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Brian Blessed

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Brian Blessed

Brian Blessed at Cambridge Film Festival in 2007
Born (1936-10-09) 9 October 1936 (age 87)[1][2]
Alma materBristol Old Vic Theatre School
Occupation(s)Actor, author, comedian, director, presenter
Years active1962–present
SpouseHildegarde Neil (m. 1978–present)

Brian Blessed OBE (born 9 October 1936) is an English actor.

Early life[change | change source]

The son of William Blessed, a socialist miner, and Hilda Wall, Blessed was born at the Montague Hospital[3] in the town of Mexborough, Yorkshire.[4] He attended Bolton on Dearne Secondary Modern School, but after his father suffered an industrial accident, he was forced to leave school early at 14 and spent several years working at a variety of jobs, ranging from undertaker to plasterer's assistant. He completed his National Service as a parachutist in the Royal Air Force. He began his acting training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, alongside Patrick Stewart. He has written about his early life in his autobiography, Dynamite Kid (1992).

Career[change | change source]

An early role was that of PC "Fancy" Smith in the BBC police drama Z-Cars from 1962 to 1965. In 1966, Blessed appeared in Incident at Vichy at the Phoenix Theatre in London. Blessed had small roles in such cult shows as The Avengers (1967, 1969) and the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (1969). He portrayed Caesar Augustus in the BBC series I, Claudius. He portrayed Basileos in the BBC mini-series Michael J. Bird's The Aphrodite Inheritance (1979). He portrayed the father of Robin Hood, Lord Locksley, in the blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).

He has appeared in a number of Shakespearean roles on both stage and screen, including four of the five Shakespeare films directed by Kenneth Branagh: as The Duke of Exeter in Henry V (1989), Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing (1993), The Ghost of Hamlet's Father in Hamlet (1996), and the dual role of Duke Frederick and Duke Senior in As You Like It (2006). He also provided the voices of Bob in the animated series Kika & Bob (2008)[5] and Grampy Rabbit in Peppa Pig.

He also hosted the 1978 documentary on the life of Johann Sebastian Bach called The Joy of Bach in which he also portrayed Bach in different vignettes in this documentary.

Other roles have emphasised his comedic abilities: notably Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon (1980) – for which he is frequently remembered for the famous line "Gordon's alive!"; the mad, comic figure of Richard IV in the first series of The Black Adder (1983); and Spiro in the BBC adaptation of My Family and Other Animals (1987).[6] He also played the role of General Yevlenko in the miniseries War and Remembrance (1988). Blessed jokes he almost starred in Blackadder II (1986) as Queen Elizabeth but he wasn't available at the time of filming.[7]

He provided the vocal links on the Sony-Award-winning Christian O'Connell Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio and introduced adverts for Orange mobile phones. At Christmas 2006, he presented a panto Cinderella for Virgin Radio starring actors such as David Tennant and Thandie Newton. In November 2006, Blessed made a surprise appearance on the midday talk show Loose Women. Also, he is featured reading the story "The White City, Part 1" which is the final piece on the album Late Night Tales: Nightmares on Wax. Blessed was also the voice of Jean Valjean in Focus on the Family Radio Theatre's audio dramatic adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. In 2014 to 2019 Brian voiced British novelist and historian G.A henty for heirloom audio productions radio adaptations of G.A henty's novels written for young boys about history and adventure.

Blessed has also starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats as both Old Deuteronomy and Bustopher Jones during the original West End theatre production. In 2002, under the direction of Royal Shakespeare Company director Adrian Noble, Blessed originated the role of Baron Bomburst for the stage musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

During December 2005 to January 2006, Blessed headlined the pantomime production of Peter Pan, alongside CBBC Television presenter Kirsten O'Brien at the Regent Theatre in Ipswich. In late 2007 and early 2008, Blessed starred in the panto version of Peter Pan as Captain Hook at the Grove Theatre in Dunstable. He played the same role again in "Peter Pan" in late 2007, early 2008 and again at Christmas 2008 at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon.

Blessed was the narrator of the Sky1 series Crash Test Dummies, starring Steve Marsh and Dan Wright.

Since October 2008, Blessed presents the UK showings of the Japanese gameshow Unbeatable Banzuke on the Challenge channel under the name Banzuke Brian. He also guest hosted episodes of Have I Got News for You in May 2008 and April 2013.

