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Nigel Hawthorne

Nigel Hawthorne

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Also Known As: Nigel Barnard Hawthorne, Sir Nigel Hawthorne Died: December 26, 2001
Born: April 5, 1929 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Coventry, England, GB Profession: actor, producer, director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The ultimate late-bloomer, British character player Nigel Hawthorne had nearly 45 years as an actor under his belt when he finally broke through to stardom with his compelling performance in the title role of "The Madness of King George" (1994). On stage, the role earned him an Olivier Award (among other honors), while the film version garnered both a BAFTA Award and a Best Actor Oscar nomination. But were it not for the insistence of playwright Alan Bennett and first-time feature director Nicholas Hytner (who had directed the play "The Madness of George III"), the role probably would have gone to someone with a more prominent Hollywood profile. Hawthorne's ability to be endearing in the part of a pompous, autocratic old bastard moved Bennett to write in the play's preface that "without Nigel's transcendent performance, the King could have just been a gabbling bore and his fate a matter of indifference." Hytner has said of the film: "We wouldn't have been able to do the movie in eight weeks if Nigel hadn't played it."

The ultimate late-bloomer, British character player Nigel Hawthorne had nearly 45 years as an actor under his belt when he finally broke through to stardom with his compelling performance in the title role of "The Madness of King George" (1994). On stage, the role earned him an Olivier Award (among other honors), while the film version garnered both a BAFTA Award and a Best Actor Oscar nomination. But were it not for the insistence of playwright Alan Bennett and first-time feature director Nicholas Hytner (who had directed the play "The Madness of George III"), the role probably would have gone to someone with a more prominent Hollywood profile. Hawthorne's ability to be endearing in the part of a pompous, autocratic old bastard moved Bennett to write in the play's preface that "without Nigel's transcendent performance, the King could have just been a gabbling bore and his fate a matter of indifference." Hytner has said of the film: "We wouldn't have been able to do the movie in eight weeks if Nigel hadn't played it."

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Call Me Claus (2001) Nick
2.
 Tarzan (1999) Voice Of Professor Porter
3.
 Winslow Boy, The (1999) Arthur Winslow
4.
 Clandestine Marriage, The (1999) Lord Ogleby
5.
 Big Brass Ring, The (1999) Kim Mennaker
6.
 Reasonable Man, A (1999) Judge
7.
 Object of My Affection, The (1998) Rodney Fraser
8.
 Uncorked (1998) Uncle Cullen
9.
 Madeline (1998) Lord Covington
10.
 Murder in Mind (1997) Dr Ellis
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1932:
Moved from Coventry, England to Cape Town, South Africa
1950:
Professional stage debut, playing Archie Fellows in a Cape Town production of "The Shop at Sly Corner"
:
Moved to London to pursue career
1951:
London stage debut, Donald in "You Can't Take It With You"
1957:
Returned to South Africa where he enjoyed success as a stage actor
1962:
West End debut as Fancy Dan in "Talking to You"
1972:
Feature acting debut in Richard Attenborough's "Young Winston"
1974:
Broadway debut played Touchstone in "As You Like It"
1975:
Performed onstage in London production of Simon Gray's "Otherwise Engaged"
1977:
Won much critical praise as star of the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of "Privates on Parade"
1977:
Portrayed Pierre Curie in "Marie Curie" (BBC-2)
1978:
Voiced the part of Campion for the animated feature "Watership Down"
1978:
Starred opposite Sian Phillips in the Thames Television series "Warrior Queen", playing Roman Procurator Catus Decianus
1978:
US TV debut, "Holocaust", an NBC miniseries
1980:
Portrayed Permanent Under Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby in the BBC-2 comedy series "Yes, Minister" (aired in USA on The Entertainment Channel and PBS from 1982); earned first two BAFTA Awards in the comedy performance category
1980:
Played Stryver in CBS miniseries presentation of "A Tale of Two Cities"
1982:
Reteamed with Attenborough for the director's highly acclaimed "Gandhi", starring Ben Kingsley
1985:
Reunited with Kingsley in "Turtle Diary", also starring Glenda Jackson
1986:
Starred opposite Glenda Jackson in London stage production of "Across From the Garden of Allah"
:
Reprised role of Sir Humphrey (now a Cabinet Secretary) in the sequel comedy "Yes, Prime Minister" (BBC-2); garnered and additional two BAFTA Awards
1988:
Acted in London stage production of Tom Stoppard's "Hapgood"
1989:
Portrayed author C S Lewis in British stage version of "Shadowlands"
:
Reprised "Shadowlands" role on Broadway, earning a Tony Award as Best Actor in a Play
:
Played the title role in London production of "The Madness of George III", staged by Nicholas Hytner; also toured US cities in 1993
1993:
Made Hollywood debut playing the amorally ambiguous potentate in "Demolition Man"
1994:
Garnered international acclaim and a Best Actor Oscar nomination reprising his stage role in "The Madness of King George", Hytner's feature directorial debut; also won BAFTA Award
:
Directed and starred in London stage production of "The Clandestine Marriage"; later starred opposite Joan Collins in feature version (filmed in 1998) directed by Christopher Miles
1995:
Appeared as Clarence in film "Richard III", executive produced and co-adapted by Ian McKellen
1996:
Associate produced and co-starred in "Murder in Mind"
1996:
Acted the part of Colonel Kruger in Showtime movie "Inside", directed by Arthur Penn; also starred Eric Stoltz and Louis Gossett Jr
1996:
Essayed the role of Malvolio in Trevor Nunn's film adaptation of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"
1996:
Earned sixth BAFTA Award for the TV production "The Fragile Heart"
1997:
Portrayed President Martin Van Buren in Steven Spielberg's "Amistad"
1998:
Reteamed with Hytner for "The Object of My Affection", playing a gay theater critic
1998:
Executive produced and gave another modulated tour de force as a maddening, aphorism-spouting uncle residing "At Satchem Farm", a bit of New Age malarkey out of step with both indie and commercial themes
1999:
Acted in David Mamet's "The Winslow Boy", adapted by the director from the Terrence Rattigan play
1999:
Had a grand old time as a dirty old man in George Hickenlooper's "The Big Brass Ring", based on a screenplay by Orson Welles (published after his death); the original script was interesting as a companion piece to "Citizen Kane" for its preoccupation with self-destructive prominent men as well as its explicit political themes; shown at various film festivals before debuting on Showtime in the fall
1999:
Voiced the character of Professor Porter in Disney's animated "Tarzan"
1999:
Returned to the stage to play the title role in RSC production of "King Lear", staged by Yukio Ninagawa; opened in Japan in August before moving to London's West End in October
2001:
Appeared as Lord Melbourne in the biographical miniseries "Victoria and Albert" (aired in USA on A&E)
2001:
Portrayed Santa Claus in the TNT original "Call Me Claus", co-starring Whoppi Goldberg
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Christian Brothers College: -
University of Cape Town: -
St George's Grammar School: -

