“I think all the quirky things that I have in me, all my oddnesses and my mannerisms and my absurdities and my shortcoming and my weaknesses and my faults are all useful. They are the things that I tap into when I'm working on a role. They are what make up what I am and I know them very well.” Nigel Hawthorne
After extensive stage experience, British actor Sir Nigel Hawthorne (born in 1929, died in 2001) enjoyed wide recognition and fame thanks to his portrayal of Sir Humphrey Appleby in the TV comedy series “Yes, Minister” (BBC, 1980-1984), from which he took home his first two BAFTA Awards and a Broadcasting Press Guild Award. He went on to reprise the role in the installment “Yes, Prime Minister” (1986-1988), where he picked up two additional BAFTA Awards for his performance. After the series ended, Hawthorne appeared on stage with his Tony Award winning role of author C S Lewis in William Nicholson's “Shadowlands” (1991) and as George III in Alan Bennett's “The Madness of George III” (1991). The vegetarian performer, however, did not gather international attention until he recreated the role of King George III in the big screen adaptation “The Madness of King George” (1994), which was directed by Nicholas Hytner. The performance earned him an Oscar nomination, a BAFTA Award, a London Critics Circle Film Award and an Empire Award. He won his last BAFTA Award in 1997 for the TV film “The Fragile Heart” (1996). Two years later, he nabbed a London Critics Circle Film Award for his scene stealing role in Hytner's “The Object of My Affection” (1998). Hawthorne's film credits also included “Firefox” (1982), “The Black Cauldron” (1985), “Demolition Man” (1993), “Twelfth Night” (1996), “Amistad” (1997), “The Winslow Boy” (1999), “The Big Brass Ring” (1999), “Tarzan” (1999) and “Victoria & Albert” (2001, TV).
Hawthorne was honored with the title CBE (Commander of the Order British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1987.
Childhood and Family:
Born on April 5, 1929, in Coventry, Warwickshire, England, Nigel Barnard Hawthorne moved with his family to Cape Town, South Africa, when he was a child. The son of Charles Barnard Hawthorne, a physician, and Agnes Rosemary, he was educated at St George's Grammar School in Cape Town and Christian Brothers College before attending the University of Cape Town, where he began acting. After making his professional debut in a Cape Town theatre production, he moved back to England at age 22 to pursue acting.
Nigel was gay and spoke about his homosexuality in interviews and in his autobiography “Straight Face.” He was the long time partner of Trevor Bentham, a British stage manager and screenwriter. They first met in 1968 and began dating in 1979. They would remain together until Nigel's death in 2001. Living in Radwell near Stotfold in Hertfordshire, England, Nigel and his partner were active supporters of the North Hertfordshire hospice and other local charities. He stated, “I feel that too much fuss is made about being gay. I've been a homosexual all my life. My partner and I don't want to stand up and say we're gay because we think that's wrong. The best way to get people to accept you is to move about the community and show them there's nothing to be afraid of.”
Nigel underwent several surgeries for pancreatic cancer. He died of a heart attack on December 26, 2001, at age 72. He was survived by Bentham and buried at the Parish Church of Thundridge near Ware, Hertfordshire.
The Madness of King George
Nigel Hawthorne made his professional acting debut when he landed the role of Archie Fellows in a Cape Town stage production of “The Shop at Sly Corner” in 1950. He left Cape Town for England in 1951 and appeared on the London stage in George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's play “You Can't Take It With You,” where he played Donald. It was followed by a role in “The Merchant of Yonkers” (1952), by Thornton Wilder, at the Embassy Theatre in London. In 1957, he resurfaced in William Saroyan's “Talking To You” and appeared on British TV with guest roles in “Huntingtower” and “Bonehead” (pilot).
Hawthorne returned to South Africa in 1957 and eventually found success as a stage actor there. His highlights include a performance in the first overseas production of “Beyond the Fringe.” With newfound confidence, he returned to England in the early 1960s and in 1962 made his West End debut as Fancy Dan in “Talking to You,” opposite Terence De Marney, Harry Towb, Andreas Markos, Johnny Sekka, Graham Payne, Thelma Holt, Derek Fuke, Alexis Kanner and Rex Garner. He then joined an international tour of the musical “Oh! What A Lovely War” in 1963 and revisited the West End the following year with a role in “The Doll's House,” a play by Henrik Ibsen. In 1965, he appeared in “Nymphs and Satires” at the Apollo Theatre in London. During the remainder of the 1960s, Hawthorne could be seen in a number of stage productions, including “In at the Death,” “Mrs Wilson's Diary” (as Roy), “The Marie Lloyd Story” (all 1967), “Total Eclipse” (1968), “Early Morning” (with Jack Shepherd, Tom Chadbon, Henry Woolf and Peter Blythe), “Inside Out” and “The Double Dealer” (all 1969).