In 2009, Blessed played the world's worst explorer, Sir Basil Champion – a character based upon Blessed's fictional inspiration, The Lost World's Professor Challenger – in the fourth story in The Scarifyers series, The Curse of the Black Comet. The story was broadcast on BBC7 in 2010.

In November 2009, Blessed starred in a series of online videos on the BBC Comedy website in which he played Henry VIII. The concept of the video series is that the Tudor king is alive & well, and living in a suburban semi with his long-suffering sixth wife Catherine Parr. Henry has embraced modern technology and lives his life online – insulting the King of France on Facebook, surfing for desirable women friends, and blocking the Pope on Twitter.[8]

In late 2009, Blessed starred as the Narrator in the In the Wings production of Peter and the Wolf at the New Victory Theater, New York.[9]

After a successful campaign on social networking site Facebook, satnav manufacturer TomTom recorded Brian Blessed's voice as an option for those using its satnav devices; Blessed's voice has been available in devices since October 2010.[10][11]

In September 2010, Blessed recorded the voiceover to Sheherazade, or The Princess, the Pirate and the Baboon!, an album of children's stories set to the classical music composition Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and also featuring the voices of Rory Bremner, Jess Murphy, Sam Morris and Nigel Garton. Brian voiced the role of the Great Sultan Shahryār; the album was released as the first in a series entitled Grandma Dingley's Ingeniously Musical Tales in March 2011.[12]

In 2013, Blessed starred in an advertising campaign for the New Zealand bank ASB playing a fictionalised version of himself encouraging the humble population to be proud of their achievements whether big or small.[13]

Other achievements[change | change source]

Blessed has attempted to climb Mount Everest three times,[14] getting to 28,200 feet in 1993 and 25,200 feet in 1996, but never reaching the summit.[15] He has reached the summit of Aconcagua, in Argentina, and Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. He is the oldest man to trek on foot to the magnetic North Pole,[16] and has undertaken an expedition deep into the jungles of Venezuela.

Blessed has an honorary position as official Shoutsperson of the University of York's Douglas Adams Society,[17] and in 2011 the University's student body voted to name a new study space as the 'Brian Blessed Centre for Quiet Study'.[18]

In 2004, Blessed sang on Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes, impersonating Luciano Pavarotti. He is known for his football knowledge and appeared as an expert on the British satellite station UKTV G2 during the 2006 World Cup. He also appeared on A Question of Sport in 2006 and again in 2011 and was a guest host of Have I Got News for You in May 2008, alongside guests Alan Duncan and Marcus Brigstocke (also making a surprise appearance in the Christmas special later in the year). His madcap manner quickly made the show deviate from its usual format, with Paul Merton remarking "Does anyone remember how this show used to be like?" In the same month he appeared as a guest on The Paul O'Grady Show.

Blessed was President of the Television and Radio Industries Club (TRIC) in 2007–2008 and presented the 2008 TRIC Awards at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane. TRIC is an organisation which honours achievers in the film and radio industries. He has honorary degrees from the University of Bradford, awarded in July 2003, and Sheffield Hallam University, awarded in 2004.

He also stars in the Living Legend show in Jersey, Channel Islands. It features many celebrity faces, such as Roger Lloyd Pack, Samantha Janus, Kevin Whately and Tony Robinson. The story is of the history of the island.

In 2009, he featured on the song "Army of the Damned", part of the debut album Beneath the Veiled Embrace by UK power-metal band Pythia, reading the poem "Suicide in the Trenches" by Siegfried Sassoon.[19] He also contributed to "The Joust" by Eden Burning in 1994.[20]

In June 2011, a campaign by Cambridge graduates resulted in Blessed's being nominated for the post of Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

In February 2013, a piece of DLC for the PC game War of the Roses will feature narration from Blessed.[21]

Personal life[change | change source]

Blessed lives in Windlesham, Surrey. He married actress Hildegarde Neil in 1978 and they have one daughter, Rosalind.[22] He also has a number of dogs and is a patron of Hopefield Animal Sanctuary.[23]

Filmography[change | change source]

Film[change | change source]

