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Paul Scofield Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (24) | Personal Quotes (3)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 21 January 1922Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, England, UK
Date of Death 19 March 2008West Sussex, England, UK  (leukaemia)
Birth NameDavid Paul Scofield
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Though his number of film roles amount to a bit over 30, Paul Scofield has cast a giant shadow in the world of stage and film acting. He grew up in West Sussex, the son of a schoolmaster. He attended the Varndean School for Boys in Brighton. The love of acting came early. While still high school age, he began training as an actor at the Croydon Repertory Theatre School (1939) and then at the Mask Theatre School (1940) in London. He took on all the experience he could handle by joining touring companies and also entertained British troops during World War II. He joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and, from there in 1946, he moved to Stratford-upon-Avon. There, in the birthplace of William Shakespeare, he had his first great successes. He had the title role in "Henry V"; he was "Cloten" in "Cymbeline"; "Don Adriano de Armado" in "Love's Labour's Lost", "Lucio" in "Measure for Measure", and then "Hamlet". And there were many more as he honed himself into one the great Shakespearean actors of the 20th century. With a rich, sonorous voice compared to a Rolls Royce being started up, in one instance, and a great sound rumbling forth from an antique crypt in yet another, he was quickly compared to Laurence Olivier.

Scofield did not move on to commercial theater until 1949, when he took the lead role of "Alexander the Great", in playwright Terence Rattigan's unfortunately ill-received "Adventure Story". And as he continued theater work, he moved toward film very carefully. From his first in 1955, Scofield was always - as with any of his acting assignments - extremely picky about accepting a particular role. It was three years before his second film. Meanwhile, Scofield had the opportunity to play a great lead part in a new play by a schoolmaster-turned-new-playwright, Robert Bolt. The play was "A Man for All Seasons" and Scofield's choice role was that of "Sir Thomas More", the great English humanist and chancellor, who defied the ogre "King Henry VIII" in his wish to put aside his first wife for "Anne Bolyne". It was a once in a lifetime part, and Scofield debuted it in London in 1960. His only appearance on Broadway was the next year in that play, which ran into 1962. It was no surprise that the work began garnering awards for him (see Trivia below for details on theater and film awards).

He returned to Shakespeare in 1962 with Peter Brook, the noted British director and producer, directing him as "Lear" at the newly formed Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at Stratford. This was a pioneering minimalist production, one of the first "bare stage" efforts - though things were pretty bare stage in Shakespeare's day. Scofield then did "Coriolanus" and "Love's Labour's Lost" for the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario in 1963. His third film came six years after his second screen appearance (1958). This was his standout performance in The Train (1964), a production of his co-star, Burt Lancaster, that grew in size and budget with the entrance of Lancaster's second choice for director, John Frankenheimer. Some of the difficulties involved might have turned someone of Scofield's discipline back to the stage thereafter, but the filming of "Seasons" arrived, and he would hardly refuse. With Robert Bolt handling the screenplay and a superlative supporting cast, the film version of A Man for All Seasons (1966) collected some thirty-three international awards, including a three-statue sweep of prime-Oscar categories plus another three for good measure. Scofield was unforgettable as the incisive man of state, able to juggle the volatile politics of the time but always keep his honor and so brimming with faith as to endure the inevitably mounting tide against him.

It suited Scofield for a time to keep his screen-acting to adaptations of plays, books, and ensemble pieces fitted to the big screen. Peter Brook and he teamed again for a film version of the Brook-adapted play Tell Me Lies (1968). The adaptation of Herman Melville's Bartleby (1970), despite Scofield's efforts, did not wash as an attempt to update Melville's story in the late twentieth century. Then Brook was back again to finally attempt what he said had really never been done correctly -adapting Shakespeare to film. Scofield's 1962 "Lear" was held in high esteem, and Brook decided on a film version, King Lear (1971), an even more uncompromising, even uncomfortable, desolation staging and editing of the tragedy. Despite some oddball camera work and not wholly satisfying adapting of the play, Scofield was magnificent and got his chance to show that he is perhaps the best Lear of modern times. While still keeping a concerted interest in filmed play adaptations, Scofield could be lured into more typical screen drama. He joined former co-star, Burt Lancaster, for the spy thriller, Scorpio (1973), as a memorable Russian comrade of Lancaster from the days of World War II, caught in late-Cold War spy craft brutality.

Through the 1980s, Scofield did a mix of TV and film on both sides of the Atlantic. But he was drawn back to Shakespeare and filming efforts, though in humbler parts, first in the Henry V (1989) of ambitious Kenneth Branagh, as the French king, and, the next year, in the Franco Zeffirelli, Hamlet (1990), as "The Ghost" - with the real buzz being for Mel Gibson as the dour "Prince of Denmark". Both films were well-crafted with impressive supporting casts. And Scofield could be content that as with all his roles, he was remaining consistent with himself as his own best judge of how to challenge his acting gifts. Gibson was appropriately awed, saying that working with Scofield was like being "thrown into the ring with Mike Tyson" (that is, Mike Tyson then, not now). Through the 1990s, he enjoyed his continued sampling of all acting media, even radio narration and animation voice-over.

