Born in the town of Redruth in Cornwall, England, she was a grand niece of the ill-fated polar explorer Sir Robert Scott and a niece of Admiral Sir Richard Thomas, who served in Britain's House of Lords. Her father, Simon Scott Thomas, was a flyer for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm who perished in a plane accident in 1964, leaving Scott Thomas and her four younger siblings - which included fellow future actress Serena Scott Thomas - both emotionally and financially bereft. Scott Thomas' mother later remarried another Royal Navy pilot who, in a horrific twist of fate, also died in a flying accident in 1970. A shy and withdrawn child from an early age, she found an outlet in acting, but faced opposition from her mother, who enrolled her at Cheltenham Ladies College. She abandoned the school at 16, and eventually attended the Center for Speech and Drama to become a drama teacher. Eventually, the lure of the theater proved too strong for Scott Thomas to resist, but her plans were thwarted by an educator who suggested that she lacked talent. She quit the Center at 19 and headed to France to spend time with a friend; a two-week stay eventually turned into a permanent relocation. While working as an au pair, Scott Thomas gave drama school another try; this time at the École Nationale des Arts et Technique de Théâtre. There she found greater acceptance by the faculty, who encouraged her to pursue acting as a vocation.Scott Thomas soon found work in French theater and television before making her film debut in 1986's "Under the Cherry Moon," a vanity project for R&B superstar Prince. Her initial interest was in a minor role, but her audition so impressed the musician - who was making his debut as director with the film - that he cast her as his love interest; an heiress who falls for his larcenous saloon singer. The film was savaged by critics and ignored at the box office, but Scott Thomas survived the debacle. Her next project was the Evelyn Waugh adaptation "A Handful of Dust" (1988), which also provided her with her first starring role as an icy English royal whose marriage, has unraveled. Though Scott Thomas professed some nerves over her co-stars in the film - which included Judi Dench and Alec Guinness - she rose to the occasion and impressed critics with her performance. Her character - emotionally distant, unforgiving - would also serve as her unofficial screen persona for the next few years.After co-starring with Hugh Grant in Roman Polanski's perverse drama "Bitter Moon" (1990), Scott Thomas received her greatest recognition to date as Grant's lovelorn friend in the global blockbuster "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994). Her heartbreaking turn earned her a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1994, as well as the praise of critics on both sides of the Atlantic. But she remained steadfastly in Europe for her next handful of movies; she was assistant to legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock in the French-Canadian mystery "Le Confessionel," and played Lady Anne to Ian MacKellen's "Richard III" (1995) in the actor's full-blooded interpretation of the Shakespeare play. The following year, Scott Thomas landed the role that elevated her to stardom in the eyes of the international film community."The English Patient" (1996) not only brought Scott Thomas an Oscar nomination and second BAFTA nod for her turn as a married woman whose passionate affair with a Hungarian count (Ralph Fiennes) leads to a mystery involving his identity after he is critically burned; it also helped to dispel the allegations of "ice mistress" that plagued the actress in media reviews and interviews. Her passionate scenes with Fiennes fueled the heart of the period romance, and solidified her as a talent worth seeking out in Hollywood as well as the Continent. Immediately after the media blitz surrounding her Academy Award nomination had died down, Scott Thomas made her American film debut as an agent in Brian De Palma's big budget adaptation of "Mission: Impossible" (1996). Though a worldwide success, the film set the tone for much of Scott Thomas' work in American studios - glossy and highly dramatic, but lacking the substance of her earlier work in the UK and France.She was the mother of traumatized teen Scarlett Johansson and Robert Redford's love interest in the actor's wan adaptation of Nicholas Evans' "The Horse Whisperer" (1998), and fell for Harrison Ford after their respective spouses were killed in a plane accident in Sydney Pollack's "Random Hearts" (1999). Scott Thomas was fine in both films, and in subsequent efforts like "Life as a House" (2001), but by the new millennium, she had abandoned Hollywood in favor of homegrown efforts like "Up at the Villa" (2001) and Robert Altman's "Gosford Park" (2002), which afforded her more complex characters. Scott Thomas also made memorable returns to the stage in France and London during this period, most notably in a production of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" in 2003. That same year, she was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) as part of Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honors.Scott Thomas maintained a consistent presence in English and European projects throughout the new millennium; American audiences saw her in supporting roles in Paul Schrader's "The Walker" (2007), as the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, who grew to become Elizabeth I, in "The Other Boleyn Girl" (2008), and as the voice of Daniel Craig's snow leopard familiar in the big-budget fantasy "The Golden Compass." Her greatest triumphs during the period came in more modest presentations; she won an Olivier Award for her performance in a London production of Chekhov's "The Seagull" in 2007, and in 2008, she garnered near universal acclaim as an ex-convict who comes to live with her estranged sister in Philippe Claudel's "I've Loved You So Long." Her searing turn was recognized by a number of international award organizations; most notably the Golden Globes, which nominated her for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama, and the European Film Awards, which presented her with the Best Actress trophy.From 2002 to 2008, Scott Thomas was frequently cited by the BBC Two automotive series "Top Gear" (1977-2001, 2002-) in a segment called "The Cool Wall." With tongues placed firmly in cheeks, the program's hosts would rate various cars based on how they believed Scott Thomas would regard them. The actress finally appeared on the series in 2007 to voice her own ratings, which amusingly conflicted with the host's decisions.