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John Thaw Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (21) | Personal Quotes (17)

Overview (4)

Born in West Gorton, Manchester, England, UK
Died in Luckington, Wiltshire, England, UK  (esophageal cancer)
Birth NameJohn Edward Thaw
Height 5' 7½" (1.71 m)

Mini Bio (1)

He was the working class boy from Manchester whose intensity and natural honesty made him British television's most bankable actor. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His first starring role on TV was as Sgt John Mann in Redcap (1964). His first great success, though, was as Detective Inspector Regan in The Sweeney (1975). Violent and uncompromising, the series changed the portrayal of police work on British television and was one of the defining dramas of the 1970s.

For Inspector Morse (1987), Thaw was yet again cast as a policeman, but this time a more cultured character than Regan. The leisurely-paced series, set in beautiful Oxfordshire, was Thaw's most popular and long-running project. It established him as British television's most bankable actor, and during the 1990s he had many other starring vehicles. He was also a favourite of film director Richard Attenborough, who cast him in Cry Freedom (1987) and Chaplin (1992).

John Thaw was a quiet, private man. His marriage to actress Sheila Hancock was generally regarded as one of the strongest in showbusiness. When he died at the age of 60, the BBC website was inundated with tributes from the viewing public. His "Inspector Morse" co-star Kevin Whately simply described him as the country's finest screen actor.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous

Spouse (2)

Sheila Hancock (24 December 1973 - 21 February 2002) (his death) (1 child)
Sally Alexander (27 June 1964 - 1968) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (21)

Winner of 2 BAFTA awards for Best TV Actor in "Inspector Morse" (1989 and 1992) and nominee for the same series in 1990 & 1991.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1993 Queen's New Year Honours List for his services to drama.
Treated for cancer of the oesophagus. His wife, Sheila Hancock, is a breast cancer survivor. [June 2001]
Broke his foot in his teens when he tripped while running for a school bus. This left him with a slight limp that is noticeable in some scenes of the Inspector Morse series.
Married Sheila Hancock on 24 December 1973 in Cirencester, Gloucestershire.
When he married Hancock he decided to officially adopt her daughter Melanie, from her first marriage to Alec Ross, which is why she bears Thaw's surname.
He performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
His favourite episodes of "Inspector Morse" (1987) were "The Dead of Jericho", "Masonic Mysteries" and "Promised Land".
He performed with the National Theatre.
He lived quietly in an 18th century manor house in Wiltshire, England.
His most famous roles on British TV were all as straight-talking, no-nonsense characters: Jack Regan, Inspector Morse and James Kavanagh.
Father of actress Abigail Thaw, born 1967, (with first wife Sally Alexander) and Joanna Thaw, born 1974, (with second wife Sheila Hancock), and adopted father of Melanie Thaw, born 1964 (Sheila Hancock's daughter by her first marriage).
Thaw was a fan of classical music ever since he was a young man.
Younger brother, Ray, was born November 15, 1944. He died in 2004.
His mother Dorothy (Dolly) walked out on the family when he was 7 years old. He did not see her again for 12 years when she showed up briefly back stage in a production of "The Fire Raisers." He never saw her again. She died of stomach cancer in 1974.
Began at age 11 performing in school plays. In one of them he appeared as Mistress Quickly in "Henry V."
Was Laurence Olivier's understudy in the stage production of "Semi-Detached" and later stepped into the part for a week due to Olivier's problem with gout.
His first stage role was at Green End Junior School in Manchester, England as Uncle Joseph, the leading part in "Where the Rainbow Ends" (1953).
Was accepted by RADA in 1958 when he was two years underage. Thaw was told to say he was 19 if anyone asked.
Started smoking when he was twelve.
Smoked 60 cigarettes a day.

Personal Quotes (17)

