Burrows made her film debut in 1993 with a small role in Jim Sheridan's In the Name of the Father. Her first significant acting roles came in 1995, as an ambitious Irish woman in Circle of Friends and Ngozi Onwurah’s Welcome II The Terrordome. Following this, she starred opposite Albert Finney in Dennis Potter’s 1996 Karaoke for the BBC. Subsequently, she appeared in Hotel de Love, Lovelife, Nevada, One Night Stand, and The Matchmaker. In 1999, she appeared in Mike Figgis’ experimental film The Loss of Sexual Innocence, in which she played twins; one raised in England, the other in Italy. Burrows then appeared in the thriller Deep Blue Sea, and played the title role in Miss Julie. Miss Julie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The following year she appeared opposite Stellan Skarsgard in Timecode (2000), a split-screen digital experimental film shot in a single take with no edit. Burrows followed this film with Gangster No. 1, starring opposite Malcolm McDowell, Paul Bettany and David Thewlis. Burrows then co-starred alongside Kate Winslet and Dougray Scott in Michael Apted’s 1940’s drama Enigma. Tom Stoppard adapted the Robert Harris novel of the same name for the screen. Burrows also starred in Tempted, an improvised thriller set in New Orleans, opposite Burt Reynolds and Peter Facinelli. Mike Figgis’ ensemble feature Hotel followed, re-uniting Burrows with many of her colleagues from Timecode such as Salma Hayek and Danny Huston in Venice, where she played the role of the Duchess Of Malfi. In 2002, Burrows played a cameo in Hayek's procuded biopic Frida. After that, Burrows dedicated to theater, and was directed by Deborah Warner at the Royal National Theatre in Jeanette Winterson’s The Powerbook. The play then toured, visiting the Theatre National Du Chaillot, Paris, and the Teatro Argentina, Rome. Burrows then performed in Spanish in the Spanish-language political thriller The Galindez File, a film written by Basque novelist Vazquez Montalban, on the life of a woman seeking the truth about the ‘disappearance’ of Galindez, a critic of The Dominican Republic’s Trujillo. Harvey Keitel co-starred.
In 2004, she played the part of Andromache in the big-budget film Troy. In January 2005, she created the role of Janey in the world premiere of Earthly Paradise at the Almeida Theatre. The play tells the story of the love triangle between Janey Morris; her husband William Morris, the writer and proponent of the arts and crafts movement; and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite painter. Noted theatre critic Nicholas De Jongh said of her performance in The Earthly Paradise that "Burrows takes to the stage like a swan to water...She deserves no end of watching". On 30 October 2005, she appeared on stage at the Old Vic theatre in London in a rehearsed reading of the 24-hour play Night Sky, alongside Christopher Eccleston. In 2006, Burrows was the female lead in the New Zealand thriller Perfect Creature, starring opposite Dougray Scott. That same year, Burrows worked with the iconic Chilean director Raoul Ruiz on KLIMT, his cinematic version of the life of Gustav Klimt, playing opposite John Malkovich, as the artist’s lover, a woman of many personalities, and nationalities.
She performed in Hal Hartley’s Fay Grim. Onstage in 2006, Burrows starred opposite David Schwimmer in Neil Labute’s world premiere of Some Girl(s) at the Gielgud theatre, London. She then starred opposite Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler in Mike Binder’s Reign Over Me. Burrows also played the female lead in the Indian thriller Broken Thread, by Mahesh Mathai, and Dangerous Parking, a drama directed by Peter Howitt. On television, Burrows played attorney Lorraine Weller on ABC's Boston Legal (Season 4) from 2007–08. She starred on NBC's 2008 series, My Own Worst Enemy. In 2008, Burrows starred in the independent film The Guitar, Amy Redford’s directorial debut, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; whilst there, Burrows performed live on guitar with the band The Everyothers, opening for Mos Def and Patti Smith. In the same year, she also had a starring role as Martine Love in Roger Donaldson’s heist film The Bank Job opposite Jason Statham.
She played opposite Kevin Spacey in Jonas Pate’s movie Shrink. In the same year, Burrows contributed to the Actors Come Clean for Congo video for the Raise Hope for Congo campaign, a campaign of the Enough Project, in support of the conflict mineral issue. During 2010, she starred as Det. Serena Stevens on Law & Order: Criminal Intent opposite Jeff Goldblum. Burrows departed the main cast at the end of the ninth season. In September 2010, Burrows took part in the documentary feature film The People Speak, directed and produced by Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove, televised on the History Channel, linked with The People Speak (Film) - International. Burrows modeled for Marks & Spencer's autumn 2010 campaign for their Portfolio range. In 2012, Burrows performed opposite Rob Lowe in the political comedy Knife Fight. She has participated in the "24 Hour Plays" in London, New York, and Los Angeles.
As a writer, Burrows has written contributions in the form of diaries, book reviews, and articles for The Guardian, The Independent, and The Times newspapers, and The New Statesman magazine. Burrows speaks Spanish, Italian, and fluent French, and has performed in all three languages. French is her second language, having lived in Paris for five years as a teenager. She has performed in French on stage in Paris in The Powerbook and on French television. Saffron Burrows is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.
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