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Elizabeth Jane Hurley (born 10 June 1965) is an English businesswoman, actress, and model. She has been associated with the cosmetics company Estée Lauder since the company gave Hurley her first modelling job at the age of 29. They have featured her as a representative and model for their products, especially perfumes such as Sensuous, Intuition, and Pleasures, since 1995. Hurley owns an eponymous beachwear line.
As an actress, her best-known film roles to date have been as Vanessa Kensington in Mike Myers’ hit spy comedy, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) and as the Devil in Bedazzled (2000). In 2015, Hurley began starring in the E! original series The Royals.
In the 1990s, Hurley became known as the girlfriend of Hugh Grant. In 1994, as Grant became the focus of international media attention due to the success of his film Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hurley accompanied him to the film’s Los Angeles premiere in a plunging black Versace dress held together with gold safety pins, which gained her instant media attention.
Hurley made her first film appearance in Aria (1987). She subsequently appeared in the movies Passenger 57, EDtv, Bedazzled, Serving Sara and Dangerous Ground. In 1997, she received her first and only acting award, the ShoWest Supporting Actress of the Year, for her performance in the spy spoof Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Hurley received some criticism for appearing in the film despite having Shakespearean acting roots, to which she responded with the assertation that “Shakespeare would have loved Austin Powers!” When Hugh Grant founded and became the director of Simian Films in 1994, Hurley was credited as one of the producers for the company’s two Grant vehicles, Extreme Measures (1996) and Mickey Blue Eyes (1999). In 2000, she was publicly criticised for breaking a five-month acting strike to film an Estée Lauder advertisement, for which she was fined $100,000 (£70,000 in 2000) by the Screen Actors Guild and labelled “Elizabeth Scably” by protesters.
Hurley at the launch of Estee Lauder’s new fragrance, Sensuous, in July 2008
In 1988, Hurley appeared briefly in a speaking part as a schoolgirl in “Last Seen Wearing”, an episode of the detective series Inspector Morse, which was partly filmed at a real school, Reading Blue Coat, Sonning, Berkshire. This is believed to have been her first TV role. In the late 1980s, Hurley portrayed the title character in a five-part television drama, Christabel. After appearing in John Cleese’s The Human Face (2001), she hosted the inaugural series of the British reality show Project Catwalk on Sky 1 in 2006. The show drew tepid ratings with only 1% of its target audience tuning into the first few episodes. Hurley was criticised as a presenter by Marcelle D’Argy Smith, a former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, who described her as “witheringly boring” and added: “Liz Hurley has no fashion experience whatsoever. She wore a dress and has appeared at premieres.” GQ’s Dylan Jones defended her as someone “immersed in the fashion world as a celebrity.” She was dropped after one series because her bosses reportedly believed she was too wooden.
In 2011, Hurley filmed a guest star role in the series pilot of NBC’s Wonder Woman as the villain Veronica Cale. The network decided not to pick up the series. In July 2011, it was announced that Hurley would join the fifth season of Gossip Girl for a multi-episode arc. Her character, Diana Payne, was described by the series’ executive producers as “a sexy, smart, self-made media mogul and all-around force to be reckoned with”, whose “entrance on the Upper East Side will change the lives of all our characters—including, and especially, Gossip Girl herself.” In September 2013, she was cast in one of E!’s first two scripted pilots, The Royals, which was picked up in March 2014 and aired in 2015. The drama series, revolving around a fictional British Royal Family and set in modern London, stars Hurley as the matriarch Queen Helena. Hurley played Marvel Comics villain Morgan le Fay in the final season of the Hulu show Runaways, released in 2019.