Hurley was born as a middle child in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England, the daughter of Angela and Reg Hurley.Her father, a lapsed Catholic of Irish descent, was a major in the British Army, while her mother, an Anglican, was a schoolteacher at Kempshott Infant School.Her older sister Debbie is a literary agent and younger brother Michael works as an engineer.
Hurley took ballet classes as a child. She went to Kempshott Junior School and Infants school and the Harriet Costello School, now known as Costello Technology College. She later attended Queen Mary’s College, Basingstoke, for one year, followed by Basingstoke College of Technology, and later won a scholarship to the London Studio Centre.
Whilst in her teens and before she was in the public eye, she became involved with punk fashion, dying her hair pink and piercing her nose.She associated with New Age Travellers, who sat under The Buttercross monument and the grounds of the Cathedral in Winchester, near Hurley’s home.
Rise to fame
Hurley gained early recognition for her beauty in the early 1980s when she won a Face of the Year competition at a local newspaper in Winchester, securing a year’s modeling contract with a prestigious London firm as the first prize. She made her first film appearance in Aria (1987),and attracted some media attention in the late 1980s for portraying the title character in a four-part television drama, Christabel, written by Dennis Potter.During this time, she appeared in several low-budget British and Hollywood films, including a performance as a stewardess in the 1992 thriller Passenger 57. She also appeared on television on both sides of the Atlantic, working in the British series Rumpole of the Bailey and the George Lucas-produced The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. In 1987, working on a Spanish production called Remando Al Viento, she met actor Hugh Grant and they started a long romantic relationship.
In 1994, Grant’s film Four Weddings and a Funeral was an international box office success and Grant was the focus of much media attention.Hurley attended the premiere in a black plunging Versace dress held together with gold safety pins, due to which she was relentlessly photographed at the event. This appearance propelled her to recognition in the modeling world, especially catching the attention of cosmetics giant Estée Lauder.The Versace dress Hurley wore was, for a long time, referred in popular media simply as “that dress”.For many years, Hurley was recognized chiefly as Hugh Grant’s girlfriend,with the Guardian reporting that she was “then known as ‘Hugh Grant’s girlfriend’, now known as ‘Hugh Grant’s former girlfriend’.”
In 1995, Hurley began working with top cosmetics company Estée Lauder as their main spokesmodel.Within her first month with the company, Hurley launched the best-selling perfume, Pleasures. In 2007, Hurley’s contract with Estée Lauder was renewed for the 13th year, with a subsequent contract extension.
She has appeared several times on the covers of renowned fashion magazine ,Vogue,and hosted the first season of the British reality series Project Catwalk, featuring novice fashion designers. In 2005, Hurley’s beachwear line Elizabeth Hurley Beach debuted in select Saks Fifth Avenue stores in the United States, Harrod’s in the UK, various other locations worldwide and through her website.In 2006, the line expanded its distribution in Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Asia. In 2007, Hurley was voted best “British Body Idol” in New Woman magazine, for which 5,000 women reportedly cast votes.
As well as Hurley’s work as an actress, she has experience as a film producer. Hugh Grant, who was then her boyfriend, founded and directed UK-based production company, Simian Films Ltd, in 1994, and he appointed Hurley as the head of development to secure film projects for him.Hurley then served as producer for two Grant vehicles, Extreme Measures (1996) and Mickey Blue Eyes (1999).Grant gradually cut off involvement from the company due to lack of interest, closing the company’s U.S. office in 2002 and legally resigning as director in 2005.
Hurley was cast as Vanessa Kensington in Mike Myers’s hit spy comedy Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery in 1997;after the success of that original film, she reprised the role of Vanessa in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999). Hurley has also essayed several lead characters in films such as EdTV, Bedazzled, Double Whammy, Serving Sara (2002), which was her last Hollywood film, and the 2004 thriller Method. Critics such as Julie Burchill, who wrote in The Times about Hurley’s acting being a notch above pornography in 2004, have largely dismissed her cinematic performances.
Hurley was publically criticised in 2000 when she fell foul of U.S. acting unions. She filmed a fashion advertisement for Estée Lauder that year, breaking a five-month acting strike. She was subsequently fined £70,000 by the Screen Actors Guild. Hurley apologised for breaking the strike, but stated that she had been unaware of the strike due to her life in the UK and the union had not informed her of the industrial action. She was later confronted by a protest of angry actors at the U.S. première of her film Bedazzled in October, where protesters brandished banners stating “Elizabeth Scably”.
Since signing with Estée Lauder, Hurley has taken an active role in the company’s breast cancer charity. She has talked about the fact that her grandmother died from breast cancer because she refused to reveal the existence of a lump for years; when she finally acknowledged the lump to her family, the cancer was beyond the curable stages.Hurley was the mistress of ceremonies at “The Hot Pink Party” at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City that marked the tenth anniversary of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. She has also acted as mistress of ceremonies for The Prince’s Trust, a charity founded by Prince Charles that aids youth in Great Britain.
