Celebrities of Television, Film & Broadcasting in Manchester
(Born 1936) Born in Salford, the son of a Lancashire bookmaker in 1936, Albert Finney became a leader amongst a new generation of anti-heroic leading men in British films in the 1960s. These so-called ‘kitchen sink dramas’ were rather gloomy and depressing, but marked a move towards greater realism in character portrayal in films, after the Technicolor superficialities of the 1950s Hollywood film. Finney won a scholarship to RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) in 1956, where he met fellow students Alan Bates and Peter O’Toole. Following this Finney appeared in the Birmingham Repertory Company before going on to act as understudy for Sir Lawrence Olivier at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. He also achieved a stage hit in “Billy Liar” before his first major role in a film role in “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” . The brooding Lancashire Lad from common working roots which he played in this film typecast him for several other roles afterwards. He continued to work in the live theatre, working under the direction of Tony Richardson, and working with writers like John Osbourne. In 1963 he played his most famous title role in “Tom Jones” with Suzannah York and David Warner. In 1965 he formed his own film company, Memorial Enterprises, where he acted in and directed the film “Charlie Bubbles” . During this period he was also appointed as Artistic Director to the Royal Court Theatre in London. He has continued to be a well paid and influential actor on the world stage, and has subsequently appeared in many stage and film productions including the musicals “Annie” and “Shoot the Moon” . For a time he was married to the French actress Anouk Aim�e. Other films to his credit include “Scrooge” in 1970 and Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” in 1974, “The Dresser” in 1983, and “Under the Volcano” in 1984. He was nominated for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in “Erin Brockovich” in 2000. In 2002 his critically acclaimed portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Gathering Storm” won him BAFTA and Emmy awards as Best Actor. He also played the leading role in the television series ” My Uncle Silas”, a series that ran from 2000 to 2003. A lifelong supporter of Manchester United, Finney narrated the documentary “Munich” , about the aircrash that killed most of the Busby Babes in 1958, which was shown on United’s TV channel MUTV in February 2008.
(Born 1944) A Salford actor born on 1st June 1944, and educated at the famous Manchester Grammar School. Robert Powell came to the public attention in the 1970s when he played leading roles in several blockbuster major films and television movies, where his natural good looks and archetypal British air made him a box office favourite with a large female following. After having spent a few years playing brief and minor roles in local repertory theatre, his screen debut was in 1967, when his career was boosted by his leading role in “Doomwatch” . Then, in 1974 he featured in the title role of Ken Russell’s TV movie “Mahler” , and later in 1978 he played the role of Christ in Franco Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” , which shot him to the forefront of desirable leading men. His lean face, penetrating ice-blue eyes and curly boyish hair, combined with highly emotional roles made him a sex symbol in films over two decades. Also in 1978 he played Richard Hannay in the third film version of the well known John Buchan book “The Thirty-Nine Steps” . He was named Best Actor at the 1982 Venice Festival. In more recent years he has formed a comedy partnership with the comedian Jasper Carrott, and appeared in various Carrott Television Shows as one of the bungling policemen-duo in the series “The Detectives”, demonstrating his ability to handle comedy roles as well as the more serious glamour leads in films. Other films have included “Robbery” (1967), “The Italian Job” (1967), and “The Jigsaw Man” in 1984. His voice is regularly heard as narrator in several Discovery Channel series. For several years he also had a regular leading role in the televison series “Holby City” for BBC1.
