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Simon Callow

Simon Callow.jpg
Callow in 2009
Born
Simon Phillip Hugh Callow

(1949-06-15) 15 June 1949 (age 74)
Streatham, London, England
Occupation
  • Actor
  • director
  • author
  • musician
  • singer
Years active 1973–present
Spouse(s)
Sebastian Fox
(m. 2016)

Simon Phillip Hugh Callow CBE (born 15 June 1949) is an English actor. Known as a character actor on stage and screen, he has received numerous accolades including an Olivier Award and Screen Actors Guild Award as well as nominations for two BAFTA Awards. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to acting by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999.

Callow rose to prominence originating the title role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the 1979 Peter Shaffer play Amadeus for which he received a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role nomination. He joined the Miloš Forman 1984 film adaptation this time portraying Emanuel Schikaneder. In 1992 he won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director of a Musical for Carmen Jones. As an actor he won acclaim for his comedic roles in A Room with a View (1985) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) earning BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for each. Other notable roles include in Maurice (1987), Howards End (1992), Shakespeare in Love (1998), and The Phantom of the Opera (2004).

His television roles include Tom Chance in the Channel 4 series Chance in a Million (1984) and The Duke of Sandringham in the series Outlander from 2014 to 2016. He portrayed Napoleon in The Man of Destiny (1981), and Charles Dickens in numerous television projects. He's also appeared on numerous shows such as Midsomer Murders, Rome, Angels in America, Doctor Who, Galavant, Hawkeye, and The Witcher.

Early years

Callow was born on 15 June 1949 in Streatham, London, the son of Yvonne Mary (née Guise), a secretary, and Neil Francis Callow, a businessman. His father was of French descent and his mother was of Danish and German ancestry. He was raised as a Roman Catholic. Callow was educated at the London Oratory School and then went on to study at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, where he was active in the Northern Ireland civil-rights movement, before giving up his degree course to train at the Drama Centre London.

Career

Acting

Callow's immersion in the theatre began after he wrote a fan letter to Sir Laurence Olivier, the artistic director of the National Theatre and received a response suggesting he join their box-office staff. While watching actors rehearse, he realised he wanted to act.

Callow made his stage debut in 1973, appearing in The Three Estates at the Assembly Rooms Theatre, Edinburgh. In the early 1970s, he joined the Gay Sweatshop theatre company and performed in Martin Sherman's critically acclaimed Passing By. In 1977, he took various parts in the Joint Stock Theatre Company's production of Epsom Downs and in 1979, he starred in Snoo Wilson's The Soul of the White Ant at the Soho Poly.

Callow appeared as Verlaine in Total Eclipse (1982), Lord Foppington in The Relapse (1983) and the title role in Faust (1988) at the Lyric Hammersmith, where he also directed The Infernal Machine (with Dame Maggie Smith) in 1986. In 1985, he played Molina in Kiss of the Spiderwoman at the Bush Theatre, London. He played Mozart in the premiere of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus at the National Theatre (1979), also appearing in the 1983 BBC original cast radio production. He later wrote of having "discovered Mozart quite early: the operas, the symphonies, the concertos, the wind serenades were all very much part of my musical landscape when I was asked to play the part of the composer in Peter Shaffer's Amadeus; possibly this was one of the reasons I got the job." He appeared at the National Theatre as Orlando in As You Like It (1979) and Fulganzio in Life of Galileo (1980).

Callow appeared with Saeed Jaffrey in the 1994 British television drama series Little Napoleons, playing a scheming Conservative councillor in local government. In 1996, Callow directed Cantabile in three musical pieces (Commuting, The Waiter's Revenge, Ricercare No. 4) composed by his friend Stephen Oliver. Ricercare No. 4 was commissioned by Callow especially for Cantabile. He voice-acted the sly and traitorous Wolfgang in Shoebox Zoo. In 2004, he appeared on a Comic Relief episode of Little Britain for charity causes. In 2006, he wrote a piece for the BBC1 programme This Week bemoaning the lack of characters in modern politics. He has starred as Count Fosco, the villain of Wilkie Collins's novel The Woman in White, in film (1997) and on stage (2005, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in the West End).