Brian Blessed
Year Title Role Notes
1967 Asterix the Gaul Caous (voice)
1969 Till Death Us Do Part Sergeant
The Same Skin Jack Baird
1970 Country Dance
1971 The Last Valley Korski
The Trojan Women Talthybius
1972 Henry VIII and His Six Wives Earl of Suffolk
Man of La Mancha Pedro
1980 Flash Gordon Prince Vultan
1983 High Road to China Suleman Khan
1989 Henry V Exeter
Asterix and the Big Fight Caous (voice) (English version)
1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Lord Locksley
Galahad of Everest George Mallory
1992 Freddie as F.R.O.7 El Supremo (voice)
1993 Much Ado About Nothing Signor Antonio
1994 Chasing the Deer Maj. Elliot
1996 Hamlet Ghost
1999 King Lear King Lear
Tarzan Clayton (voice)
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Boss Nass (voice)
2004 Alexander Wrestling trainer
2006 The Conclave Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini
2007 Back in Business Trevor Pilkington
2008 Agent Crush Boris Goudphater (voice)
2012 The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists Pirate King (voice)
Katherine of Alexandria (post-production)
2013 Dorothy of Oz Judge Jawbreaker (voice) (post-production)

Television[change | change source]

Year Title Role Notes
1962–1965 Z-Cars PC "Fancy" Smith
1966 The Three Musketeers Porthos
1967-1969 The Avengers Mark Dayton Episodes: "The Superlative Seven"
"The Morning After"
1968 Cold Comfort Farm Reuben Starkadder Episodes: "Folk"
1969 Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) The Ghost Who Saved the Bank at Monte Carlo
1969-1970 The Wednesday Play Peter
Episodes: "Son of Man"
"Wine of India"
1971 Jackanory Storyteller Episodes: "The Miller and the Smiling Cat - Part 1"
"The Miller and the Smiling Cat - Part 2"
"The Imp and the Nagging Wife"
"The Crow-Fairy - Part 1"
"The Crow-Fairy - Part 2"
1972-1973 Arthur of the Britons Mark of Cornwall Episodes: "Arthur Is Dead"
"The Duel"
"Rolf the Preacher"
"The Prize"
"The Prisoner"
"The Marriage Feast"
"The Games"
1974 Boy Dominic William Woodcock
1975 King Arthur, the Young Warlord Mark of Cornwall
1976 The Day After Tomorrow Dr Tom Bowen
The Sweeney Frank Kemble Episode: "Ringer"
Space: 1999 Dr. Cabot Rowland, "The Metamorph" Mentor Episode: "Death's Other Dominion"
I, Claudius Augustus Episodes: "A Touch of Murder"
"Waiting in the Wings"
"What Shall We Do About Claudius?"
"Poison Is Queen"
"Old King Log"
1977 Survivors Brod Episode: "Law of the Jungle"
1978 Blake's 7 Vargas Episode: "Cygnus Alpha"
1980 The Little World of Don Camillo Peppone
The Joy of Bach J.S. Bach
1983 Great Little Railways Himself
The Black Adder Richard IV Episodes: "The Foretelling"
"Born to be King"
"The Archbishop"
"The Queen of Spain's Beard"
"Witchsmeller Pursuivant"
"The Black Seal"
1984 The Last Days of Pompeii Olinthus
1986 Doctor Who King Yrcanos Episode: "Mindwarp"
Return to Treasure Island Long John Silver
1987 My Family and Other Animals Spiro
1989 Minder Detective Episode: "The Last Video Show"
1990 The Castle of Adventure Sam
1991 Lovejoy Harry Catapodis Episode: "The Black Virgin of Vladimir"
1993 Lady Chatterley Petty Officer Episode: "Episode #1.4"
1994 MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis Atticus (TV movie)
1995 Johnny and the Dead William 'Bill' Sticker
Kidnapped Cluny MacPherson (TV movie)
1996 Catherine the Great Bestuzhev
1997 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Squire Western
1998 Dennis the Menace Captain Episode: "Skull and Crossbones"
1999 Adam's Family Tree Cavalier Episode: "A Cavalier Spirit"
The Big Knights Sir Morris (voice) (TV movie)
The Greatest Store in the World Mr. Scottley
The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything King Henry VIII (TV movie)
2004 Winter Solstice Max
The Legend of the Tamworth Two Wild Boar (voice)
2006 Alexander the Great Narrator (Video documentary)
Mist: The Tale of a Sheepdog Puppy Sir Gregory (TV movie)
2006-2010 Peppa Pig Grampy Rabbit Episodes: "Grandpa Pig's Boat"
"Grampy Rabbits Lighthouse"
2007-2011 Doctors Dominic Duvall / Micky 'Rebel' Becket Episodes: "Rebel, Rebel"
"The Devil's Daughter"
2008 Kika & Bob Bob
The Wrong Door Captain Goiter Episodes: "The Train Pirates"
Family Guy Prince Vultan Episode: "Road to Germany"
The Royal Sir Edward Fawcett Episode: "Pastures New"
Have I Got News for You Guest Presenter Episodes: "Episode #35.3"
"Episode #36.10"
2009 Henry 8.0 Henry Tudor
2010 Fee Fi Fo Yum GTV Announcer (voice)
Little Princess Great Uncle Walter Episode: "I Want My Horace"
2010-2011 The Legend of Dick and Dom King Episodes: "Beastly"
2011 Wojtek: The Bear That Went to War Narrator (Video documentary)
QI Himself Episode: "Ice"
2012 Wizards vs Aliens Nekross King (Voice)
The Amazing World of Gumball Santa Claus (voice) Episode: "Christmas"
2013 Have I Got News for You Guest Presenter Episode: "Episode #45.2"

