SIR DEREK JACOBI Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Sir Derek Jacobi                                                                       
Born: 22 October 1938 Leytonstone, London, England                                           
Sir Derek George Jacobi CBE (born 22 October 1938) is an                                     
English actor and director, knighted in 1994 for his services to the theatre.                 
Like Laurence Olivier, he bears the distinction of holding two knighthoods,                   
Danish and British. He is regarded to have one of the most outstanding speaking               
voices ever with studied tonality and an exceptional elocution in drama.                     
Jacobi, an only child, was born in Leytonstone, London, England, the son of                   
Daisy Gertrude (nee Masters), a secretary who worked in a drapery store in                   
Leyton High Street, and Alfred George Jacobi, who ran a sweet shop and was a                 
tobacconist in Chingford. His great-grandfather emigrated to England from                     
Germany during the 19th century. His family was working class. Although a                     
war baby, he claims a happy childhood. In his teens he went to the Leyton County             
High School and became an integral part of the drama club, The Players of Leyton.             
At 18, he won a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, where he studied                 
history and earned his degree. Other younger members of the university at the                 
time included Ian McKellen (who had an "undeclared and unrequited" crush on him)             
and Trevor Nunn. During his stay at Cambridge, he played many parts including                 
Hamlet, which was taken on a tour to Switzerland where he met Richard Burton. As             
a result of his performance of Edward II at Cambridge, he was invited to become               
a member of the Birmingham Rep immediately upon his graduation in 1960.                       
Jacobi quickly came to the fore, and his talent was recognised by Laurence                   
Olivier, who invited him back home to London to become one of the eight founding             
members of the new National Theatre, even though at the time he was relatively               
unknown. He played Laertes in the National Theatre's inaugural production of                 
Hamlet opposite Peter O'Toole in 1963, and Olivier gave him the role of Cassio               
in his 1965 film of Othello and of Andrei in Three Sisters in 1970.                           
After eight years at the National Theatre, Jacobi left in 1971 to pursue                     
different roles and mediums of expression. In 1972, he starred in the BBC serial             
Man of Straw, directed by Herbert Wise. Most of his theatrical work in the 70's               
was with the touring classical Prospect Theatre Company, with which he undertook             
many roles, including Ivanov, Pericles, Prince of Tyre and A Month in the                     
Although Jacobi's name was becoming known and he was increasingly busy with                   
stage and screen acting, his big breakthrough did not come until 1976. It was                 
the title role of the BBC's blockbuster series I, Claudius that finally cemented             
his increasing reputation with his performance as the stammering, twitching                   
Emperor Claudius winning him many plaudits. In 1979, thanks to his international             
popularity he took Hamlet on an epic theatrical world tour through England,                   
Egypt, Greece, Sweden, Australia, Japan and China with himself in the                         
protagonist's role. He was then invited to essay the role once more at Kronborg               
Castle, better known as Elsinore Castle, the setting of the play itself. In 1978             
he played in the BBC's production of Shakespeare's Richard II, with Sir John                 
Gielgud and Dame Wendy Hiller.                                                               
In 1980, Jacobi took the leading role in the BBC's Hamlet, made his Broadway                 
debut in The Suicide, and then joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) from               
1982 to 1985 where he played four demanding roles simultaneously: Benedick in                 
Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, for which he won a Tony; Prospero in The               
Tempest; Peer Gynt; and Cyrano de Bergerac. In 1986, he made his West End debut               
in Breaking the Code with the role of Alan Turing. The play was taken to                     
Broadway. In 1988 Jacobi alternated in West End the title roles of Shakespeare's             
Richard II and Richard III in repertoire.                                                     
His TV career saw him measure with Inside the Third Reich (1982), where he                   
played Hitler; Mr Pye (1985); Little Dorrit (1987), from Charles Dickens's book;             
The Tenth Man (1988) with Anthony Hopkins and Kristin Scott Thomas.                           
