Sir Derek Jacobi
(1938 - )

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A 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'.

Born 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.

His 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. 

Jacobi 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.

Jacobi 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.



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