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Derek Jacobi Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (39) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 22 October 1938Leytonstone, London, England, UK
Birth NameDerek George Jacobi
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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 firm place in theatre history centers around his fearless display of his characters' more unappealingly aspects, their great flaws, eccentricities and, more often than not, their primal torment.

Jacobi was born in Leytonstone, London, England, the only child of Alfred George Jacobi, a department store manager, and Daisy Gertrude (Masters) Jacobi, a secretary. His paternal great-grandfather was German (from Hoxter, Germany). His interest in drama began while quite young. He made his debut at age six in the local library drama group production of "The Prince and the Swineherd" in which he appeared as both the title characters. In his teens he attended Leyton County High School and eventually joined the school's drama club ("The Players of Leyton").

Derek portrayed Hamlet at the English National Youth Theatre prior to receiving his high school diploma, and earned a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, where he initially studied history before focusing completely on the stage. A standout role as Edward II at Cambridge led to an invite by the Birmingham Repertory in 1960 following college graduation. He made an immediate impression wherein his Henry VIII (both in 1960) just happened to catch the interest of Olivier himself, who took him the talented actor under his wing. Derek became one of the eight founding members of Olivier's National Theatre Company and gradually rose in stature with performances in "The Royal Hunt of the Sun," "Othello" (as Cassio) and in "Hay Fever", among others. He also made appearances at the Chichester Festival and the Old Vic.

It was Olivier who provided Derek his film debut, recreating his stage role of Cassio in Olivier's acclaimed cinematic version of Othello (1965). Olivier subsequently cast Derek in his own filmed presentation of Chekhov's Three Sisters (1970). On TV Derek was in celebrated company playing Don John in Much Ado About Nothing (1967) alongside Maggie Smith and then-husband Robert Stephens; Derek had played the role earlier at the Chichester Festival in 1965. After eight eventful years at the National Theatre, which included such sterling roles as Touchstone in "As You Like It", Jacobi left the company in 1971 in order to attract other mediums. He continued his dominance on stage as Ivanov, Richard III, Pericles and Orestes (in "Electra"), but his huge breakthrough would occur on TV. Coming into his own with quality support work in Man of Straw (1972), The Strauss Family (1972) and especially the series The Pallisers (1974) in which he played the ineffectual Lord Fawn, Derek's magnificence was presented front and center in the epic BBC series I, Claudius (1976). His stammering, weak-minded Emperor Claudius was considered a work of genius and won, among other honors, the BAFTA award.

Although he was accomplished in The Day of the Jackal (1973) and The Odessa File (1974), films would place a distant third throughout his career. Stage and TV, however, would continue to illustrate his classical icon status. Derek took his Hamlet on a successful world tour throughout England, Egypt, Sweden, Australia, Japan and China; in some of the afore-mentioned countries he was the first actor to perform the role in English. TV audiences relished his performances as Richard II (1978) and, of course Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1980).

After making his Broadway bow in "The Suicide" in 1980, Derek suffered from an alarming two-year spell of stage fright. He returned, however, and toured as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company (1982-1985) with award-winning results. During this period he collected Broadway's Tony Award for his Benedick in "Much Ado about Nothing"; earned the coveted Olivier, Drama League and Helen Hayes awards for his Cyrano de Bergerac; and earned equal acclaim for his Prospero in "The Tempest" and Peer Gynt. In 1986, he finally made his West End debut in "Breaking the Code" for which he won another Helen Hayes trophy; the play was then brought to Broadway.

For the rest of the 80s and 90s, he laid stage claim to such historical figures as Lord Byron, Edmund Kean and Thomas Becket. On TV he found resounding success (and an Emmy nomination) as Adolf Hitler in Inside the Third Reich (1982), and finally took home the coveted Emmy opposite Anthony Hopkins in the WWII drama The Tenth Man (1988). He won a second Emmy in an unlikely fashion by spoofing his classical prowess on an episode of "Frasier" (his first guest performance on American TV), in which he played the unsubtle and resoundingly bad Shakespearean actor Jackson Hedley.

Kenneth Branagh was greatly influenced by mentor Jacobi and their own association would include Branagh's films Henry V (1989), Dead Again (1991), and Hamlet (1996), the latter playing Claudius to Branagh's Great Dane. Derek also directed Branagh in the actor's Renaissance Theatre Company's production of "Hamlet". In the 1990s Derek returned to the Chichester Festival, this time as artistic director, and made a fine showing in the title role of Uncle Vanya (1996).

