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Iain Glen bolted out of the gates as one of British theater's top leading men in the 1990s and essaying an eclectic screen résumé packed with Hollywood genre fare, heartfelt indie dramas and two of the most buzzed-about critical smash television hits of the early 21st Century. A native of Scotland, Glen made a television splash in the U.K. crime drama "The Fear" (ITV, 1988) and won his first Hollywood lead in the historical film "The Mountains of the Moon" (1990). He romanced critics in a flurry of big-ticket Shakespearean productions through the 1990s, as well as high-profiles leads in the stage spectacle "Martin Guerre" and the titillating contemporary theatrical two-hander "The Blue Room" on both the West End and Broadway. He played villain to Angelina Jolie in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001), beginning a conspicuous run in heel roles, highlighted by a running character in the "Resident Evil" film series. Glen would become a regular denizen of prestige Brit series such as "City of Vice" (Channel 4, 2008), "The Diary of Anne Frank" (BBC/PBS, 2009), "Spooks" (a.k.a. "MI-5") (2002-2011) and the soapy phenomenon "Downton Abbey" (ITV/PBS, 2009- ) In 2011, he became a familiar face to American TV...
Iain Glen bolted out of the gates as one of British theater's top leading men in the 1990s and essaying an eclectic screen résumé packed with Hollywood genre fare, heartfelt indie dramas and two of the most buzzed-about critical smash television hits of the early 21st Century. A native of Scotland, Glen made a television splash in the U.K. crime drama "The Fear" (ITV, 1988) and won his first Hollywood lead in the historical film "The Mountains of the Moon" (1990). He romanced critics in a flurry of big-ticket Shakespearean productions through the 1990s, as well as high-profiles leads in the stage spectacle "Martin Guerre" and the titillating contemporary theatrical two-hander "The Blue Room" on both the West End and Broadway. He played villain to Angelina Jolie in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001), beginning a conspicuous run in heel roles, highlighted by a running character in the "Resident Evil" film series. Glen would become a regular denizen of prestige Brit series such as "City of Vice" (Channel 4, 2008), "The Diary of Anne Frank" (BBC/PBS, 2009), "Spooks" (a.k.a. "MI-5") (2002-2011) and the soapy phenomenon "Downton Abbey" (ITV/PBS, 2009- ) In 2011, he became a familiar face to American TV viewers as a melancholy knight in service of an exiled princess on the HBO sword-and-sorcery hit "Game of Thrones" (2011- ). Straddling genres and media, Glenn struck a rare balance as a stage idol in his native country, a character actor in Hollywood and a television actor of scene-stealing gravitas.
He was born Iain Alan Sutherland Glen on June 24, 1961, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the youngest of three sons of Hamish Glen, a managing director of the Scottish Investment Trust. Iain's was a fitful childhood as he flirted with delinquency, bridling at his Victorian-tinged - and, he later claimed, occasionally abusive education - at the all-boys Edinburgh Academy and competing for the attentions of his parents with brothers Hamish and Graham. Graham followed his father into finance, while Glen, after having to repeat his senior year testing, followed Hamish to theatrical exploits at Aberdeen University. Friends lured him into a small role in the university drama society's production of "The Crucible," which resulted in the wayward youth finding direction in his life. After a critically lauded lead in Martin Sherman's groundbreaking play about gay culture in Nazi Germany, "Bent," staged at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Glen bolted school. Hamish, forsaking a career in law for a path as a stage director, directed Iain in a production of Aberdeen schoolmate Bill Anderson's short one-man play "If One Green Bottle," which, as an audition piece, won Iain a spot at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He graduated in 1985, taking the Bancroft Gold Medal, awarded to the student considered most promising by RADA each year.
