Born in London in 1956, Imelda Staunton trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she trained alongside Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall and graduated in 1976.
She started her London theatre career at the National Theatre in The Beggar’s Opera, receiving an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She then appeared in the National Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls in the same year, later reprising the role in 1995, alongside Sharon D. Clarke, where she was also nominated for an Olivier Award. She won her first Laurence Olivier Award in 1985 for her performances in The Corn is Green and A Chorus of Disapproval, later starring as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and Into the Woods as the Baker's Wife, earning her an Olivier for best actress in a musical.
Further notable works include her role as Sonya in Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre, Kath in Entertaining Mr Sloane at Trafalgar Studios and Good People. Staunton has become a tour-de-force of musical theatre. She is the current record-holder for the most Olivier Awards in a Best Actress in a Musical category, winning Olivier Awards for her performances as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd at the Adelphi Theatre and Mama Rose in Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre.
In 2017, Staunton starred in two revivals, playing Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?at the Harold Pinter Theatre and Sally Plummer in the National Theatre's revival of Follies. For Follies, Staunton received her eighth Best Actress in a Musical nomination.
Away from the West End, Staunton has starred on the silver screen, notably winning a BAFTA award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in Vera Drake and starring as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter film series.