I didn't want the television Morse to end like Frank Sinatra - doing an endless series of farewell concerts.
I get to work with some of the finest actors around.
I was born looking fifty.
When I first met her, I had no idea I was looking for a wife. I was just extremely attracted to her. Now, all these years later, I see how lucky I was to have found her because it's difficult to imagine life with anyone else. Maybe it's the years of rubbing together, we do have the same outlook on life - on politics, ideals, morals. We're very similar people in all sorts of ways and we're very close. We're certainly best friends. - on his wife, Sheila Hancock
I was going to say that Sheila and Sally are not at all alike -- except they're both extremely intelligent women. When I met Sheila I wasn't consciously looking for anything in particular. I was just very attracted to her. Who knows why people fall in love? All I know is that I'm a very lucky man.
I suppose I learned about being a father from my own dad. I learned that even when your children are grown up -- as mine are now -- you don't stop being a father. He was still my dad until the day he died last year. I still miss him every day.
I realise that I'm one of the lucky ones. Talent has very little to do with it really. There are lots of talented actors around without work, simply because at any one time, there are only jobs for about twenty per cent of them. That's one reason why I'm happy to be doing a series.
It's bad enough for an actor, but actresses have a hell of a time. There are more of them for a start, and far fewer parts to go round. I've seen too much of what it can do to girls to want my daughter to be any part of it. People always say how difficult it is for two actors to live together, and in many ways it is. But at least we can share the problems and understand the pressures and the demands it makes on you. My first wife was nothing to do with the profession and I think it was difficult for her to understand when I came home shattered at the end of a day's filming or rehearsing. It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't actually know what it's like.
I go to a lot of Police functions and I have some close friends who are policemen. Mind you, they do have their criticisms from time to time. A Flying Squad officer said to me once, 'Sometimes it takes us three days to get a man to admit his own name, whereas you solve a case in sixty minutes.' But generally they're pleased. They like The Sweeney because it shows dilemmas and problems that a policeman has to face - just as a man, not only as a policeman.
I treasure my life with my wife and children, and my health. If you ain't got your health, you ain't got anything. There are times when you think your career is the most important thing in the world but you move on. My career has always been important to me and still is. But less important than is used to be. Your learn that at the end of the day, there are more important things in life, such as the people you love.
Sheila and I have had our ups and downs. But the thing that keeps us together apart from the fact we love each other, is having the same sense of humour and out look on like, the same beliefs about what is important, what's right and wrong. If you fundamentally disagree, then when the initial romance goes, you've nothing to replace it with. You've got to have a solid foundation and mutual respect. I like Sheila, I respect her, and I know its vice-versa. That's what kept us together. We don't live in each others pockets. Sheila sometimes goes to the theatre with friends because I am working, and I go to things that would bore her. So in that sense we are not always together.
Smoking and drinking is a mugs game. I used to do both, but I've not yet managed to kick the smoking. You would be surprised how many people don't drink now. It has become the 'in' thing to kick alcohol. I decided boozing wasn't good for me and particularly some mornings if you had too much the night before. The only answer is if you don't want to fell like that, don't do it. Now I feel good. I wake up fresh and stay fresh till the end of the day.
[on the death of Inspector Morse]: All good things come to an end. I am proud to have done it. When I saw him (Morse) dead I had a mental flashback of the fifteen years that we had been doing it. All the stories, all the various locations and the different actors and it all ends with a dead human being in the morgue. But in a way I think it is a good thing he died rather than driving off into the Oxford sunset. Supposing he had just retired and gone to live in Lyme Regis. In a couple of years ITV would have said, 'Do one more and we'll set it in Lyme Regis', and trouble is I probably would have been tempted.
At my stage in the game, there are lots of parts you can't play because you're just too old, so you accept that. I'm getting to the point where I have done it now. I've earned my spurs. I'm not fighting anymore. I just enjoy what I have and what is around and whatever work I do and whoever I meet. I just enjoy the moment. (2001)
Of course I'd get worried if the scripts stopped coming through the letter box. But I haven't been in that position for a long time now. I was once told I wouldn't come into my own until I was in my forties - and it has been quite true. But it was a daunting at the time. I was about seventeen or eighteen and I thought I'd have to survive for twenty years before I started making a living. But then, at twenty-two I was in my first TV series Redcap. My name was above the title. I thought whoever said about me waiting until I was forty was wrong. Then at twenty-six I was out of work for those nine months and it all came back.
At various times in my life I've been a heavy drinker, there's no question about that. But I hasten to add, it has never affected my work. I never drank while I was working, although afterwards - particularly when I was doing The Sweeney with Dennis Waterman - I'd go into the pub and have a few drinks. But I'm getting too old for it now. I'd wake up in the morning feeling bad. When you're younger you can shrug it off. A lot of my friends have given it up. It's become the thing to do. I read about Anthony Hopkins giving it up and saying he'd never felt better in his life. All these guys - Peter O'Toole's another - have given it up. They were all preaching that it was good and that you felt better so, truthfully, I thought I'd give it a go myself. I'd see what it was like. I found it was so easy to do - like giving up sugar in tea. I remember once giving up sugar years ago, and although at first I thought I'd never do it, from that day to this I've never had any sugar in tea or coffee.
[on A Year in Provence (1993)]: I had a disaster with that, but we're all allowed one. I was saddened because we all worked hard and hoped it would be enjoyed. It was enjoyed - but only by five people. I've had that upset, but I've still been given other work.

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