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Nigel Hawthorne

Nigel Hawthorne photo.jpg
As the Duke of
Clarence in the 1995 film Richard III
Nigel Barnard Hawthorne

(1929-04-05)5 April 1929
Coventry, Warwickshire, England
Died 26 December 2001(2001-12-26) (aged 72)
Thundridge, Hertfordshire, England
Occupation Actor
Years active 1950–2001
Partner(s) Trevor Bentham (1979–2001; his death)

Sir Nigel Barnard Hawthorne CBE (5 April 1929 – 26 December 2001) was an English actor. He is known for his stage acting and his portrayal of Sir Humphrey Appleby, the permanent secretary in the 1980s sitcom Yes Minister and the Cabinet Secretary in its sequel, Yes, Prime Minister. For this role, he won four BAFTA TV Awards for Best Light Entertainment Performance.

He won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for portraying King George III in The Madness of King George (1994). He later won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor, for the 1996 series The Fragile Heart. He was also an Olivier Award and Tony Award winner for his work in theatre.

Early life

Hawthorne was born in Coventry, Warwickshire, England, the second of four children of Agnes Rosemary (née Rice) and Charles Barnard Hawthorne, a physician.

When Nigel was three years old, the family moved to Cape Town, South Africa, where his father had bought a practice. Initially they lived in the Gardens and then moved to a newly built house near Camps Bay.

He attended St George's Grammar School, Cape Town, and, although the family was not Catholic, at a now-defunct Christian Brothers College, where he played on the rugby team. He described his time at the latter as not being a particularly happy experience.

He enrolled at the University of Cape Town, where he met and sometimes acted in plays with Theo Aronson (later a well-known biographer), but withdrew and returned to the United Kingdom in the 1950s to pursue a career in acting.


Hawthorne made his professional stage debut in 1950, playing Archie Fellows in a Cape Town production of The Shop at Sly Corner. Unhappy in South Africa, he decided to move to London, where he performed in various small parts before becoming recognised as a great character actor.

Finding success in London, Hawthorne decided to try his luck in New York City and eventually got a part in a 1974 production of As You Like It on Broadway. Around this time, he was persuaded by Ian McKellen and Judi Dench to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also supplemented his income by appearing in television advertisements, including one for Mackeson Stout, and in the early 1990s starred alongside Tom Conti in a long running series of commercials for Vauxhall.

He returned to the New York stage in 1990 in Shadowlands and won the 1991 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.

Although Hawthorne had appeared in small roles in various British television series since the late 1950s, his most famous role was as Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Permanent Secretary of the fictional Department of Administrative Affairs in the television series Yes Minister (and Cabinet Secretary in its sequel, Yes, Prime Minister), for which he won four BAFTA awards during the 1980s. He became a household name throughout the United Kingdom, which finally opened the doors to film roles. In 1982, Hawthorne appeared in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, alongside a distinguished international cast including Martin Sheen, John Mills, Candice Bergen, John Gielgud, Ian Charleson and Ben Kingsley. That same year, he starred opposite Clint Eastwood in the cold war thriller Firefox, where he played a dissident Russian scientist.

Other film roles during this time included Demolition Man, which he detested for being "brainless" and a "cheap picture". However, it led to his most famous role: that of King George III in Alan Bennett's stage play The Madness of George III (for which he won a Best Actor Olivier Award) and then the film adaptation entitled The Madness of King George, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and won the BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor.

After this success, his friend Ian McKellen asked him to play his doomed brother Clarence in Richard III, and Steven Spielberg asked him to play lame duck president Martin Van Buren in Amistad. He won a sixth BAFTA for the 1996 TV mini-series The Fragile Heart. He also drew praise for his role of Georgie Pillson in the London Weekend Television series "Mapp and Lucia."

Hawthorne was also a voice actor, and lent his voice to two Disney films: Fflewddur Fflam in The Black Cauldron (1985) and Professor Porter in Tarzan (1999). He also voiced Captain Campion in the animated film adaptation of Watership Down (1978).

Personal life

An intensely private person, he was annoyed at having been outed as gay in 1995 in the publicity surrounding the Academy Awards, but he did attend the ceremony with his long-time partner Trevor Bentham, and afterward, he spoke openly about being gay in interviews and in his autobiography, Straight Face, which was published posthumously.

Hawthorne met Bentham in 1968 when the latter was stage-managing the Royal Court Theatre. From 1979 until Hawthorne's death in 2001, they lived together in Radwell and then at Thundridge, both in Hertfordshire. The two of them became fund raisers for the North Hertfordshire hospice and other local charities.