Video Games[change | change source]

Year Title Role
1996 Privateer 2: The Darkening Uncle Kashumai
1999 Tarzan Clayton
2002 Kingdom Hearts
2003 Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior Admiral Constantine
2006 Rome Total War Narrator
2008 Viking: Battle for Asgard
2013 War of the Roses

Bibliography[change | change source]

  • The Turquoise Mountain: Brian Blessed on Everest (1991)
  • Dynamite Kid (1992)
  • Nothing's Impossible (1994)
  • To the Top of the World (1995)
  • Quest for the Lost World (1999)

References[change | change source]

  1. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  2. "BFI biodata". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. 16 April 2009. Archived from the original on 2013-04-02. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  3. Blessed, Brian (1992). "1". The Dynamite Kid (1 ed.). London, UK: Bloomsbury. p. 1. ISBN 0-7475-1275-2.
  4. "Brian Blessed". NNDB. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
  5. "Cast and Crew page on the Official Kika and Bob website".
  6. "Gerald Durrell's lasting legacy". BBC News. 15 September 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
  7. "Brian Blessed Web Chat". The Guardian. 22 August 2001. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  8. "Pieces of 8.0". BBC. 20 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  9. "2009-2010 New Victory Theater Show Schedule". New Victory Theater. Archived from the original on 2013-12-24. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
  10. Cox, Caleb (5 August 2010). "Brian Blessed lends his tongue to TomTom • reghardware". Reghardware.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  11. "Brian Blessed voice now available for TomTom devices". Brianblessed.tomtom.com. Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  12. "Sheherazade or The Princess, the Pirate and the Baboon! | Grandma Dingley's Ingeniously Musical Tales". Grandmadingley.com. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  13. "Dear ASB, who is Brian Blessed?". Archived from the original on 2013-02-19. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
  14. Matt Dickinson, "How We Met: Matt Dickinson & Brian Blessed", independent.co.uk, 19 February 2012. See Dickinson's remark: "But as for going back to Everest with Brian: in truth, he's too old now to try again."
  15. Charles Arthur, Blessed launches bitter attack on 'human lemmings' of Everest", independent.co.uk, 30 May 1996.
  16. Benedictus, Leo (29 July 2003). "Why I love Brian Blessed". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
  17. "DougSoc". Users.york.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  18. Hoagy Davis-Digges (25 January 2011). "Union General Meeting sees highest voting numbers since 2008". Nouse.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  19. "some are inexplicably followed by Brian Blessed's stentorian narrations of British anti-war poetry". Retrieved 2011-05-02.
  20. Eden Burning Mirth and Matter sleeve notes.
  21. Savage, Phil (1 February 2013). "War of the Roses details Brian Blessed DLC, free content and Kingmaker gold edition". PC Gamer.
  22. Sleeman, Elizabeth (2003). The International Who's Who 2004: 2004 (67 ed.). Routledge. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-85743-217-6.
  23. "Hopefield Patrons and Trustees". Hopefield Animal Sanctuary. Archived from the original on 4 December 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2011.

Other websites[change | change source]