Derek Jacobi (1938-) b. Leytonstone, London, England.
Derek Jacobi has enjoyed a highly successful stage career, after graduating from Cambridge he joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. A live broadcast of She Stoops to Conquer gave him his television debut. While at Birmingham he was invited by Laurence Olivier to join the newly-established National Theatre. Over the next 30 years Derek had some very distinguished roles in the theatre such as Touchstone in an all-male As You Like It opposite Anthony Hopkins as Audrey (1967); the title role in Oedipus Rex (1972); Hamlet (1977) and again on a world tour (1979); Kean (1990); Macbeth (1993-94); and Uncle Vanya (1996).
From 1972-8 Derek was with the Prospect Theatre where he enjoyed roles such as Buckingham in Richard III, Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night and leads in Ivanov, Pericles and A Month in the Country. In 1980 Derek went to America making his New York stage debut in the short-lived The Suicide. In 1982 Derek joined the Royal Shakespeare Company where he played the title role in Peer Gynt, Prospero in The Tempest, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac, both opposite Sinead Cusack. He was also in their 1984/85 tour of New York and Washington as Benedick, for which he received a Tony Award, and Cyrano.
Jacobi’s notable television credits include: Man of Straw and The Pallisers. His career-defining television role came in the BBC’s I, Claudius, a 13-part serial based on Robert Graves’ novels. The Imperial Rome saga was a masterpiece of British television drama, held together by Jacobi’s majestic portrayal of the deranged, stuttering Emperor Claudius. Jacobi’s superb underplaying won him the BAFTA for Best Actor and garnered him the attention of an international audience. Enhancing his reputation, Jacobi excelled in a variety of serious dramas: as Soviet spy Guy Burgess in Philby, Burgess and Maclean. Jacobi has also appeared in populist programmes: Minder, Tales of the Unexpected, Agatha Christie’s Marple, Dr Who and the last ever ITV Morecambe and Wise Show special. Other notable television credits include Mr Pye and the triumphant transfer from stage to small screen of Breaking the Code. In 1994 he embarked on the acclaimed medieval ITV dramas series Cadfael, based on the Ellis Peters books. Jacobi’s quiet and meticulous performance as the 12th Century crime-solving monk struck a chord with television audiences.
Jacobi made his feature film debut as Cassio in Laurence Olivier‘s Othello (1965) and during the 1970′s appeared in Laurence Olivier‘s The Three Sisters (1970) and a number of thrillers including Fred Zinnemann’s The Day of the Jackal (1973), The Odessa File (1974), The Medusa Touch (1978) and Otto Preminger’s The Human Factor (1979). Having collaborated with Kenneth Branagh in the theatre, Jacobi’s long-standing professional relationship Branagh has produced three films: Henry V (1989), Dead Again (1991) and Hamlet (1996). Other feature credits include Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), Robert Altman’s Gosford Park (2001), The King’s Speech (2010) and Ironclad (2011).