Family & Companions
After starting his career in several British films and television shows in his native England, actor Ben Chaplin crossed the pond to make his first American film with the winning comedy, "The Truth about Cats & Dogs" (1996). Despite his auspicious debut, Chaplin failed to become an overnight star in the states as some had predicted. Perhaps his desire not to become the next Hugh Grant had something to do with his career traveling the slow lane. He had prominent roles in acclaimed films like Terrence Malick's elegiac war drama "The Thin Red Line" (1998), but was overlooked by critics who focused on the movie's numerous A-list stars and the director's exquisite work. While he stated that he would like to achieve a certain level of fame, Chaplin was willing to do so only on his own terms, which explained starring in little-seen independents like "Stage Beauty" (2004) and "Chromophobia" (2005). Regardless of whether or not he was a household name, there was no doubt that Chaplin defined his own career by the quality of his work rather than the degree of his celebrity.
Born Benedict John Greenwood on July 31, 1970 in Windsor, Berkshire, England, Chaplin was raised by his father, Peter, an engineer, and his mother, Cynthia, an English teacher. An admittedly lazy student who harbored no desire to go to university, Chaplin found his calling as a teenager when he appeared in a school play. He quickly did an about-face about furthering his education when he realized that most actors had some degree of formal education. So Chaplin enrolled at the famed Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, though he was asked by the school to leave during his second year for being both too opinionated and unable to find parts. Though he was readmitted when his father wrote the school a strongly worded letter, Chaplin decided to forgo the remainder of his training and joined a repertory theatre instead. In between odd jobs, working various clerical jobs and even as a statistician for the London Transport Authority, Chaplin began landing roles in BBC dramas and various British films.
In 1992, Chaplin landed his first break starring alongside James Purefoy and Jason Flemyng in "Bye Bye Baby" for Channel Four. After being tapped by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant to play a servant in "The Remains of the Day" (1993), he reunited with the filmmakers for his breakthrough screen role as the socially inept Con Wainwright in "Feast of July" (1995). Continuing to advance his career, Chaplin garnered rave reviews as Tom in Sam Mendes' stage production of "The Glass Menagerie" (1995) in London, while winning the hearts of many as the strange and agoraphobic Matthew Malone on the British sitcom, "Game On" (BBC2, 1995-98). Crossing the pond to find work on American soil, Chaplin was cast by director Michael Lehmann to play a photographer caught between two women (Uma Thurman and Janeane Garofolo) in "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" (1996), a distaff spin on the classic tale of "Cyrano De Bergerac." Displaying an easy charm and affable screen presence, Chaplin won plaudits for his performance and soon found himself in demand, though many subsequent roles offered were just variations of the same character.
In danger of being typecast as the dithering Brit - a la Hugh Grant - Chaplin shifted gears and stepped into the boots of Montgomery Clift to essay the fortune-hunting Morris Townsend in a retelling of "Washington Square" (1997), co-starring Jennifer Jason Leigh. Despite rave reviews for the sterling performances from all the major players, which included Maggie Smith and Albert Finney, the film failed to generate much interest with audiences. Chaplin next joined an all-star cast - which included many heavy-hitters like Sean Penn, John Travolta, Nick Nolte, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson and many others - to play Private Bell in Terrence Malick's lyrical remake of "The Thin Red Line" (1998). Chaplin emerged as one of the film's key figures, playing a grunt who wistfully recalls his times with his wife (Miranda Otto) as a means of coping with life on a battlefield. Despite his exemplary work, the actor found many critics overlooking his contribution to the film, as most concentrated on Malick's efforts. Meanwhile, after numerous delays, "Lost Souls" (2000) - which was filmed in 1998 - finally hit theaters. Cast as a skeptical crime writer who has been marked for Satanic possession by a woman (Winona Ryder) who herself fought off the devil, Chaplin managed to maintain his dignity despite the inanity of the screenplay.
Chaplin fared much better as a low-level bank clerk who gets more than he bargained for when he selects a Russian mail-order bride (Nicole Kidman) in "Birthday Girl" (2001), which earned good reviews after hitting the international festival circuit. He next joined forces with Sandra Bullock to play her relatively inexperienced partner aiding an investigating into a series of killings in "Murder by Numbers" (2002). After co-starring opposite Michelle Yeoh in the Taiwan-made actioner "The Touch" (2002), Chaplin was the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, whose love (Claire Danes) loses her standing in society for performing on stage during a time when women were prohibited, in the romantic drama, "Stage Beauty" (2004). Chaplin next had a supporting role in "Chromophobia" (2005), a dark thriller about a bourgeois family coming apart at the seams that also starred Penélope Cruz, Ralph Fiennes and Ian Holm. He had a small role in "The New World" (2005), Terrence Malick's look at the affair between Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher) and Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell). In the comedic drama "Two Weeks" (2006), Chaplin was one of four siblings who return home to say goodbye to their ailing mother (Sally Field). Following a supporting role in the children's fantasy "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep" (2007), Chaplin portrayed prominent English stage and film actor, George Coulouris, in "Me and Orson Welles" (2009), directed by indie filmmaker Richard Linklater.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
First starring role in the TV-movie "Bye Bye Baby" (Channel Four)
Film debut as a footman in the Merchant Ivory production "The Remains of the Day"
Won praise for his performance as Tom Wingfield in the West End production of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie"; directed by Sam Mendes
Had regular role on the British sitcom "Game On!"
Had breakthrough screen role as Con Wainwright in "Feast of July"
First starring role in an American feature in "The Truth About Cats and Dogs"
Co-starred as Morris Townsend in "Washington Square"
Had a leading role in Terrence Malick's remake of "The Thin Red Line"
Played a reporter marked for Satanic possession in "Lost Souls"
Co-starred with Nicole Kidman, playing a man who orders a Russian mail-order bride in "Birthday Girl" (released theatrically in 2002)
Had leading role opposite Michelle Yeoh in "The Touch"
Co-stared with Sandra Bullock in "Murder By Numbers"
Starred in William Nicholson's play "The Retreat From Moscow"; received Tony nomination
Starred opposite Claire Danes and Billy Crudup in "Stage Beauty"
Cast in director Terrence Malick's "The New World"
Cast as one of four siblings who returns home to say goodbye to their sick mother in "Two Weeks"
Co-starred in the fantasy film, "The Water Horse" about the fabled Loch Ness Monster
Portrayed actor George Coulouris in Richard Linklater's "Me and Orson Welles"