“I've always believed Americans have one huge readymade gift when it comes to acting in front of a camera, the ability to relax. Take the supreme relaxed authenticity of a James Stewart or a George Clooney compared with the brittle contrivances of a Laurence Olivier or a Kenneth Branagh, marvelous as they are,” Stephen Fry.
British actor, comedian, writer, television host and film director Stephen Fry first gained fame as part of the comedy double act “Fry and Laurie,” along with Hugh Laurie, whom he met in 1980 through mutual friend Emma Thompson (while they all attended the University of Cambridge). The two have worked together in several projects, including their own sketch show “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” (1989-1995) and “Jeeves and Wooster” (1990-1993). On his own, Fry is perhaps best recognized for starring in the biopic “Wilde” (1997), for which he netted a Golden Globe nomination, a Golden Satellite nomination and a Seattle International Film Festival Award, and as Inspector Thomson in Robert Altman's “Gosford Park” (2001), where he shared nominations at the Screen Actors Guild, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and the Florida Film Critics Circle awards, to name a few. Other films he has acted in include “Peter's Friends” (1992), “I.Q.” (1994), “A Civil Action” (1998), “Relative Values” (2000), “Le divorce” (2003), “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story” (2005), “V for Vendetta” (2006) and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010). He made his directorial debut with “Bright Young Things” (2003), from which he picked up nominations at the British Independent Film Awards and the Emden International Film Festival. Fry's television credits include regular roles on “Happy Families” (1985), “Blackadder II” (1986), “This Is David Lander” (1988), “Blackadder Goes Forth” (1989), “Baddiel's Syndrome” (2001) and “Kingdom” (2007-2009) and a recurring role in Fox's “Bones” (2007-2009). Fry is popular among game show fans as the host of “QI,” a gig he has retained since 2003. He has received a Rose d'Or award and several BAFTA nominations for his work on the series.
In addition to his work in television and film, Fry has contributed to several radio shows, including “Absolute Power” (BBC Radio 4, 2000-2006). He has also written columns and articles for magazines and newspapers and four novels titled “The Liar” (1992), “The Hippopotamus” (1994), “Making History (an example of alternate history)” (1996), which won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, and “The Stars' Tennis Balls” (2000). He also released an autobiography titled “Moab Is My Washpot: an autobiography” (1997). Other books he has penned include “Paperweight” (collection of articles, 1992), “Rescuing the Spectacled Bear: A Peruvian Diary” (2002), “Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music” (2004; with Tim Lihoreau), “The Ode Less Traveled: Unlocking the Poet Within” (2005) and “Stephen Fry in America” (2008). In 2009, he released an audio book called “The Dongle of Donald Trefusis.”
Childhood and Family:
On August 24, 1957, in Hampstead, London, England, Stephen John Fry was born to Alan Fry, a physicist and inventor, and Marianne Eve Fry, a homemaker. The second of three kids, he has an older brother named Roger and a sister named Jo Fry (younger), who is his agent. His family relocated to Norfolk when he was very young. Stephen struggled with his studies because of dyslexia and was asked to leave several of the boarding schools he attended. He briefly attended Cawston Primary School in Cawston, Norfolk, moved to Stouts Hill Preparatory School, and then to the Uppingham School in Rutland. He was kicked out of Uppingham at age 15 and subsequently from Paston School in Norfolk. A troubled youth, Stephen left home at age 17 and used stolen credit cards to support himself. He was arrested and jailed for three months in Pucklechurch Prison before earning probation at his trial. After his release, he decided to clean up his life and resumed his education at City College Norwich. He went on to win a scholarship to Queens' College, in Cambridge, where he majored in English. While at Cambridge, he joined the theater group Footlights Club and met his future collaborators Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson there.
Stephen is homosexual, a fact he has disclosed since he was young. His sexual orientation sparked conflict with his father that led to a suicide attempt when he was 16. This preceded him leaving home and his problems with the law. Currently, Stephen lives in London with his partner, Daniel Cohen, whom he met in 1995.
