Australian actress Miranda Otto was born on December 16, 1967 in Brisbane, Queensland. The daughter of actors Barry and Lindsay Otto, she was raised in Newcastle and Brisbane, and lived in Hong Kong briefly after her parents separated. She developed her interest in acting from her father, and during her early years, she wrote scripts with her friends. She eventually appeared in several local plays, and attracted towards herself a role in the war drama Emma’s War—her film debut.
Otto also excelled in ballet, but was forced to abandon her goal of being a dancer due to her case of scoliosis. She ended up at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, where she graduated in 1990. The following year, she starred in The Girl Who Came Late, where she played a girl who could communicate with horses. This is widely considered as her breakthrough role, and led to her first Australian Film Institute Award nomination. This also led to roles in other Australian films, including The Last Days of Chez Nous, The Nostradamus Kid and Love Serenade. In 1997, she starred in The Well, where she played an 18-year-old despite her actual age of 30. Most of her performances were acclaimed by critics, and eventually led to her getting three more AFI nominations.
Otto’s fame in Hollywood began when she took a small role in the war drama The Thin Red Line. She established herself further with roles in What Lies Beneath and Human Nature, which both met mixed reactions. She then took on the role of ?owyn, a Rohan shieldmaiden, in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Immediately cast by director Peter Jackson after seeing her audition video, she first starred in the second film, The Two Towers, and eventually earned herself a Saturn Award nomination in 2003. Back in Australia, she won a Logie Award—their equivalent to the Emmys—for her role in the miniseries Through My Eyes: The Lindy Chamberlain Story.
Otto then starred in the Steven Spielberg-directed film War of the Worlds. Because of her pregnancy, her role—the ex-wife of the lead, played by Tom Cruise—was rewritten. She took a break from films after giving birth, but returned in 2007 with two television projects: the miniseries The Starter Wife, which starred Debra Messing; and the short-lived series Cashmere Mafia, which starred Lucy Liu.