Upon graduation and moving into professional stage productions, he would be singled out for critical acclaim even in relatively small supporting roles, picking up minor TV one-off work along the way. In 1988, he dazzled critics with his turn as a stylish, manipulative gangland capo in the syndicated miniseries "The Fear." He made it onto Hollywood's radar, soon to supplement his stage work with big-ticket cinematic productions, taking a supporting role in the Sigourney Weaver as Dian Fossey biopic "Gorillas in the Mist," and one of the leads, a British explorer seeking the source of the Nile River, in the historical adventure "Mountains of the Moon." He also began popping up in indie fare, playing the young lover to Charlotte Rampling's discomfited British politician in "Paris By Night" (1988), helmed by vaunted Brit playwright David Hare; Hamlet in the comedic revision of the Shakespearean classic in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" (1990); a young Irishman looking back on a troubled past in "Fools of Fortune" (1990); and a notorious Scottish murderer Larry Winters in the moody biopic "Silent Scream" (1990). The aggregate of his voluminous cinematic work in 1990 would win him a Best Actor laurel from the British Film Awards. In 1992, Glen appeared in a BBC adaptation of the George Eliot novel Adam Bede, co-starring Susannah Harker, whom Glen would marry that year.
Theatrically, he graduated to leads in auspicious productions of the Shakespearean canon, putting a much-acclaimed spin on "Hamlet" at the Old Vic Theatre in Bristol in 1991; playing nemesis to Kenneth Branagh's title character in The Bard's "Corialanus" at the Chichester Festival in 1992; donning the ruthless son Edgar in the London Royal Court's production of "King Lear" in 1993; and returning home triumphantly that year in a raved-over turn as "Macbeth" at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, produced by the Dundee Rep, whose artistic director was now Hamish Glen. He continued to collect accolades, as in 1994, when he brought both matinee-idol intensity and naturalistic humanity to "Henry V" in his first outing with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a successful run extending into the next year. Another multi-year run followed with Glen's rare musical turn in the lead role as the war-weary imposter in producer Cameron Mackintosh's spectacle "Martin Guerre" at the West End's Prince Edward Theatre. Though critics were not kind initially, the production was rewritten on the fly, and in 1997, it won an Olivier Award for Best New Musical and Glen an Olivier nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. His winning track record continued in 1998 as he originated the male lead in Hare's latest play, "The Blue Room."
Sam Mendes directed the production at London's cutting-edge theatrical venue Donmar Warehouse, with Glen and co-star Nicole Kidman setting tongues wagging, both with their chemistry - each donning five different characters - and baring of skin. After a four-month run in London, the play transferred to New York with much fanfare, and Glen made his Broadway debut in December 1998 at the Cort Theatre. Though his theatrical work took priority, his selective screen work would be in auspicious projects such as the ITV/PBS Helen Mirren-starring mystery miniseries "The Painted Lady" (1996); Antonio José Betancor's Canary Islands-set love triangle "Mararía" (1998), the pomp-y period miniseries for the BBC miniseries "Wives and Daughters" (1999) and, in 2000, a more Glen-centric dramedy "Glasgow Kiss." The latter six-episode series saw him playing a Scot sportswriter and single father coping with his newspaper's being streamlined by a comely corporate efficiency expert, with whom he becomes romantically entangled. Hollywood came calling again, and was tapped to join the much-anticipated, big-budget Paramount video game adaptation to the big screen, "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001), starring Angelina Jolie. The fluffy film saw him playing Croft's suave nemesis, attempting to beat her to an ancient key to time.
Glen's career tracked more toward the cinema as he developed a specialization in playing heels: an unhinged terror to wife and daughter Lena Olin and Anna Paquin, respectively, in the neo-gothic horror outing "Darkness" (2002); a sadistic priest/headmaster of an Irish boys' school in "Song for a Raggy Boy" (2003); a corporate scientist in "Resident Evil: Apocalypse," reprised in the subsequent outing in "Resident Evil: Extinction;" and a snooty Roman regent in a fanciful reimagining of the Arthurian legend "The Last Legion" (2007). He also began a relationship with fellow actor Charlotte Emmerson after the two appeared together in a 2003 staging of Chekhov's "The Seagull" at the Edinburgh International Festival. Glen and Harker would divorce in 2004, and he and Emmerson became long-term partners, welcoming a daughter in 2007. Meanwhile, leads came in an eclectic mix of indie films, with Glen portraying psychiatric pioneer Carl Jung in "The Soul Keeper" (2002), the tale of Jung's treatment of passionate affair with a troubled Russian woman; a Soviet spy in World War II-era Japan in the Japanese-language epic "Spy Sorge" (2003); an ambitious anthropologist in the Scottish-set period piece "Man to Man" (2005); a rural Irish mechanic with a buried dream of playing his songs professionally in "Small Engine Repair" (2006); and a socialist Utopian getting more than he bargained for in East Germany in the oddball clash-of-cultures comedy "Mrs. Ratfcliff's Revolution" (2007).