Callow starred in the three-part original Gold comedy The Rebel in 2016.

In 2022, he joined the cast of the UK revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes replacing Gary Wilmot as Elisha Whitney. The production would complete a UK tour before finishing with a run at the Barbican Centre. From 11 July to 3 August 2008, Callow appeared at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada in There Reigns Love, a performance of the sonnets of William Shakespeare. The same year, he appeared at the Edinburgh Festival, performing "Dr. Marigold" and "Mr. Chops" by Charles Dickens, adapted and directed by Patrick Garland; repeating them from December 2009 to January 2010 at the Riverside Studios and on tour in 2011.

In February 2008, he played the psychiatrist in the Chichester Festival Theatre's production of Peter Shaffer's Equus.

Between March and August 2009, he played Pozzo in Sean Mathias's production of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett with Ian McKellen as Estragon, Patrick Stewart as Vladimir, and Ronald Pickup as Lucky. The production toured Britain before a run at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, in London

From June to November 2010, he appeared in a national tour of a new one-man play, Shakespeare: the Man from Stratford, written by Jonathan Bate, directed by Tom Cairns, and produced by the Ambassador Theatre Group. The play was renamed Being Shakespeare for its West End debut at the Trafalgar Studios, where it opened on 15 June 2011. It was revived at the same theatre in March 2012, prior to a run in New York City and Chicago. In March 2014, it returned to the West End, this time at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

..... The same year, he played the recurring role of the fictional Duke of Sandringham in the Starz period TV series, Outlander.

In December 2022, Callow appeared as Dick in the Christmas special of BBC dark comedy Inside No. 9, "The Bones of St Nicholas".

Film

He made his first film appearance in 1984 as Schikaneder in Amadeus. The following year, he appeared as the Reverend Mr. Beebe in A Room with a View. ..... He starred in several series of the Channel 4 situation comedy Chance in a Million, as Tom Chance, an eccentric individual to whom coincidences happened regularly. Roles like this and his part in Four Weddings and a Funeral brought him to a wider audience. Callow portrayed Pliny the Elder in CBBC's 2007 children's drama series, Roman Mysteries in the episode "The Secrets of Vesuvius". He played Armand Duquesne in Marvel's Hawkeye on Disney+.

Directing

Callow also directed plays and wrote: his Being An Actor (1984) was a critique of 'director dominated' theatre, in addition to containing autobiographical sections relating to his early career as an actor. In 1992, he directed the play Shades by Sharman MacDonald and the musical My Fair Lady, featuring costumes designed by Jasper Conran. In 1995, he directed a stage version of the classic French film Les Enfants du Paradis for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Among opera productions directed by Callow are a Così fan tutte in Lucerne, Die Fledermaus for Scottish Opera in 1988, Il tritico for the Broomhill Trust, Kent in August 1995, Menotti's The Consul at Holland Park Opera, London in 1999 and Le roi malgré lui by Chabrier at Grange Park Opera in 2003. He also directed Carmen Jones at the Old Vic, London in 1991, with Wilhelmenia Fernandez in the title role.

One of Callow's best-known books is Love Is Where It Falls, an analysis of his 11-year relationship with Peggy Ramsay (1908–91), a prominent British theatrical agent from the 1960s to the 1980s. He has also written extensively about Charles Dickens, whom he has played several times: in a one-man show, The Mystery of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd; in the films Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale, and Christmas Carol: The Movie; and on television several times including An Audience with Charles Dickens (BBC, 1996) and in "The Unquiet Dead", a 2005 episode of the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who. He returned to Doctor Who for the 2011 season finale, again taking the role of Dickens.

