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Sir Derek Jacobi
Jacobi attended the Leyton County High School, and often visited the Old Vic theatre to watch John Gielgud, Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier perform there. He later studied history at Cambridge University, where fellow students included Ian Mckellan and Trevor Nunn. Whilst at Cambridge he played the title role in Hamle
Hamlet with the National Youth Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival and the title role of Edward II for the University's Marlowe Society. He graduated in 1960, joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and made his
Derek Jacobi in 1975
his professional debut in the title role of Shakespeare's Henry VIII.
Diane Cilento & Derek Jacobi in
The Idiot at the Old Vic in 1970
Derek George Jacobi was born in Leytonstone, East London in 1938, the only child of Alfred Jacobi, a German immigrant and department store manager, and Daisy, a secretary. Derek's mother encouraged his early interest in the theatre and, at the age of six, began to appear in local library and school productions.
Derek Jacobi as Prospero in The Tempest
in Don Carlos
Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
Jacobi with Sinead Cusack in
Derek Jacobi in the title role of
Jacobi in William Congreve's
Jacobi in Kean
Derek Jacobi as Malvolio in
In 1963, Jacobi was invited by Laurence Olivier to perform in Shaw's Saint Joan at the Chichester Festival. Later that year he became a founding member of the newly formed National Theatre, making his London debut as Laertes in Hamlet.
He was with the Prospect Theatre for most of the 1970s, made his New York stage debut in The Suicide in 1980, and in 1982 joined the Royal Shakespeare Company with which he remained for eight years. He took part in the RSC's tour of New York and Washington in 1984 & 85, gaining a Tony Award as Benedick in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.
Hamlet in 1979
Cyrano de Bergerac
Derek Jacobi as Benedick in
Derek Jacobi & Cheryl Campbell in
Much Ado About Nothing
Love for Love
Derek Jacobi & Laura Linney in Uncle Vanya
In 1986, Jacobi played Alan Turing, who cracked the German Enigma code
code during World War II, in Hugh Whitemore's Breaking The Code. This play was specially written for Jacobi, and its production at the Haymarket Theatre also marked his West End debut. The following year, Jacobi played Byron in the RSC/English Chamber Theatre production of Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know (1987).
Richard Coyle & Derek Jacobi
During his long acting career, Jacobi has performed the title roles in many of the great stage dramas including Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, Macbeth, Kean and Chekhov's Uncle Vanya.
Over the past decade, Jacobi's stage roles have included Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest (2003) at the Old Vic; Carlos in Schiller's Don Carlos (2005) at the Gielgud Theatreeee
Theatre; Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (2008) at Wyndham's Theatre and Lear in King Lear (2010-11) at London's tiny Donmar Warehouse. The National Theatre also relayed this production live via video link to venues across the UK, before it went on a sell-out national tour. Jacobi waited until he was 72 years old before playing this role which he describes as 'the biggest challenge'.
Derek Jacobi as King Lear
Although Jacobi became well known for his theatre work in the 1960s and 70s, he was also finding TV roles like Josef Lanner in The Strauss Family (1972) and Lord Fawn in The Pallisers (1974).
However his big breakthrough came when he played the stammeri
stammering, twitching Emperor Claudius in the BBC TV drama I, Claudius (1976) a 13-part serial based on Robert Graves' novels. This brought Jacobi a BAFTA Award in 1976 for 'Best Actor in a Drama Series', changing him almost overnight from a well respected repertory actor to a national celebrity. The followi
Jacobi as Lord Fawn in The Pallisers
Derek Jacobi in I, Claudius
Two Shakespeare productions for the BBC saw Jacobi cast in the title role of each. The first of these was Richard II (1978) withh
following year, Jacobi played the spy Guy
Burgess in the Granada TV movie Philby, Burgess and Maclean (1977).
Derek Jacobi as Hamlet in 1980
Derek Jacobi as Richard II in 1978
with Sir John Gielgud, the other being Hamlet (1980) with Patrick Stewart and Claire Bloom.
Jacobi & Patrick Stewart in Hamlet
Around this time he played Hitler in Inside the Third Reich (1982), and roles in three episodes of the TV series Hallmark Hall of Fame. These were Dom Claude Follo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982); Archibold Craven in The Secret Garden (1987) and The Imposter in Graham Greene's The Tenth Man (1988), a role for which he won an Emmy award.
Derek Jacobi as Adolf Hitler in
Inside the Third Reich
Derek Jacobi as Dom Claude Follo in
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Derek Jacobi & Richard Pearson in
The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes
Jacobi's work during the 1990s included the 13-episode Cadfael (1994
Derek Jacobi in Cadfael
Derek Jacobi with Ellis Peters
(1994-98), a TV adaptation of the novels by Ellis Peters about a Crusader-turned-Monk who uses his botanical knowledge to solve mysteries in mediaeval Shrewsbury.
