“A woman, who shall remain nameless, said to me, 'You're going to love LA, Paul, because over here ambition is not a dirty word.' And I thought, 'Well, you've named one of the things that I feel quite patriotic about.' It's still a little bit embarrassing in Britain if you're seen to try.” Paul Bettany.
British actor Paul Bettany is widely known for playing Charles Herman, the roommate and best friend of the schizophrenic, Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash Jr. in Ron Howard’s Oscar-winning biopic A Beatiful Mind (2001). He later gained more recognition for portraying writer Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight's Tale (2001) and playing an Opus Dei monk called Silas in the controversial The Da Vinci Code (2006). Bettany was also credited in films like Bent (1997), Gangster No. 1 (2000), The Reckoning (2003), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) and Firewall (2006). He will star in the upcoming films, His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass and There for Me.
The 6' 3'' tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed handsome actor is now the husband of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly. Previously, he was linked to Scottish actress Laura Fraser (born on July 24, 1976; met in late 1999 when they both auditioned for a film; co-starred in A Knight's Tale) and British actress Emily Mortimer (born on December 1, 1971).
"I don't believe in anything except love. And beer." Paul Bettany.
Childhood and Family:
"I'm English, so I can't wear a baseball cap. I'd look like white trash, like I should have a beer and a dog called Skeeter." Paul Bettany.
Born in London on May 27, 1971, Paul Bettany grew up in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire from age nine. His father, Thane Bettany, was an actor and drama teacher, and his mother, Anne Kettle, was a school secretary, singer and actress. They divorced in 1993 after 25 years of marriage. His maternal grandmother, Olga Gwynne (her maiden and stage name), was a successful actress, while his maternal grandfather was a musician and promoter. The middle child of the family, Paul has two siblings: older sister Sarah, a writer who lives in Cornwall (England) with her daughter Emily, and younger brother Matthew, who died at age eight when he fell from a roof of a tennis pavilion. After the death of his brother, Paul later obsessed with having lots of children.
Bettany left school at age 16 and spent the next two years as a street performer (busker) in London. After a year working at a home for the elderly, 19-year-old Bettany decided to be an actor and he enrolled at the London Drama Centre in Chalk Farm, London.
"If everything went down the tubes in my life, I'd still wake up next to the prettiest woman on Earth." Paul Bettany (on wife Jennifer Connely).
In 2001, while filming for A Beautiful Mind, Bettany met costar actress Jennifer Connelly (born on December 12, 1970) and they began dating the next year. On New Year's Day of 2003, the couple exchanged wedding vows in a Scottish ceremony attended by a small circle of friends and family. Bettany then moved to Brooklyn with Connelly and her son Kai Dugan (born July 1997; father: David Dugan). On August 5, 2003, Bettany and Connelly welcomed their own son, Stellan (named after the actor Stellan Skarsgard who acted with Bettany in 2003’s Dogville).
"It's so extraordinary, listening to their little heartbeat. I know it's no more a miracle than eating or making waste, but it seems so miraculous when it's happening to you. I'm really over the moon about it." Paul Bettany (on children).
The Far Side of the World
"Acting is about sitting with great language written by someone far brighter than you. But when you're a kid, if you're honest about why you're doing it, it's because you want girls to kiss you. And I suppose on some level it still is." Paul Bettany.
Graduating from a drama school, Paul Bettany made his stage debut in Stephen Daldry's acclaimed West End revival of An Inspector Calls at the Aldwych Theatre, playing the role of Eric Birling. He also appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar, the latter of which earned him a Charleson Award nomination.
Meanwhile, he began appearing on television, as a guest on an episode of the TV series the short-lived crime mystery "Wycliffe" (1994) and the long-running crime drama "The Bill" (1996). And after a worthy appearance in the finale of Sean Bean's series “Sharpe’s Waterloo” (based on the novel by Bernard Cornwell) as The Prince of Orange, Bettany made his film debut with a small role as a Nazi captain in director Sean Mathias' adaptation of the 1979 play, Bent (1997). In the Holocaust drama, Bettany shared the screen with Clive Owen, Jude Law, and Ian McKellen.
Following his big screen debut, Bettany had a supporting role in David Leland's drama movie based on the book Land Girls by Angela Huth, The Land Girls (1998; starring Catherine McCormack and Rachel Weisz). On the small screen, he appeared in the TV movies Coming Home (1998), Killer Net (1998) and “Every Woman Knows a Secret" (1999, miniseries). He also costarred in Ross Kettle's film version of his own play, After the Rain (1999).
