Kelly Reilly: Star of the Silver Screen, Stage and Television

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing
April 17th, 2014

A notable star of the London stage, Kelly Reilly is an unparalleled English actress. However, her work is not just restricted to London. She frequently crosses the pond and even married a man she met while in New York.

Reilly was born in Surrey, England on July 18, 1977. In spite of being born and raised in a relatively posh area of London, her family was blue collar. Her mother worked as a hospital receptionist and her father as a police officer. Her father worked all over south London and frequently worked in Lambeth, Southwark and Brixton during the Brixton riots.

In response to the police breaking up riots, Reilly has explained that they are just doing their jobs and trying to support their families. However, she has also admitted that she is "all for a good protest" and even sees riots as a "rite of passage." When Reilly was in her last year of school, she decided that she wanted to bypass acting school and act professionally, so she wrote to the producers of "Prime Suspect" and asked for an audition.

Six months later, she successfully auditioned, and on May 7, 1995, the actress made her television debut at the age of 17. Although her first job was on the small screen, the rest of her early work happened primarily in the theater. Over the next five years, she appeared in three Terry Johnson productions: "Elton John's Glasses," "The London Cuckolds" and "The Graduate."

The playwright/director was so impressed with Reilly's work that he decided to write a play just for her. A tribute to Hitchcock, "Piano/Forte" debuted at the Royal Court Theater in London in 2006. In response to her work, Johnson called Reilly the "most deep-in-the-bone" actress with whom he had ever worked.

Between 2000 and 2005, Reilly decided to branch out. Worried that she was being typecast into too many comedic roles, the actress sought more serious roles in plays like "Last Orders" and "Blasted." In 2003, she played an emotionally lost Miss Julie in "After Miss Julie" at the Donmar Warehouse Theater, and as a result of that role, she was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for best actress of 2003. At the age of 26, she was the youngest actress ever nominated for the award.

However, she stayed true to her love of comedy by playing Wendy in "L'Auberge Espagnole" ("The Spanish Apartment") and its sequel "Les Poupées Russes" ("The Russian Dolls"). Varying her characters certainly helped her career; in 2005, she landed roles in the films "Mrs. Henderson Presents" and "Pride & Prejudice."

In 2008, the actress finally earned her first starring role in a film. Although she starred in "Eden Lake," a horror film, it was not the role that terrified her. Instead, it was her return to the stage as Desdemona in "Othello" that the actress referred to as terrifying. In 2007, she starred in the Shakespearean classic alongside Ewan McGregor, and the show was so popular that tickets were resold for up to 47 times their original price. Sadly, many reviewers gave Reilly's bust as good of a reception as her acting, but she called those reviews "boring."

Although nudity is not something that she avoids, Reilly does not seek out roles that have a lot of nudity or scant clothing. Rather than using her body as leverage, she prefers to rely on her acting skills. In particular, she likes to act with her face and respects actresses like Robin Wright who have laugh lines and personality in their faces. 

When she returned to the silver screen, Reilly played roles in "Sherlock Holmes," "Triage" and "Me and Orson Welles." As her fame grew, so too did media speculation over her private life. In 2008, the media was so sure she was having an affair with director Guy Ritchie that they showed up at her parent's house. She sued in retaliation and won because the affair was completely fabricated. In fact, Reilly was in a relationship with Kyle Baugher, a financier who is her husband.

Although she may not be the most well-known actress in the world, Kelly Reilly has experienced a wildly successful career that spans the stage and screen. She has had the opportunity to play incredible roles but is ready for more. In 2014, a film starring Reilly and Greg Kinnear is set to be released, and she has also cited an urge to return to the stage, particularly to play Masha in Chekhov's "The Three Sisters."