Hawthorne died from a heart attack at his home on 26 December 2001, aged 72. He had recently undergone several operations for pancreatic cancer, which he was diagnosed with in mid-2000, but had been discharged from hospital for the Christmas holidays. He was survived by Bentham, and his funeral service was held at St Mary's, the Parish Church of Thundridge near Ware, Hertfordshire, following which he was cremated at Stevenage Crematorium. His funeral was attended by Derek Fowlds, Maureen Lipman, Charles Dance, Loretta Swit and Frederick Forsyth along with friends and local people. The service was led by the Right Reverend Christopher Herbert, the Bishop of St Albans. The coffin had a wreath of white lilies and orchids and Bentham was one of the pallbearers.

On hearing of Hawthorne's death, Alan Bennett described him in his diary: "Courteous, grand, a man of the world and superb at what he did, with his technique never so obvious as to become familiar as, say, Olivier's did or Alec Guinness's."


He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1987 New Years Honours List, and was knighted in the 1999 New Years Honours List "for services to the Theatre, Film and Television."



Year Title Role Notes
1958 Carve Her Name with Pride Polish Soldier in Park Uncredited
1972 Young Winston Boer Sentry
1974 S*P*Y*S Croft
1975 The Hiding Place Pastor De Ruiter
Decisions, Decisions Unknown Short
1977 Spiderweb Lonnrot
1978 Sweeney 2 Dilke
Watership Down Captain Campion Voice, credited as Nigel Hawthorn
The Sailor's Return Mr. Fosse
1981 History of the World: Part I Citizen Official (The French Revolution)
Memoirs of a Survivor Victorian Father
1982 Firefox Dr. Pyotr Baranovich
The Plague Dogs Dr. Boycott Voice
Gandhi Kinnoch
1983 Dead on Time Doctor Short
1984 The Chain Mr. Thorn
1985 The Black Cauldron Fflewddur Fflam Voice
Turtle Diary The Publisher
1988 Rarg The Storyteller Short film
1989 A Handful of Time Ted Walker
1990 King of the Wind Achmet
1992 Freddie as F.R.O.7. Brigadier General Voice
1993 Demolition Man Dr. Raymond Cocteau
1994 The Madness of King George King George III
1995 Richard III Clarence
1996 Twelfth Night or What You Will Malvolio
1997 Murder in Mind Dr. Ellis Also associate producer
Amistad President Martin Van Buren
1998 The Object of My Affection Rodney Fraser
Madeline Lord Covington (segment "Lord Cucuface")
At Sachem Farm Uncle Cullen Also executive producer
1999 The Big Brass Ring Kim
The Winslow Boy Arthur Winslow
A Reasonable Man Judge Wendon
Tarzan Professor Porter Voice
The Clandestine Marriage Lord Ogleby Also associate producer


Year Title Role Notes
1956 Cry Wolf! PC Bray Television movie
television debut
1957 The Goose Girl Unknown Television movie
The Royal Astrologers Third Thief
Bonehead Bit Part Episode: "Pilot"
Huntingtower Sinister Man Episode: "#1.3"
Villette Second Footman Television miniseries; 2 episodes
1962 The Last Man Out Gestapo Man Episode: "The Way Out"
1963 The Desperate People Cliff Fletcher recurring role; 4 episodes
Man of the World Assistant Director Episode: "The Bandit"
Bud Trefor Jones Episode: "#1.5"
1964 Detective Temple Doorkeeper Episode: "Death in Ecstacy"
Emergency-Ward 10 Colin Davies Episode: "#1.769"
1965 Jury Room David Hemming, Juror Episode: "The Dilke Affair"
1969 Mrs. Wilson's Diary Roy Jenkins Television movie
The Gnomes of Dulwich Gnome Episode: "#1.6"
Dad's Army The Angry Man Episode: "The Armoured Might of Lance Corporal Jones"
1971 The Last of the Baskets Mr. Snodgrass Episode: "For Richer, for Poorer"
Hine Freddy Ambercourt Episode: "Everything I Am I Owe"
1973 Hadleigh Oliver Mason 2 episodes
1974 Occupations Libertini Television movie
Miss Nightingale Dr. Lewis
1976 Couples Mr. Laker recurring role; 3 episodes
Bill Brand Browning Television Miniseries; Episode: "Yarn"
1977 Crown Court Dr. William Ranford Episode: "Beauty and the Beast (Part 1)"
Eleanor Marx Engels 2 episodes
Marie Curie Pierre Curie Television miniseries; 4 episodes
Just William Mr. Croombe Episode: "The Great Detective"
1978 Warrior Queen Catus Decianus recurring role; 4 episodes
Breakaway Girls Derek Carter Episode: "Sarah Carter"
Going Straight "Worm" Wellings Episode: "Going Going Gone"
Holocaust Ohldendorf Television miniseries; Episode: "Part 2"
Edward & Mrs. Simpson Walter Monkton recurring role; 5 episodes
1979 Thomas and Sarah Wilson Episode: "The New Rich"
The Other Side Skellow Episode: "Underdog"
The Knowledge Mr. Burgess Television movie
1980 The Misanthrope Philinte
The Tempest Stephano
Jukes of Piccadilly Brinsley Jukes recurring role; 6 episodes
The Good Companions Reverend Chillingford Television miniseries; Episode: "Miss Trant Pays the Bill"
1980 A Tale of Two Cities Mr. C.J. Stryver Television Movie
1980–1984 Yes Minister Sir Humphrey Appleby series regular; 22 episodes
1981 Tales of the Unexpected Charles Drummond Episode: "The Last Bottle in the World"
1982 The Hunchback of Notre Dame Magistrate at Esmeralda's Trial Television movie
A Woman Called Golda King Abdullah
The World Cup: A Captain's Tale John Westwood
The Barchester Chronicles Archdeacon Theophilus Grantly Television miniseries; 7 episodes
1983 Tartuffe, or the Imposter Orgon Television movie
1984 Pope John Paul II Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski
The House General Fagg
1985–1986 Mapp & Lucia Georgie Pillson recurring role; 10 episodes
1985 Jenny's War Colonel recurring role; 4 episodes
1986–1988 Yes, Prime Minister Sir Humphrey Appleby series regular; 16 episodes
1989 The Play on One John Episode: "The Shawl"
1990 Relatively Speaking Philip Carter Television movie
1994 Late Flowering ... Cousin John - poetry reader A "blend of music, poetry, dance, actor/dancers..."
1995 Russia's War: Blood upon the Snow Narrator Documentary series, 10 episodes
1996 Inside Colonel Television movie
The Fragile Heart Dr. Edgar Pascoe unknown episode
The Happy Prince Narrator Television movie
1997 Forbidden Territory: Stanley's Search for Livingstone David Livingstone
1998 Animal Stories Narrator unknown episode
2000 The Last Polar Bears Television short
2001 Victoria & Albert Lord William Lamb Television movie
Call Me Claus Nick Television movie, (final film role)

