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Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry

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Also Known As: Stephen John Fry Died:
Born: August 24, 1957 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: London, England, GB Profession: Cast ... actor playwright novelist
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BIOGRAPHY

Although his comic persona was often smug, occasionally overbearing and sometimes even mannered, the multi-talented Stephen Fry exuded an easy charm and rapier wit while successfully mining numerous mediums - film, television, theatre, novels and even Twitter. Fry first made a name for himself alongside fellow Cambridge chum Hugh Laurie on popular British comedies like "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" (BBC2/BBC1, 1989-1995), while also co-starring opposite Rowan Atkinson in the "Blackadder" series. Following another hit with Laurie, "Jeeves & Wooster" (BBC, 1990-93), Fry became a frequent presence on films in both his native England and in America, including an acclaimed portrayal of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde in "Wilde" (1997). He next logged an appearance in "A Civil Action" (1998) before delivering a finely tuned comic turn in Robert Altman's "Gosford Park" (2001). After making his directorial debut with the well-received seriocomedy "Bright Young Things" (2003), Fry was the subject of the documentary "Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive" (2006), which detailed his lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder, while garnering praise for his hit series "Stephen Fry in America" (BBC1, 2008). By the time he was seen in "Alice in Wonderland" (2010) and "Sherlock Holmes 2" (2011), there was no doubt that the multifaceted Fry had become an audience favorite on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born on Aug. 24, 1957 in Hampsted, London, England, Fry was raised by his father, Alan, a physicist and inventor, and his mother, Marianne, a homemaker. Though a curious child who constantly sought knowledge - he reportedly memorized the Guinness Book of World Records - his education proved troublesome. Over the course of his youth, Fry was expelled from several boarding schools, including Uppingham School in Rutland and Paston School in Norfolk. Having been diagnosed as dyslexic while acknowledging his homosexuality at an early age, Fry's troubled academic life was compounded by clashes with his father at home, leading to a suicide attempt at age 16 and a scrape with the law the following year. When he was 17, Fry ran away from home and supported himself with a credit card stolen from a family friend. Eventually he was caught and jailed for a few months before receiving probation. According to Fry, the experience forced him to get serious about his education. With renewed purpose he buckled down with his studies and earned a scholarship to Cambridge, where he began coming into his own as an actor and writer. As a member of the famed Footlights Theater Group at Cambridge, he debuted as a playwright with "Latin" (1980) while meeting future collaborators Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie.

After graduation, Fry, Thompson, Laurie and Robbie Coltrane joined the short-lived sketch comedy series "Alfresco" (ITV, 1983-84). Two years later, he garnered acclaim and earned millions for adapting the book of the musical "Me and My Girl," which teamed Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson in London. When the show transferred to Broadway, only Lindsay was allowed to perform, but it proved to be one of the hits of the 1986-87 season and earned Fry a Tony nomination for his script. Back on the screen, he went on to portray the sniveling Lord Melchett, the bitter enemy of Rowan Atkinson's Lord Blackadder, in "Blackadder II" (BBC, 1986), a role he reprised as General Melchett in the final segments of "Blackadder Goes Forth" (BBC, 1989). Sandwiched between were three seasons of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" (BBC2/BBC1, 1989-1995), a sketch show featuring complicated wordplay and irreverent humor a la "Monty Python" that Fry co-wrote with co-star Hugh Laurie. The busy performer also managed to squeeze in writing a column for The Daily Telegraph, while him and Laurie launched a second successful comedy, "Jeeves & Wooster" (BBC, 1990-93), adapted from the P.G. Wodehouse stories.