Alice in Wonderland
Stephen Fry began performing comedy at Cambridge. As a member of the famed Footlights Club, he wrote his first play, “Latin (or Tobacco and Boys),” and it won the Fringe First prize at the 1980 Edinburgh Festival. He made his television debut with Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson when the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue “The Cellar Tape” was broadcasted on television in 1982. Written by Fry, Laurie, Thompson and Tony Slattery, the revue, which won the first Perrier Award at the 1981 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, attracted the attention of Granada Television, who soon recruited Fry, Laurie and Thompson to star with Ben Elton in the sketch comedy show “There's Nothing to Worry About” (1982). It was followed by their performances in “Alfresco” (1983-1984), in which Fry and Hugh Laurie launched a reputation as a comedy act. The two eventually received their own show called “The Crystal Cube” (BBC, 1983). The series, however, was canceled after its first episode. After the cancellation of the series, the two appeared in an episode of “The Young Ones” called “Bambi” (1984) and Fry worked in the Ben Elton written comedy drama “Happy Families” (1985) and the Rowan Atkinson series “Blackadder II” (1986), in which he co-starred as Lord Melchett. The duo also wrote and performed sketches on the comedy show “Saturday Live” (1986). Meanwhile on stage, Fry acted in the production of “Forty Years On” (1984) and adapted the successful musical “Me and My Girl” (also 1984), starring Robert Lindsay, Emma Thompson and Frank Thornton. The latter production was transferred to the West End Adelphi Theatre on February 12, 1985, and would be closed eight years later after 3,303 performances. Following a subsequent Britain tour, the revived London production opened on Broadway on August 10, 1986, and received 13 Tony nominations. Fry also made his feature acting debut in Mike Newell's “The Good Father” (1985), starring Anthony Hopkins and Jim Broadbent.
In 1987, Fry and Laurie wrote and performed in a sketch show for BBC that would become a pilot for the very successful series “A Bit of Fry and Laurie.” The show ran for 26 episodes between 1989 and 1995. Fry then guest starred in various series, including “Filthy Rich & Catflap” (1987), “Black Adder the Third” (1987), “The New Statesman” (1989), “Screen Two” (1990), “Woof” (1993) and CBS' “Ned Blessing: The Story of My Life and Times” (1993). He next starred as David Lander in the series “This Is David Lander” (1988), Julian Holmes-Coppitt in the TV miniseries “Anything More Would Be Greedy” (1989, opposite Robert Bathurst and Michael Shannon), reprised his role of Melchett for the BAFTA winning series “Blackadder Goes Forth” (1989), and was reunited with Laurie for the notable comedy show “Jeeves and Wooster” (1990-1993). He also originated the role of philosopher Humphry in the London production of Simon Gray's “The Common Pursuit” (1988), a role he would reprise in the BBC/PBS version of the play in 1992, and served as a regular contestant on the well known improvisational comedy radio show “Whose Line Is It Anyway” (1988).
Fry returned to the big screen in 1988 when he made a cameo appearance in Charles Crichton's “A Fish called Wanda,” starring John Cleese (also co-wrote the screenplay with Crichton), Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin, and had a small role in Charles Sturridge's Oscar nominated “A Handful of Dust.” He next starred as Peter Morton in “Peter's Friends” (1992), which was directed and produced by Kenneth Branagh and reunited him with long time collaborators Laurie and Thompson. He then appeared in Ben McPherson's short “Sylvia Hates Sam” (1993) and as James Moreland in the American comedy “I.Q.,” (1994) helmed by Fred Schepisi and starring Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan and Walter Matthau.
During the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, Fry also acted in several television films and specials, including the funny remake “The Laughing Prisoner” (1987, also a co-writer), “Blackadder: The Cavalier Years” (1988), “Stalag Luft” (1993, starred as James Forrester) and John Schlesinger's “Cold Comfort Farm” (1995, opposite Eileen Atkins, Kate Beckinsale and Rufus Sewell). In 1995, Fry suffered a nervous breakdown while appearing in the West End production of Simon Gray's “Cell Mates” and after the incident, withdrew from the public eye for several days.
After “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” left the airwaves, Fry took supporting roles in the independent movie “The Steal” (1995), for director and writer John Hay, and Terry Jones' adventure “The Wind in the Willows” (1996), starring Steve Coogan and Eric Idle, before gaining major recognition starring in the biographical film “Wilde” (1997), about Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde. For his bravura performance in the film, which was helmed by Brian Gilbert and scripted by Julian Mitchell and based on the Pulitzer Prize winning 1987 biography of “Oscar Wilde” by Richard Ellmann, Fry was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama and a Golden Satellite in the same category. He also won a Golden Space Needle Award for Best Actor at the 1998 Seattle International Film Festival. Fry followed the success with supporting roles in Bob Spiers' “Spice World” (1997), a comedy for the popular pop group Spice Girls, David Yates' “The Tichborne Claimant” (1998), the film adaptation of Jonathan Harr's “A Civil Action” (1998, starred John Travolta and Robert Duvall) and Peter Hewitt's “Whatever Happened to Harold Smith” (1999, as Dr. Peter Robinson). He also reprised his role of Melchett in the short “Blackadder Back & Forth” (1999).
Entering the new millennium, Fry began his starring role of Charles Prentiss on the BBC Radio 4 comedy show “Absolute Power,” opposite John Bird. The show ran for 22 episodes between January 2000 and November 2006. “Absolute Power” was made into a television show that ran November 2003 to August 2005, with Fry reprising his role of Charles Prentiss. Also in 2000, Fry played the role of Professor Bellgrove in BBC's “Gormenghast,” a four episode series based on the first two novels of Mervyn Peake's “Gormenghast” series, Sir Kenelm Digby in the A&E television film “Longitude,” Frazer Crane in the Mary McGuckian directed biopic “Best,” and Frederick Crestwell in the British comedy feature “Relative Values,” starring Julie Andrews, William Baldwin and Colin Firth. In the Spanish comedy film “Sabotage,” he costarred as Wellington, opposite David Suchet as Napoleon.
