Aitken was born in Dublin, the daughter of Sir William Aitken, a Conservative MP, and socialite Penelope Aitken, whose father was John Maffey, very first Baron Rugby. She is a wonderful-niece of newspaper magnate and war-time minister Lord Beaverbrook. She attended Sherborne School For Girls in Dorset. As a student at St Anne’s College, Oxford in the mid-1960s, she was cast in a small part in Richard Burton’s production of Faustus, which was way too filmed.
She played Lady Edwina Mountbatten in the critically acclaimed movie Jinnah, which highlighted the life and instances of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. She also appeared with John Cleese in both A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. More recently she has concentrated on directing. Her most recent production is The 39 Steps, originally at The Tricycle, Kilburn, and then at the West End’s Criterion Theatre until April 2007.
Aitken is the sister of disgraced former politician Jonathan Aitken, and the mother of actor Jack Davenport from her marriage to Nigel Davenport. She is married to the novelist Patrick McGrath, and appeared in a supporting role in the 1995 film The Grotesque, an adaptation of McGrath’s 1989 novel of the very same name. Aitken and McGrath live together in New York and London. In 1983, Aitken was arrested arriving at Heathrow Airport in possession of a small quantity of cocaine leading to a charge of drug smuggling. Her defence counsel was George Carman who would subsequently represent The Guardian newspaper against her brother. The charges were eventually missing.
She is the author of Style: Acting in Substantial Comedy, published in 1996, which contends that “High comedies are not bloodless, refined, wordy playsâ€”their themes are sex, money and social advancement. They incorporate a splendid contradiction: wit and elegance at the service of man’s basest drives.”
Aitken is mentioned in Lynne Truss’ column “Single Bananas,” part of her “Making the Cat Laugh,” as reprinted in The Lynn Truss Treasury, ISBN 1-592-40136-8.
|Day of Birth||12 September 1945|
|Place of Birth||Dublin, Ireland|