In features, Fry actually began his career as a screenwriter contributing to "Gossip" (1983) before moving in front of the cameras to turn in insightful bits in "The Good Father" (1986) and "A Handful of Dust" (1988). Working with several of his Cambridge colleagues, he was the host of a reunion of college chums in Kenneth Branagh's comedy-drama "Peter's Friends" (1992), while in "I.Q." (1994) Fry was cast as Meg Ryan's conniving psychologist fiancé. Having been told for much of his life that he had more than a passing resemblance to Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, Fry finally had his chance to portray the character in an episode of the short-lived American series, "Ned Blessing: The Story of My Life and Times" (CBS, 1993). Though there was much anticipation when he agreed to co-star in Simon Gray's West End drama "Cell Mates" (1995), the actor caused quite a stir after apparently quitting the production after three days once it opened to poor reviews. Although he was replaced by Simon Ward, the producers found the resulting negative publicity too difficult to overcome and the show shut down 10 weeks ahead of schedule. Fry's disappearance sparked headlines, with some fearing the actor was dead. Fry was found in Europe, copped to suffering a nervous breakdown as a result of bipolar disorder and underwent psychiatric counseling. He also agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to the producers in an out-of-court settlement.

Following "Cold Comfort Farm" (1995), in which he played an odd-ball pursuing Kate Beckinsale, Fry was back on the mend as the Judge in Terry Jones' adaptation of "The Wind in the Willows" (1996). Meanwhile, he reprised what many touted as the role he was born to play for the big screen take on "Wilde" (1997), which allowed the actor to deliver an award-worthy impersonation of the Irish playwright, only to be done in by a slow-moving script that attempted to stuff too many details into a two-hour movie. After playing a witty barrister in the otherwise stuffy British historical drama, "The Tichborne Claimant" (1998), Fry returned to supporting turns in American studio films as an expert witness called by lawyer John Travolta in "A Civil Action" (1998). Fry followed up with a supporting turn in "Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?" (1999) before playing the Duke of Wellington in the lavish, internationally cast comedy "Sabotage!" (2000). He had one of his best performances in years as a police inspector called to a countryside manor to investigate a murder in Robert Altman's upstairs-downstairs satire, "Gosford Park" (2001).

After appearing in the flatulence-laced children's comedy "Thunderpants" (2002), Fry made his directorial debut with "Bright Young Things" (2003), a sophisticated seriocomedy set in the 1930s that follows the romantic entanglements of a group of young talented aristocratic bohemians. He next had a supporting role as British clairvoyant and astrologer Maurice Woodruff in the acclaimed television biopic "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" (HBO, 2004), starring Geoffrey Rush as the troubled, but brilliantly funny Sellers. Fry then narrated the disappointing adaptation of Douglas Adams' cult sci-fi comedy, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (2005), before showing up on an episode of "Extras" (BBC2/HBO, 2005-07) to take a few potshots at Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais), and landing a supporting role as homosexual game show host in the futuristic dystopian thriller, "V is for Vendetta" (2006), starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. Fry was next the subject of the Emmy Award-winning documentary, "Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive" (2006), which explored his struggle - and the struggles of other celebrities - with bipolar disorder.

Turning to more dramatic fare, Fry co-starred in the disturbing courtroom drama, "Eichmann" (2007), which chronicled the trial and execution of Adolf Eichmann (Thomas Kretschmann), one of the architects of Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution." Back on television, Fry served as host of "Stephen Fry in America" (BBC One, 2008), where he explored the country he was almost born in, traveling through all 50 states in a London cab. Featuring run-ins with celebrities like Morgan Freeman and billionaire Ted Turner, Fry's six-part documentary series proved to be a huge ratings earner for the BBC. Returning to the big screen, Fry voiced the Cheshire Cat in Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), before taking a stab at stand-up comedy with a performance at The Royal Albert Hall in September 2010. Having already been an established published author with works novels like The Liar (1991), The Hippopotamus (1994) and Making History (1998), as well as a memoir Moab is My Washpot (1997), Fry became a powerful wielder of social media with his well-followed Twitter account, where he generated a huge amount of traffic with his pithy observations. By the end of 2010, Fry began rivaling Ashton Kutcher with over two million followers. Fry was next cast as the incredibly gifted, but unambitious Mycroft Holmes in the sequel "Sherlock Holmes 2" (2011), starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the famed detective and Jude Law as Dr. Watson.

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