Australian actress Rachel Griffiths burst onto the big screen as Toni Collette’s spitfire sidekick in the sleeper hit “Muriel’s Wedding” (1994), before going on to appear in over a dozen Australian, British, and American films including “Hilary and Jackie” (1998), “Blow” (2001) and “Ned Kelly” (2003). In 2001, the actress known for emotional and intellectual characters, was well-cast in the highly-acclaimed HBO series “Six Feet Under” (HBO, 2001-05), earning a number of award nominations for her five-season run as a woman weighted down by the effects of a dysfunctional family. She turned around to join another dysfunctional family – this time as its anchor – in ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters,” and was again nominated for a Golden Globe award in 2007.
Rachel Griffiths was born on Dec. 18, 1968, and raised in Melbourne, Australia. A self-proclaimed “grave” child preoccupied with social injustice and Sylvia Plath, she also found herself keenly in tune with the emotions of people around her. She enjoyed mimicking others – not as a cruel sport – but out of an interest to get inside their heads. Good grades and intellectual ambition led her to Melbourne University, where she excelled at heady topics including philosophy, but ultimately the actress found academia unfulfilling. Her search for a more creative pursuit – one that would involve sharing her insights with more than just college professors – led her to the drama department at the Victoria School of the Arts where she at last felt she had found her people. There, Griffiths studied all aspects of drama production including writing and directing, before finally getting comfortable with the idea of being an actress. After college, she began working with the touring youth company Woolly Jumpers Theater Company, as well as the Melbourne Theater Company, where she appeared in dramas like "The Grapes of Wrath,” "The Sisters Rosenzweig" and "Sylvia."
Griffiths made a name for herself in 1991 when she wrote and performed in the short film "Barbie Gets Hip,” which was screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival. She landed a few TV spots before she was cast as Rhonda, the ABBA-loving, party-hearty friend who helps Toni Collette break out of her shell in P.J. Hogan's "Muriel's Wedding" (1994). The film was an unexpected hit internationally, jumpstarting the careers of both Griffiths and Collette, who suddenly found themselves courted by all manner of agents and directors. An added bonus – Griffiths was honored with an Australian Film Institute Award for Best Supporting Actress. British director Michael Winterbottom promptly tapped Griffiths to play a pig farmer’s lusty daughter in "Jude” (1996). The same year, she reteamed with Collette in the comedy "Cosi,” playing the law-student girlfriend of a drifter working as a therapist in a mental hospital. Griffiths went on to inject her own brand of vitality to "To Have and to Hold” (1996) as a romance writer wooed by a mysterious Frenchman (Tcheky Karyo) and "Children of the Revolution" (1996,) playing the leather-clad policewoman who romances the alleged son of Josef Stalin. One of her strongest roles was her lead as a hard-bitten English prostitute who falls for an older Pakistani cab driver (Om Puri) in the little-seen British comedy, “My Son the Fanatic” (1996).
Griffiths reunited with P.J. Hogan and made her American cinema debut playing Cameron Diaz's Southern belle cousin in "My Best Friend's Wedding” (1997). After a supporting role as one of the oddball residents in Stephan Elliott's "Welcome to Woop Woop" (1997), Griffiths showcased her untapped potential for more introverted characters with her superb portrayal of flautist Hilary du Pre in the biopic "Hilary and Jackie" (1998). While co-star Emily Watson received much attention as the more flamboyant Jacqueline du Pre, Griffiths served as the film's emotional anchor and offered a richly observed characterization; one which the Academy members recognized with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Griffiths followed up with a pair of comedies, delivering a charming performance as an adventurous traveler in “Among Giants” (1998) and a magazine writer glimpsing into the parallel universe of a life that might have been in “Me, Myself I” (1999), which was unfortunately eclipsed by the same year’s Renee Zellweger/Jim Carrey comedic romp, “Me, Myself and Irene.”
In an unlikely casting choice that ultimately worked, Griffiths was seen as Johnny's Depp's suburban mother in the frenzied cocaine crime feature "Blow" (2001) and oddly enough, also starred in that year’s “Blow Dry,” a comedy about competing hairdressers in a small English town. In the fall of 2001, Griffiths accepted her first major television series role and came aboard Alan Ball’s HBO series "Six Feet Under." Her excellent portrayal of the deeply dysfunctional Brenda Chenowith, who was raised as a mental and emotional experiment by her psychologist parents, earned her a pair of Emmy nominations; first as Outstanding Lead Actress in A Drama Series in 2002, and then as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2003. Griffiths stayed with the show during its five years of critical acclaim, while at the same time, continued to appear in feature films. She was seen opposite Dennis Quaid in "The Rookie" (2002) and continued to maintain strong ties to her homeland by appearing in Australian productions "The Hard Word" (2002), the historical biopic "Ned Kelly" (2003) and the television miniseries "After the Deluge" (2003).
After voicing Albertine in the straight-to-video animated feature “The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina” (2004), Griffiths wrapped up “Six Feet Under” when the series aired its fifth and memorable final season in 2005. With a free schedule now, she practically sleepwalked through a performance as the stern headmaster of a performing arts school in “Step Up” (2006), a tediously formulaic coming-of-age drama about a troubled but talented hip-hop dancer (Channing Tatum) from the mean streets of Baltimore. Griffiths was far more captivating in a new television series, “Brothers & Sisters” (ABC, 2006- ). The family saga centered on five brothers and sisters who take up the family’s lucrative produce business after the sudden death of their father (Tom Skerritt). Griffiths held things together as Sarah, the intelligent and centered sibling who keeps her unhappiness over a troubled marriage neatly under wraps, while at the same time, adjusting from the high-powered corporate world to the confines of the family business. The show was one of few premiered in the fall of 2006 that earned substantial critical kudos and the all-important full-season pickup.
Meanwhile, Griffiths co-starred in “Comanche Moon” (CBS, 2006), a three-part miniseries prequel to Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove,” then starred as a pregnant, middle-class counselor trying to assist a troubled inner city teen (Jonan Everett) in “Angel Rodriguez” (HBO, 2006). In 2007 and 2008, Griffiths was again nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for her performance on “Brothers & Sisters."
|Muriel's Wedding||Rhonda Epinstalk||1994|
|My Best Friend's Wedding||Samantha Newhouse||1997|
|The Rookie||Lorri Morris||2002|
|Ned Kelly||Susan Scott||2003|
|Step Up||Director Gordon||2006|
|Underground: The Julian Assange Story||Christine Assange||2012|
|Saving Mr. Banks||Aunt Ellie||2013|