Thanks in part to Alun Armstrong, the works of Charles Dickens enjoyed widespread exposure before television and theater audiences in the late 20th century. A longtime fan of Dickens, Armstrong performed in two highly acclaimed TV productions of Dickens: David Copperfield as Dan Pegotty and Oliver Twist as Mr. Fleming. In addition, he played the cruel schoolmaster Squeers in the Royal Shakespeare Company's stage adaptation of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. The production won four 1982 Tony Awards, including the award for Best Play, after it moved from London to New York. Armstrong also played Squeers in a 1982 TV production of Nickleby that won an Emmy and was nominated for a British Academy Award. Such is Armstrong's passion for Dickens that he turned down a role in a high-profile Clint Eastwood film to do the David Copperfield production. However, he has gratefully accepted challenging roles in many other high-profile motion pictures. For example, he played Mornay in Braveheart, Owens in Patriot Games, Corporal Davies in A Bridge Too Far, Lacourbe in The Duellists, and Keith in Get Carter.
Theatergoers who have never seen Armstrong on the stage have been missing performances of the first rank. He was nominated for the coveted Laurence Olivier Award six times for work in such plays as Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. He won the Olivier Award as Best Actor for his performance in Cameron Mackintosh's musical production of the Christopher Bond play Sweeney Todd. In film productions, Armstrong helped Jonathan Tammuz win a 1989 Oscar in the category of Best Live Action Short for his role as Stefano in The Childeater. And in TV productions, he earned a Best Actor nomination from the Royal Television Society for his performance in This Is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper. Armstrong was born on July 17, 1946, in County Durham, England. Though his face may have once been handsome, it is now a relief map of crevasses that make him ideal for roles as Dickens characters. Such a countenance works well, too, for Shakespeare characters whose visages are etched with the hardships of living. Armstrong put his wrinkles to work in the Royal Shakespeare Company productions of The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, The Winter's Tale, Troilus and Cressida, As You Like It, and Measure for Measure. Although never regarded as a famous actor, Armstrong has certainly been one of the hardest-working. Between 1999 and 2002, he performed in 17 productions, including two major films -- Sleepy Hollow and The Mummy Returns -- and a hit TV miniseries, The Aristocrats.