Since the early 1980s Nesbitt's film appearances have been very limited. He has however been busy in recent years with a great deal of theatre work up and down the country! His reputation as a fine stage actor has grown steadily, and he regularly draws much critical praise for his performances. He was most recently seen in Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest at the Theatre Royal in Windsor.
Nowadays, Derren Nesbitt lives in Worthing, on the South Coast, with his second wife, Miranda. From his first marriage he has a daughter Kerry, who appeared with him as Flora in the film about the bodysnatchers Burke and Hare (1972). From his second marriage he has a son Ashley and a daughter Tiffany.
The 1970s saw a marked decline in Nesbitt's career as he moved away from playing villains. Although appearances as DCI Jordan in 27 TV episodes of Special Branch (1969-70) did his reputation no harm, parts in such poor films as the Dick Emery comedy Ooh, You Are Awful (1972), and The Amorous Milkman (1975) which he both wrote and directed, certainly did!
Hartmann was the inspiration for Nesbitt's most famous role, that of Major Von Hapen in Where Eagles Dare (1968). This film starred Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton and Mary Ure, and is widely regarded as one of the great wartime thrillers. In the film, Von Hapen was meant to be shot in the head and chest by Clint Eastwood, but the explosives worn by Nesbitt failed to go off. A further attempt led to the explosives blowing up and blinding Nesbitt who was rushed to hospital to save his sight.
Derren Nesbitt played Fabian in the WW1 aviation drama The Blue Max (1966), and a 'cold war' agent, Colonel Hartmann, pursuing Frank Sinatra in The Naked Runner (1967).
Nesbitt's earliest TV appearances were in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956) and Sword of Freedom (1957). His first starring role came in Life in Danger (1959) whilst other appearances around this time included William Tell (1959) and Sword of Sherwood (1960). He went on to play villainous characters in Room at the Top (1959), In the Nick (1960) with his future wife Anne Aubrey (who later divorced Nesbitt after an assault), Victim (1961) with Dirk Bogarde, and Term of Trial (1962) with Sir Laurence Olivier. He also had an important role as a gangland leader in The Informers (1963).
Nesbitt was trained at RADA where he won the prestigious Forbes-Robertson Shakespearian Acting award. From there, he joined Peter Hall's repertory company, and toured with them, performing in several different plays.
Derren Nesbitt (real name Derren Horovitz) was born in London in 1935. His father was Harry Nesbitt, a comedian and vaudeville artist who came from South Africa with his brother Max, and they performed as a duo on stage. Derren's mother was also in vaudeville as a chorus girl.
Derren Nesbitt's latest film role was in the crime drama Flawless (2007), appearing alongside Michael Caine and Demi Moore.
I was delighted to meet Derren Nesbitt at Autographica in June 2006, because Where Eagles Dare is one of my favourite films. He was extremely friendly and I was able to have a long chat to him. He told me that every part of his Von Hapen uniform was genuine and how he very much wanted to keep it, but they wouldn't let him!
He signed a photograph for me from Where Eagles Dare.
Derren Nesbitt & Julie Hopkins in Life in Danger
Where Eagles Dare with Ingrid Pitt and the late Mary Ure
Derren Nesbitt signed this photograph for me. It shows him in
Return of the Saint (1979)
Derren Nesbitt as Inspector Lebec in
Derren Nesbitt in The Prisoner
Derren Nesbitt as Major Von Hapen in Where Eagles Dare
Wensley Pithey & Derren Nesbitt in
Patrick McGoohan & Derren Nesbitt in The Prisoner
Click on a name below to take you to that page