Hurley has helped cricketer Imran Khan raise funds for his cancer hospital in Pakistan. Estée Lauder created a lipstick named “Elizabeth Pink” after Hurley, guaranteeing that proceeds from its sales will benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Hurley had a high profile thirteen-year relationship with actor Hugh Grant, spanning from 1986 to 2000.Grant gained international notoriety due to a highly-publicised scandal in 1995, when he, while dating Hurley, was arrested with the prostitute Divine Brown in Los Angeles. Hurley stood by him during the public controversy, especially showing her support by attending the premiere of Grant’s movie Nine Months weeks after his arrest.After 13 years together, the two made “a mutual and amicable decision” to split in May 2000 and have remained cordial.
In October 2000, Hurley began a relationship with multi-millionaire American film producer Stephen Bing. In 2001 Hurley revealed that she was pregnant with Bing’s child, but the couple had already separated after eighteen months together before the announcement was made.Bing publicly questioned the paternity of the child and disputed Hurley’s description of a faithful relationship.On 4 April 2002, Hurley gave birth to a son, Damian Charles Hurley. A DNA test conducted after the child’s birth vindicated Hurley, and Bing was proven to be the father after much dispute.Hurley is thought to have negotiated a $2.1 million deal for the first photos with her son.
According to the Daily Mail in 2004, Hurley has earned £13 million through her career. She reportedly maintains three homes: in London, which is owned by Hugh Grant; in Ampney Crucis, a village in Gloucestershire; and in Beverly Hills, California. She is also the godmother of Patsy Kensit’s son, Lennon Francis Gallagher.
On 2 March 2007, Hurley married Indian businessman Arun Nayar in a secret service at Sudeley Castle, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.The couple were due to get married on March 3, 2007, but decided to keep the ceremony private by holding it a day earlier than advertised.Hurley contracted an exclusive deal with Hello! magazine to publish the first photos of the nuptials, thought to be worth £2 to £5 million, with the overall cost of the wedding being estimated at a total of £2 million.Celebrities attending the wedding ceremonies included Elton John (who gave her away), David Furnish, Elle Macpherson, Donatella Versace, Patsy Kensit, Trinny Woodall, Susannah Constantine, Tamara Mellon, Eva Herzigova, Janet Street-Porter, Valentino, Tracey Emin, Prince Pavlos, Marie-Chantal Miller, Tom Ford, Flavio Briatore, Tania Bryer and Leonard Lauder.
The wedding festivities continued in Mumbai, India where the couple joined a private celebration held at Juhu Beach before moving on to Jodhpur, India. In Jodhpur, they held a private Hindu ceremony at Umaid Bhawan Palace,where Hurley wore couture sari made especially by her designer friend Donatella Versace.On the eve of the Hindu marriage, the couple held a sangeet, a traditional night of music, at the Nagaur Fort, 90 miles outside the city, where Hurley had her hands and feet decorated with intricate henna designs.Hurley performed at the sangeet with close friends Trinny Woodall and Janet Street-Porter.The ceremony was followed by a private candle-lit reception on March 8 at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. On Hurley and Nayar’s arrival outside Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, a fight broke out between reporters and security guards as the reporters tried to block the celebrity couple’s Bentley from entering the dinner venue. The journalists and paparazzi then chased the car into the fort, forcing a lockdown.
- Aria (1987) …. Marietta
- Rowing with the Wind (1988) …. Claire Clairmont
- Act of Will (1989) (TV) …. Christina
- Death Has a Bad Reputation (1990) (TV) …. Julia Latham
- Kill Cruise (1990) …. Lou
- The Orchid House (1991) (TV) …. Natalie
- The Long Winter (1992) …. Emma Stapleton
- Passenger 57 (1992) …. Sabrina Ritchie
- Beyond Bedlam (1993) …. Stephanie Lyell
- Sharpe’s Enemy (1994) (TV) …. Lady Isabella Farthingdale
- The Shamrock Conspiracy (1995) (TV) …. Cecilia Harrison
- Shameless (1995) (film) …. Antonia
- Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1995) …. Antonia Dyer
- Harrison: Cry of the City (1996) (TV) …. Cecilia Harrison
- Samson and Delilah (1996) (TV) …. Delilah
- Dangerous Ground (1997) …. Karen
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) …. Vanessa Kensington
- Permanent Midnight (1998) …. Sandra
- My Favorite Martian (1999) …. Brace Channing
- Edtv (1999) …. Jill
- Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) …. Vanessa Kensington
- The Weight of Water (2000) …. Adaline Gunne
- Bedazzled (2000) …. The Devil
- Double Whammy (2001) …. Dr. Ann Beamer
- Bad Boy (2002) …. Anna Lockheart
- Serving Sara (2002) …. Sara Moore
- Method (2004) …. Rebecca Fairbanks