As the grizzled warrior Campbell in Braveheart, James Cosmo impressed filmgoers worldwide. His impassioned performance made it seem possible that such a man as Campbell really existed 700 years ago, a man who cared so much about his beloved Scotland that he could endure the bite of an English arrow, break it off, and go on fighting with Achillean fury. But it was not only Cosmo's formidable acting skills -- honed in scores of film and television productions dating back to the '60s -- that animated his performance. It was also his real-life love of Scotland. He believes his native country, small as it is, has a thousand and one other stories to tell just as exciting as Braveheart, and he has enlisted himself as actor, producer, and financier to bring them to the movie screen. For example, he singlehandedly engineered a project to construct Scotland's first film studio on a 40-acre site near Inverness. Both novice and experienced filmmakers will be welcome to reserve any of its sound stages. A nearby William Wallace Theme Park, named after the rebel leader depicted in Braveheart, will present reenactments of Wallace's rebellion against England between 1297 and 1305. Cosmo also was the brainchild of a major film project about Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), a national hero who attracted 30,000 mourners to his funeral. Cosmo selected Edinburgh as the setting, Scottish writer Alan Sharp to pen the script, and Scottish composer Derek William Dick to write an overture. The film, entitled Clarinda, centers on the love affair between Burns and an Edinburgh woman, Agnes Maclehose. Another Scottish writer, the great historical novelist Sir Walter Scott, provided the material for a triumphal Cosmo performance in the TV miniseries Ivanhoe, shown worldwide. Cosmo portrayed Ivanhoe's estranged father, Lord Cedric, with the same fiery spleen of Campbell in Braveheart. However, Cosmo does not perform only in films about the age of the horse and sword. In the critically acclaimed Trainspotting, he played the father of an Edinburgh heroin addict. Cosmo also portrayed a World War II POW in the heralded 2001 film To End All Wars, Mr. Weston in the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version of Jane Austen's Emma, and an oil-rig worker in the 1994 TV series Roughnecks. In addition, he was the voice of Thelonius, an orangutan, in Babe: Pig in the City. Cosmo grew up in Clydebank in west central Scotland, where he received an education in a stalwart brick-and-mortar high school while the smell of the sea invaded classrooms and beckoned aspiring young adventurers to set sail for exotic climes. Clydebank was a shipbuilding city; there, craftsmen puzzled together great Cunard liners, including the Queen Elizabeth II. Although Cosmo did not go to sea, he did set sail for a journey through the world of drama. For his outstanding work onscreen and his charitable work off, he received the lifetime achievement award of the Sunday Mail/McEwan's People's Film Festival.
Biography by Mike Cummings
- Moved down from Scotland to London in a traditional horse-drawn Romany Gypsy caravan.
- As a boy, played cricket on Hampstead Heath with fellow thespian Sean Connery.
- Left formal education at the age of 15 to work in a ship-breakers’ yard, but didn’t last long before deciding to pursue a career in acting.
- Has wielded a sword many times throughout his career, including in Braveheart, Troy & Game of Thrones.
- Deliberately steered clear of reading the Game of Thrones novels whilst filming the show, so as to avoid spoiling the plot for himself.
- Took place in the 19th series of Celebrity Big Brother and finished in fourth place.
- Enjoys an active life in the country, with hobbies including archery and fly-fishing.