Jacobi continued to play Shakespeare, notably in Kenneth Branagh's 1989 film of               
Henry V (as the Chorus) and made his directing debut as Branagh's director for               
the 1988 Renaissance Theatre Company's touring production of Hamlet, which also               
played at Elsinore and as part of a Renaissance repertory season at the Phoenix               
Theatre in London. The 1990s saw Jacobi keeping on with repertoire stage work in             
Kean at the Old Vic, Becket in the West End (the Haymarket Theatre) and Macbeth               
at the RSC in both London and Stratford.                                                     
He was appointed the joint artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatre,             
with the West End impresario Duncan Weldon in 1995 for a three year tenure. As               
an actor at Chichester, he also starred in four plays, including his first Uncle             
Vanya in 1996 (he took a second run in 2000). Jacobi's work during the 90's                   
included the 13 episodes series TV adaptation of the novels by Ellis Peters                   
Cadfael (1994-1998) and a televised version of Breaking the Code (1996). Film                 
appearances included performances in Kenneth Branagh's Dead Again (1991),                     
Branagh's Hamlet (1996) as King Claudius, in John Maybury's Love is the Devil (1998),         
a portrait of painter Francis Bacon, and as "The Duke" opposite Christopher                   
Eccleston and Eddie Izzard in a post-apocalyptic version of Thomas Middleton's               
The Revenger's Tragedy (2002).                                                               
In 2001, he won an Emmy by mocking his Shakespearean background in the                       
television sitcom Frasier episode "The Show Must Go Off", in which he played the             
world's worst Shakespearean actor: the hammy, loud, untalented Jackson Hedley.               
This was his first guest appearance on an American television programme.                     
Jacobi has done the narration for an audio book version of the Iliad and for The             
Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis. In 2002, Jacobi toured Australia in               
The Hollow Crown with Sir Donald Sinden, Ian Richardson and Dame Diana Rigg.                 
Jacobi also played the role of Senator Gracchus in Gladiator and starred in the               
2002 miniseries The Jury.                                                                     
In 2003, he was involved with Scream of the Shalka, a webcast based on the                   
science fiction series Doctor Who. He played the voice of the Master alongside               
Richard E. Grant as the Doctor. In the same year, he also appeared in Deadline,               
an audio drama also based on Doctor Who. In that, he played Martin Bannister, an             
ageing writer who makes up stories about "the Doctor", a character who travels               
in time and space, the premise being that the series had never made it on to                 
television. Jacobi later followed this up with an appearance on the Doctor Who               
BBC TV series itself, in the June 2007 episode "Utopia". Jacobi appears as the               
kindly Professor Yana, who by the end of the episode is revealed to actually be               
the Doctor's arch-nemesis, the Master.                                                       
In 2004, Jacobi starred in Friedrich Schiller's Don Carlos at the Crucible                   
Theatre in Sheffield, in an acclaimed production, which transferred to the                   
Gielgud Theatre in London in January 2005. The London production of Don Carlos               
gathered rave reviews. Also in 2004, he starred as Lord Teddy Thursby in the                 
first of the four-part BBC series The Long Firm, based on Jake Arnott's novel of             
the same name. In Nanny McPhee (2005), he played the role of the colourful Mr.               
Wheen, an undertaker. He played the role of Alexander Corvinus in the 2006 movie             
Underworld: Evolution.                                                                       
In March 2006, BBC Two broadcast Pinochet in Suburbia, a docudrama about former               
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and the attempts to extradite him from Great               
Britain; Jacobi played the leading role. In September 2007, it was released in               
the U.S., entitled Pinochet's Last Stand. In 2006, he appeared in the children's             
movie Mist, the tale of a sheepdog puppy, he also narrated this movie. In July-August         
2006 he played the eponymous role in A Voyage Round My Father at the Donmar                   
Warehouse, a production which then transferred to the West End.                               
In February 2007, his feature film The Riddle, directed by Brendan Foley, in                 
which he stars alongside Vinnie Jones and Vanessa Redgrave, was screened at                   
Berlin EFM. Jacobi plays twin roles, first a present day London tramp and then               
the ghost of Charles Dickens. In March 2007, the BBC's children's programme In               
the Night Garden started its run of 200 episodes, with Jacobi as the narrator.               
He played Nell's grandfather in ITV's Christmas 2007 adaptation of The Old                   
Curiosity Shop, and appears in two forthcoming films: Morris: A Life With Bells               
On and Hippie Hippie Shake.                                                                   
In 2008 he will play Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night for the Donmar