Elizabeth McGovern Biography

Elizabeth McGovern photo

Born: July 18, 1961


Date of Birth: July 18, 1961

Actress Elizabeth McGovern is best known for her award-nominated roles in the film Ragtime (1981) and the television series Downton Abbey (2010).

Although born in Evanston, Illinois to a University professor and high school teacher, Elizabeth did not pursue a career in education. Elizabeth caught the acting bug while in high school, where she participated in school plays. This led her to study acting at both the American Conservative Theater in San Francisco and the Julliard School in New York City.

Elizabeth made her on screen debut in a 1979 episode of the TV series California Fever. She topped that off with a role in Robert Redford’s Ordinary People in 1980. A year later, she landed the role of Evelyn Nesbit in Milos Forman’s Ragtime. The film earned eight nominations at the Academy Awards, including a Best Supporting Actress nod for Elizabeth.

She went on to act in notable films such as Sergio Leone’s 1984 film Once Upon a Time in American with Robert De Niro and 1989’s The Handsmaid's Tale. Between films, Elizabeth has also dabbled in the world of TV and theater.

In 1992, Elizabeth married British filmmaker Simon Curtis. The two live in London and have two daughters. She was previously engaged to Sean Penn after meeting him on the set of Racing with the Moon (1984).

Arguably her most successful gig to date is her current role as Cora, the Countess of Grantham, in the U.K. series Downton Abbey. Elizabeth’s Cora is an American woman married to a British Earl in the early 20th century, with legendary Shirley MacLaine as her mother.


Woman in Gold(2015)
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding(2012)
Angels Crest(2011)
Clash of the Titans(2010)
Downton Abbey (2010)
The Truth (2006)
The House of Mirth(2000)
Manila (2000)
The Misadventures of Margaret (1998)
The Man with Rain in His Shoes (1998)
The Wings of the Dove (1997)
The Favor(1994)
Me and Veronica (1993)
King of the Hill (1993)
Tune in Tomorrow… (1990)
A Shock to the System (1990)
The Handmaid’s Tale (1990)
Johnny Handsome (1989)
She’s Having a Baby (1988)
The Bedroom Window (1987)
Native Son (1986)
Racing with the Moon (1984)
Lovesick (1983)
Ragtime (1981)
Ordinary People (1980)
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