Hawthorne made his series TV debut as a regular on the BBC thriller “The Desperate People” (1963), where he portrayed Cliff Fletcher. He sporadically returned to the small screen with episodic appearances in the shows “Man of the World” (1963), “Detective” (1964), “The Gnomes of Dulwich” and “Dad's Army” (both 1969). In 1969, he reprised his stage role of Roy Jenkins in the TV film adaptation of “Mrs. Wilson's Diary,” which was directed by Stuart Allen.
Following performances in theater productions like Shakespeare's “Macbeth” (as the title role) and “Henry IV” (as Falstaff), Tom Mallin's play “Curtains,” Tom Stoppard's “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” “The Trial of St George” and “The Philannthropist” in the early 1970s, Hawthorne debuted on Broadway playing Touchstone in “As You Like It” (1974). He gained further notice with his performance in a London production of Simon Gray's play “Otherwise Engaged” (1975), opposite Michael Gambon and Ian Charleson. However, it was his work in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of “Privates on Parade” (1978), a play by Peter Nichols, which brought the actor critical acclaim.
Hawthorne's screen career gained a significant boost in the 1970s. He received the memorable reoccurring role of Oliver Manson in the Gerald Harper drama series “Hadleigh” (1973) and later played Pierre Curie in the TV miniseries “Marie Curie” (BBC-2, 1977), which starred Jane Lapotaire as Marie Curie. He also acted with Sian Phillips in the TV series “Warrior Queen” (Thames TV, 1978) and played Walter Monkton in the Emmy winning TV miniseries “Edward & Mrs. Simpson” (Thames TV, 1978), which starred Edward Fox and Cynthia Harris. The actor made his American TV debut in the NBC miniseries “Holocaust” (as Ohldendorf) that same year. Hawthorne, who made his feature acting debut in Richard Attenborough's “Young Winston” (1972), added to his film resume roles in “S*P*Y*S” (1974, starred Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland), “The Hiding Place” (1975), “Sweeney 2” (1978) and “The Sailor's Return” (1978). He also provided the voice of Captain Campion in the popular animated film “Watership Down” (1978), which was written, directed and produced by Martin Rosen and adapted from the book by Richard Adams.
Hawthorne's breakthrough screen role arrived in 1980 when he starred in the acclaimed political satire “Yes, Minister” (BBC-2, 1980-1984), opposite Paul Eddington and Derek Fowlds. The role brought him a BAFTA TV Award in the category of Best Light Entertainment Performance and a Broadcasting Press Guild for Best Actor in a Light Entertainment Programme. About his role in the series, he commented, “I'm always astonished that people still remember that show. In America people come up to me and say, 'Hi, Sir Humph!' I can walk down Whitehall today and every policeman on the beat will say good morning to me.”
In 1980, Hawthorne also played Stephano in the TV film version of Shakespeare's “The Tempest,” starred as Brinsley Jukes in the short lived series “Jukes of Piccadilly” (Thame TV) and portrayed Mr. CJ Stryver in the CBS miniseries presentation of “ A Tale of Two Cities” (starred Chris Sarandon and Peter Cushing). Back to the big screen, he had a featured role in Mel Brooks' “History of the World: Part I” (1981), support Julie Christie in the David Gladwell directed science fiction “Memoirs of a Survivor” (1981), played Pyotr Baranovich in an adaptation of Craig Thomas' “Firefox” (1982, directed, produced and starred Clint Eastwood) and was reunited with director Richard Attenborough for the highly praised biopic “Gandhi” (1982, starred Ben Kingsley). He returned to the stage playing Orgon in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of “Tartuffe” (1983) and working with Derek Jacobi and Sinead Cusack in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of “Peer Gynt” (also 1983).
After “Yes, Minister” left the airwaves, Hawthorne received the role of Georgie Pillson in the short lived comedy series “Mapp & Lucia” (Channel 4, 1985-1986), starring Geraldine McEwan and Prunella Scales, and reprised his role of Sir Humphrey Appleby in the sequel “Yes, Prime Minister,” which ran from 1986 to 1988. He picked up two additional BAFTA TV Awards (1987 and 1988) for Best Light Entertainment Performance for his performance in the latter. His film credits include “The Black Cauldron” (1985, voice of Fflewddur Fflam), “Turtle Diary” (1985, reunited with Ben Kingsley) and “A Handful of Time” (1989).
