Ray Winstone

Active - 1978 - Present  |   Born - Feb 19, 1957 in Hackney, London, England  |   Genres - Drama, Fantasy, Comedy Drama, Crime, Thriller

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

Frequently cast as a working-class hard man, British actor Ray Winstone gained his first dose of international recognition for his brutal portrayal of an abusive, alcoholic family patriarch in Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth (1997).

Born in Hackney, London, on February 19, 1957, Winstone spent much of his youth as an amateur boxer. He first stepped into the ring at the age of 12 and over the course of the next several years won over 80 medals and trophies. Reportedly deciding to give acting a try because he was tired of getting hit, Winstone studied drama for a couple of years at the Corona School. He got his first break when director Alan Clarke cast him in the BBC's televised production of Scum (1977), a harsh depiction of life in a Borstal for young offenders. Due to its content, the film was banned before being released theatrically two years later. Winstone began appearing in other films that same year, notably the Who's Quadrophenia.

Winstone continued to work in both film and television throughout the next decade, doing most of his work in countless TV series. In 1994, he earned strong notices for his starring role in Ken Loach's Ladybird, Ladybird. Three years later, Winstone's harrowing performance in Oldman's Nil by Mouth garnered him a Best Actor BAFTA nomination, as well as recognition on both sides of the Atlantic. He subsequently could be seen in a number of diverse projects, ranging from Face, Antonia Bird's 1997 crime drama, to the romantic comedy Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence (1998) to Tim Roth's The War Zone (1999), in which Winstone earned further acclaim as the abusive patriarch of a wildly dysfunctional family. Also in 1999, he could be seen playing a loan shark who gives Anjelica Huston a hard time in Huston's Agnes Browne.

Winstone gained wide international notice for his starring role in 2000's Sexy Beast, holding his own opposite Ben Kingsley, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance. He followed that up with a well-received part in 2001's Last Orders and parlayed his success into a supporting role in Anthony Minghella's 2003 star-studded Civil War drama Cold Mountain. He continued to work steadily appearing in a variety of films including Martin Scorsese's Best Picture winner The Departed, Beowulf, Fool's Gold, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Hugo, and Snow White and the Huntsman.

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  • Joined the Repton Amateur Boxing Club in London at age 12, winning 80 out of 88 fights over 10 years.
  • Three-time London Schoolboy Champion.
  • Represented England twice as a welterweight.
  • Went to the movies weekly with his father; often they would sit through the films twice.
  • Enrolled at the Corona Stage Academy in 1974, but was expelled for puncturing the headmistress' tires as revenge for being excluded from the Christmas party.
  • First big role came when he accompanied a friend to an audition---and then was cast by the director---for the 1977 British TV-movie Scum, which was so violent that it was banned by the BBC; it was released theatrically two years later.
  • Starred as a boxer named Kenny Fox in the 1980 British series Fox.
  • During an audition for the first Star Wars prequel, asked an unimpressed George Lucas if he needed a nap (Winstone did not get the part).
  • After twice being declared bankrupt, revived his career with a role in Kathy Burke's 1990 play, Mr. Thomas, which eventually led to a part in Gary Oldman's 1997 directorial debut, Nil by Mouth.
  • During his audition for 2006's The Departed, director Martin Scorsese complimented him on his brown leather jacket and asked if he would wear it during filming. When Winstone said yes, Scorsese told him he got the part.