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Revered British character actor Jim Broadbent became one of the most prolific and diverse talents in film and television with award-winning performances on both sides of the Atlantic. Early work on the stages of London with director Mike Leigh and film directors like Stephen Frears and Terry Gilliam in "The Hit" (1985) and "Brazil" (1985), respectively, paved the way for more prominent feature work in Leigh's "Life Is Sweet" (1991). Following a slew of notable supporting roles, the actor truly came into his own in a pair of musical spectaculars: Leigh's ode to Gilbert & Sullivan, "Topsy-Turvy" (1999) and Baz Luhrmann's psychedelic pastiche "Moulin Rouge!" (2001). After lending his uniquely eccentric charm to the proceedings of "Bridget Jones' Diary" (2001), Broadbent delivered an Oscar-winning performance as the loving but frustrated husband of a novelist (Judi Dench) suffering from Alzheimer's in the biopic "Iris" (2001). More accolades came for his work on television in such highly regarded projects as "The Gathering Storm" (HBO, 2002) and "Longford" (HBO, 2006). Although known for intimate character dramas, Broadbent was also a constant presence in such blockbuster fare as "Indiana Jones and the...
Revered British character actor Jim Broadbent became one of the most prolific and diverse talents in film and television with award-winning performances on both sides of the Atlantic. Early work on the stages of London with director Mike Leigh and film directors like Stephen Frears and Terry Gilliam in "The Hit" (1985) and "Brazil" (1985), respectively, paved the way for more prominent feature work in Leigh's "Life Is Sweet" (1991). Following a slew of notable supporting roles, the actor truly came into his own in a pair of musical spectaculars: Leigh's ode to Gilbert & Sullivan, "Topsy-Turvy" (1999) and Baz Luhrmann's psychedelic pastiche "Moulin Rouge!" (2001). After lending his uniquely eccentric charm to the proceedings of "Bridget Jones' Diary" (2001), Broadbent delivered an Oscar-winning performance as the loving but frustrated husband of a novelist (Judi Dench) suffering from Alzheimer's in the biopic "Iris" (2001). More accolades came for his work on television in such highly regarded projects as "The Gathering Storm" (HBO, 2002) and "Longford" (HBO, 2006). Although known for intimate character dramas, Broadbent was also a constant presence in such blockbuster fare as "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008) and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (2009). Recognized for his quirky character interpretations, it was the intrinsic humanity that Broadbent brought to each of his roles that earned him a reputation as one of most accomplished actors of his generation.
Jim Broadbent was born on May 29, 1949 to parents Roy and Dee Broadbent. Conscientious objectors during WWII, the Broadbents helped establish a pacifist community in rural Lincolnshire, where Roy was a noted interior and furniture designer and Dee was a sculptor. They were also founders of a local theater that boldly staged modern works by Ibsen and Shaw. It was there that Jim made his first debut at the age of four in a production of "A Doll's House." Broadbent grew up in the artistically attuned oasis with every intention of following in his parents' footsteps, first spending a year studying visual arts at Hammersmith before transferring to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Following his four years of training, he managed the Open Air Theater in Regent's Park while beginning to build a stage résumé. He eventually worked his way up to roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theater, beginning an association with director Mike Leigh through roles in his stage productions "Ecstasy" (1979) and "Goosepimples" (1981).
Broadbent received his first major critical attention by assuming 12 different roles in the 12-hour sci-fi play "Illuminatus." Soon after, he was cast to voice Vroomfondel in Douglas Adams' sci-fi radio serial "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Despite a lack of confidence over his looks, which he suspected would be a great asset once he hit middle age, Broadbent began landing small roles in British films, including Terry Gilliam's fantastical "Time Bandits" (1981) and TV comedies "Black Adder" and "Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV." Gilliam tapped him for a larger supporting role in the haunting and surreal "Brazil" (1985), and Mike Newell offered him his largest feature role in the powerful drama "The Good Father" (1986), where he portrayed a weak patriarch embroiled in a custody battle. "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (1987) was unworthy as Broadbent's first U.S. film, but he shone as an estranged husband in Newell's "Enchanted April" (1991) and was especially superb as an ambitious cook contending with a oddball daughter in Leigh's "Life Is Sweet" (1991).
In 1992, Broadbent wrote and starred in an outrageous short directed by Leigh, "A Sense of History" (1992), which marvelously showcased his talent and led to supporting roles in "The Crying Game" (1992) and Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994), in which he was hilariously cast as a proper British stage actor unsuccessfully fighting the temptations of the catering tray and his co-star, an off-limits Mafia girlfriend. The prolific actor had made dozens of television appearances in both comedies and BBC dramas over the previous decade as well, but following a brief starring role in 1995's series "The Peter Principle," Broadbent began a rapid rise on the big screen. He enjoyed a run of acclaimed art house dramas with "Richard III" (1995) and "Smilla's Sense of Snow" (1998), before landing the memorable role of a sleazy nightclub manager in the critical fave, "Little Voice" (1998).