He peppered his CV with some high-profile telefilms, including the BBC's New Zealand-shot Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation "Kidnapped" (2005); "The Relief of Belsen" (Channel 4, 2007), which saw him as a British Army medic discovering the horrors of the Third Reich in the war's waning days; and "Into the Storm" (BBC/HBO, 2009), with Glen as King George VI to Brendan Gleeson's Churchill. He returned to serial projects with the 2008 Channel 4 miniseries "City of Vice," playing John Fielding, who, with his brother Henry, conceived and established the first police force in the overgrown, crime-ridden London of the 1700s. It would begin a sequence of prestige series work for Glen, who would don the paternal role in the BBC's miniseries remake of "The Diary of Anne Frank" (2009); play the key nemesis to central protagonist Richard Armitage on the ninth season of the BBC espionage series "Spooks" (a.k.a. "MI-5") (2002-11); and portray the scheming, social-climbing yellow newspaper magnate Richard Carlisle on ITV/PBS's soap-amongst-the-aristocracy hit "Downton Abbey" (2009- ). Carlisle's blackmailing hold on central character Mary Crawley and their imminent marriage-of-convenience was predicted to be a major arc in the much-anticipated third season of the show. Glen took his first shot at stage directing in 2010 with a new translation of Ibsen's provocative play "Ghosts" by renowned playwright Frank McGuinness, Glen also starring in the production at the West End's Duchess Theatre. Also that year, he incarnated private eye Jack Taylor from Ken Bruen's hardboiled crime novels in the telefilm "The Guards" for Ireland's TV3, beginning a film series that would include two more Bruen adaptations, "The Pikemen" (2011) and "The Magdalen Martyrs" (2011).
He took a supporting part in the facile Meryl Streep-starring biopic of Margaret Thatcher, "Iron Lady" (2011), but in the meantime he landed a project that would expose him to an even broader audience. Glen was one of the first of a small army of British and Irish thespians cast in the new HBO series "Game of Thrones," the sprawling adaptation of the series of George R.R. Martin novels under the rubric of A Song of Ice and Fire. Amid a number of interweaving tales of nobles vying for the high kingship of a divided land, Glen would play Jorah Mormont, an exiled knight who stumbles into service of two scions of an overthrown royal family, attempting to redeem himself as champion of the errant princess and new "mother of dragons," Daenerys Targaryen, and quietly falling in love with her. The show became a blockbuster for cable television, prompting a flurry of buzz over its eclectic cast of both young and seasoned actors. In 2012, Glen supplemented his TV schedule in the BBC series "Prisoners' Wives" (2012- ) with a supporting role as a drug dealer whose conviction and imprisonment leads to a life-altering ordeal for his partner Francesca (Polly Walker).
By Matthew Grimm
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CAST: (feature film)
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"Glen, in turn, is a seasoned, classically trained theater performer whose declamatory skills only externalize further a quintet of characters who, in Hare's text, tend to announce their every thought, leaving us little to intuit." --From Matt Wolf's review of "The Blue Room" in Daily Variety, September 25, 1998.
"The play is about how sex provokes the most radically different responses in people. Within that evening, it would have appeared coy somehow if at some point we weren't naked. In rehearsal, we never took our clothes off. It was only when we went inside and felt cushioned by the theater, the lighting and the set. And just shook hands and said, 'I'll do it it you do it.' And we did it." --Iain Glen quoted in Time Out New York, December 3-10, 1998.
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