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Natascha McElhone was born on December 14, 1971, in Hampstead, London, England, and raised in Brighton, England, by journalist parents. She has several brothers but is the only girl. She took lessons in Irish dancing from age of six to 12. She attended St. Mary's Hall School for Girls in Brighton, East Sussex, from 1982-1986. Her family now resides in a small town in Ireland.
She studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art for three years, graduating in 1993, before beginning her career in the theater. Her early stage credits include starring roles in London and Manchester productions of "Richard III" at Regent's Park, "The Count of Monte Cristo", "The Cherry Orchard" at the Leicester Haymarket and on national tour, and in "Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Open Air Theatre.
She debuted on British television in a 1991 episode of "Bergerac" (1981) and, three years later, played an army officer in A Breed of Heroes (1994) (TV), a BBC drama production. Other television credits include an episode of "Absolutely Fabulous" (1992), and again in 1994.
In 1996, she made her film debut in Surviving Picasso (1996) and starred in the acclaimed Dennis Potter TV mini-series "Karaoke" (1996). Since then, she has appeared in a handful of other films, the most successful of these being The Truman Show (1998), though, in 2002 alone, she made five films, including City of Ghosts (2002) and Killing Me Softly (2002).