British Actors and Actress

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1.
Laurence Olivier
Actor, Rebecca
Laurence Olivier could speak William Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were "actually thinking them", said English playwright Charles Bennett, who met Olivier in 1927. Laurence Kerr Olivier was born in Dorking, Surrey, England, to Agnes Louise (Crookenden) and Gerard Kerr Olivier, a High Anglican priest. His surname came from a great-great-grandfather who was of French Huguenot origin...
 
2.
Maggie Smith
One of the world's most famous and distinguished actresses, Dame Maggie Smith was born Margaret Natalie Smith in Essex. Her Scottish mother, Margaret (Hutton), worked as a secretary, and her English father, Nathaniel Smith, was a teacher at Oxford University. Smith has been married twice: to actor Robert Stephens and to playwright Beverley Cross...
 
3.
Judi Dench
Actress, Skyfall
Judi Dench was born in York, England, to Eleanora Olive (Jones), who was from Dublin, Ireland, and Reginald Arthur Dench, a doctor from Dorset, England. She attended Mount School in York, and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She has performed with Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre...
 
4.
Ian McKellen
Ian Murray McKellen was born on May 25, 1939 in Burnley, Lancashire, England, to Margery Lois (Sutcliffe) and Denis Murray McKellen, a civil engineer. He is of Scottish, Northern Irish, and English descent. During his early childhood, his parents moved with Ian and his sister Jean to the mill town of Wigan...
 
5.
Michael Caine
Michael Caine was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite in London, to Ellen Frances Marie (Burchell), a charlady, and Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, a fish-market porter. He left school at 15 and took a series of working-class jobs before joining the British army and serving in Korea during the Korean War, where he saw combat...
 
6.
John Gielgud
Actor, Gandhi
Sir John Gielgud is a highly distinguished and prolific performer who is considered to be one of the finest actors of his generation. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, Gielgud played his first Hamlet in 1930 and quickly established himself as one of the most eminent Shakespearean interpreters of his time...
 
7.
Helen Mirren
Actress, The Queen
Dame Helen Mirren was born in Queen Charlotte's Hospital in West London. Her mother, Kathleen Alexandrina Eva Matilda (Rogers), was from a working-class English family, and her father, Vasiliy Petrovich Mironov, was a Russian-born civil servant, from Kuryanovo, whose own father was a diplomat. Mirren attended St...
 
8.
Michael Gambon
Sir Michael Gambon was born in Cabra, Dublin, Ireland, to Mary (Hoare), a seamstress, and Edward Gambon, an engineer. After joining the National Theatre, under the Artistic Directorship of Sir Laurence Olivier, Gambon went on to appear in a number of leading roles in plays written by Alan Ayckbourn...
 
9.
Peter Ustinov
Actor, Robin Hood
Peter Ustinov was a two-time Academy Award-winning film actor, a director, writer, journalist and raconteur. He wrote and directed many acclaimed stage plays and led numerous international theatrical productions. He was born Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov on April 16, 1921, in Swiss Cottage, London...
 
10.
David Niven
David Niven was named after the Saint's Day on which he was born, St. David, patron Saint of Wales. He attended Stowe School and Sandhurst Military Academy and served for two years in Malta with the Highland Light Infantry. At the outbreak of World War II, although a top-line star, he re-joined the army (Rifle Brigade)...
 
11.
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness de Cuffe was born on April 2, 1914 in Marylebone, London, England, and was raised by his mother, Agnes Cuffe. While working in advertising, he studied at the Fay Compton Studio of Dramatic Art, debuting on stage in 1934 and played classic theater with the Old Vic from 1936. In 1941...
 
12.
Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph Richardson was one of the greatest actors of the 20th Century English-language theater, ascending to the height of his profession in the mid-1930s when he became a star in London's West End. He became the first actor of his generation to be knighted. He became Sir Ralph in 1947, and was quickly followed Laurence Olivier in 1948...
 
13.
Sean Connery
Actor, Dr. No
Thomas Sean Connery was born on August 25, 1930 in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh. His mother, Euphamia McBain (Maclean), was a cleaning lady, and his father, Joseph Connery, was a factory worker and truck driver. He also has a brother named Neil Connery, who works as a plasterer in Edinburgh. He is of Irish and Scottish descent...
 
14.
Vivien Leigh
If a film were made of the life of Vivien Leigh, it would open in India just before World War I, where a successful British businessman could live like a prince. In the mountains above Calcutta, a little princess is born. Because of the outbreak of World War I, she is six years old the first time her parents take her to England...
 