The matter of British actors weighing upon the acceptance of knighthoods for their work began most publicly with Scofield. In 1956, after his tour of "Hamlet" with a triumph in Moscow, he gratefully accepted the appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), but thereafter he refused on three occasions the offer of knighthood. "If you want a title, what's wrong with Mr.? If you have always been that, then why lose your title? "I have a title, which is the same one that I have always had. But it's not political. I have a CBE, which I accepted very gratefully". He said this with great simplicity and charm. The matter of 'theatrical nobility' has prompted others to follow Scofield's example. One high profile example with a twist is actor Anthony Hopkins, now an American citizen, who quipped that he only accepted the knighthood because his wife wanted him to do so. In taking the oath of citizenship, Hopkins pledged to "renounce the title of nobility to which I have heretofore belonged". But Scofield's demeanor in his logically crafted refusals from the first so fit this man's very private life. Yet quite averse to being interviewed, he has always been considerate to the public for their patronage. Brilliant man and acting legacy, on and off the stage, Paul Scofield truly is a "Man for All Seasons".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: William McPeak

Spouse (1)

Joy Parker (15 May 1943 - 19 March 2008) (his death) (2 children)

Trivia (24)

In 1969, he became the sixth performer to win the Triple Crown of Acting. Oscar: Best Actor, A Man for All Seasons (1966), Tony: Best Actor-Play, 'A Man for All Seasons' (1962), and Emmy: Best Actor, Male of the Species (1969).
Originated the role of Antonio Salieri in the play "Amadeus".
Has two children, Martin (born in 1944), a lecturer in 19th century English literature at the University of Kent, and Sarah (born in 1951).
He was awarded the Companion of Honour in the Queen's 2001 New Year's Honours List for his services to drama.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1956 Queen's New Year Honours List for his services to drama.
Was scheduled to appear in the David Lean directed "Nostromo" in 1991, before Lean died, and the production came to a halt.
Scofield was one of only eight actors who won both an Academy Award and a Tony Award for performing the same role on film and stage. The other seven were: Yul Brynner (The King and I (1956)), Joel Grey (Cabaret (1972)), Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady (1964)), Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker (1962)), Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba (1952)), José Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)), and Jack Albertson (The Subject Was Roses (1968)/(1965)).
He was nominated for 1997 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Actor in a Play of 1996 for his performance in John Gabriel Borkman.
He was awarded the 1996 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in John Gabriel Borkman.
In a rare 2004 opinion poll of members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Paul was acclaimed for giving the greatest performance in a Shakespearean play for his legendary portrayal of King Lear in a 1962 production at Stratford. Voting peers included such theatre luminaries as Ian McKellen , Donald Sinden , Janet Suzman , Ian Richardson , Corin Redgrave and Antony Sher . Judi Dench 's Lady Macbeth in Trevor Nunn 's 1976 production of "Macbeth" came in second.
He had been cast as O'Brien in 1984 (1984) but had to widthdraw from the film after breaking a leg. Richard Burton was re-cast in the role.
Won Broadway's 1962 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) in "A Man for All Seasons," a role he recreated in an Oscar-winning performance in the film version of the same name, A Man for All Seasons (1966).
Was considered for the role of Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (1974).
Was considered for the role of Marc Antony in Julius Caesar (1953). The part went to Marlon Brando.
As a schoolboy in Brighton he played Juliet in a school production of "Romeo and Juliet".
Edward Albee called him 2one of the great actors". Scofield starred in the film version of Albee's play "A Delicate Balance".
Playwright Arthur Miller considers him the finest English-speaking actor. Scofield appeared in the film version of Miller's "The Crucible".
Good friend of Judi Dench.
He happily accepted a CBE ("an honor with a hint of hard work about it"), but declined Knighthood on a couple of occasions.
Trained briefly at the Croydon Rep.
He had two grand-daughters, Robin and Rachel, and four great-grandchildren, Melissa, Oliver, Elliot, and Caitlin.
Is one of 9 actors to have won the Triple Crown of Acting (an Oscar, Emmy and Tony); the others in chronological order are Thomas Mitchell, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Albertson, Jason Robards, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino, Geoffrey Rush and Christopher Plummer.
He has appeared in the film adaptations of two successful Broadway plays: Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons" (for which he won a Tony, and later an Oscar) and Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance." Coincidentally, in both adapted works Scofield's characters (Sir Thomas More and Tobias) sarcastically say to their wives, "Oh, you're an honest woman!" near the end.
Was considered for the roles of Fallada, Dr.Armstrong and Sir Percy in Lifeorce.

Personal Quotes (3)

[upon being notified of his Oscar win, having not been present at the actual ceremony, 1967] Oh, I suppose my wife and I will open a bottle of champagne with another couple.
I have found that an actor's work has life and interest only in its execution. It seems to wither away in discussion, and become emptily theatrical and insubstantial.
[on repeated attempts of declining knighthood] If you want a title, what's wrong with 'Mister'? If you have always been that, then why lose your title? I have a title, which is the same one that I have always had. But it's not political. I have a CBE, which I accepted very gratefully.

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