From writing acclaimed children’s books and Emmy-winning TV shows to nabbing an Oscar for her first major film, it would seem there is nothing Emerald Fennell can’t do.
Best known to audiences as Camilla Parker Bowles in Netflix epic The Crown, Oxford-educated Emma, 35, walked the Oscars red carpet in a green and pink billowing Gucci gown yesterday before bagging the Best Original Screenplay award for Promising Young Woman.
It is the latest in a string of successes for first-time director Emerald, who was the first woman in 13 years to pick up the award.
Emerald, who filmed the movie in just 23 days three weeks before giving birth to her first son in 2019, was glowing last night as she debuted her blossoming baby bump at the socially-distanced ceremony.
She previously received two Emmy nods for the second season of Killing Eve, which she was chosen to pen after friend Phoebe Waller-Bridge left to write Bond.
Best known to audiences as Camilla Parker Bowles in Netflix epic The Crown, Oxford-educated Emma, 35, yesterday walked the Oscars red carpet in a green and pink billowing Gucci gown as she attended the socially-distanced ceremony, which saw her bag the Best Original Screenplay award for Promising Young Woman
It was in 2014 when Emerald sprang to fame in as boisterous redheaded nurse Patsy Mount on Call The Midwife
It has been an astounding rise for Emerald, the daughter of celebrity jewellery designer Theo Fennell and novelist Louise (pictured, with her father Theo)
Emerald is expecting her second child with advertising director partner Chris Vernon (pictured together in 2018)
As well as penning the screenplay, Emerald was director for Promising Young Woman (left) but is best known to audiences as Camilla Parker Bowles in Netflix epic The Crown. Pictured, with Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles in series 4 (right)
It has been an astounding rise for Emerald, the daughter of celebrity jewellery designer Theo Fennell and novelist Louise.
After being educated at £39,000-a-year Marlborough College – Kate Middleton’s school – she read English at Oxford, where she was discovered by an agent while acting in student plays.
A handful of parts in TV shows led to her breakout role as nurse Patsy in Call The Midwife and turns Hollywood films – all while writing children’s books about murder and a creepy stately home.
International fame has now come calling, thanks to her captivating performance as a young Duchess of Cornwall opposite Josh O’Connor as a besotted Prince Charles.
Next up? Emerald is turning her attention to the West End, having penned the book for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical of Cinderella.
If her career so far is anything to go by, there can be little doubt that, like everything else she has done, this latest venture will too be a hit.
Here, a look at the rise and rise of the golden girl of British cinema…
FAMILY WITH HIGH SOCIETY CONNECTIONS
Famous father: Emerald was born with not just talent but a silver spoon firmly in her mouth, her father being famed society jewellery designer Theo Fennell. Pictured, in 2006
Family ties: Emerald with her father Theo, novelist mother Louise and fashion designer sister Coco at the launch of her mother’s book Dead Rich in 2012
Emerald was born with not just talent but a silver spoon firmly in her mouth, her father being famed society jewellery designer Theo Fennell.
Dad Theo founded his jewellery business in 1982 and built up a following of close friends and clients.
Sir Elton John is said to have dropped £200,000 in a single visit to his store one time, plus party stalwarts including actresses Joan Collins and Liz Hurley and Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood.
And she writes children’s books, too!
What few fans might realise is that Emerald is a successful children’s book author.
Her first two books, Shiverton Hall in 2013 and its sequel The Creeper (shortlisted for the Waterstones 2014 Children’s Book Prize), are horror stories set in a fictional stately home.
Her third, Monsters, is a blackly comic tale about two children investigating a murder.
Emerald’s children’s book: Monsters
She says, however, that she was not named after the gem, but the 1930s society hostess Lady Maud ‘Emerald’ Cunard.
In a curious foreshadowing of Emerald’s The Crown role, she was notorious for encouraging her friend Wallis Simpson and Edward, Prince of Wales.
Emerald’s mother Louise is a novelist, her books including Fame Game and Dead Rich.
Family friends include Sir Elton John, Sarah Ferguson, Dame Joan Collins and Lord Lloyd-Webber.
Hardly surprising, then, that Emerald and her fashion designer sister Coco have become creative adults.
‘We are best friends and I am rarely out of her dresses,’ she has previously said.
‘We’re all very close. I am so proud of Dad; he creates the most beautiful jewellery. They’re amazing. I am so lucky to have them.’