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16.
Peter O'Toole
O'Toole was one of several actors to be Oscar-nominated for playing the same role in two different films: he played King Henry II in both Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968). O'Toole played Hamlet under Laurence Olivier's direction in the premiere production of the Royal National Theatre in 1963...
 
17.
Doris Speed
Doris Speed was one of Britain's best-loved soap actresses, fondly remembered for her portrayal of Annie Walker, the snooty landlady of the Rovers Return pub in ITV's Coronation Street. She played the role for 23 years and was dubbed by the press as 'The Queen Mother of Soap.' Born in Manchester, her father George was a singer and her mother Ada a repertory actress...
 
18.
Kate Winslet
Actress, Titanic
Ask Kate Winslet what she likes about any of her characters, and the word "ballsy" is bound to pop up at least once. The British actress has made a point of eschewing straightforward pretty-girl parts in favor of more devilish damsels; as a result, she's built an eclectic resume that runs the gamut from Shakespearean tragedy to modern-day mysticism and erotica...
 
19.
Eileen Atkins
Actress, Cold Mountain
Eileen Atkins was born in a Salvation Army Women's Hostel in north London. Her father was a gas meter reader; her mother, a seamstress and barmaid. A drama teacher taught her how to drop her Cockney accent, and she studied Shakespeare and Greek tragedies. Her breakthrough role in "The Killing of Sister George" took her to Broadway.
 
20.
John Hurt
This transatlantic talent was born John Vincent Hurt on January 22, 1940 in Shirebrook, a coal mining village near the busy market town of Chesterfield, in Derbyshire, England. He is the son of Phyllis (Massey), an engineer and one-time actress, and Arnould Herbert Hurt, an Anglican clergyman and mathematician...
 
21.
Christopher Lee
Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was perhaps the only actor of his generation to have starred in so many films and cult saga. Although most notable for personifying bloodsucking vampire, Dracula, on screen, he portrayed other varied characters on screen, most of which were villains, whether it be Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film...
 
22.
James Mason
James Mason was a great English actor of British and American films. He was born in Yorkshire, and attended Marlborough and Cambridge, where he discovered acting on a lark, and abandoned a planned career as an architect. Following work in stock companies, he joined the Old Vic under the guidance of Sir Tyrone Guthrie and of Alexander Korda...
 
23.
Derek Jacobi
Actor, Gladiator
Preeminent British classical actor of the first post-Olivier generation, Derek Jacobi was knighted in 1994 for his services to the theatre, and, in fact, is only the second to enjoy the honor of holding TWO knighthoods, Danish and English (Olivier was the other). Modest and unassuming in nature, Jacobi's...
 
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25.
Joan Plowright
Dame Joan Ann Plowright, the Baroness Olivier, is one of the most distinguished actors of her generation. She may be best remembered as the third wife and widow of Laurence Olivier, generally considered the greatest anglophone actor of the 20th Century, but she had a distinguished career of her own on stage and screen spanning six decades...
 
26.
John Cleese
John Cleese was born on October 27, 1939, in Weston-Super-Mare, England, to Muriel Evelyn (Cross) and Reginald Francis Cleese. He was born into a family of modest means, his father being an insurance salesman; but he was nonetheless sent off to private schools to obtain a good education. Here he was often tormented for his height...
 
27.
Julie Andrews
Julia Elizabeth Wells was born on October 1, 1935, in England. Her mother, Barbara Ward (Morris), and stepfather, both vaudeville performers, discovered her freakish but undeniably lovely four-octave singing voice and immediately got her a singing career. She performed in music halls throughout her childhood and teens...
 
28.
Hugh Laurie
Actor, House M.D.
Hugh was born in Oxford, England on June 11, 1959, to Patricia (Laidlaw) and William George Ranald Mundell "Ran" Laurie, a doctor, both of Scottish descent. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge. Son of an Olympic gold medalist in the sport, he rowed for the England youth team (1977) and for Cambridge (1980)...
 
29.
Jack Hawkins
Actor, Ben-Hur
In Britain, special Christmas plays called pantomimes are produced for children. Jack Hawkins made his London theatrical debut at age 12, playing the elf king in "Where The Rainbow Ends". At 17, he got the lead role of St. George in the same play. At 18, he made his debut on Broadway in "Journey's End"...
 
30.
John Mills
Actor, Gandhi
Sir John Mills, one of the most popular and beloved English actors, was born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills on February 22, 1908, at the Watts Naval Training College in North Elmham, Norfolk, England. The young Mills grew up in Felixstowe, Suffolk, where his father was a mathematics teacher and his mother was a theater box-office manager...