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Theatre and film star Imelda Staunton made CBE


Imelda Staunton - seen here in Gypsy - has been honoured for her theatrical work

Imelda Staunton - seen here in Gypsy - has been honoured for her theatrical work

Imelda Staunton - seen here in Gypsy - has been honoured for her theatrical work

After years of hard graft on the West End stage and on film sets across the world, Imelda Staunton is getting a promotion from OBE to CBE.

The actress, 59, was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2006, but will now be upgraded to Commander as she is honoured for services to drama.

In an interview earlier this year, she said of the OBE: "I just wish my mum had been alive to see it. She would have been so thrilled."

Born in North London to a hairdresser and a labourer, Staunton joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) at the age of 18. Her classmates included actors Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall and Juliet Stevenson.

After six years in repertory theatre, she moved on to roles at the National Theatre - where she started gaining attention, earning Laurence Olivier Award nominations for Best Actress in a Musical and Most Promising Newcomer of the Year in Theatre for her performance in The Beggar's Opera in 1982.

Over the following years, Staunton has picked up 10 Laurence Olivier Award nominations and won two - the gong for Best Actress in a Musical for Into the Woods (1991) and Sweeney Todd (2011).

It was during a production of Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre in 1982 that she met her husband Jim Carter, who is best known for playing butler Mr Carson in Downton Abbey.

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This year Staunton stayed close to her West End beginnings as she trod the boards at the Savoy Theatre in London.

She plays the part of Momma Rose in the revived musical Gypsy - playing the pushy mother of burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee.

Dame Angela Lansbury, 89, who is the only other person to have played the character on the London stage when it originally opened in 1973, gave her seal of approval - saying: "She's a consummate actress and extraordinarily well able to carry the vocals."

The show received rave reviews, with the Guardian and Telegraph giving it five stars. Theatre critic Dominic Cavendish called it an "unrepeatable chance to witness Imelda Staunton give one of the performances of her career".

But despite a penchant for the stage, Staunton has not shied away from film roles. Many will know the actress from the Harry Potter films, where she played the evil Dolores Umbridge who temporarily took over as headmistress of wizarding school Hogwarts.

She also drew critical acclaim for starring in the 2004 film Vera Drake, which earned her a number of nominations and awards - including the Bafta Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

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