Notes

Hawthorne was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.

In 2000, he was diagnosed with cancer and had been undergoing chemotherapy just before his death from a heart attack.

On King George III: "What he tried to do was keep some of the mystique of the crown, while reaching out to the common folk. What has caused the undoing of the present royal family is the opening-up of their lives to the people and the media. There is no more mystique." --Nigel Hawthorne, to Nick Charles in Daily News, January 23, 1995.

"Acting is an escape. That's why I went into it. My father was personally affronted. He thought I should join the Civil Service, the Masons--do the proper things." --Hawthorne quoted in People, March 27, 1995.

The sad tale of co-star Paul Eddington of "Yes, Minister": "We were always being nominated for BAFTAs and for some reason I used to win. I knew it was hurtful to Paul. He told me that he was once in Australia at some huge function when someone came up to him and said, 'You've won the BAFTA!' Paul was so excited that he bought champagne for the whole room. Twenty minutes later, the guy came back and said, 'Sorry, it was the other bloke who won.'" --Hawthorne, quoted in the London Times, January 3, 1999.

About being "outed" after his 1994 Oscar nomination: "Surprise! Surprise! An Academy Award nomination and suddenly you're outed? Did I mind? Oh, very, very much ...

"Ian [McKellen] was always trying to get Trevor [Bentham, Hawthorne's longtime companion] and me to be outed. I said, 'That's crazy. I've spent my life playing heterosexuals! Why should I ruin my career?'

"Ian would say, 'because you'd help people.' I don't think I'd help people. I believe we are all equal. If that is how you are born into this world, I believe the most good you can do is to live in the community and be accepted. Trevor and I had been going to awards ceremonies for years. people knew. Look, if you don't get married by age 65, people know something's up." --Hawthorne quoted in Newsday, April 28, 1999.

On preferring film work to stage work: "I just have reached the age where it's very, very exhausting doing stage work, especially if you're playing leading roles, which I'm inclined to do. There's eight performances a week to get through, and very often the stuff that I get is very emotional or very physical ... I haven't missed a performance in my life, ever, which I suppose is some sort of madness." --Hawthorne, to Mark Caro in The Chicago Tribune, May 23, 1999.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Trevor Bentham. Writer; screenwriter. Together since c. 1979; penned the script for "The Clandestine Marriage" (1999), which co-starred Hawthorne and Joan Collins.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Charles Hawthorne. Physician. 20 years older than wife.
mother:
Rosemary Hawthorne.

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