Broadbent took on the role of Mother in the 1999 screen adaptation of "The Avengers" before turning out a stunning lead as the pompous William Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan) in "Topsy-Turvy" (1999). Broadbent's portrayal of the grandly gifted librettist suffering within the confines of Victorian society truly showcased the actor's skill with complex characterizations and introduced his capabilities for over-the-top personalities. His performance was recognized with his first BAFTA nomination and led to his scene-stealing turn as a Parisian cabaret owner in "Moulin Rouge!" (2001), for which he took home that BAFTA as well as an L.A. Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor. "Moulin Rouge!" was only the beginning of what proved to be Broadbent's breakout year as an international film actor. He enjoyed a featured role as the heroine's morose father in the comedy smash "Bridget Jones's Diary" and rounded out a run of unmatched versatility by portraying author and literary critic John Bayley in "Iris," a chronicle of Bayley's novelist wife Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench) and her affliction with Alzheimer's disease, earning him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his gripping performance.
Martin Scorsese tapped Broadbent to inhabit the larger than life personality of corrupt politician Boss Tweed in his highly anticipated "Gangs of New York" (2002), a role Broadbent played with aplomb, demonstrating both charisma and ruthlessness. A string of historic dramas followed, including HBO's acclaimed Winston Churchill biopic "The Gathering Storm" (2002), for which Broadbent received an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Churchill's assistant, Desmond Morton. He gave well-turned supporting appearances as Wackford Squeers in an adaptation of Dickens' "Nicholas Nickleby" (2002) and played Mutual Film Corporation head Harry Aitken in the HBO film "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself" (2003). Broadbent perfected his knack for the bumbling everyman with a heart of gold routine opposite Hugh Laurie in the fine BBC film "The Young Visitors" (2003), playing a low-born Brit who undergoes rigorous training to become a gentleman in order to win the heart of a lovely social climber. He received a BAFTA TV award nomination for his portrayal.
After appearing as part of the all-star ensemble of a screen adaptation of Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days" (2004), Broadbent stayed in period garb to play George Osborne's overbearing father in an adaptation of Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" (2004), starring Reese Witherspoon. Returning to the modern age, Broadbent reprised his dad role in the ill-begotten sequel "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" (2004). In 2005, Broadbent was tapped for a pair of family films, providing the voice of Madame Gasket, the pushy, overbearing mother of a nefarious corporate tyrant (voiced by Greg Kinnear), in the well-reviewed animated feature "Robots" (2005). He also made a brief but welcome appearance as the seemingly distant Professor Kirke, who takes in the Pevensie children in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005).
He swiftly shifted gears for a starring role in the small-screen drama "Longford" (HBO, 2007), playing the real-life Earl of Longford, Frank Packenham, whose three decades of unflinching support for the rehabilitation of convicted serial killer Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton) compromised his standing with the public. Broadbent earned an Emmy nod and won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries of TV Movie for the biopic. In typically unpredictable fashion, Broadbent followed up with a pair of comedies, including Terry Zwigoff's misfire "Art School Confidential" (2006) and Simon Pegg's laugh-out-loud action parody, "Hot Fuzz" (2007), in which Broadbent was a treat as an amiable chief of police and father of an overeager and comically ill-fated officer (Nick Frost).
An intense role as a dying father facing up to a troubled relationship with his adult son (Colin Firth) in "When Did You Last See Your Father?" (2007) earned Broadbent numerous festival nominations prior to its limited theatrical release. Far more widely seen was his supporting work alongside Harrison Ford in the long-awaited action-adventure sequel "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008). He played a fading King William IV opposite Emily Blunt as the future Queen of England in "Young Victoria" (2009) and garnered considerable praise for his turn as the chairman of England's Derby football team in "The Damned United" (2009), before portraying the magical role of Professor Slughorn in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (2009). In far more sedate and familiar environs, he reteamed with director Mike Leigh for the widely hailed familial drama "Another Year" (2010) as one-half of a happy couple surrounded by several dysfunctional friends and family members. The following year, Broadbent returned to Hogwart's briefly for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2," voiced Santa for the animated holiday feature "Arthur Christmas" and then played Denis Thatcher, the supportive husband of Britain's Prime Minister throughout the 1980s, as portrayed by Meryl Streep, in "The Iron Lady." Easing up on his incredibly busy schedule, Broadbent was featured in five roles, including a jaded composer and a trouble-prone publisher, in the expansive, time-hopping and somewhat overreaching literary adaptation "Cloud Atlas" (2012), which impressed many despite its flaws. In 2013, he turned up in the little-seen thriller "Closed Circuit," starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall, and mainly stuck to European-centric fare, including the drug-fueled "Filth."
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"Sometimes I see it - the need to act - as a sort of neurotic condition. And then a function of being successful is that you scratch the itch. ... And so it's not as desperately important as it used to be. I mean, it was my life, you know, a sort of need. And I'm quite happy now not to be acting for a while because I'm reasonably confident that there's something around." --Jim Broadbent quoted in The Boston Globe, February 16, 2002.
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