blue-eyed, fine featured actor with a precise baritone voice, who quietly
channels his emotions into often-tortured roles - this is Derek Jacobi.
One of Britain's most distinguished stage performers, he is one of only
two actors (the other being Laurence Olivier) to hold both Danish and
English knighthoods. Primarily known for his work on the stage, he has
also made a number of films and remains best-known to television audiences
for his stunning portrayal of the titular Roman emperor in 'I, Claudius'.
in Leytonstone, East London, on October 22, 1938, Jacobi was raised
with a love of film, and he began performing on the stage while attending
an all-boys school. Thanks to the school's single sex population, his
first roles with the drama club, until his voice broke, were all female.
It was with one of his first male roles that Jacobi earned his first
measure of acclaim: playing Hamlet in a school production staged at
the 1957 Edinburgh Festival, he made enough of an impression that he
was approached by an agent from Twentieth Century Fox. Ultimately deemed
too young to be signed to the studio, Jacobi instead went to Cambridge
University, where he studied history and continued acting.
stage work at Cambridge was prolific and allowed him to work with classmates
Ian McKellen and Trevor Nunn, and, thanks to his performance as Edward
II, landed him his first job after graduation. Jacobi acted with the
Birmingham Repertory Theatre until his portrayal of Henry VIII attracted
the attention of Laurence Olivier. Olivier was so impressed with Jacobi's
work that he invited him to London to become one of the eight founding
members of the prestigious National Theatre.
went on to become one of his country's most steadily employed and respected
actors, performing in numerous plays over the years on both sides of
the Atlantic (in 1985, he won a Tony Award for his work in Much Ado
About Nothing). He also branched out into film and television, making
his film debut with a secondary role in Douglas Sirk's Interlude (1957).
He acted in numerous film adaptations of classic plays, including Othello
(1965) and The Three Sisters (1970). However, it was through his collaborations
with Kenneth Branagh on various screen adaptations of Shakespeare that
he became most visible to an international film audience, appearing
as Chorus in Branagh's acclaimed 1989 Henry V and as Claudius (somwhat
ironically) in the director's 1996 full-length adaptation of Hamlet.
made one of his most memorable (to say nothing of terrifying) screen
impressions in Branagh's Hitchcock-inspired Dead Again (1991), portraying
a hypnotist with a very shady background. In 1998, Jacobi earned more
recognition with his portrayal of famed painter Francis Bacon in John
Maybury's controversial 'Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of
Francis Bacon'. Most recently he was a senator in Ridley Scott's Gladiator
(2000) playing alongside messrs Reed and Crowe.