Stage fright is one thing, sheer terror is another. Yet Michael Elphick did the scene anyway, albeit flinchingly, while starring in a popular British TV series, Boon, about a motorcycle-riding private eye. In the scene, he had to recover a circus lion stolen by animal-rights activists, and the script required him to act with the animal inside an enclosure. While the trainer and a veterinarian stood by with guns, Elphick earned his pay. During his acting career, Elphick also demonstrated his courage by accepting roles in productions with incredibly weird names. Examples are Withnail and I, Memed, My Hawk, I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle, Supergrass, Forbrydelsens Element, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Quadrophenia, The Nearly Man, The Buttercup Chain, Blue Remembered Hills, and, well, that's enough for now. Who is this oddball Elphick, anyway? Actually, he's just an ordinary British chap who also happens to be an excellent -- and obviously quite daring -- actor. Americans who don't get to see him regularly on British TV may remember him for his contribution to the wonderful 2000 miniseries David Copperfield. In that production, he played Peggoty's suitor Barkis, getting to recite one of the most famous Dickens lines: "Barkis is willin'."
Elphick was born on September 19, 1946, in Chichester, West Sussex, England, in an area known for its natural beauty and inviting harbor. City residents know him well because of his frequent trips back home to visit his mother. After working as a theater electrician in Chichester, Elphick studied acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, the alma mater of such notables as Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrave, and Carrie Fisher. He made his film debut in 1969 in Fraülein Doktor, an offbeat but excellent World War I film with an Italian director, a Yugoslavian setting, and a cast that included Kenneth More, Suzy Kendall, Nigel Green, and Capucine. In that same year, he performed in the modestly successful Where's Jack? and in the solid Tony Richardson production of Hamlet. Having established himself, Elphick went on to play in numerous film and TV productions before landing roles in the 1980s in motion pictures of truly outstanding quality, including the The Elephant Man as the Night Porter; Masada as Vettius, and Gorky Park as Pasha. His Gorky Park work earned him a British Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Between 1986 and 1992, he played Boon on British TV while continuing his stage and film work. In 2000 and 2001, he returned to television to perform in Metropolis and Dead in the Water.