In December 2004, he hosted the London Gay Men's Chorus Christmas Show, Make the Yuletide Gay at the Barbican Centre in London. He is currently one of the patrons of the Michael Chekhov Studio London. In July 2006, the London Oratory School Schola announced Callow as one of their new patrons. In November 2007, he threatened to resign the post over controversy surrounding the Terrence Higgins Trust (an AIDS charity of which Callow is also a patron). Other patrons of the Catholic choir are Princess Michael of Kent and the leading Scottish composer James MacMillan. He reprised his role as Wolfgang in Shoebox Zoo and voice-acted the wild and action-seeking Hunter, as well.

Author

Callow has written biographies of Oscar Wilde, Charles Laughton, Orson Welles, and Richard Wagner. He has also written an anthology of Shakespeare passages, Shakespeare on Love, and contributed to Cambridge's Actors on Shakespeare series.

A devotee of classical music, he has contributed articles to Gramophone and The New York Review of Books.

Narration

Callow was the reader of The Twits and The Witches in the Puffin Roald Dahl Audio Books Collection (ISBN: 978-0-140-92255-4), and has done audio versions of several abridged P.G. Wodehouse books that feature, among others, the fictional character Jeeves. They include Very Good, Jeeves and Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. Callow is the reader of the audio book edition of William E. Wallace's Michelangelo, God's Architect, published by Princeton University Press. Callow narrated the audiobook of Robert Fagles' 2006 translation of Virgil's The Aeneid. In November 2009, "Mini Stories", a recording by the Caput Ensemble of Haflidi Hallgrimsson's settings of the surreal poetry of Daniil Kharms, featuring Callow as the narrator, was released by Hyperion Records.

Callow played Stroganoff in the 1987 Saturday Night Theatre production of A Bullet in the Ballet dramatised by Pat Hooker on BBC Radio 4.

Personal life

Callow was one of the first actors to declare their homosexuality publicly, doing so in his 1984 book Being An Actor. He was listed 28th in The Independent's 2007 listing of the most influential gay men and women in the UK. He married Sebastian Fox in June 2016.

In August 2014, Callow was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.

In the 1999 Birthday Honours, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to acting.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1984 Amadeus Emanuel Schikaneder / Papageno Callow created the role of Mozart in the premiere stage production
1985 The Good Father Mark Varda
A Room with a View The Reverend Mr. Beebe Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1987 Maurice Mr. Ducie
1988 Manifesto Police Chief Hunt
1990 Postcards from the Edge Simon Asquith
Mr. & Mrs. Bridge Dr. Alex Sauer
1991 The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Director
Nominated – Golden Berlin Bear
1992 Howards End Music and Meaning Lecturer Cameo
Soft Top Hard Shoulder Eddie Cherdowski
1994 Four Weddings and a Funeral Gareth Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Street Fighter A.N. Official
1995 England, My England Charles II
Victory Zangiacomo
Jefferson in Paris Richard Cosway
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls Vincent Cadby Main antagonist
1996 James and the Giant Peach Mr. Grasshopper Voice
1998 The Scarlet Tunic Captain Fairfax
Bedrooms and Hallways Keith
Shakespeare in Love Sir Edmund Tilney Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1999 Around the World in 80 Days Phileas Fogg Voice
Junk
Notting Hill Himself uncredited film-within-a-film role
2001 No Man's Land Colonel Soft
Christmas Carol: The Movie Ebenezer Scrooge Voice
2002 Thunderpants Sir John Osgood
Merci Docteur Rey Bob
2003 Bright Young Things King of Anatolia
2004 George and the Dragon King Edgar
The Phantom of the Opera Andre
2005 Rag Tale Fat Boy Rourke
The Civilization of Maxwell Bright Mr. Wroth
Bob the Butler Mr. Butler
2006 Sabina Eugene Bleuler
2007 Chemical Wedding Professor Haddo / Aleister Crowley
Arn - The Knight Templar Father Henry
2011 No Ordinary Trifle Guy Witherspoon
2012 Acts of Godfrey Godfrey
2014 Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles Himself
2016 Golden Years Royston
Viceroy's House Cyril Radcliffe
2017 Hampstead The Judge
Victoria & Abdul Giacomo Puccini
The Man Who Invented Christmas John Leech
2018 Blue Iguana Uncle Martin
2024 Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 Cavendish In production
TBA The Pay Day Post-production
TBA Surprised by Oxford Post-production
TBA Doctor Jekyll Post-production

