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Sian Phillips is a Welsh actress who has conquered the entertainment world for decades with her extraordinary acting abilities. Her career has been marked by several memorable performances and roles as a remarkable theater actor and a professional film and television performer. Sian Phillips had an intrinsic flair for acting, despite her non-acting background. Phillips’ career began when she was only 11 years old, which explains her early start. Her rich, powerful voice quickly gained her the roles of narrator and broadcaster. However, it wasn’t long before she was in front of the camera for stage performances, her chiseled features and regal demeanor complementing her on-stage character. And, as they say, the rest is history. Phillips expanded her artistic boundaries to include films and television after establishing herself as the “best in town” stage artist. It’s worth noting that Sian Phillips didn’t let her imagination be confined by her comfort zone; instead, she experimented with a variety of characters, ranging from adorable to downright lethal. In 2016, she was awarded the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). Phillips continues to rule all three forms of entertainment, theatre, movie, and television, nearly seven decades after her debut!

Childhood and Adolescence

Sian Phillips was born in Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, Glamorgan, Wales, on May 14, 1933, as Jane Elizabeth Ailwên Phillips to Sally (née Thomas) and David Phillips. Her mother worked as a teacher, while her father was a police officer.

She was born in Wales and spent much of her youth speaking Welsh. She only learnt English as a language after listening to the radio. She went to University College Cardiff to study English and philosophy after finishing her primary school at Pontardawe Grammar School. She graduated from the University of Wales in 1955.
She received a scholarship and enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts shortly after graduating in 1955. (RADA). RADA was where she honed her acting talents to perfection.

Career of Sian Phillips

Sian Phillips’ career as a professional performer began when she was 11 years old. Her first acting job was as a ginger tom cat for BBC Radio Wales’ Home Service.

She had her first television appearance at the age of 17 and won a prestigious Welsh acting prize a year later. She worked for the BBC in Wales as a newsreader and announcer during her time in Cardiff.

She was a member of the BBC Repertory Company and the National Theatre Company from 1953 to 1955. She visited Wales and appeared in a number of Welsh Arts Council performances in both Welsh and English.

Phillips made her first performance on the London stage in 1957, while still a student at RADA, in the eponymous character of Hermann Sudermann’s theatrical ‘Magda.’ Her first super smash show in London, the play, was officially her first super hit show. She received a lot of praise from both fans and reviewers.

Sian Phillips played Hedda Gabler in Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ in 1957. The performance added to her London diaries’ success story by earning her the prestigious Bancroft Gold Medal. She then appeared in John Hall’s ‘The Holiday’ at Oxford New Theatre as Margaret Muir.

She had a very active year in 1958. She has portrayed a wide range of characters, including Masha in ‘Three Sisters,’ Princess Siwan in ‘The King’s Daughter,’ and Katherine in ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ For the BBC’s production of ‘Siwan: The King’s Daughter,’ she repeated her role as Princess Siwan. In the same year, she received fame and appreciation for her performance as Joan in G.B. Shaw’s highly acclaimed classic ‘Saint Joan.’

She played Julia in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ from 1960 to 1961. She went on to play Bertha in Ondine at the Aldwych Theatre and Miss Havisham in Great Expectations at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Sian Phillips’ primary interest was theatre, but she also dabbled in film and television. She featured in several films during the 1960s, including ‘Becket,’ ‘Young Cassidy,’ ‘Laughter in the Dark,’ and ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips,’ the latter of which earned her significant nominations.

When she was cast as Livia in the popular BBC production of Robert Graves’ novel ‘I, Claudius,’ her career reached new heights. The show was a big success, and she gained a large following as a result of it. It also earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Television Actress. She also appeared in the first season of ‘Call My Bluff.’

Sian Phillips’ other screen appearances include Emmeline Pankhurst in the TV miniseries ‘Shoulder to Shoulder,’ Clementine Churchill in ‘Winston Churchill: the Wilderness Years,’ Lady Ann in the BBC1 drama ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,’ and Cassiopeia in ‘Clash of the Titans.’

She played Adrian in seasons 2 and 4 of the Canadian TV series ‘La Femme Nikita’ towards the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s.

She played herself in Lily Savage’s ‘Blankety Blank’ in 2001. In Episode 7 of ‘Ballykissangel,’ she appeared as faith healer Consuela Dunphy.

Sian Phillips’ most recent film performances include Lady James in Richard Bracewell’s 2006 film ‘The Gigolos.’ She also had a guest appearance on the TV show ‘New Tricks.’ Her most recent appearance on screen was in the fifth season of ‘Lewis,’ in the episode ‘Wild Justice.’

‘Calendar Girls,’ a London West End production, was one of her later theatrical endeavors. She also starred as Juliet in the film ‘Juliet and her Romeo.’ Her increasing involvement in musicals such as ‘Pal Joey,’ ‘Gigi,’ and ‘A Little Night Music,’ earned her the Tony and Olivier Award nominations for her critically and financially popular one-woman cabaret performance ‘Marlene.’ The show was a huge hit on the runway and received a lot of positive feedback. In 2011, she debuted in a new cabaret act called “Crossing Borders.”

Major Projects of Sian Phillips

Sian Phillips’ career has been marked by a number of memorable roles in theatre, film, and television, the most well-known of which being her portrayal as Livia in the popular BBC adaptation of Robert Graves’ novel ‘I, Claudius.’ She was forever known as the tarantula mother/Empress Livia, a character that allowed her to fully express her artistic abilities and energies. She was completely natural in her acting and incredibly wonderful, earning her the prestigious BAFTA Award for Best Television Actress for her work on the show.

Achievements & Awards

For ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips,’ Sian Phillips earned the National Society of Film Critics award for Best Supporting Actress in 1970.
For ‘I, Claudius’ and ‘How Green Was My Valley,’ she won the prestigious BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress in 1976.
For her contributions to Welsh and English films and television, she received the BAFTA Cymru (Wales) Special Award in 2001.

Phillips received national recognition in addition to the film and television awards. She was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2000 Birthday Honours (CBE). In the 2016 New Year Honours, she was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to drama.

Personal History and Legacy

Sian Phillips has been married three times in her life. In 1956, she married Don Roy for the first time. In 1959, the couple divorced. Phillips was expecting her first kid at the time.

In December 1959, she married Peter O’Toole. Kate and Patricia, the couple’s two daughters, were born in 1960 and 1963, respectively. Phillips and Toole’s marriage was on the rocks in 1979 because things were not going well between them. Meanwhile, she had been in a relationship with actor Robin Sachs since 1975, and they married in 1979. Her divorce from Toole was finalized in 1991.

‘Private Faces,’ the first volume of her two-part autobiography, was published in 1999. The second book, named ‘Public Places,’ was released two years later, in 2001.

The Tlws Sian Phillips Award was established by BAFTA Cymru in Wales in 2005 to honor a Welshman or woman who has made a substantial contribution to a major feature film or network television program. Since then, the award has been given out every year.

Sian Phillips’ Net Worth

Sian Phillips is an actress that works professionally. As of 2019, her net worth is estimated to be between $5 million and $7 million. Throughout his work in the film industry, she amassed a sizable net worth. Furthermore, she has been active since 1944.