More heralded work of late include profound portrayals of the anguished titular painter in Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1998), the role of Gracchus in the popular, Oscar-winning film Gladiator (2000), and sterling performances in such films as Two Men Went to War (2002), Bye Bye Blackbird (2005), The Riddle (2007), Endgame (2009), The King's Speech (2010), Jail Caesar (2012), and as the King in Cinderella (2015). Continuing to mesmerize on the stage, he has turned in superb performances in "Uncle Vanya" (2000), Friedrich Schiller's "Don Carlos" (2005), _A Voyage 'Round My Father (2006), "Twelfth Night" (2009) and the title role in "King Lear" (2010). On the British TV series front, he has commanded more recent attention in the title role of a crusading monk in the mystery series Mystery!: Cadfael (1994), as Lord Pirrie in Titanic: Blood and Steel (2012), as Alan in Last Tango in Halifax (2012), and as Stuart Bixby in Vicious (2013).

He and his life-time companion of three decades, Richard Clifford, filed as domestic partners in England in 2006. Clifford, a fine classical actor and producer in his own right, has shared movie time with Jacobi in Little Dorrit (1987), Henry V (1989), and the TV version of Cyrano de Bergerac (1985).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Richard Clifford (2006 - present)

Trivia (39)

Was the mentor and acting instructor of Kenneth Branagh.
He won a Tony in 1985 for "Much Ado About Nothing."
Was on the short list of actors considered for the role of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
He and Laurence Olivier are the only actors to have received both a Danish and a British Knighthood.
1985: Commander of the Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom). 1989: Knight 1st class of the Order of the Dannebrog (Denmark). 1994: Knight Bachelor, for services to Drama (United Kingdom).
Charlton Heston and Ronnie Barker had been considered for the role of Claudius in I, Claudius (1976) before he landed the role.
He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1984 (1983 season) for Best Actor in a Revival for "Cyrano de Bergerac".
He was awarded the 1983 London Critics Circle Theatre Award (Drama Theatre Award) for Best Actor for his performances in Cyrano de Bergerac and Much Ado About Nothing.
He was awarded the 1983 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in Much Ado About Nothing.
An Associate Member of RADA.
Has a Victorian home in London, England.
Replaced Donald Sutherland as Franklyn Madson in Dead Again (1991).
Won Broadway's 1985 Tony Award as Best Actor (Play) for William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." He was also Tony-nominated in the same category in 1988 for "Breaking the Code."
Is a native of Leytonstone, in London's East End, which has also produced film maker Alfred Hitchcock, TV journalists & presenters Jonathan Ross and Paul Ross, TV cook Fanny Cradock, Bangra-DnB composer/producer Talvin Singh, Iron-Maiden bassist/songwriter Steve Harris, former England cricket captain Graham Gooch, and England soccer captain David Beckham.
On the shortlist of actors considered for the main guest lead of Captain Rorvik (played by Clifford Rose) in the episode "Warriors' Gate" of Doctor Who (1963).
After 27 years together, registered his civil partnership with long-term partner Richard Clifford in March 2006, four months after civil unions became legal in England and Wales.
Patron of the British American Drama Academy, London.
In 1963, when Jacobi auditioned for Britain's just-forming National Theatre, Olivier hired him as an understudy and spear-carrier. Luckily for Jacobi, the actor he was understudying. Jeremy Brett got the call to Hollywood, and Jacobi inherited all his parts.
Was one of three actors considered for the role of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Once was invited to play Hamlet at Kronborg Castle, better known as Elsinore Castle, the setting of the play itself.
Along with Mark Gatiss, he is one of only two actors to play both the "Doctor Who" character the Doctor and his greatest enemy, the Master. He played the former (as well as a failed television writer named Martin Bannister) in the Big Finish "Doctor Who Unbound" audio drama Deadline. He played the latter in both the BBCi webcast Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka (2003) and the Doctor Who (2005) episode "Utopia".
He has portrayed two different versions of the "Doctor Who" character the Master: an android copy of the first incarnation of the Master in the BBCi webcast Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka (2003) and the fifth incarnation of the Master in the Doctor Who (2005) episode "Utopia".
