Year of 2002, for her work in The Claim and Bridget Jones's diary.[1]

In 2002, Henderson appeared in no less than seven mainstream movies, including Doctor Sleep (featuring Fiona Shaw);[1][6][4] Once Upon a Time in the Midlands;[1][6][4] Villa des Roses, for which she was nominated to the Best Actress British Independent Film Award, and lost again to Samantha Morton;[1][4] the short film The Girl in the Red Ress, which won the Mademoiselle Ladubay Award at the Angers European First Film Festival;[1][4][6] Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets;[1][4][6][3] 24 Hour Party People, for which she was nominated to the British Supporting Actress of the Year Award by the London Critics Circle (but lost to Emily Watson for Red Dragon);[1][4][6][3] and last but not least, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (also featuring Adrian Rawlins), which won her the Best Actress Award at the Bordeaux International Festival of Women in Cinema, and two more nominations: Best Supporting Actor/Actress at the British Independent Film Awards (lost to Susan Lynch for 16 Years of Alcohol), and Best Supporting Actress at the Chlotrudis Awards (lost to Virginia Madsen for Sideways). Wilbur was so popular that archive footage of the movie, including Henderson's, was used for a TV special broadcasted in Denmark.[1][4]

Shirley Henderson as Moaning Myrtle in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"

Henderson's work in 2002 nominated her again to the Bowmore/Scottish Screen/Sunday Times Actress of the Year and named her the Most Deserving Actor by The Scotsman newspaper, in both cases for the same four movies: 24-Hour Party People, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, Villa des Roses and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Other projects that year could not be taken into account: Wilbur was a Danish production, Red Dress was a short film, and Doctor Sleep was not considered for unknown reasons).[1]

Not shy to accept many simultaneous projects, Henderson acted in four mainstream movies and one TV project in 2003, winning four awards because of them. To name her movies, she acted in AfterLife;[1][4] in Intermission, for which she was nominated to the British Supporting Actress of the Year by the London Critics Circle by the third and (until now) last time, and even in her transvestite role she lost to Emma Thompson for Love Actually; in Fishy, for which she won the Silver Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival; and in American Cousins, for which she won the Best Actress-Comedy Jury Award of the Newport Beach Film International Film Festival, and her first Cherbourg-Octeville Festival Actress award.[1][4] Her TV projects included, beyond an interview for GMTV[1][4], the mini-series Charles II: The Power & The Passion, for BBC, where she acted as Catherine of Braganza[1][4]. The series is considered, along with The Way We Live Now, one of her best TV performances.[6] Her work in American Cousins, Intermission and Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself gave her the 2004 Bowmore/Scottish Screen/Sunday Times Actress of the Year Award, after four failed nominations.[1]

In 2004, Henderson returned to a franchise she previously had worked in: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (featuring again Jim Broadbent, Campbell Graham, Gemma Jones, and new additions Jessica Hynes and Morne Botes, who was a double in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).[1][4][6] Henderson also acted in Sony Pictures Classics's Yes[1][4][6] and in TV movie Dirty Filthy Love[1][4], a drama about a sufferer of OCD and Tourette's Syndrome[3], for which she was praised[6] and nominated by the Royal Television Society for the Best Actress Award (lost to Anamaria Marinca for Sex Traffic).[1] She was also nominated for the Best Scottish Actor Award at the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards.[1]

2005-: Current work

Henderson as Ursula Blake in Doctor Who

In 2005, Henderson returned to the Harry Potter franchise reprising her role as Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.[1][4][6] She does not appear in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, although the character of Myrtle does appear in the book.

In that same year, Henderson also acted in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (also featuring Ian Hart and Mark Williams),[1][6] and returned to TV to play Mileva Maric in E=mc², also broadcast as an episode of the series Nova.[1][6] A clear returner, Henderson returned to Shakespeare to act in a BBC episode of ShakespeaRe-Told, performing Katherine Minola in The Taming of the Shrew.[1][4][6] Lastly, she acted in the film Frozen, winning the BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actress in a Scottish Film; the Best Actress Award of the Marrakech International Film Festival; a Special mention in the Créteil International Women's Film Festival; and the Best Actress Award of the Cherbourg-Octeville Festival of Irish & British Film - becoming the only actress to win that award twice). She was also a runner-up for the Golden Needle at the Seattle International Film Festival.[1][4][6]

In 2006, she appeared in two movies, including Sophia Coopola's Marie Antoinete[1][6] and comedy Ma Boy[1], plus the episode Love & Monsters of Doctor Who,[1][6] in which she performed Ursula Blake, a member of the London Investigative 'N Detective Agency (LINDA) who was betrayed and absorbed by her leader, the disguised monster Abzorbaloff, and later partially returned.[10] Archive footage of Henderson as Ursula later appeared in the episode Journey's End.[1]

Again in 2006, Henderson appeared uncredited in direct-to-DVD Joy Division: Under Review, and prepared her role for the movie Master of Lies, who was eventually not produced.[1]

In 2007, Henderson played one of the leads in the comedy I Really Hate My Job[1][6], and also appeared in Channel 4 TV movie Wedding Belles (also featuring Miles Jupp).[1][6]

Finally, in 2008, Henderson appeared in mainstream productions Wild Child[1][6] and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day[1][6], along with ITV1 two-part comedy drama May Contain Nuts.[1][6] She performed voice work for BBC Radio 4's radio-drama The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists[5].

Her next project to greenlight is a TV movie adapting Agatha Christie's work, Marple: Murder Is Easy, which will probably be seen in 2008.[1]

She has re-united with the original cast of Trainspotting for the 2017 sequel, T2: Trainspotting, also starring Kelly Macdonald and Katie Leung.

Henderson also appeared to be the voice of the character Babu Frik in the new 2019 film in the Star Wars saga: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

External links

Notes and references

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 1.30 1.31 1.32 1.33 1.34 1.35 1.36 1.37 1.38 1.39 1.40 1.41 1.42 1.43 1.44 1.45 1.46 1.47 1.48 1.49 1.50 1.51 1.52 1.53 1.54 1.55 1.56 1.57 Shirley Henderson filmography. Internet Movie Database.
  2. Technically, graduate students such as Albus Dumbledore are still Hogwarts students, and played by actors older than Henderson. Myrtle, being dead and not actively studying, is neither an active student. Although she died in 1943 and must have been 60-to-68 years old when first appeared in the books, she stopped ageing when she became a ghost, and thus she can arguably be considered a teenager.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Drama Faces: Discover more about the stars of BBC Drama. BBC.co.uk
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 4.28 4.29 4.30 4.31 4.32 4.33 4.34 4.35 4.36 4.37 4.38 4.39 4.40 4.41 Shirley Henderson Biography (1965-). Filmreference.com
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Hamilton Hodell - SHIRLEY HENDERSON. Hamilton Hodell Talent Management. Hamiltonhodell.co.uk
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 6.20 6.21 6.22 6.23 6.24 6.25 6.26 6.27 6.28 6.29 6.30 6.31 6.32 6.33 6.34 6.35 6.36 6.37 6.38 6.39 6.40 Shirley Henderson. Wikipedia.com.
  7. My Mother Said I Never Should. Wikipedia.com.
  8. Nationmaster The House of Bernada-Alba. Nationmaster.com.
  9. The House of Bernada-Alba full text in Spanish.
  10. Ursula Blake on Doctor Who Wikia