Jim Broadbent

Active - 1970 - 2021  |   Born - May 24, 1949 in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England  |   Genres - Drama, Children's/Family, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

One of England's most versatile character actors, Jim Broadbent has been giving reliably excellent performances on the stage and screen for years. Particularly known for his numerous collaborations with director Mike Leigh, Broadbent was shown to superlative effect in Leigh's Topsy-Turvy, winning the Venice Film Festival's Volpi Cup for his portrayal of British lyricist and playwright W.S. Gilbert.

Born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1949, Broadbent trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Following his 1972 graduation, he began his professional career on the stage, performing with the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and as part of the National Theatre of Brent, a two-man troupe he co-founded that performed reduced histories. In addition to his theatrical work, Broadbent did steady work on television, acting for such directors as Mike Newell and Stephen Frears.

Broadbent made his film debut in 1978 with a small part in Jerzy Skolimowski's The Shout. He went on to work with such directors as Stephen Frears (The Hit, 1984) and Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits [1981], Brazil [1985]), but it was through his collaboration with Leigh that Broadbent first became known to an international film audience. In 1991, he starred in Leigh's Life Is Sweet, a domestic comedy that cast him as a good-natured cook who dreams of running his own business.

Broadbent gained further visibility the following year with substantial roles in Neil Jordan's The Crying Game and Newell's Enchanted April, and he could subsequently be seen in such diverse fare as Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Widows' Peak (1994), Richard Loncraine's highly acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III (1996), and Little Voice (1998), the last of which cast him as a seedy nightclub owner. Appearing primarily as a character actor in these films, Broadbent took center stage for Leigh's Topsy-Turvy (1999), imbuing the mercurial W.S. Gilbert with emotional complexity and comic poignancy. Roles in Bridget Jones's Diary, Moulin Rogue, and Iris made 2001 quite a marquee year for Broadbent; the actor earned both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his affecting turn in Iris.

He remained one of the most respected actors of his generation and continued to work steadily for directors all over the world. In 2002 he was cast in Martin Scorsese's epic historical drama Gangs of New York. In 2003 he took a cameo part in Bright Young Things. In 2004 he returned for the Bridget Jones sequel, and took a bit part in Mike Leigh's Vera Drake. He worked in a number o animated films including Doogal, Valiant, and Robots. In 2007 he had the title role in Longford, a historical drama about the infamous Moor Murders, and the next year he was part of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls.

As the 2010's continued, Broadbent would remain a vital, respected, and beloved force on screen, appearing most memorably in projects like The Young Victoria and The Iron Lady.

Movie Highlights

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  • Made his stage debut at age 4 in A Doll's House at a theater founded by his father.
  • Was stage manager at Regent's Park's Open Air Theatre.
  • Formed a comedy duo with Peter Barlow called the National Theatre of Brent.
  • Worked several times with director Mike Leigh, including plays Ecstasy (1979) and Goose-pimples (1981), films Life is Sweet (1990) and Topsy Turvy (1999) and TV movie A Sense of History (1992).
  • Had a breakthrough year in 2001, playing three very different characters in Bridget Jones's Diary, Moulin Rouge and Iris. He won an Academy Award for Iris and all three of his leading ladies (Renee Zellweger, Nicole Kidman and Judi Dench, respectively) were nominated for Academy Awards as well.
  • Provided the voice of character Major Mouse for a 2011 E.ON ad campaign.