Sir Ben Kingsley CBE
(Born 1943) Another Salford actor, actually born Krishna Banji, in Scarborough in Yorkshire on 31 December 1943 of Asian parents. He grew up in the Pendlebury district of Salford were his father was a doctor and the family had moved to live at 117 Station Road when Ben was a young lad. He attended the celebrated Manchester Grammar School. At 19 years of age he saw Ian Holm in Richard III at the Royal Shakespeare Company (the RSC), and was immediately determined to pursue a career in acting. He adopted the name Ben Kingsley after his father told him that he would only make it in cinema if he had an English name. He started work as a laboratory technician, but loved performing in amateur dramatics in his spare time, and later turned down the chance of pop stardom when Beatles manager Brian Epstein offered him a recording contract after seeing him in a musical. He joined the cast of “Coronation Street” in 1966, where he played the role of Ron Jenkins. His film debut came in 1972 thriller “Fear Is The Key”. Ben joined the RSC in 1967. Several major films and television presentations to his credit, including the title role in Sir Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning epic film biography “Gandhi” for which he was awarded an Oscar, and the four hour mini series “Murderer’s Angels” in 1989. Later he starred in the 1987 Merchant-Ivory picture “Maurice” , and then in the comedy film “Without A Clue” alongside Michael Caine. More recently he has performed in the film “Species” as well as in a supporting role to Liam Neeson in the Stephen Spielberg film “Schindler’s List” . The UK gangster film “Sexy Beast” shot him back into the cinema limelight in 2001, almost 20 years after the release of Gandhi, the movie which won him an Oscar. He is also known for his performances in the1993 film “Schindler’s List” and “House of Sand and Fog” in 2003. In 2007 he appeared as a Mafia mobster in “You Kill Me” , and in 2010 as a hitman in “War, Inc” . More recently he has also starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s film “Shutter Island” . He also has appeared several other films, including Scorses’s “Hugo” , and later in “Broken Dream” and ” Whispers Like Thunder” . Ben Kingsley was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000 and was made a knight bachelor in the 2002 New Year’s Honours List.
(Born 1941) Born in Manchester on 24th July 1941, David Warner became a key British actor in the 1960s, and has been at the fore of international film-making in the decades which have followed. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), and made many early appearances in plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, having had the distinction of being the youngest ever lead role in “Hamlet” at Stratford. Here he also played many other leads, including “Richard II” in 1963. His first major break into film was in “Morgan – a Suitable Case for Treatment” in the 1960s, in which he played the character of an eccentric mad Marxist hero. This was followed by his portrayal of Blifil, the rather repulsive suitor of Susannah York in the film “Tom Jones” which had featured fellow Mancunian Albert Finney in the title Role. The early 1970s were a rather bleak time for his career, although by the end of that decade he had once again become a much sought after character actor, prized most for his broody and introverted style, and he has largely specialised in playing menacing British villains ever since. Other films in which he has appeared include “Time Bandits”, “Tron”, “The Ballad of Cable Hogue”, “The Bofors Gun”, “Straw Dogs” and “The Omen” . Other works have included “I Claudius” at the Queen’s Theatre, “A Feast of Snails” at the Lyric Theatre, “Where There’s a Will” at the Theatre Royal, Bath, “King Lear” at the Chichester Festival Theatre and “Major Barbara” on Broadway. In 2006, he starred in Terry Pratchett’s “Hogfather” on Sky1 and in August 2007 he returned to Stratford for the first time in over 40 years to play Sir John Falstaff in the Courtyard Theatre revival of “Henry IV, Part 1” and “Henry IV, Part 2” and is the only British actor to have played Hamlet, Lear and Falstaff in major theatrical productions. In 2008, he appeared in a new 13-part audio adaptation of Robert Rankin’s “The Brightonomicon” and in October of that same year played Lord Mountbatten of Burma in the BBC Four television film “In Love with Barbara” as well as appearing in BBC One’s “Wallander” .
(1927-1978) Actor, novelist and playwright, Robert Shaw was born in Westhoughton in the Borough of Bolton on 9th August 1927, the son of a local physician. After his father’s premature death by suicide in 1939 when Robert was 12 years old, he was taken to live with relatives in Scotland, and later in Cornwall. He trained at RADA and made his stage debut in 1949 at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (now the Royal Shakespeare Theatre) in Stratford-upon-Avon. During the 1950s he successfully made the transition to the movies and played supporting roles in many films of that period. In 1966 he was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of King Henry VIII in Robert Boult’s film “A Man for All Seasons ” playing opposite Paul Schofield in the leading role. However, it was during the 1970s that his film career really took off, when at the age of 50 he became a much sought after and highly paid actor in such films as the war film “The Battle of the Bulge” , the second James Bond movie “From Russia With Love”, “The Sting” with Robert Redford (1973), Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” with Roy Scheider (1975), “Swashbuckler” (1976), and “The Deep” with Jacqueline Bisset in 1977. In later life he moved to live in County Mayo in Ireland with his third wife and ten children. He wrote several plays and novels, including the drama “Off the Mainland”, and the novels “The Hiding Place” (1959), “The Sun Doctor” (1961), “The Flag” (1965), and “The Man in the Glass Booth” in 1967. He was a keep-fit fanatic and advocated a clean, healthy lifestyle. Ironically, he died of a heart attack at the age of 51.
