Born in Dorset, Daldry was raised by his father, Patrick, a bank manager and his mother, Cherry Thompson, a cabaret singer. Daldry spent part of his formative years as a member of a youth drama group in Taunton, then attended Sheffield University, where he majored in English and excelled at drama, while making friends with future stand-up comic, Eddie Izzard. After an apprenticeship with Italian clown Elder Milletti, where he learned to walk tightropes and swallow fire, Daldry served an apprenticeship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield from 1985-88, then under the command of Clare Venables, where he ran the writing group, Metro. After performing in a production of "Prometheus in Evin" (1988), Daldry left the Crucible to join The Gate Theatre, where he garnered attention for his brilliant staging of Tirso de Molina's "Damned for Despair" (1991). In 1992, Daldry went to the Royal Court Theatre, taking over as artistic director once his successor, Max Stafford-Clark, stepped down to become Daldry's associate.Also that year, Daldry staged one of his most popular and lucrative productions, "An Inspector Calls" (1992), at the Royal National Theatre. His collaboration with designer Ian McNeill yielded a highly stylized approach to what was considered a heavy-handed drama about a family's involvement in a young woman's suicide. Daldry became the toast of London, earning Best Director awards from The Evening Standard, London Critics' Circle Theatre Awards and Olivier Awards. In 1994, he revived "An Inspector Calls" on Broadway, which earned him international acclaim and his first Tony Award for Best Director. After the acclaimed revival of "Rat in the Skull" (1995), which depicted the interrogation of an IRA member on a stage dominated by a giant cage, Daldry took his first steps into directing for the screen with a BBC documentary about the Royal Court Theatre, then formed his company, Stephen Daldry Productions. In 1997, Daldry signed a three-year, first-look deal with Working Title Films, anticipating a move to film. He then directed the BAFTA-nominated short "Eight" (1998) before returning to the theater to direct David Hare's monologue "Via Dolorosa" (1998), about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as depicted by the people the playwright met on a trip to the Middle East.Playwright Lee Hall showed Daldry his screenplay about a youngster from a coal mining family who wants to be a ballet dancer instead of a miner. Hooked by the writing and the story, Daldry selected the project as his debut film "Billy Elliot" (2000), a heartwarming coming of age drama starring Jamie Bell as the young lad whose passion for dance leads him to London to pursue his dream after winning the approval of his father (Gary Lewis). The film earned a BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film. After a return to the Royal Court Theatre with a production of "Far Away" (2000), Daldry directed a powerful, emotional film version of Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer-winning novel, "The Hours" (2002). Telling three loosely inter-related stories about author Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), a Los Angeles housewife (Julianne Moore), and a middle-aged lesbian (Meryl Streep) coping with the terminal illness of her best male friend (Ed Harris), "The Hours" allowed its stars to shine and transitioned nimbly between the three storylines in different historical eras without feeling forced or gimmicky. Daldry's skill with both his actresses and his storytelling technique was recognized with a wealth of critical accolades and awards nods, including an Academy Award nomination as Best Director.In 2005, Daldry began development on a high-profile adaptation of Michael Chabon's best-selling novel, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, but found himself bogged down by studio meddling. Meanwhile, he turned his attention back to theater, directing "Billy Elliot: The Musical" (2005) in London's famed West End. The musical was a hit, earning nine Olivier Award nominations and winning four, including Best New Musical. Because of its success, "Billy Elliot" opened internationally, first, at Sydney, Australia's Capital Theatre in 2007, followed by a run on Broadway at the Imperial Theater in 2008. After a six-year hiatus, Daldry directed his third feature length film, "The Reader" (2008), a somber period drama set in post-World War II Germany about a complicated romance between a 15-year-old boy (David Kross) and a mysterious woman (Kate Winslet) twice his age. Hailed by critics, "The Reader" earned some early award buzz for Daldry, who earned Best Director nods at both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. He followed up with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" (2011), which chronicled a 10-year-old boy's (Thomas Horn) quest to find a lockbox after his father (Tom Hanks) dies in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.