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1975 Get Some In! Wally
1976 The Sweeney Detective Sergeant
1980 Instant Enlightenment Including VAT Max
1981 The Man of Destiny Napoleon
W.H.Auden Monologue W.H.Auden
1984 Chance in a Million Tom Chance
1985 Honour, Profit and Pleasure Handel Television film
1986 Dead Head Hugo Silver
David Copperfield Mr Micawber
1987 Inspector Morse Theodore Kemp Episode: "The Wolvercote Tongue"
1990 Old Flames Nathaniel Quass
1993 Femme Fatale Vicar Ronnie
1994 Little Napoleons Edward Feathers
1995 El pasajero clandestino Major Owens
1996 An Audience With Charles Dickens Charles Dickens
1997 The Woman in White Count Fosco
1998 Trial & Retribution II Rupert Halliday
2000 The Mystery of Charles Dickens Charles Dickens Television film
2001 Don't Eat the Neighbours Fox & Bear
2002 NOVA: Galileo's Battle for the Heavens Galileo Documentary
2003 Angels in America Prior Walter ancestor 2 Miniseries
2004 Shoebox Zoo Wolfgang the Wolf
Hunter the Horse
TV series, 12 episodes
Agatha Christie's Marple Colonel Terence Melchett Episode: "The Body in the Library"
2005 Rome Publius Servilius Isauricus Episode: "Egeria"
2005, 2011 Doctor Who Charles Dickens Episodes: "The Unquiet Dead", "The Wedding of River Song"
2006 Midsomer Murders Dr. Richard Wellow Episode: "Dead Letters"
Classical Destinations Narrator
2007 Roman Mysteries Pliny the Elder Episodes: "The Secrets of Vesuvius"
The Company Elihu
How ... Changed the World Himself
Trick or Treat 1 episode
2008 The Mr. Men Show Narrator
2009 Lewis Vernon Oxe Episode: "Counter Culture Blues"
The Sarah Jane Adventures Tree Blathereen Voice
Episode: "The Gift"
2011 This is Jinsy Threcker Episode: "Nameworm"
Popstar to Operastar Himself
Jamie's Dream School
2013 Agatha Christie's Poirot Dr. Heinrich Lutz Episode: "The Labours of Hercules"
2014–2016 Outlander The Duke of Sandringham 5 episodes in seasons 1 and 2
2014 Plebs Victor Episode: "The Candidate"
The Feeling Nuts Comedy Night Himself
2015 Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway Guest in The End of The Show Show Season 12, episode 2
2016 Galavant Edwin the Magnificent Episode: "World's Best Kiss"
The Rebel Henry Palmer Lead character
The Life of Rock with Brian Pern Bennett St John Series 3, episode 3
2017 George III: The Genius of the Mad King George III Voice; BBC Documentary on George III
Midsomer Murders Vernon De Harthog Episode: "The Curse of the Ninth"
2018 Death in Paradise Larry South Series 7, episode 3
A Christmas Carol Narrator/Actor BBC4
The Dead Room Aubrey Judd
2021 Hawkeye Armand Duquesne III Episode: "Never Meet Your Heroes"
2021-2023 The Witcher Codringher 2 episodes
2022 Inside No. 9 Dick Series 8 episode 1: "The Bones of St Nicholas"
2023 The Cleaner Mr. Abahassine Episode: "The Clown"

See also

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