Follow Us on Twitter

Mrs Henderson Presents... Kelly Reilly!

Mrs Henderson Presents

Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle

KELLY Reilly may not be a household name but with four high-profile films- including Mrs Henderson Presents – to her credit, that could very well change. And soon…..So, just who is this young actress willing to bare all for her art?

For someone who grew up in Chessington, Surrey to a policeman father and a mother who works at Kingston Hospital, acting may not seem an obvious choice of career. But it’s what Reilly wanted more than anything else.

In fact, so determined was she to fulfill her ambition, that at 16 she wrote, not once, but twice to a casting agent from the television drama Prime Suspect. Her persistence paid off and in series four, she appeared as a teen murder suspect who comes under the scrutiny of Superintendent Jane Tennison.

By a strange coincidence, Reilly went on to play a young version of Helen Mirren in the film Last Orders.

Prime Suspect was followed by minor TV roles in Poirot, Children of the New Forest and the revamped Poldark; along with appearances in films such as Peaches, Dead Bodies and Maybe Baby.

However, it was on the stage that Reilly truly came into her own. Theatregoers will, no doubt, remember her as the innocent Elaine to Kathleen Turner’s Mrs Robinson in The Graduate; or the lovelorn Debs in Sexual Perversity in Chicago, a performance that many considered outshone both Minnie Driver and Matthew Perry.

And in 2004, she became the youngest-ever Olivier nominee for her performance in the Donmar Warehouse production of Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie. She was last seen on stage touring in Look Back in Anger with David Tennant.

Now, it’s back to the big screen and four films which, only last year, were shot back-to-back. Pride and Prejudice in which she plays ‘sniffy’ Caroline Bingley has already charmed audiences; while another period piece, The Libertine, has only just been released.

Although her role is a small one, “a sort of grubbed-up Nell Gwyn”, it has meant working alongside the likes of Johnny Depp (as a pre-syphilitic Earl of Rochester) and John Malkovich.

Next though and for Reilly probably the most significant, comes Mrs Henderson Presents, a musical drama in which she stars alongside Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins. Playing Maureen, one of the fabled Windmill girls, inevitably meant filming nude scenes but as she told The Sunday Times newspaper:

“You have to deal with these things with a huge amount of humour. There’s nothing worse than being deadly serious about nudity.” And to that, she added:

“We were filming for three months. There are days when you are absolutely fine with it, and there are days when you’d rather put on tracksuit bottoms and curl up with a hot water bottle and a cup of cocoa. You couldn’t – you had to be naked in front of 250 people, but that’s what these girls had to do.”

Finally and due in cinemas next year (2006) is a French film for which she has already won Best Newcomer Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Russian Dolls – a follow-up to Pot Luck (2002) in which she also appeared.

Happily for theatregoers, Reilly hasn’t ruled out returning to the stage for, as she explained: “I’d choose to do a play every year, because if I don’t, I miss it….. I love being in rehearsal, I love being with other actors and I love doing a play live.”

But whatever, one thing is certain, Kelly Reilly is a name we’ll be hearing a lot more in the future…..