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Minnie Driver: How the ‘Good Will Hunting’ Star Embodies Eloquence and Honesty

The multitalented star is also a writer, musician and podcast host!

British actress Minnie Driver rose to prominence in the ’90s, appearing in popular movies of the day like Sleepers (1996), Big Night (1996), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) and Good Will Hunting (1997). She’s long been known for her captivating elegance and is staying busy at 54, with a recent appearance in the action movie The Beekeeper and an upcoming role as none other than Queen Elizabeth I in the show The Serpent Queen.

Here’s a look at how Driver rose up the ranks from small parts on British TV shows to being a Hollywood A-lister.

A dramatic beginning

It may surprise you to learn that Minnie Driver was born with the name Amelia Fiona Driver. Minnie was a nickname given to her by her older sister and, as Driver said in an interview, “Well, I was never going to be an Amelia, was I?” Born in London in 1970 and raised in Barbados until the age of six, Minnie had something of a fractured ancestry.

The actress’ parents split when she was a child and at 12 she learned they’d never actually been married. Throughout their relationship her father was married to another woman and had a secret family. It was a dramatic revelation, to say the least, and it took young Minnie a long time to process.

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Early roles

Driver found refuge in the arts, and started appearing in commercials and British TV shows in the early ’90s. The multitalented performer also began making music, and worked as a jazz singer and guitarist in London in her early days to supplement her income.

In an interview with People, Driver admitted that she didn’t have the natural confidence often associated with actresses in her early days, saying, “I did have insecurities growing up. That I was not gorgeous; I was not super pretty.” Even if she felt insecure, audiences took notice of her capabilities as an actress and by the mid ’90s she was on her way to stardom. Her breakout role came in the 1995 ’50s period piece Circle of Friends.

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Minnie Driver in 'Circle of Friends' 1995
Minnie Driver in Circle of Friends (1995)Savoy Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Minnie Driver becomes a star

Driver was becoming a seasoned actress, and following the success of Circle of Friends she had a minor role in the 1995 James Bond movie GoldenEye. After that, she had a supporting role in the 1996 legal drama Sleepers and a lead role in Big Night, a 1996 comedy about the struggles of running a restaurant. The progression of Driver’s appearances in bigger roles culminated with a costarring role in the 1997 dark comedy Grosse Pointe Blank, opposite John Cusack.

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Minnie Driver talks with John Cusack in a scene from the film 'Grosse Pointe Blank', 1997
Minnie Driver and John Cusack in Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)Buena Vista/Getty

Then came Driver’s major costarring role as Matt Damon‘s love interest in the critically acclaimed 1997 drama Good Will Hunting. For that, she earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and became a household name.

Driver called getting famous a “Psychological paradox,” and her role in Good Will Hunting was hard won. Getting cast as Skylar, the Harvard student who falls for Damon’s janitor character, wasn’t a slam dunk. Studio heads balked at her casting, rudely thinking she wasn’t sexy enough with her cascading brown curly hair and freckles, but it was Damon and Ben Affleck, the movie’s screenwriters, along with director Gus Van Sant, who championed Driver for the role. As she recalled in People, “They fought very hard… I am grateful to them until this very day.”

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Minnie Driver in 'Good Will Hunting' 1997
Minnie Driver in Good Will Hunting (1997)Miramax/MovieStillsDB

Driver has been refreshingly candid about how much she’s worked to get where she is today, telling People, “I’ve had to fight really hard for every job I ever got.” Ultimately, she felt that after struggling to hit it big, “The payoff is huge, like emotionally being able to do what you love for a living and make money at it.”

Minnie Driver at the Oscars in 1998
Minnie Driver at the Oscars in 1998, the year she was nominated for Good Will HuntingVINCE BUCCI/AFP via Getty

Continuing success

In 1998, Driver starred in the historical drama The Governess, and that same year she costarred opposite Christian Slater and Morgan Freeman in the action thriller Hard Rain. She appeared as Carlotta in the 2004 musical phenomenon The Phantom of the Opera, but all her songs were dubbed because of her lack of opera experience.

Tom Wilkinson And Minnie Driver in 'The Governess' 1998
Tom Wilkinson And Minnie Driver in The Governess (1998)Hulton Archive/Getty

While she may not have done her own singing in The Phantom of the Opera, the multifaceted star is an accomplished musician, and has released three albums since 2004. Those discs have featured collaborations with popular artists like Ryan Adams and Liz Phair. Her most recent effort, Ask Me to Dance, came out in 2014 and featured an eclectic array of cover songs, ranging from The Killers to Neil Young.

Minnie Driver onstage in 2004
Minnie Driver onstage in 2004Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage/Getty

With such a resume already assembled, Driver says she never really wanted to keep up the movie star billing. As she confided to The Guardian, “It’s so interesting to me… The idea of maintaining, of being a movie star, for decades… I did not have the appetite. Ambition requires you to create really big things that you’re supposed to want, and then become totems to a person that you actually may not be. But you’re encouraged to worship at those totems because that’s what keeps the engine of Hollywood going.”

Minnie Driver in 2000
Minnie Driver in 2000Rune Hellestad/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty

And yet, Driver’s Hollywood engine went on. Her resume includes a wide range of TV roles in addition to film, including The Riches, from 2007 to 2008, where she portrayed a drug-addicted traveler straight out of jail and earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations; and the sitcom About a Boy, based on the popular 2002 film, from 2014 to 2015.

From 2016 to 2019, she starred in the sitcom Speechless, playing a middle-class British mom with a wheelchair bound son. She’s also had key guest roles in shows like Modern Family and Modern Love, and had a recurring part as Karen Walker’s nemesis in Will & Grace.

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She attends The Build Series to discuss The ABC Show "Speechless" at AOL HQ on October 11, 2016
Minnie Driver promoting Speechless in 2016Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic/Getty

Additionally, Driver had roles in the 1999 comedy An Ideal Husband, and family films such as Tarzan (1999) Ella Enchanted (2004) and the 2021 live-action version of Cinderella, where she played Queen Beatrice, Prince Charming’s mother. Even with all her impressive roles, she’s stayed humble, telling The Guardian, “The 50 films and television shows on my IMDb are literally the 50 yeses, out of thousands of nos.”

Minnie Driver today

Now nearly three decades after breaking into Hollywood, Driver has been reveling in motherhood, her son having been born in September 2008 though she kept the father’s name under wraps until recently. In 2022, she published a memoir, Managing Expectations: A Memoir in Essays, and in those 10 essays she explores pivotal stories from her fascinating life, spanning from her complicated childhood to her long film, TV and music career, her various love stories and difficult relationships.

Unlike many Hollywood memoirs, Driver wasn’t afraid to get messy, saying, “I have noticed people would rather not be confronted by direct truth telling or my version of it, but I don’t sugarcoat things… I was always like that.”

The actress attends an event in 2019
Minnie Driver in 2019Rodin Eckenroth/Getty

She proves her capacity for real talk in her podcast, Minnie Questions With Minnie Driver. In it, she uses her eloquent voice to ask the same series of seven questions to a variety of guests, from Brooke Shields to David Duchovny to Debbie Harry.

With her albums, memoir and podcast, Driver is so much more than just an actress, and we love how she consistently surprises and delights us, and is unafraid to tell it like it is.

The actress in 2024
Minnie Driver in 2024Michael TRAN/AFP/Getty
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