Jacobi has appeared in a number of TV movie roles including Alan Turing in the TV version of Breaking the Code (1996); as Stanley Baldwin in The Gathering Storm (2002) with Albert Finney as Churchill; Colonel Protheroe in Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage (2004); General Pinochet in Pinochet in Suburbia (2006) and Grandfather in The Old Curiosity
Derek Jacobi as Alan Turing in
Breaking the Code
As Stanley Baldwin in
The Gathering Storm
Curiosity Shop (2007). Jacobi also has associations with Doctor Who. He was the voice of The Master in Scream of the Shalka (2003) and Professor
Yana in Utopia (2007).
Murder at the Vicarage
Derek Jacobi as Colonel Protheroe in
Derek Jacobi as General Pinochet
Derek Jacobi as Professor Yana in the Doctor Who episode Utopia
Derek Jacobi's film debut was as Cassio in Othello (1965) alongside Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith. Films, though, would remain in third place throughout his career - way behind his iconic Stage and TV status.
In his early films, he appeared as Andrei in Laurence Olivier's Three Sisters (1970); as Caron in The Day of the Jackal (1973)
(1973); as Klaus Wenzer in The Odessa File (1974) and as Townley in The Medusa Touch (1978) with Richard Burton and Lee Remick.
Jacobi's film debut as Cassio in Othello
Derek Jacobi in The Day of the Jackal
Jacobi's first of three films with Kenneth Branagh was as The Chorus
Chorus in Branagh's feature remake of Shakespeare's Henry V (1989). He worked with Branagh again, playing the sinister hypnotist Franklyn Madson in the thriller Dead Again (1991). andd
In the film version of Hamlet (1996) he played Claudius, with Branagh in the title role. Other roles in the 1990s included himself in Looking for Richard (1996); Father Frederick in Basil (1998)
Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi & Kenneth Branagh
in the film version of Shakespeare's Hamlet
(1998) and Francis Bacon in Love is the Devil (1998).
Since 2000, Derek Jacobi has had mostly suporting roles
As Madson in Dead Again
Derek Jacobi & Daniel Craig in Love is the Devil
roles in more than twenty films including Gracchus in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000); Probert in the award-winning Gosford Park
Park (2001); the dual role of The Tramp and Charles Dickens in The Riddle (2007) and Agnew
As Father Frederick
Agnew in Endgame (2009). In two of his most recent films, Jacobi has portrayed religious figures. He was the pompous Archbishop Cosmo Lang in the multi award-winning British blockbuster The King's Speech (2010) starring Colin Firth, and
the following year played Cardinal Orsini in The Borgias (2011).
With Helen Mirren in Gosford Park
With Kristin Scott Thomas in Up at the Villa
Jacobi as himself in Evolution
With Colin Firth in The King's Speech
As Rudolf Agnew in Endgame
As Cardinal Orsini in The Borgias
Jacobi as The Tramp in The Riddle
Jacobi as Charles Dickens in The Riddle
In 2010, Derek Jacobi brought his theatrical skills to the commercial world of advertising when heapp
he appeared as Scrooge in a Christmas commercial for Sony
Sony televisions! [click here]
Derek Jacobi was awarded a CBE in 1985, and was later knighted in the 1994 New Year's Honours list for services to Drama. He, like Sir Laurence Olivier, also holds a Danish knighthood.
With such a long and eminent career, it was inevitable that Jacobi would receive awards along the way. These include a BAFTA
Derek Jacobi in a commercial for Sony
BAFTA Award for I, Claudius in 1977, EMMY Awards for The Tenth Man in 1989 and Frasier in 2001, and an Olivier Award for Twelfth Night in 2009.
Jacobi with his Olivier Award
Openly gay, Jacobi has had a relationship with actor Richard Clifford since 1979. Their civil part
Derek Jacobi with his BAFTA award
for Best Actor in I,Claudius
partnership was registered in March 2006, four months after civil partnerships were
were introduced in the United Kingdom. Richard Clifford is a fine classical actor in his own right, and has appeared with Jacobi
Jacobi in Little Dorrit (1988); Henry V (1989); the TV version of Cyrano de Bergerac (1985) and some stage productions.
Derek Jacobi signed my photograph of him in King Lear
Derek Jacobi has signed my programme for King Lear
Jacobi as The Grandfather in
The Old Curiosity Shop
In March 2011, I went to the Milton Keynes Theatre to see the Donmar Warehouse production of William Shakespeare's King Lear, which was on tour. It played to packed theatres, and had excellent reviews.
The title role was played by renowned actor Sir Derek Jacobi, who I was thrilled to meet at the stage door after the performance. He signed my programme and also a photograph of him as King Lear.