In 2001, Fry shared a degree of prominence with the successful period drama “Gosford Park,” directed by Robert Altman and written by Julian Fellowes. Starring an ensemble cast that included Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins, Alan Bates and Michael Gambon, the film was a hit at the box office with nearly $88 million worldwide gross against a budget of $19.8 million and was nominated for seven Oscars, among other recognitions. As Inspector Thomson, he shared a Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture, Broadcast Film Critics Association's Critics Choice Award for Best Acting Ensemble, a Florida Film Critics Circle for Best Ensemble Cast, an Online Film Critics Society for Best Ensemble, and Satellite’s Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Motion Picture Ensemble. The same year, Fry could also be seen in “Fourplay,” an indie comedy directed, written and starred in by Mike Binder, and “The Discovery of Heaven,” which was directed by Jeroen Krabbé. On the small screen, he portrayed The Psychiatrist on the British comedy series “Baddiel's Syndrome.”
After playing Andre Breton in the BBC TV film “Surrealissimo: The Trial of Salvador Dali” and Sir Anthony Silk in the Peter Hewitt comedy “Thunderpants” (both 2002), Fry made his feature directorial debut with “Bright Young Things” (2003), which he adapted from the Evelyn Waugh 1930 novel “Vile Bodies.” He was nominated for the Douglas Hickox Award at the 2003 British Independent Film Awards and the Emden Film Award at the 2004 Emden International Film Festival for his work on the film. Under his direction, British actress Fenella Woolgar earned a British Independent Film nomination for Best Newcomer, a Chlotrudis nomination for Best Supporting Actress, an Empire nomination for Best Newcomer and a London Critics Circle Film's ALFS nomination for British Supporting Actress of the Year. He also had a small role in the film. The same year, he appeared in James Ivory's “Le divorce,” starring Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson.
2003 also found Fry begin hosting the British comedy panel game television quiz show, “QI.” It was broadcasted on BBC Two from 2003 to 2008 and moved to BBC One in 2009. He was handed the 2006 Rose d'Or award for Best Game Show Host for his work on the series and has been nominated for BAFTA TV Awards in the category of Best Entertainment Performance four times (2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008).
From 2004 to 2006, Fry had roles in such films as Edouard Nammour's “Tooth,” “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” (TV), which starred Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers, “A Bear Named Winnie” (TV), “Tom Brown's Schooldays” (TV, as Dr. Thomas Arnold), Dave McKean's “MirrorMask,” Michael Winterbottom's “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story,” James McTeigue's “V for Vendetta” (as Deitrich) and “Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker.” His voice could also be heard as the narrator for the film version of “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” (2005), “Little Claus and Big Claus” (2006), the animated television series “Pocoyo” (2005) and as Owl in an episode of “Dirty Tricks” (also 2005). He was then featured in the two part television documentary “Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive” (2006), which won an International Emmy Award for Documentary in 2007.
Fry next portrayed Minister Tormer in Robert Young' “Eichmann” (2007), Stephen Fry in Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson's “St. Trinian's” (2007) and Dr. Marsh in Jean-Claude Schlim's “House of Boys” (2009). He also starred as Peter Kingdom in the British series “Kingdom” (2007-2009), which he executive produced, and had a recurring role on Fox's popular series “Bones” (2007-2009). In 2008, he wrote and hosted the BBC six part travel show “Stephen Fry in America” and the three part series “Fry's English Delight” for BBC Radio 4.
Recently, in 2010, Fry costarred with Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover and Michael Sheen in Tim Burton's “Alice in Wonderland.” He will play Mr. Eustache in “Clovis Dardentor” (2010), a film scripted by Lizzie Hopley, and Mr. Bennet in Fenton Bailey's “Jane Austen Handheld' (2010).
National Television (UK): Special Recognition Award, 2010
Rose d'Or Light Entertainment Festival: Golden Rose, Best Game Show Host, “QI,” 2006
Broadcast Film Critics Association: Critics Choice Award, Best Acting Ensemble, “Gosford Park,” 2002
Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC): Best Ensemble Cast, “Gosford Park,” 2002
Online Film Critics Society (OFCS): Best Ensemble, “Gosford Park,” 2002
Satellite: Special Achievement Award, Outstanding Motion Picture Ensemble, “Gosford Park,” 2002
Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture, “Gosford Park,” 2002
Seattle International Film Festival: Golden Space Needle Award, Best Actor, “Wilde,” 1998