Rupert Graves has repeatedly impressed audiences with his dead-on portrayals of upper-class twits since 1985, when he appeared in Ismail Merchant and James Ivory's classic adaptation of E.M. Forster's A Room With a View. However, Graves' own background could not be more different from those of the characters he brings to the screen.
Born June 30, 1963, Graves grew up in the small town of Weston-Super-Mare (coincidentally also the birthplace of John Cleese), located in western England. By his own account a terrible student who resented authority, Graves left school at 15 and joined the circus. After his stint with the circus ended, Graves made his way to London, where, at 19, he landed his first acting role in a stage production of The Killing of Mr. Toad. His performance caught the attention of a film industry figure, which in turn led to his first film role in A Room With a View. As the irresponsible and irrepressible Freddy Honeychurch (brother of the film's heroine, played by Helena Bonham Carter), Graves gave a performance that set the pattern for the roles he was to be typcast in for much of the next decade.
Graves virtually became the male equivalent of Helena Bonham Carter, in that he was stuck in period drama after period drama until others slowly realized that his range was not limited to films with an abundance of waistcoats, corsets, and men with names like Cecil or Clive. Graves' other significant films of the 80s included another Merchant Ivory outing, the memorable Maurice (1987) (in which Graves played Maurice's working class lover, Alec Scudder, and, as in A Room With a View, demonstrated his ability to tackle nude scenes), 1988's A Handful of Dust (also starring a then-unknown Kristin Scott Thomas, and Graves' Maurice colleague James Wilby), and the epic television series Fortunes of War, set during World War II and starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson.
In the 1990s, Graves has continued to do period pieces such as the 1991 adaptation of E.M. Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread (reuniting him again with Bonham Carter), and Nicholas Hytner's brilliant The Madness of King George (1995), which also starred "the other Rupert," Rupert Everett. In addition, he made a memorable appearance in the film adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (1997) as a shell-shocked World War I veteran. As he has gained greater recognition, however, Graves has been able to branch out toward other genres, notably as Jeremy Irons' jilted, ill-fated son in Louis Malle's Damage (1993), a confused and irresponsible motorcycle courier in Different For Girls (1996), and as the severely conflicted Harold Guppy in the deliciously twisted Intimate Relations (1996), for which he won a Best Actor award at the Montreal Film Festival. Over the 2000's and 2010's, Graves would remain an even more active force on screen, appearing on acclaimed UK series like The Last King, The Forsyte Saga, Scott & Bailey, Garrow's Law, Sherlock, and Coup.
In addition to his film work, Graves has continued to work for television and the stage, acting as the wormy, conniving Octavius alongside Billy Zane in the TV series Cleopatra (1999), and in such stage productions as Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh (1998) and the the hit Broadway production of Patrick Marber's Closer (1999).