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Michael York

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Also Known As: Michael Hugh Johnson, Michael Johnson Died:
Born: March 27, 1942 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Buckinghamshire, England, GB Profession: actor, voice actor, author, porter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A classically trained British actor who honed his craft on the stage, Michael York made a smooth transition to the screen with several noted Shakespearean performances in films made by Italian director Franco Zeffirelli. Though not a leading performer, York delivered strong turns as Lucentino in "The Taming of the Shrew" (1967) and Tybalt in "Romeo and Juliet" (1968), before he played more seductively charming men in "Something for Everyone" (1970) and "Cabaret" (1972). While starring as D'Artagnan in "The Three Musketeers" (1973) and Logan in the sci-fi cult classic "Logan's Run" (1976), he also turned to television to play Pip in "Great Expectations" (NBC, 1974) and John the Baptist in the epic miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth" (NBC, 1977). In the following decade, York joined the cast of "Knot's Landing" (CBS, 1979-1993), while stepping back into guest starring spots on shows like "Babylon 5" (TNT, 1993-98) and "Sliders" (Fox, 1995-99). Though he made fewer appearances on the big screen later in his career, York was quite memorable as the affable Basil Exposition in the "Austin Power" series, starring Mike Myers. As he continued forward, York diversified his talents to include voice work for both...

A classically trained British actor who honed his craft on the stage, Michael York made a smooth transition to the screen with several noted Shakespearean performances in films made by Italian director Franco Zeffirelli. Though not a leading performer, York delivered strong turns as Lucentino in "The Taming of the Shrew" (1967) and Tybalt in "Romeo and Juliet" (1968), before he played more seductively charming men in "Something for Everyone" (1970) and "Cabaret" (1972). While starring as D'Artagnan in "The Three Musketeers" (1973) and Logan in the sci-fi cult classic "Logan's Run" (1976), he also turned to television to play Pip in "Great Expectations" (NBC, 1974) and John the Baptist in the epic miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth" (NBC, 1977). In the following decade, York joined the cast of "Knot's Landing" (CBS, 1979-1993), while stepping back into guest starring spots on shows like "Babylon 5" (TNT, 1993-98) and "Sliders" (Fox, 1995-99). Though he made fewer appearances on the big screen later in his career, York was quite memorable as the affable Basil Exposition in the "Austin Power" series, starring Mike Myers. As he continued forward, York diversified his talents to include voice work for both animated projects and a host of audiobooks, which served to underscore the wide breadth of the actor's talents.

Born on March 27, 1942 in Fulmer, Buckinghamshire, England, York was raised in the London suburb of Burgess Hill by his father, Joseph Johnson, an ex-army officer-turned-executive for Marks and Spencer department stores, and his mother, Florence, a musician. While receiving his education at Bromley Grammar School for Boys, he began his acting career as a teenager in a production of "The Yellow Jacket" (1956). Three years later, York made his West End debut with a one-line role in a staging of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet." He continued to study acting at Oxford University, where he was a member of the Dramatic Society, and spent his summers working with Michael Croft's Youth Theatre while touring Italy in a production of "Julius Caesar." From there, he joined the Dundee Repertory Theatre in Scotland, where he played Sergius in "Arms and the Man" (1964) and first adopted the name Michael York. That same year, he graduated from Oxford and was invited to join England's National Theatre, which led him to be immediately cast by Italian director Franco Zeffirelli in his production of "Much Ado About Nothing" (1965).

With his stage career taking off, York took the logical next stepping of making his screen debut as Young Jolyon in the acclaimed and fondly remembered drama series "The Forsyte Saga" (BBC, 1966). A year later, York made his feature debut as Lucentino in Zeffirelli's film, "The Taming of the Shrew" (1967), starring the tumultuous Elizabeth Taylor and her on-again/off-again husband Richard Burton. Now a bona fide movie actor, York scored again as Tybalt in Zeffirelli's next Shakespearean screen adaptation "Romeo and Juliet" (1968). Later that same year, York married his sweetheart, Patricia, an American photographer, whom he met while filming "Smashing Time" (1969) when she was assigned to photograph the star. The couple remained husband and wife well into the next century. Meanwhile, York went on to effectively portray a variety of well-bred, charming men like the manipulative bisexual of "Something for Everyone" (1970) and the adventurous expatriate in Bob Fosse's Academy Award-winning "Cabaret" (1972), opposite Liza Minnelli.

