Derek Jacobi Biography
Born: October 22, 1938
SIR DEREK JACOBI
Date of Birth: October 22, 1938
With a mother who harbored theatricaler. When he was six, Jacobi began to appear in local library and school productions. Thanks to the school's single sex population, his first roles with the drama club -- until his voice broke -- were all female.
While at studying history at Cambridge University, Jacobi joined amateur theatrical clubs and would perform in productions, winning plum roles such as Hamlet and Edward II. 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 graduating in 1960, Jacobi joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and made his professional debut in both Shakespeare's plays and Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons.
Over the next 30 years, Jacobi had some very distinguished roles in the theater such as Touchstone in an all-male As You Like It opposite Anthony Hopkins as Audrey (1967); the title role in Oedipus Rex (1972); Hamlet (1977, 1979); Kean(1990); Macbeth (1993-94); and Uncle Vanya (1996). In 1985, he won a Tony Award for his work in Much Ado About Nothing.
It wasn't until 1980 that Jacobi ventured across the pond to make his New York stage debut in the short-lived The Suicide.
Jacobi's film career has been no less intensive. It wasn't until 1963 when Jacobi was spotted by Laurence Olivier that his film career began. After performing with Olivier on stage and joining the newly formed National Theatre, Jacobi played the part of Cassius to Olivier's Othello in a production that was filmed in 1965.
He acted in numerous film adaptations of classic plays, including Othello (1965) and The Three Sisters (1970). However, it was through his collaborations with his former student, Kenneth Branagh on various screen adaptations of Shakespeare that he became most visible to an international film audience, appearing as the Chorus in Branagh's acclaimed 1989 Henry V and as Claudius in the director's 1996 full-length adaptation of Hamlet.
In 1982, he voiced the character Nicodemus, a wise old rat, in the animated feature The Secret of NIMH and also played Kurt Limmer in Enigma. Jacobi made one of his most memorable screen impressions in Branagh's Hitchcock-inspired Dead Again (1991) portraying a hypnotist with a very shady background.
During the last decade of the 20th Century, Jacobi played himself in Looking for Richard in 1996 and was Francis Bacon in Love Is the Devil in 1998. Other films include Basil (also 1998), Up at the Villa (1999) and Father Damien (1999). He was also on the short list of actors considered for the role of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.
On the small screen, Jacobi made his debut in the mini-series The Strauss Family as Lanner, but he is perhaps best recalled for his brilliant, award-winning turn as the twitching, stuttering Emperor in the I, Claudius in 1976, for which he won a BAFTA TV Award in 1976 for Best Actor in a Drama Series.
He also appeared as Lord Fawn in The Pallisers (1977); as Guy Burgess in Philby, Burgess and Maclean (1977); King Richard in King Richard the Second (1979); Hamlet in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1980); Adolph Hitler in Inside the Third Reich (1982); and Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982) opposite Anthony Hopkins. In 1989, he won an Emmy for his performance in the 1988 adaptation of Graham Greene's The Tenth Man, then won a second Emmy in 2001 for "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series" for playing Jackson Riley on Frasier. He then starred in Disney's box office smash, Cinderella (2015). More recently, he has been seen in Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and Tomb Raider (2018).
Having received a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1985, in 1994 Jacobi was knighted. Jacobi is one of two actors to hold both Danish and English knighthoods -- the other being Sir Laurence Olivier.