Ian Holm
Birth Date:
September 12, 1931
Birth Place:
Goodmayes, Essex, England, UK
Famous for:
Oscar nominee for 'Chariots of Fire' (1981)
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The Sweet Hereafter


“I’ve always been a minimalist. It was Bogart who once said, ‘If you think the right thoughts, the camera will pick it up.’ The most important thing in the face is the eyes, and if you can make the eyes talk, you’re halfway there.” Ian Holm

British accomplished performer of film, television and stage Ian Holm first became famous among American moviegoers with his role as Ash in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). He received further notice with his Academy Award-nominated turn as Sam Mussabini in Hugh Hudson’s Chariots of Fire (1981), where he also collected a Cannes Film Festival Award and a BAFTA Film Award. His award-winning roles in movies like Brazil, Wetherby, Dance with a Stranger and Dreamchild (all 1985) further cemented his status as a proficient performer. In 1997, Holm’s once again boosted his popularity with his two high-profile roles: Vito Cornelius in The Fifth Element and Mitchell in The Sweet Hereafter. The latter film brought the actor a Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, a Genie Award, a Toronto Film Critics Association Award and a National Board of Review Award. Holm is also known for playing hobbit Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), in which he took home a 2002 Phoenix Film Critics Society Award, a 2003 National Board of Review Award, a 2004 Screen Actors Guild Award and a 2004 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award. On the small screen, the Oscar-nominated actor won a Royal Television Society award for starring in the miniseries “The Lost Boys” (1978). He also has acted in numerous television films and series.

As a stage actor, Holm picked up a London Evening Standard Award after starring in “Henry V” and later in 1967, he took home a Tony Award for his work in “The Homecoming.” He also nabbed a London Evening Standard Theatre Award and a London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre) Award for “Moonlight” (1993) and a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award, a London Critics Circle Theatre Award, as well as a London Evening Standard Theatre Award for his work in “King Lear” (1997)

A three-time divorcee, Holm is now the husband of Sophie de Stempel, whom he married in late 2003. He has two daughters, Jessica and Sarah-Jane, with first wife Lynn Mary Shaw (together from 1955-1965) and a son, Harry, with second wife Sophie Baker (married from 1982 to 1986). His third wife was popular actress Penelope Wilton, whom he was married to from 1991 to 2001. After his first marriage ended, Holm had a long-term romance with professional photographer Bee Gilbert, but the two never married. Together, they had two children, Barnaby and Melissa.

Father of 5

Childhood and Family:

In Goodmayes, Essex, England, Ian Holm Cuthbert was born on September 12, 1931. Before attending the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, in London, he was educated at Chigwell School.

Ian married Lynn Mary Shaw in 1955, but they divorced in 1965 after having two daughters, Jessica Holm and Sarah-Jane Holm. He next tied the knot with Sophie Baker, whom he lived with from 1982 to 1986, and has a son named Harry Holm with her. In 1991, Ian married renowned actress Penelope Wilton and they later appeared together on the British television The Borrowers (1993). The marriage, however, ended in divorce in 2001. He married his present wife, Sophie de Stempel, in December 2003.

5-foot, 6-inch Ian also has two more children, son Barnaby Holm, a child actor-turned-club owner, and daughter Melissa Holm, who is a casting director, from a previous relationship with Bee Gilbert, a professional photographer.

Chariots of Fire


Ian Holm spent 14-seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company before stepping in front of the film camera. In 1954, the RADA graduate made his professional stage debut in RSC’s (then Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon) “Othello,” which he followed with performances as Mutius in “Titus Andronicus,” opposite Laurence Olivier, and the Fool in “King Lear” (1959), starring Charles Laughton in the title role. When the Stratford company turned into the Royal Shakespeare Company, Holm became one of the earliest long term artists there and excelled in such productions as “Richard III” and “Henry V,” wherein he picked up a London Evening Standard for Best Actor. In 1965, he originated the role of Lenny in the RSC production of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming,” helmed by Peter Hall, and was handed a Tony for Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) when he reprised the role on Broadway in 1967. In between, he had his early TV appearances in the miniseries “War of the Roses” (1965) and “The Body Snatcher” (1966) for Thames TV’s “Mystery and Imagination” series.

A year after that award-winning performance, Holm landed his first screen role playing Irish gunner Flynn in the based-on-play The Bofors Gun, opposite Nicol Williamson and David Warner. Delivering a bright performance, he nabbed a 1969 BAFTA Film for Best Supporting Actor. Shortly thereafter, he starred alongside fellow British actors Alan Bates, Dirk Bogarde, and David Warner in the American-produced The Fixer (1968), for director John Frankenheimer, rejoined director Peter Hall for the film A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1969) and played President Poincare in Richard Attenborough’s movie directorial debut, Oh! What a Lovely War (1969).

The actor continued to build a prolific resume by working in Dick Clement’s A Severed Head (1970, acted alongside Attenborough), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Attenborough’s Young Winston (1972), the big screen version of The Homecoming (1973), Richard Lester’s Juggernaut (1974), Robin and Marian (1976), Shout at the Devil (1976) and March or Die (1977). However, it was his role as Ash, the conniving robot in Alien (1979), helmed by British director Ridley Scott, that boosted his career in Hollywood. Meanwhile, on television, Holm proved successful with work in such projects as the British miniseries “Napoleon and Josephine” (1974), the miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth” and the TV film The Man in the Iron Mask (both NBC, 1977). He was then cast as Nazi S.S. Chief Heinrich Himmler in the highly praised miniseries “Holocaust” (NBC, 1978) and played writer J. M. Barrie in the British TV mini drama “The Lost Boys” (1978), where he won a Royal Television Society for Best Performance.
He next portrayed Himmelstoss in the famous CBS remake of All Quiet on the Western Front (1979), with Richard Thomas and Richard Thomas. 1979 also saw Holm make a brief return to stage for Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.”