Burt Kwouk OBE
(Born 1930) Born 18 July 1930 in Manchester, real name Herbert Kwouk, Burt Kwouk grew up in Shanghai, went to the USA and then returned to England in 1953. His first real break came with “The Charlie Drake Show” in the late 1950s, followed by a role as an archetypal Chinaman in the film “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” starring Ingrid Bergman. He became well known as Peter Seller’s karate-mad house servant in several ‘Pink Panther’ films, including “A Shot in the Dark” , “The Return of the Pink Panther”, “The Trail of the Pink Panther” , and “The Curse of the Pink Panther” . As an Anglo-Oriental, Kwouk has proved to be a valuable actor in roles calling for Chinese or Japanese characters, and though never having appeared in a starring role, he has always been in great demand. Other films include “Madame Sin”, “Deep End”, “The Most Dangerous Man in the World” , as well as two James Bond films – “Goldfinger” and “You Only Live Twice” . Numerous television roles including “Tenko”, “Hart to Hart”, “The Lenny Henry Show”, “Supergran”, “Switch on to English” , and “The Brief” . More recently he has embarked on a comedy career, appearing regularly in comedy roles on the “Harry Hill Show” on television, and in 2008, a role in “Last of the Summer Wine” and in the television series “Honest” . In 2009 he appeared in “Red Dwarf: Back to Earth”, and in 2011 he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Year Honours for services to drama .
(Born 1941) Writer, comedian, performer, ornithologist – Bill Oddie was born in Rochdale on the 7th July 1941. Studied at Cambridge University where he was a member of the Cambridge Footlights performing in revues and shows from 1960-63. He made early appearances on British television programmes including “That Was The Week That Was” (TW3 as it was known, with David Frost and John Cleese), “Twice a Fortnight”, “Broaden Your Mind ” and ” From the Top” , though it was his appearance with Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor in the long running comedy show “The Goodies” which really projected him into public attention. The show became a top rated programme in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a near-cult following, and there were many comedy record spin-offs made, all written by Oddie. Later, after the Goodies finished, he turned to more serious topics and documentaries, concentrating on his first love, ornithology. “Oddie in Paradise” was his major opportunity to talk seriously about birds on television. In 1997 he followed with a series called “Birding” . He has also written and published several bird books, and is a keen amateur painter. More Recently he has had natural world documentaries including “Going Wild with Bill Oddie” and in 2004 “Who do you Think You Are?” , a genealogical investigation into the ancestry of several prominent people in broadcasting and media. Until 2010 he regularly featured in the BBC television “Springwatch” and “Autumnwatch” series, and has many books on ornithology and birding to his portfolio.
Pete Postlethwaite OBE
Pete Postlethwaite was born on 7th February 1945 in Warrington, Lancashire. In the late 1960s, for a short time, he was a drama teacher at Loreto College girls’ convent school in Moss Side, Manchester, before entering drama school in his mid-twenties. He began to develop his career with performances in repertory theatre at the Manchester Royal Exchange, the Bristol Old Vic, and the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. He was also a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company until 1987. The move into TV and film came in 1988 with his role as the abusive father in “Distant Voices, Still Lives” . Soon after this, he made his groundbreaking performance in 1992 in “In the Name of the Father” , as supporting actor to Daniel Day Lewis, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Subsequently he has been involved in many big budget Hollywood films, including Steven Spielberg’s, “Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Amistad” . Other films have included “Brassed Off” and a recent television series “The Sins” , both of which have received critical acclaim. Reputedly, Pete had a one-time long-standing relationship with actress Julie Walters, but he now lives in Shropshire, near the Welsh borders and is currently married to a former BBC drama assistant with whom he has a son. Director Steven Spielberg called Postlethwaite “the best actor in the world” after working with him on “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”. He received an Academy Award nomination for his role in “In the Name of the Father” in 1993, and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2004 New Year’s Honours List. He died of pancreatic cancer on 2 January 2011.