On stage, Hawthorne starred with Glenda Jackson in a London stage production of “Across From the Garden of Allah” (1986) and portrayed Blair in “Hapgood” (1988), a play by Tom Stoppard at the Aldwych Theatre in London. In 1989, he portrayed C.S. Lewis in a British production of William Nicholson's play “Shadowlands” (1989), which he would reprise in a Broadway production in 1990 that would bring him a 1991 Tony for Best Actor and a New York Outer Critics Circle Award. He next starred as George III in a London production of “The Madness of George III,” a play by Alan Bennett. The production toured the U.K. and U.S. before returning to the National Theatre in 1993. It was then presented in Athens and Israel in 1994. For his performance in the play, Hawthorne received the Best Actor honor at the 1991 London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre Award) Awards, the 1992 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards and the 1992 Laurence Olivier Theatre Awards.
Following his Tony win, Hawthorne gained further notice in the U.S. with his villainous role of Dr. Raymond Cocteau in “Demolition Man” (1993), an American action film starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes that was directed by Marco Brambilla. He enjoyed even bigger recognition when he recreated his stage role of King George III in the feature film version “The Madness of King George” (1994), which was directed by Nicholas Hytner. The veteran actor was nominated for an Academy Award in 1995 for Best Actor in a Leading Role and won a BAFTA Film for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Costars of the film included Helen Mirren, Ian Holm and Rupert Everett.
Hawthorne was next cast as The Duke of Clarence in the film adaptation of “Richard III” (1995), which starred Sir Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent and Robert Downey Jr., costarred wit Eric Stoltz in the Showtime movie “Inside” (1996, as Colonel Kruger) and portrayed the role of Malvolio in Trevor Nunn's big screen adaptation of Shakespeare's “Twelfth Night” (1996). Also in 1996, he starred as Dr. Edgar Pascoe in television’s “The Fragile Heart” (1996), from which he picked up his next BAFTA Award. He then costarred with Mary-Louise Parker, Jimmy Smits and Jason Scott Lee in “Murder in Mind” (1997), where he also served as associate producer, played President Martin Van Buren in Steven Spielberg's “Amistad” (1997), supported Aidan Quinn in the ABC TV film “Forbidden Territory: Stanley's Search for Livingstone” (1997, as David Livingstone), had the important supporting role of Rodney Fraser in Nicholas Hytner's “The Object of My Affection” (1998), from which he nabbed a London Critics Circle Film's ALFS Award for British Supporting Actor of the Year and played Uncle Cullen in John Huddles' drama “At Sachem Farm” (1998), along side Minnie Driver and Rufus Sewell.
1999 saw Hawthorne portray Arthur Winslow in David Mamet's “The Winslow Boy,” which was based on the Terrence Rattigan play, and Kim Mennaker in George Hickenlooper's “The Big Brass Ring,” opposite William Hurt. He also provided the voice of Professor Porter in the Disney animated film “Tarzan,” played Judge Wendon in the drama “A Reasonable Man,” which was written, directed and starred Gavin Hood, and costarred with Joan Collins, Timothy Spall, Emma Chambers and Tom Hollander in “The Clandestine Marriage,” scripted by Hawthorne's life partner Trevor Bentham. The same year, he returned to the stage to star n the RSC production of “King Liar,” which premiered in Japan in August before moving to London in October.
Prior to his death, Hawthorne narrated the animated short “The Last Polar Bears” (2000), appeared as Lord William Lamb in the biographical miniseries “Victoria and Albert” (2001, aired in the U.S. on A&E) and played Santa Claus in the TNT original “Call Me Claus” (2001).
London Critics Circle Film: ALFS Award, British Supporting Actor of the Year, “The Object of My Affection,” 1999
BAFTA: Best Actor, “The Fragile Heart,” 1997
BAFTA: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, “The Madness of King George,” 1996
Empire: Best Actor, “The Madness of King George,” 1996
London Critics Circle Film: ALFS Award, British Actor of the Year, “The Madness of King George,” 1996
Laurence Olivier Theatre: Best Actor, “The Madness of King George III,” 1992
London Evening Standard Theatre: Best Actor, “The Madness of George III,” 1992
London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre Award): Best Actor, “The Madness of King George III,” 1991
Tony: Best Actor (Play), “Shadowlands,” 1991
New York Outer Critics Circle: Best Actor, “Shadowlands,” 1991
BAFTA: Best Light Entertainment Performance, “Yes, Prime Minister,” 1988
BAFTA: Best Light Entertainment Performance, “Yes, Prime Minister,” 1987
BAFTA: Best Light Entertainment Performance, “Yes, Minister,” 1983
Broadcasting Press Guild: Best Actor in a Light Entertainment Programme, “Yes Minister,” 1981
BAFTA: Best Light Entertainment Performance, “Yes, Minister,” 1980