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
1998 Jeff Wayne's the War of the Worlds The General Voice
2001 Tarzan: Untamed Professor Porter



Year Title Role Company Venue
1950 The Shop at Sly Corner Archie Hofmeyr Theatre
1951 You Can't Take It With You Donald Embassy Theatre
1957 His Excellency Captain the Contino Sevastein Jacono de Piero
Talking To You Fancy Dan Duke of York's Theatre
1967 Mrs Wilson's Diary Roy Criterion Theatre
The Marie Lloyd Story Sir Oswald Stoll Theatre Royal, Stratford
1968 Early Morning Albert Royal Court Theatre
1970 Curtains Niall Edinburgh Festival
1971 Open Space
Alma Mater Major
1972 The Trial of St George Judge Soho Poly
1973 A Question of Everything Hugh
The Emergency Channel Graham
The Philanthropist Philip May Fair
1975 A Child of Hope Police Captain
The Floater Morris Shelman
Otherwise Engaged Stephen Queens Theatre
The Doctor's Dilemma Culter Walpole Mermaid Theatre
1976 Play Things Tenby
Buffet Jack
As You Like It Touchstone Riverside Studios
1977 The Fire that Consumes Abbe de Pradts Mermaid Theatre
Blind date Brian King's Head Theatre
Privates on Parade Major Gliles Flack
1978 Destiny Major Lewis Rolfe
The Millionairess Julius Theatre Royal Haymarket
1980 The Enigma Fenton
A Rod of Iron Trevor
Jessie Mr. Edmonds
1981 A Brush with Mr. Porter on the Road to Eldorado Fulton
Protest Vaclav Havel
1982 The Critic Mr. Sneer
1986 Across from the Garden of Allah Douglas Comedy Theatre
1988 The Miser Harpagon
Hapgood Blair Aldwych Theatre
1989 The Spirit of Man Reverend Jonathan Guerdon
Shadowlands C. S. Lewis Queens Theatre
1990 Brooks Atkinson Theatre
1991 The Trials of Oz Brian Leary
The Madness of George III George III
1992 Flea Bites Kryst
1999 King Lear Lear RSC Barbican

Awards and nominations

Year Title Accolade Category Result
1977 Privates on Parade Laurence Olivier Award Best Actor in a Supporting Role Won
1981 Yes Minister Broadcasting Press Guild Award Best Actor in a Light Entertainment Program Won
1982 British Academy Television Award Best Light Entertainment Performance Won
1983 Won
1987 Won
1988 Won
1989 CableACE Award Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
1990 Shadowlands Laurence Olivier Award Best Actor Nominated
1991 Tony Award Best Actor in a Play Won
1992 The Madness of George III Laurence Olivier Award Best Actor Won
1995 The Madness of King George Academy Award Nominated
1996 Empire Award Won
British Academy Film Award Best Actor in a Leading Role Won
London Critics Circle Film Award British Actor of the Year Won
1997 The Fragile Heart British Academy Television Award Best Actor Won
1999 The Object of My Affection London Critics Circle Film Award British Supporting Actor of the Year Won

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Nigel Hawthorne para niños

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