(Born 1949) Born in Manchester on the 13th December 1949, Paula Wilcox is now a veteran actress of the British stage and television. She attended the Hollies Grammar School in West Didsbury. As a striking young woman with enormous eyes she was offered her first television series, Jack Rosenthal’s “The Lovers” , by Granada Television after being spotted in the National Youth Theatre as a student. The Lovers co-starring the late Richard Beckinsale, ran from 1970-1971 and established her as natural comedy talent – the role could have been written for her. On the strength of this winning performance she went on to star in another series, “Man About the House” alongside Richard O’Sullivan (later to star in “Robin’s Nest” ), Sally Thomsett, Brian Murphy and Yootha Joyce (both of the latter went on to star in their own right in “George & Mildred” – a show which spawned as a result of the popularity of Man About the House . The largest portion of her acting since the 1970s has been in the theatre. Recent theatrical work has included Bernard Slade’s “Same Time Another Year” (September 1999), in which she co-starred with Dennis Waterman, as well as playing Mrs Bates in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” at the Brighton Theatre Royal. She also worked in London in Gerlind Reinshagen’s play “The Clowness” . Other notable appearances have been in Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” , and in Shakespeare (she played Adriana in “A Comedy of Errors” at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park). Paula has appeared in many London West End shows, including the leading role in “Shirley Valentine” , the Queen in Sue Townsend’s “The Queen and I” and in plays by Alan Ayckbourn and Harold Pinter, both in London and the USA. Her television credits include “Peak Practice”, “The Stalker’s Apprentice”, “Life After Birth”, “The Queen’s Nose”, “Blue Heaven” and “Fiddler’s Three” . Paula has retained her connection with the National Youth Theatre and is a member of the NYT council. More recently, in 2007 she made an appearance in the ITV series “Emmerdale” . In 2008 she appeared in the London production of “La Cage Aux Folles” and in November 2009 she appeared in Stella Feehily’s play “Dreams of Violence ” for Out of Joint and Soho Theatre.
Sir Ian McKellen CBE
(Born 1939) Born in Burnley on the 25th of May 1939, the son of Margery and Denis McKellen, a civil engineer. The family moved to live in Wigan, opposite Mesnes Park, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Here he attended school at Dicconson Street Wesleyan Primary School. At 11 he attended Wigan Grammar School for Boys, but transferred after only a year to Bolton School as his father had been made Borough Engineer and Surveyor of Bolton. He became Head Boy of Bolton School in 1957. From the outset, and encouraged by his parents, he was attracted to the theatre and made visits to the Manchester Opera House. He was a popular and regular performer in school plays, where he was introduced to the works of Shakespeare, and every year attended the school camp at Stratford-upon-Avon, where his fascination with acting grew. Later, at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, he acted in many undergraduate Shakespearean productions which began to draw the attention of the national newspapers. Graduating in 1961, he had decided to become an actor and had several small acting roles including, in Coventry, the Belgrade Theatre production of Robert Boult’s “A Man for All Seasons” . Three years later, and a now celebrated supporter of gay rights, he lived in London. Many successes followed, including the role of Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus” on Broadway. Subsequently, he has served on the Drama and Dance Panel advising the British Council, as well as gaining a score of awards for acting, and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1979, followed by his Knighthood for services to the performing arts in the New Year Honours of 1990. He has successfully combined a serious theatre career with that of film actor, with many blockbuster movies to his credit, including “Richard III” and more recently in the “X Men” and “X Men II” alongside Patrick Stewart. In 1998 he was appointed to the board of the Royal National Company. He currently lives in Limehouse, London, is a vegetarian and an active supporter of the “New” Labour Party. Most recently he played the part of Gandalf in the film trilogy of J R R Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings” and in March 2005 made a long-awaited appearance in Granada Television’s “Coronation Street” . He was a founding member of Stonewall, one of the United Kingdom’s most influential LGBT rights groups, and remains a prominent spokesman. He was knighted in 1991 for services to the performing arts