She previously revealed: ‘Mum and Dad were so glamorous. I remember them getting ready to go to parties; Mum would have an amazing beehive, and wear Dad’s gold jewellery, a Versace dress and would smell of Chanel No 5. I thought, “That is so cool.” ’
After an education at Marlborough College (Kate Middleton’s school) and an English degree from Oxford, Emerald followed her mother into writing.
Her first two books, Shiverton Hall in 2013 and its sequel The Creeper (shortlisted for the Waterstones 2014 Children’s Book Prize), were written for older children.
However she does admit that her relationship with her parents is close. She spent four months with them at their home of Newbury when she came back from LA during lockdown last year.
She said: ‘I’m very aware that part of my luck was that I had parents who lived in London who were able to support me. I have to work really hard because that head start that people like me get, you need to prove you deserved it.’
Ever the supportive gang, Emerald’s sister Coco shared a snap last night as she and mother Louise donned Promising Young Woman t-shirts to watch the award ceremony.
She posted: ‘Ready for the Oscars. All nighter go get ‘em @emeraldfennell.’
Ever the supportive gang, Emerald’s sister Coco shared a snap last night as she and mother Louise donned Promising Young Woman t-shirts to watch the award ceremony
FROM BIT PARTS AND CHANNEL 4 SITCOMS TO CHARMING ON CALL THE MIDWIFE
It was acting in plays at Oxford that Emerald was spotted by Lindy King of United Agents.
She bagged background roles in TV dramas Trial & Retribution, New Tricks and Any Human Heart before landing Channel 4 comedy Chickens, alongside The Inbetweeners stars Simon Bird and Joe Thomas.
At the same time her film roles began to pick up, with the 2012 Keira Knightley-fronted adaptation of Anna Karenina marking her first major credit.
But it was in 2014 when Emerald sprang to fame in as boisterous redheaded nurse Patsy Mount on Call The Midwife.
She was originally cast for a one-episode turn in series two but impressed creators so much she was invited to join the cast as a regular for series three. Her character Patsy was in a secret relationship with nurse Delia (Kate Lamb).
‘Had I known when I auditioned that there was more than a small walk-on role at stake I would have been sick with nerves,’ she previously revealed.
And in the midst of her starring role on BBC1, she launched herself as a horror novelist for young adults, with Monsters, her third book.
Winning performance: Emerald as Patsy on Call The Midwife. She was originally cast for a one-episode turn in series two but impressed creators so much she was invited to join the cast
Chance meeting: Emerald Fennell (centre) met Phoebe Waller-Bridge (second from right) while filming Albert Nobbs, released in 2011 and starring Glenn Close as a woman who poses as a man to become a butler in 19th-century Dublin. They have been friends ever since
How ‘falling in love’ with Phoebe Waller-Bridge led to Killing Eve
Phoebe Waller-Bridge handed script writing duties for the second series of Killing Eve to Miss Fennell, while the Fleabag star worked on the James Bond film No Time To Die.
The talented pair – both 35 – met while filming Albert Nobbs, released in 2011 and starring Glenn Close as a woman who poses as a man to become a butler in 19th-century Dublin.
Miss Waller-Bridge had one line as Viscountess Yarrell, while Miss Fennell had a non-speaking role as Mrs Smythe-Willard.
Before they met, the actresses were wary of one another according to Killing Eve producer Sally Woodward Gentle, who told the Times: ‘They both saw each other’s name on the call sheet and thought, “They’re going to be horrible.” And then they met each other and fell in love.’
Killing Eve: Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer
After quitting Call The Midwife in 2017, Emerald wrote series two of the global megahit Killing Eve, taking over from Phoebe Waller-Bridge when she left to co-write the latest Bond movie.
Her success as a writer of dark children’s novels proved excellent practice for her season on TV’s acclaimed saga of twisted love, double-dealing and murder.
She clearly had the time of her life, beginning with a child having his neck broken in his hospital bed and ending with a gruesome axe murder.
These blood-spattered tales seem an anomaly coming from the imagination of a thoroughly nice woman. ‘It’s interesting, isn’t it?’ she said in an interview with Weekend Magazine.
‘Very interesting, because it was what I felt like a lot of the time when I was writing Killing Eve, although I didn’t murder anyone in order to be able to write it!’
The script was a hit: Emerald received two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.