From there, his role as D'Artagnan in Richard Lester's romping version of "The Three Musketeers" (1973) and as Logan in the cult sci-fi classic "Logan's Run" (1976) cemented York's cinematic stardom on both sides of the pond. He played opposite Burt Lancaster in the critically panned adaptation of H.G. Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1977) and he even played himself in Billy Wilder's old fashioned missive on Hollywood, "Fedora" (1977). A series of well-received landmark TV miniseries followed, including roles as the Charles Dickens' hero Pip in "Great Expectations" (NBC, 1974) and a reteaming with his illustrious mentor Zeffirelli in "Jesus of Nazareth" (NBC, 1977), where he played John the Baptist to Robert Powell's titular Jesus. York returned to his theatrical roots in the 1979 Broadway production of "Bent," where he succeeded Richard Gere in the lead role of Max, a homosexual concentration camp inmate who pretends to be Jewish. That same year he produced his first movie, a slow-moving adaptation of Erskine Childer's prototypical spy thriller, "The Riddle of the Sands" (1979).

Heading into the 1980s, York attempted his first stage musical, "The Little Prince," which failed miserably during its Broadway previews and led to his decision to return to the comfort of the small screen. York proved he could still be a dashing and stalwart swashbuckler in "The Master of Ballantrae" (CBS, 1984) and earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for the ABC Afterschool Special, "Are You My Mother?" He next joined the cast of the long-running primetime serial "Knot's Landing" (CBS, 1979-1993) for the 1987-88 season, playing the love interest to Donna Mills. In the 1990s, York continued to work on the small screen with episodes of popular shows like "Babylon 5" (TNT, 1993-98) and the time travel adventure "Sliders" (Fox, 1995-99), while tackling prominent roles in TV movies like "Not of This Earth" (Showtime, 1995), "Dark Planet" (Syfy, 1997), "The Ripper" (Starz, 1997) and "A Knight in Camelot" (1998). Of course, York continued making big screen appearances, playing the prime and proper head of British intelligence, Basil Exposition, in the Mike Myers franchise "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997), a role he reprised in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999) and "Austin Powers: Goldmember" (2002).