Played "Hamlet" opposite Timothy West and, later, John Turner as "Claudius" in the Prospect Theatre Company productions. He would later direct Kenneth Branagh in the title role, before appearing as "Claudius" in the film production directed by Branagh.
After Roger Delgado, Peter Pratt, Geoffrey Beevers, Anthony Ainley, Gordon Tipple and Eric Roberts, he is the seventh actor to play the Master, the Doctor's greatest enemy. He played the role in Doctor Who: Utopia (2007). He was succeeded in the role by John Simm and Michelle Gomez.
Nominated for the 1988 Tony Award (New York City) for Actor in a Drama for "Breaking the Code".
Has appeared in several films as a character with a stutter: the title character in I, Claudius (1976), Frankie in Dead Again (1991), Alan Turing in Breaking the Code (1996). He also appears in The King's Speech (2010), though not as the character who stutters.
He played the Roman Emperor Claudius between the ages of 18 (in 9 AD) and 63 (in 54 AD) in I, Claudius (1976).
An only child.
Derek is a fan of Doctor Who (1963) and wanted to be cast in the series since the beginning. He has also wanted to be cast in Coronation Street (1960).
He claims to have been close to being cast as Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The same is true of Daniel Day-Lewis.
He was considered for the roles of Dr. Armstrong and Dr. Bukovsky in Lifeforce (1985). Patrick Stewart and Michael Gothard were eventually cast.
As of 2014, has appeared in three films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Gladiator (2000), Gosford Park (2001) and The King's Speech (2010). Of those, The King's Speech (2010) and Gladiator (2000) are winners in the category.
He has appeared in four films directed by Kenneth Branagh: Henry V (1989), Dead Again (1991), Hamlet (1996) and Cinderella (2015).
He has two roles in common with Charles Laughton: (1) Laughton played the Roman Emperor Claudius in I, Claudius (1937) while Jacobi played him in I, Claudius (1976) and (2) Laughton played Gracchus in Spartacus (1960) while Jacobi played him in Gladiator (2000).
Although he played Claire Bloom's son in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1980), he is only seven years her junior in real life. Furthermore, he played Patrick Stewart's nephew and stepson in the same production but is almost two years his senior.
Although he played Hanna Schygulla's son in Dead Again (1991), he is five years her senior in real life.
He has appeared in six films with his domestic partner Richard Clifford: Little Dorrit (1987), Henry V (1989), The Fool (1990), A Bunch of Amateurs (2008), My Week with Marilyn (2011) and Jail Caesar (2012).
He has two roles in common with his Breaking the Code (1996) co-star Richard Johnson: (1) Johnson played King Claudius of Denmark in _"ITV Saturday Night Theatre" (1969) {Hamlet (#3.30)_ while Jacobi played him in Hamlet (1996) and (2) Johnson played the Roman Emperor Claudius in Churchill's People: The Lost Island (1975) while Jacobi played him in I, Claudius (1976).
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1985 Queen's Birthday Honours List and became a Knight Bachelor in the 1994 Queen's New Year Honours List for his services to drama.

Personal Quotes (4)

I've now been there, done that, and got the T-shirt. We just went to the registry office, signed a bit of paper and it was all over. We didn't have a bit party, but we had twenty-five friends to lunch. It was very quiet though, all over in a morning. - On his civil partnership ceremony
It's as though you have crossed Niagara on a tightrope 250 times and, on the 251st crossing---vertigo. You are convinced you can't move across the stage without falling over. You go rigid from the knees down. You suddenly wonder, why am I doing this? I knew I'd got to get through a whole season, three spanking parts, and that if I ran away, I would never act on stage again. It was that knowledge that shocked me out of my illness. But I had a very bad time in the first weeks. - DJ, regarding his two-year spell of stage fright and subsequent return in 1982 to the Royal Shakespeare Company
Acting is painting, not photography, but painting is just as 'real' as photography. As an actor conscious that you are in a theatre, you still have to make it look as spontaneous as if you did not know that you are being watched by 1,000 pairs of eyes.
I've been acting for 33 years. I've proved I can do it. So any performance now has got to be deeper and better than that, nothing to do with ego, bravura, look-at-me acting. That is an invitation to the audience to assess your ability, and it gets in the way. The object is to get past that and lose yourself in your belief in the person you are trying to create. To find something absolutely real. But I constantly hope to go further than I manage to do. DJ, 1992 interview

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