One of Britain's more underrated actors, Samuel West first became known to international audiences in 1992 as the perpetually unfortunate Leonard Bast in the acclaimed Ismail Merchant/James Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster's Howards End.
The son of actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales, West was born in London on June 19, 1966. Taking to science rather than to acting when he was growing up, he attended Oxford University, where he planned to study physics. However, an interest in acting finally took hold, and West switched his studies to English and became involved with the University Experimental Theatre Club and Dramatic Society, touring Africa with it in 1986.
Upon his graduation in 1988, West secured his first film role as a German aristocrat in Reunion. Although the film was critically well-received, it was largely unseen, and West subsequently did most of his work on television. His acclaimed performance in Howards End, for which he earned a British Academy Award nomination, gave him both greater respect and recognition. He went on to appear in a number of films of varying quality, doing particularly notable work in Persuasion (1995), Carrington (1995), and Jane Eyre (1996). He parodied the sort of period dramas in which he had made his name with his role as an upper-crust prig in Stiff Upper Lips in 1998, and that same year he finally broke through to modern dress in the Canadian film Rupert's Land, earning a Genie nomination for his portrayal of a clean-cut lawyer reluctantly dragged on an odyssey across the wilds of British Columbia. The following year, he was back in breeches and a frock coat for his bit part in Notting Hill, and that same year he could be seen taking to the sea in the popular British miniseries, Horatio Hornblower. In addition to his screen roles, West is known in his native country for his work on the stage, television, and radio, endearing many a listener to his deep, mellifluous voice.