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Also Known As: Sir Antony Sher, Anthony Sher Died:
Born: June 14, 1949 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: South Africa Profession: actor, author, screenwriter, artist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Acclaimed as one of the most dynamic and intelligent British stage actors in the last two decades, Antony Sher remains a relative unknown in the USA. He has appeared in several cult films, notably in the title role of "Shadey" (1985) and "The Young Poisoner's Handbook" (1994).The South African-born, openly gay and Jewish Sher was a child prodigy in art. Because he was shy as a lad, he was sent for elocution lessons which lead to his desire to be an actor. After compulsory military service (which he spent mostly painting portraits of the officers), Sher moved to Great Britain. Turned down by most of the drama schools, the actor has been known to paraphrase his rejection from RADA: "Not only have you failed in the audition and we do not want you to try again, but we seriously recommend that you think about a different profession." Eventually, Sher was accepted at the Webber-Douglas Academy. After working at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, he made his London stage debut in Willy Russell's "John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert". In took nearly a decade, though, for Sher to really break out, beginning with his performance in Mike Leigh's "Goosepimples" in 1981 and the TV series "The History Man" in 1982....

Acclaimed as one of the most dynamic and intelligent British stage actors in the last two decades, Antony Sher remains a relative unknown in the USA. He has appeared in several cult films, notably in the title role of "Shadey" (1985) and "The Young Poisoner's Handbook" (1994).

The South African-born, openly gay and Jewish Sher was a child prodigy in art. Because he was shy as a lad, he was sent for elocution lessons which lead to his desire to be an actor. After compulsory military service (which he spent mostly painting portraits of the officers), Sher moved to Great Britain. Turned down by most of the drama schools, the actor has been known to paraphrase his rejection from RADA: "Not only have you failed in the audition and we do not want you to try again, but we seriously recommend that you think about a different profession." Eventually, Sher was accepted at the Webber-Douglas Academy. After working at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, he made his London stage debut in Willy Russell's "John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert". In took nearly a decade, though, for Sher to really break out, beginning with his performance in Mike Leigh's "Goosepimples" in 1981 and the TV series "The History Man" in 1982. Later that year, he won attention as the Fool to Michael Gambon's "King Lear".

1985 proved to be a banner year for the actor. With his dark curly hair and atypical looks, Sher was cast as Shakespeare's "Richard III". Trying to find a new approach to the role, he chose to interpret Richard as a "spider on crutches". His aggressive, diabolical performance earned widespread critical praise and numerous British stage awards. Later that year, Sher solidified his status as a rising actor as the drag queen hero in Harvey Fierstein's "Torch Song Trilogy". Tackling roles as varied as Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" to a South African in Athol Fugard's "Hello and Goodbye" to a tycoon in "Singer", he has consistently won praise. His portrayal of the eccentric British painter Stanley Spencer in Pam Gems' "Stanley" earned him further acclaim and led to his belated Broadway debut in 1997. (His own artistic background informed his characterization.)

John Schlesinger gave Sher his first screen role, a bit part as soldier, in "Yanks" (1979). Sher co-wrote and starred in "Mark Gertler Fragments of a Biography" in 1981, about a member of the Bloomsbury set. "Shadey" (1985; released in the USA in 1987), an uneven black comedy, offered Sher the meaty title role of a London mechanic who wants nothing more than a sex change. Critics were divided over his performance; some felt the actor was miscast, while others acclaimed the theatricality of his work. He fared much better in two films playing therapists: as the psychiatrist who treats a youthful serial killer in Ben Ross' "The Young Poisoner's Handbook" and as an AIDS counselor who falls in love with an HIV-positive ballet dancer in "Alive and Kicking/Indian Summer" (1996; released in the USA in 1997). Sher also was the British Prime Minister Disraeli to Judy Dench's Queen Victoria in the offbeat story of the purported relationship between the widowed monarch and a Scottish commoner in "Mrs. Brown" and was cast as the Chief Weasel in Terry Jones' film version of "The Wind in the Willows" (both 1997).

