Born on 22 February 1950, Julie Walters wanted to be an actress from an early age, but very sensibly decided to embark on a good, dependable nursing career instead. This didn't last long, however, and - unable to resist the call of the stage any longer - Walters enrolled at Manchester Polytechnic to study drama. After that she joined the legendary Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, where a new style of contemporary English drama was being pioneered by the likes of Willy Russell and Alan Bennett.
The big break
Although the Everyman Theatre connected Walters with some of the best writers of the time, her real breakthrough was the result of a friendship she struck up while still at the Polytechnic. It was there that she met fellow student Victoria Wood, and their lasting friendship led to Wood inviting Walters to join her on a stage show in 1978. It proved a success, and the two women were soon given their own TV series, Wood and Walters.
Walters found herself an international star with the success of Educating Rita, the 1983 comedy which bagged her an Oscar nomination. The decade also brought successes like The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Personal Services, the biopic of London madam Cynthia Payne. More recent triumphs include landing the plum role of Mrs Molly Weasley in the Harry Potter films as well as the bittersweet 2003 comedy Calendar Girls.
Strangely, Walters hasn't really been involved in any turkeys. Not all of her TV series have been memorable (Brazen Hussies, anyone?) and some of her films ? such as the 1991 comedy Stepping Out ? have been just average. But essentially she's barely put a foot wrong.
Did you know?
Walters's domineering mother originally disapproved of her love of acting, once warning that "Julie'll be in a gutter before she's 20." But Walters was intensely moved when, following her mother's death, she discovered among her possessions a secret box containing newspaper clippings of her many film and TV successes.
The final word
She may be one of our best actresses, but you can't get any less pretentious than Julie Walters. In her own words: "When I think of the future I think of doing my washing so I've got something to wear tomorrow."