Kicking off the 1980s, Holm’s film career received further recognition when he picked up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a Cannes Film Festival, as well as a BAFTA Film in the Best Supporting Actor category for portraying devoted track coach Sam Mussabini in the Hugh Hudson-helmed Chariots of Fire (1981). He then played Napoleon in Time Bandits (also 1981), which marked his first partnership with director Terry Gilliam, and in the ABC miniseries “Inside the Third Reich” (1982), he once again was cast as a Nazi, this time playing a propaganda chief named Joseph Goebbels. Holm reunited with directors Hudson in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), where he was cast as the high-minded Belgian explorer who discovered the half-savage Tarzan, and Gilliam for 1985’s Brazil, playing an insipidly wicked official. His praised performance in the latter, combined with his fine turns in the 1985 films Wetherby, Dance with a Stranger, and Dreamchild, won Holm a Boston Society of Film Critics for Best Supporting Actor. He also picked up a Fantasporto for Best Actor for his work in Gavin Millar’s Dreamchild. Holm closed out the decade by teaming up with director-actor Kenneth Branagh for Branagh’s film version of Henry V, where he appeared as Captain Fluellen.

Holm remained busy during the 1990s with his work in film, television and on the stage. He played Polonius to Mel Gibson’s Hamlet in the movie version of the same name (1990) for director Franco Zeffirell, shared the screen with Judi Davis in director David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991), played patron Lorenzo in the TNT film A Season of Giants (1991), starred with wife Penelope Wilton in the BBC six-part series “The Borrowers” (1992, as Pod) and returned to the stage in writer Harold Pinter “Moonlight” (1993). The role brought Holm a London Evening Standard Theatre and a London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre) for Best Actor. Next, he rejoined Branagh for the drama film Frankenstein (1994) was cast as the strict, tough and somewhat foolish physician in The Madness of King George (1994) and gave a fine supporting turn as a rival restaurateur in Big Night (1996), opposite Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub.

In 1997, Ian teamed up with Andy Garcia to play his tormented NYC cop father in the Sidney Lumet’s Night Falls on Manhattan, then portrayed Cameron Diaz’s father in A Life Less Ordinary and was cast as the monk Vito Cornelius in The Fifth Element. The Sweet Hereafter, a drama directed by Atom Egoyan, gave the actor an opportunity to show off one of his best performances as the plaintiff’s attorney, Mitchell. With the role, he won a Kansas City Film Critics Circle and a Genie for Best Actor and shared a Toronto Film Critics Association and a National Board of Review for Best Acting by an Ensemble. He again achieved success that same year when he took home a Laurence Olivier Theatre, a London Critics Circle Theatre and a London Evening Standard Theatre award for Best Actor for his acclaimed stage work in “King Lear” (1997) at the Royal National Theatre.

Holm could then be seen in movies like Cronenberg’s eXistenZ (1999), Stanley Tucci’s Joe Gould’s Secret (2000), The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2000, TV), the animated The Miracle Maker (2000), the Cannes-screened Esther Kahn (2000, with Summer Phoenix), The Emperor’s New Clothes (2001) and From Hell (2001), before enjoying a huge hit with the release of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), where he was cast as hobbit Bilbo Baggins. The Lord of the Rings movies brought Holm a 2002 Phoenix Film Critics Society, a 2003 National Board of Review, a 2004 Screen Actors Guild and a 2004 Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Acting Ensemble.

From 2004-2006, the prolific performer dotted his impressive resume with roles in such movies as Zach Braff’s directing debut, Garden State (2004), Martin Scorsese’s Aviator (2004, with Leonardo DiCaprio), The Day After Tomorrow (2004, opposite Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal), Lord of War (2005, alongside Nicolas Cage and Ethan Hawke), The Treatment (2006) and O Jerusalem (2006). He will star in the drama film This Side of the Looking Glass (2007) and play Skinner in the animated film Ratatouille (2007).


  • Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Acting Ensemble, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2004
  • Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2004
  • National Board of Review: Best Acting by an Ensemble, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003
  • Phoenix Film Critics Society: Best Acting Ensemble, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2002
  • Toronto Film Critics Association: Best Performance, Male, The Sweet Hereafter, 1998
  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle: Best Actor, The Sweet Hereafter, 1998
  • National Board of Review: Best Acting by an Ensemble, The Sweet Hereafter, 1997
  • Genie: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, The Sweet Hereafter, 1997
  • Fantasporto: International Fantasy Film, Best Actor, Dreamchild, 1986
  • Boston Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, Wetherby (also for Brazil (1985), Dance with a Stranger (1985) and Dreamchild (1985), 1986
  • BAFTA Film: Best Supporting Artist, Chariots of Fire, 1982
  • Cannes Film Festival: Best Supporting Actor, Chariots of Fire, 1981
  • Royal Television Society: Best Performance, “The Lost Boys,” 1978
  • BAFTA Film: Best Supporting Actor, The Bofors Gun, 1969
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