In addition to his stage and film roles, Sher has made occasional TV appearances, notably in the title role of "Genghis Cohn" (BBC, 1993; A&E 1994), the ghost of a Jewish comic killed in a concentration camp who returns to haunt the SS officer responsible for his death. He has also written several novels and has published performance diaries and a book of paintings and drawings.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Wolfman, The (2010)
2.
3.
 Miracle Maker, The (2000) Voice Of Ben Azra
4.
 Shakespeare in Love (1998) Dr Moth
6.
 Mrs. Brown (1997) Disraeli
7.
 Alive & Kicking (1996) Jack
8.
 Young Poisoner's Handbook, The (1995) Dr Zeigler
9.
 Erik The Viking (1989) Loki The Evil Blacksmith
10.
 Shadey (1987) Oliver Shadey
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Born and raised in South Africa
1968:
Moved to London to study at Webber-Douglas Academy
1979:
Feature film debut as a solider in the film "Yanks"
1980:
Appeared in title role in the British TV drama "The History Man"
1981:
Co-wrote script for and starred in "Mark Gertler Fragments of a Biography"
1982:
Joined the Royal Shakespeare Company; appeared as the Fool in "King Lear" and in the title role of "Tartuffe", among others
1984:
Had first major film role, the title role in "Shadey"
1985:
Played lead role in the West End production of Harvey Fierstein's "Torch Song Trilogy"
1985:
Published first book, "The Year of the King", a diary of his performances as "Richard III"
1988:
Published first novel "Middlepost"
1988:
Had lead role in Athol Fugard's play "Hello and Goodbye" at the Almeida Theatre
1989:
Wrote first teleplay "Changing Step" (BBC)
1992:
Enjoyed a stage success in title role of "Tamburlane the Great"
1994:
Starred in title role of "Gengis Cohn"
1995:
Played major supporting role of psychiatrist evaluating the lead in "The Young Poisoner's Handbook"
1995:
Created title role of "Stanley" in London production of Pam Gems play about British painter Stanley Spencer
1995:
Won plaudits for interpretation of title role of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus"; toured South Africa
1997:
Made Broadway debut reprising London role of "Stanley"
1997:
Gave a fine supporting turn as British Prime Minister Disraeli opposite Judi Dench's Queen Victoria in "(Her Majesty) Mrs. Brown", directed by John Madden
1997:
Played title role of "Cyrano de Bergerac" at the RSC and in the West End
1998:
Offered cameo as the apothecary in "Shakespeare in Love", directed by Madden
1999:
Directed by companion Gregory Doran in "The Winter's Tale"
1999:
Co-starred in the ITV/A&E production, "Horatio Hornblower: The Wrong War"
:
Starred as "Macbeth" at the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Doran; toured Japan in production; filmed for British TV and aired on New Year's Day 2001
2001:
Played composer Gustav Mahler in Ronald Harwood's play "Mahler's Conversion", staged by Doran
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art: - 1969 - 1971

Notes

Sher received an honorary doctor of letters from Liverpool University in 1998.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in December 2000.

Sher was in the running to portray Charlie Chaplin in Richard Attenborough's film biography, but the role went to Robert Downey Jr.

In his 2001 memoir, "Beside Myself", Sher admits to having battled an addiction to cocaine.

While performing in "Stanley", Sher actually drew onstage and recreated a Spencer mural. Of the sketchbooks he filled, "once in a while, we're asked to give them to charity, and there disperses the curious oeuvre." --From "Antony Sher: A Portrait of the Young Man as an Artist" in New York, March 17, 1997.

"His theatrical protrait gallery is more like a rogue's gallery with his 'Richard III' at the center, surrounded by Titus Andronicus, the murderer in 'The Revenger's Tragedy', Tamburlane and Arturo Ui, among many others. Although the characters would seem distant fromthe actor--from any actor--[Sher] confesses to a connection, acknowledging that each probably represents 'the monster within.' He adds that he is lucky; he can release his aggressions on stage or 'by writing a book'." --From "Master of Many Methods: Actor, Author and Artist" by Mel Gussow in The New York Times, February 22, 1997.

"I was very tight and closed and shy, and I didn't like myself very much [growing up], which is why I found it so liberating to become someone else. What people find hard to believe about actors is that we have the gall to stand up in front of one and a half thousand people and say: 'I AM INTERESTING TO WATCH.' It's quite weird if you think about it, a sort of sexual exhibitionism: all these people sitting in the dark, watching these other people, brightly lit, doing strange things, even taking their clothes off without being arrested. If they did this 50 yards away in the street, everyone would be shocked and run away." --Sher in a 1988 interview

"I was terribly attracted as a young actor to disguise. I hated myself as a young man. I felt I'd been born on the moon. Not just in the wrong country, but on the wrong planet. I just didn't seem to fit in to that very macho, rugby-playing, extrovert, outdoor-living South African society. I was this sensitive little nerd." --Sher quoted in The Daily Telegraph, January 5, 2001

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Jim. Involved in early 1980s; Sher identifies him as his "roommate" in "The Year of the King".
companion:
Gregory Doran. Director. Together since 1986; has directed Sher in several productions.

Family close complete family listing

grandfather:
Joel Sher. Peddler. Emmigrated to South Africa from Lithuania in late 1890s.
father:
Emmanuel Sher. Businessman. Deceased.
mother:
Marjorie Sher. Sister of Isobel Horwitz, mother of playwright Ronald Harwood.
brother:
Randall Sher. Businessman. Older.
cousin:
Ronald Harwood. Playwright, screenwriter.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Year of the King" Chatto & Windus
"Middlepost" Chatto & Windus
"Characters: Paintings, Drawings and Sketches" Nick Hern Books
"The Indoor Boy" Chatto & Windus
"Cheap Lives" Little, Brown
"Woza Shakespeare!: 'Titus Andronicus' in South Africa" Methuen
"The Feast" Little, Brown
"Beside Myself: An Autobiography" Hutchinson
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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