Finding a new audience, York played media mogul Stone Alexander in the religious-themed "The Omega Code" (1999) and its sequel "Megiddo: Omega Code 2" (2001) - two films that were not theatrical blockbusters, but nevertheless performed extremely well in their niche market. Meanwhile, York's highly distinctive voice made him perfect for recording audio books, in which he was credited with over 70 productions, such as The Book of Psalms, Carl Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat, and his own children's book, The Magic Paw Paw. Of course, York also voiced numerous characters on screen, from Murdstone in "Charles Dickens' David Copperfield" (NBC, 1993), King Sarastro in "The Magic Flute" (ABC, 1994) and Kanto on "Superman" (ABC, 1996-99) to The King in "A Monkey's Tale" (2001) and Prime #1 in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009). In live action, he appeared in episodes of "The Gilmore Girls" (The WB, 2000-07) and "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 2005-14), before joining Rutger Hauer and Charlotte Rampling for the Polish-made religious drama "The Mill and the Cross" (2011).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes (2010) Sherlock Holmes
5.
 Swiadectwo (2008)
8.
 Icon (2005)
9.
 Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) Basil Exposition
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1996:
Acted in "Danielle Steel's 'The Ring'" (NBC)
1965:
Acted in Franco Zeffirelli's production of "Much Ado About Nothing" at the National Theatre
1968:
Cast as Tybalt in Zeffirelli's film version of "Romeo and Juliet"
1986:
Earned Daytime Emmy nomination as a music video producer who discovers his wife may not be deceased but may be a homeless woman in "Are You My Mother?", an "ABC Afterschool Special"
1995:
Essayed Merlin in "A Young Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"
1976:
Had lead role in the sci-fi thriller "Logan's Run"
1993:
Played Rachel Ward's husband in "Wide Sargasso Sea"
1997:
Portrayed Basil Exposition, the head of British intelligence in "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery"
1998:
Portrayed King Arthur in the ABC movie "A Knight in Camelot"
1974:
Portrayed Pip in the NBC version of "Great Expectations"
1991:
Returned to the Broadway stage in a production of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"
1982:
US musical theater debut, "The Little Prince and the Aviator"; show closed in previews in NYC
1956:
While in teens, worked with semi-professional Bromley Little Theatre Company; appeared in "The Yellow Jacket"
1974:
Acted in the all-star ensemble of "Murder on the Orient Express"
1973:
Broadway debut in Tennessee Williams' short-lived play "Outcry"
1983:
Cast as an opera producer in love with a singer in the CBS version of "The Phantom of the Opera"
2000:
Essayed the tough head of a reform school in "Borstal Boy"
1967:
Film acting debut in "The Taming of the Shrew", directed by Zeffirelli
:
Had recurring role on the AMC original series "The Lot", portraying an Errol Flynn-like actor; earned Emmy nomination for guest performance
1965:
Joined The National Theatre in London (January)
1987:
Played a regular role on the CBS primetime soap opera "Knots Landing'
1990:
Played dual roles in the syndicated "The Night of the Fox"
:
Raised in Burgess Hill, a suburb of London and Brighton
1966:
TV acting debut as Young Jolyon in the BBC production of "The Forsyte Saga"
1983:
Acted in the BBC film "The Weather in the Streets"
:
At age three, broke nose when he jumped off the roof of a coal house trying to fly
1964:
Became member of Dundee Repertory Theatre in Scotland; stage debut there as Sergius in "Arms and the Man"; adopted stage name of Michael York
1994:
Co-starred in the CBS miniseries "Fall From Grace"
1970:
Delivered a fine turn as an amoral bisexual in "Something for Everyone", stage director Harold Prince's first feature film
1973:
Gave a strong performance as a Brit traveling in Nazi Germany in the underrated "England Made Me"
1999:
Had lead role of a mysterious professor who attempts to assist a troubled young man in "Henry James' The Haunting of Hell House"; released on video before airing on Cinemax
1977:
Played John the Baptist in the NBC biblical miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth"
1999:
Played media mogul Stone Alexander in the religious-themed "The Omega Man"
2005:
Published a memoir about his adventures in Filmmaking in 21st century Russia entitled "Are My Blinkers Showing?"
2002:
Reprised the role of Basil in "Austin Powers: Goldmember"
1979:
Succeeded Richard Gere in the lead role of Max in the Broadway production of "Bent"
1989:
Essayed King Charles II in "The Lady and the Highwayman" (CBS)
1972:
Essayed the role of Brian Roberts, the stand-in for author Christopher Isherwood, in Bob Fosse's film adaptation of "Cabaret"
1979:
First film as producer (associate), "The Riddle of the Sands" (also actor); released in USA 1984
1984:
Had leading role in the CBS movie "The Master of Ballantrae"
1973:
Had supporting role in the film musical "Lost Horizon"
1959:
London stage debut, a one-line role in a production of "Hamlet"
1973:
Played D'Artagnan in "The Three Musketeers", Richard Lester's romp based on the Dumas' classic
:
Reportedly turned down the male lead in the film version of "Love Story"
1999:
Reprised Basil in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"
2001:
Reprised role in the sequel, "Megiddo: Omega Code 2"
:
Toured Italy with the Youth Theater in a production of "Julius Caesar"
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Education

University College, Oxford University: - 1964

Notes

Made a Chevalier de L'Ordre National des Arts et Lettres by the French government in 1995.

Awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1996.

"I've always learned by doing. Of course, it's another way of life. But you always think of the end result. It's a question of temperament. For some people the theater is an absolute grind. You rehearse and then you do it. You do it and you do it and you do it. Whereas [in films and TV] the great thing is every moment is a new adventure. Something new is always happening. Film has this organic life. You have a script, but once you put director, actors, script, and setting together you get a chemical reaction. You come out with maybe something you weren't anticipating at the beginning -- which is always exciting. Anf the characters grow. It's always a good moment when the character starts taking you over, dictating how it wants to be played." --Michael York quoted in Cinefanstastique, April 1997.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Patricia York. Photographer. Married on March 27, 1968; American; met while filming "Smashing Time"; published "Going Strong", a book of interviews and photographs of people over the age of 75 in 1991.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Joseph Gwynne Johnson. Businessman. Was executive with Marks and Spencer department stores.
mother:
Florence Edith May Johnson. Musician.

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Travelling Player"
"Accidentally on Purpose" Simon & Schuster

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