THE CROWN’S CAMILLA
Emerald is best known for playing Camilla Shand (later Parker Bowles) in the third and fourth series of Netflix’s The Crown.
She is captivating as a young Camilla, although critics have slammed the suggestion she and Prince Charles maintained a relationship throughout the duration of his marriage to Princess Diana.
The choice to play the role is somewhat ironic because Emerald’s father Theo was friends with Camilla’s rival, the late Princess Diana.
He and Louise remain on good terms with Duchess of York.
The portrayal led viewers to troll the Duchess of Cornwall online and prompted Clarence House to switch off comments on its social media posts.
However Emerald has said in interviews she hopes the Duchess of Cornwall will approve of her portrayal.
‘She’s nosy, and she’s honest, and she’s very open about how deeply weird she finds the whole thing,’ Emerald has said of how a young Camilla viewed their relationship.
‘I think for Charles, that is just unbelievably thrilling.’
Captivating as Camilla: Emerald in series 4 of The Crown with Emma Corrin as Princess Diana
Emerald’s first major film, starring Carey Mulligan as a traumatised barista who takes inventive revenge on men who prey on girls after dark, bagged her her first Oscar, after it was nominated for five awards, including Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
On the red carpet last night, she told how the film, which she directed when she was seven months pregnant, took less than a month to make.
She revealed: ‘We made this movie in 23 days… We never expected it to get to this stage — I think what’s been so moving is people’s candor and the conversations it’s opened up for lots of people.’
And earlier this year, in an interview on the film’s release, she said: ‘I’ve always wanted to direct. It feels as if everything up until now has given me the tools to do that – working with many talented people. It’s been kind of life-changing.
‘I started out writing books and moved into screenwriting, and whenever I’ve been on a set as an actor I’ve been actively learning about what the director was doing.
‘Directing seems to me to be the ultimate way of telling a story, particularly if it’s something you’ve written yourself.’
Emerald’s first major film, starring Carey Mulligan as a traumatised barista who takes inventive revenge on men who prey on girls after dark, bagged her her first Oscar
On the red carpet last night, she told how the film, which she directed when she was seven months pregnant, took less than a month to make (pictured at the Oscars yesterday)
Promising Young Woman is the blackly comic tale of Cassie, whose life is upended by an incident of sexual aggression just before the #MeToo days.
It explores the themes of responsibility, sexual power, and a woman’s right to say ‘no’. The male characters don’t come off as shining knights, but Emerald is quick to say she doesn’t regard them as unadulterated villains.
‘I’m interested in good people who do bad things and won’t admit to them because it explodes their idea of who they are. Don’t we, men and women, all think we’re nice guys?’
Cassie trawls nightclubs and pretends to be drunk to get ‘nice guys’ to take her home.
She waits for them to try to take advantage of her and then turns the tables, hurting them or scaring them into changing.
‘Everything we see in this film, we’ve seen in romantic comedies over the last 50 to 70 years,’ says Emerald. ‘It’s only when you look back through different eyes that you think, “Hang on, maybe this stuff isn’t so cool”.’
SUPPORTIVE ADVERTISING DIRECTOR HUSBAND
Although her 18th birthday was covered by Tatler – and she counts the Delevingne sisters Poppy and Cara among her circle – Emerald is now fiercely protective about her private life.
Next up: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella musical
Emerald’s next turn will be on the West End: as the writer of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest offering, Cinderella.
The much-delayed show – starring Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role – will open on the West End this summer once restrictions on indoor gatherings ease.
Covid-safe rehearsals are underway at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, in London.
She rarely makes public appearances with advertising director husband Chris Vernon, but the pair were snapped together at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
The couple collaborated on a short film together, Careful How You Go, in 2017, which starred Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
They are currently expecting their second child, a son, which comes after Emerald directed Promising Young Woman while she was seven months pregnant with her first child, and gave birth just weeks after production wrapped in 2019.
While he didn’t walk the red carpet with her last night, Emerald did make sure to give her beau a shout-out during her Oscar speech.
She said: ‘I have so many people to thank, I feel mortified that I’m here when it’s not just my job at all.
After thanking lead actress Carey Mulligan, she said: ‘Finally, my family, mum, dad, Coco, my husband, Chris… Come on. Our son who did not arrive until a couple of weeks after shooting, thank God, I crossed my legs all the way through. Thank God.’
Her mum, dad and sister are currently helping to look after the baby after they formed a lockdown unit together.