In the new millennium, Bettany acted opposite Stellan Skarsgård and Chris Penn in writer-director Stewart Sugg's dark comedy Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) and with Jonathan Pryce and David Morrissey in Rachel Samuels' drama The Suicide Club. He nabbed his first leading in films, as the young incarnation of the title character in Paul McGuigan-directed British mob drama Gangster No. 1 (also starring Malcolm McDowell and David Thewlis). For his role in the film, Bettany was nominated for Best Actor by London Film Critics Circle Awards.
During that time, Bettany costarred in William Marsh's dark comedy inspired by Martin Amis' novel, Dead Babies, and debuted in a US TV production in the TNT miniseries adaptation of Charles Dickens's novel "David Copperfield,” playing James Steerforth. He eventually had his breakthrough screen role as writer Geoffrey Chaucer in writer-director Brian Helgeland's A Knight's Tale (2001), which loosely based on The Knight's Tale from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The role won Bettany Evening Standard Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Afterward, Bettany portrayed Charles Herman, the roommate and best friend of the schizophrenic, Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash Jr. (played by Russell Crowe), in Ron Howard’s Oscar-winning biopic A Beautiful Mind (2001). The role nominated Bettany a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture. The following year, Bettany more roles rolled in. He played the suave Rickie who was torn between two sisters (played by Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Williams) in Thaddeus O'Sullivan's romantic drama based on Rosamond Lehmann's novel, The Heart of Me (2002) and was cast as an aspiring writer in writer-director Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003; starring Nicole Kidman). He also portrayed a disgraced priest in Paul McGuigan's murder-mystery set during the medieval period, The Reckoning (2003), adapted from Barry Unsworth's novel, and was nominated a Grace Award at the MovieGuide Awards for Most Inspiring Movie Acting.
Bettany reteamed with Crowe, as physician, naturalist and spy Stephan Maturin, in Peter Weir’s adaptation of Patrick O'Brien's novels, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), which handed him a BAFTA nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. He also starred as a washed-up tennis pro named Peter Colt who falls for an up and coming tennis star (played by Kirsten Dunst) in director Richard Loncraine's romantic comedy, Wimbledon (2004). The role nominated Bettany an Empire Award for Best British Actor. That same year, he starred as Y in Toa Stappard's 8-minute film Euston Road and reprised his role in its full-length version in 2005, Stories of Lost Souls.
"One of my film heroes is Peter Weir, who made _Fearless_ but also made Green Card (1990). Ang Lee makes a western, he makes a Seventies psycho movie, a costume drama and a monster movie. I wanted to be like that. I finished this in October and I haven't worked since, because my wife [the actress Jennifer Connelly] had just had the baby and I wanted to be with them. But I've just taken on a film called Firewall (2006), which is a thriller with Harrison Ford. I'm doing it because I've never done a thriller before and I just get ... I just get bored if I don't do different things." Paul Bettany.
In 2006, Bettany costarred with Harrison Ford as mysterious potential costumer Bill Cox in the box office hit action-thriller, Firewall, directed by Richard Loncraine. About costar actor Harrison Ford, Bettany once said: "I wouldn't want to tumble with Harrison Ford in real life. He's a tough son of a b***h. I threw that man through a window seven times and he landed on his head, got up, rebuilt the window with the crew and then got thrown through it again. I hit that man in the stomach and he said, 'Could you just land it a bit harder so I could feel it?' So I landed it a bit harder and he wanted a bit more so he could react to it. Finally, I just wound one up and let loose on him and he said, 'That's it!' It was the most humiliating day of my life."
More recently, Bettany portrayed an Opus Dei monk called Silas in Ron Howard's much anticipated big-screen adaptation of Dan Brown's best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. The controversial film was previewed at the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival on May 17, 2006. He is attached to play Lord Asriel in director Chris Weitz's film version of Philip Pullman's novel, His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (alongside Nicole Kidman and Eva Green), and will play a role in the forthcoming drama There for Me, opposite Saffron Burrows (in talks).
“My plan - well, it isn't much of a plan, but it's mine and I like it - is to try to do lots of different things.” Paul Bettany
- Jordan Awards: Best Actor, Wimbledon, 2005
- GQ Men of the Year: Actor of the Year, 2004
- Elle Style: Best Actor, 2004
- Evening Standard British Film: Best Actor, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 2004
- London Critics Circle: British Actor of the Year, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 2004
- London Critics Circle: British Supporting Actor of the Year, A Knight's Tale, 2002
- Evening Standard British Film: Best Actor, The Heart of Me, 2002