"I never did anything about my stardom. It never meant anything to me." Tom Courtenay
Veteran British actor Tom Courtenay rose to fame in the early 1960s with a succession of successful films such as ''The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner'' (1962), ''Billy Liar'' (1963) and ''Dr. Zhivago'' (1965), which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Despite his success, Courtenay's fame began to wane in the late 1960s. However, he eventually revived his career in the early 1980s when he received a Best Actor Tony nomination for his performance of Norman in the Broadway play "The Dresser" (1981). He earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1983 when he reprised the role for its film adaptation, which was directed by Peter Yates. He was nominated for another Best Actor Tony for his work in "Otherwise Engaged" in 1977.
Courtenay also received rave reviews for his performances in the films "King & Country" (1964), "A Rather English Marriage" (1998; TV), "Whatever Happened to Harold Smith," (1999), "Last Orders" (2001) and "Nicholas Nickleby" (2002). In 2007, he portrayed Robert Carlyle's estranged father Leonard, a professor in meteorology, in the big screen version of Richard Doyle's 2002 disaster novel, "Flood," and Farder Coram, an advisor to the king of the Gyptians, in Chris Weitz's film adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantasy novel, "The Golden Compass," alongside Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. He will next star opposite Eileen Atkins in Peter Yates' adaptation of Ronald Harwood's book, "The Girl in Melanie Klein."
On a more personal note, the 5' 8" award winning actor was married to British actress Cheryl Kennedy. He currently lives in South London with his second wife, Isabel Crossley. Courtenay was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001.
Childhood and Family:
In Hull, Humberside, England, Thomas Daniel Courtenay was born on February 25, 1937, to a working class family. His father, Thomas Henry Courtenay, was a painter and cleaned fishing trawlers. Tom recently published a tribute to his mother, Anne Eliza Courtenay, in the acclaimed book ''Dear Tom.'' He also has a sister named Ann Courtenay.
Young Tom attended Kingston School, in Hull, and studied English literature at the University College London in England. He later honed in on his craft at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), which is also in London.
From 1973 to 1982, Tom was married to British actress Cheryl Kennedy (born on April 29, 1947). He married his second and present wife, Isabel Crossley, in 1988 and currently lives with her in South London. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
After training at RADA, Tom Courtenay joined the Old Vic in the early 1960s and made his debut in "The Seagull" at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. In 1961, he replaced Albert Finney as the star of the West End production of Keith Waterhouse's novel "Billy Liar." He later reprised the role in John Schlesinger's feature version in 1963, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA Film Award for Best British Actor.
Courtenay next starred as a rebellious young man sentenced to a boy's reformatory school in Tony Richardson's acclaimed adaptation of Alan Sillitoe's short story, "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" (1962). His performance received positive reviews and he won a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles and a Mar del Plata Film Festival Award for Best Actor.
In 1964, Courtenay played WWI deserter Private Arthur Hamp in Joseph Losey's war drama "King and Country" and received a BAFTA Film Award nomination for Best British Actor. He also won a Venice Film Festival Award for Best Actor. That same year, he joined London's National Theatre.
The following year, Courtenay was cast as Robin Grey in Bryan Forbes' film adaptation of James Clavell novel, "King Rat," and portrayed the idealistic revolutionary Pasha, Julie Christie's husband, in David Lean's loose adaptation of the famous 1957 novel by Boris Pasternak, "Doctor Zhivago," which handed Courtenay a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
"The film business is absurd. Stars don't last very long. It's much more interesting to be a proper actor." Tom Courtenay
Despite his rise to stardom, Courtenay's star began to fade in the late 1960s. He joined the Chichester Festival Theatre in 1966 and became a member of the Manchester Company in 1969. After removing his front teeth to play the title character of a prisoner in a Siberian labor camp in Caspar Wrede's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch" (1970), Courtenay headlined ''The Norman Conquests'' in the original West End production and made his Broadway debut in Simon Gray's "Otherwise Engaged" (1977) and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor (Play).
In 1980, Courtenay originated the role of Norman in the London production of "The Dresser," which was later brought to Broadway in 1981 and brought him a second Tony Award nomination for Best Actor (Play). In 1983, the play was adapted into a film by Peter Yates with Courtenay reprising his role of Norman. For his performance, he was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA Award, this time for Best Actor. He also won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama category). Courtenay then played Daniel Quilp in an animated version of Charles Dickens' "The Old Curiosity Shop" (1985) and joined Bill Cosby in "Leonard Part 6" (1987). He was also seen in "Happy New Year," a 1987 remake of Claude Lelouch's "La bonne annee" (1973).
In the new decade, Courtenay played the supporting role of a father of a slow-witted youth sentenced to death in "Let Him Have It," and played the lead in Karel Kachyna's "The Last Butterfly" (both in 1991). In 1994, he returned to the stage and won London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre) and London Evening Standard Theatre Best Actor Awards for his outstanding performance in ''Moscow Stations.'' The next year, he appeared on Broadway in "Uncle Vanya."
Returning to television, Courtenay appeared as Daniel Quilp in a Disney miniseries version of "The Old Curiosity Shop" (1995) and on the HBO series "Tracey Takes On..." (1996). After costarring with Albert Finney in "Art" (1996) on the London stage, Courtenay played Uncle Tony in "The Boy From Mercury" (1996) and was reunited with Finney in the TV movie version of Angela Lambert's novel, "A Rather English Marriage" (1998), for which he won a Best Actor BAFTA. He also won a Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival Award for his portrayal of a quiet middle-aged Englishman in "Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?" (1999).
The new millennium saw Courtenay release an autobiography titled ''Dear Tom.” The following year, he was nominated for a National Board of Review (NBR) Award for Best Acting by an Ensemble for his turn as one of the four friends (with Michael Caine, David Hemmings and Bob Hoskins) in Fred Schepisi's take on Graham Swift's 1996 Booker Prize-winning novel, "Last Orders" (2001). He also won a National Board of Review (NBR) Award for Best Acting by an Ensemble for his work in Douglas McGrath's motion picture based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens, "Nicholas Nickleby" (2002; with Charlie Hunnam, Christopher Plummer, Jim Broadbent and Jamie Bell).
Courtenay resumed his stage work in February 2003 with "Pretending To Be Me" (at the Comedy Theater in London), playing Philip Larkin. In May 2005, he appeared in "The Home Place," by Brian Friel. In March 2006, he starred as Arthur in the play "The Domino Man of Lancashire" by Nick Leather, which was broadcasted on BBC Radio 4.
In 2007, Courtenay costarred with Robert Carlyle in Tony Mitchell's big screen version of Richard Doyle's 2002 disaster novel, "Flood," and with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig in Chris Weitz's film adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantasy novel, "The Golden Compass.” He will soon star opposite Eileen Atkins in Peter Yates' upcoming adaptation of Ronald Harwood's book, "The Girl in Melanie Klein."
National Board of Review (NBR): Best Acting by an Ensemble, "Nicholas Nickleby," 2002
National Board of Review (NBR): Best Acting by an Ensemble, "Last Orders," 2001
Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival: Best Supporting Actor, "Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?" 2001
BAFTA: Best Actor, "A Rather English Marriage," 1999
London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre): Best Actor, ''Moscow Stations,'' 1994
London Evening Standard Theatre: Best Actor, ''Moscow Stations,'' 1994
Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama, "The Dresser," 1984
Venice Film Festival: Best Actor, "King & Country," 1964
BAFTA: Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner," 1963
Mar del Plata Film Festival: Best Actor, "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner," 1963