Tom Wilkinson

Active - 1976 - 2021  |   Born - Dec 12, 1948 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Thriller, Romance

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

A popular British character actor, Tom Wilkinson specializes in playing men suffering from some sort of emotional repression and/or pretensions of societal grandeur.

Active in film and television since the mid-'70s, Wilkinson became familiar to an international audience in 1997 with his role as of one of six unemployed workers who strip for cash in Peter Cattaneo's enormously successful comedy The Full Monty. That same year, he was featured in Gillian Armstrong's Oscar and Lucinda, and as the rabidly unpleasant father of Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde's young lover in Wilde. Wilkinson was also shown to memorable effect as a theater financier with acting aspirations in Shakespeare in Love (1998); also in 1998, he acted in one of his few leading roles in The Governess, portraying a 19th century photographer with an eye for the film's title character (Minnie Driver).

Though he would appear in such popular mainstream films as Rush Hour (1998) and The Patriot (2000) over the next few years, it was his role in director Todd Field's emotionally intense In the Bedroom that earned Wilkinson (as well as co-star Marisa Tomei) an Oscar nod. After that success, his career began to really take off, and in just the next few years, he would appear in over a dozen films in roles of varying size. In 2003, he starred in HBO movie Normal as a married, middle-aged man who decides to start living his life as a woman and eventually have a sex-change operation. Acting alongside Jessica Lange, Wilkinson earned both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his brave and moving performance. In addition, he would also play a menacing, licentious patron of the arts in Girl With a Pearl Earring (2003) and an experimental doctor erasing his patient's memories in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), written by Charlie Kaufman and starring Jim Carrey.

Now an established star thanks to his impressive body of work, Wilkinson was called upon to appear in a number of high profile Hollywood hits, and could always be counted on to deliver in spades. Still, Wilkinson had the talent and foresight to always offset each blockbuster with at least one low-key, character-driven drama, and for every scenery-chewing Batman Begins villain, a serious-minded Separate Lies lawyer or Ripley Under Ground Scotland Yard detective would be quick to follow. After doing battle with Beelzebub in 2005's frightening, fact-based horror film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Wilkinson would once again shift gears with impressive grace to portray the patriarch of a Texas family whose attempts to maintain order over his wildly dysfunctional family lead to a wild night on the town that ultimately helps him to restore his perspective in Night of the White Pants. Later that same year Wilkinson would pull back a bit for a supporting role in The Last Kiss - a romantic comedy drama starring Scrubs' Zach Braff and directed by Tony Goldwyn.

2007 brough WIlkinson yet another role that earned him uniformly strong reviews. His mentally unhinged lawyer in Michael Clayton garnered him a slew of year end accolades including Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor. That same year he became part of the Woddy Allen family with a starring role in Cassandra's Dream. In 2008 he appeared as Ben Franklin in the award-winning HBO miniseries John Adams, as well as Valkyrie and RocknRolla. He reteamed with Michael Clayton mastermind Tony Gilroy for 2009's Duplicity, playing the CEO of a multinational corporation, and appeared in The Ghost Writer for director Roman Polanski the next year. In 2012 he was part for the all-star British ensemble put together for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Movie Highlights

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  • Was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • Made his TV debut with a small role in the 1979 miniseries Crime and Punishment.
  • Breakout big-screen role came with 1997 British comedy The Full Monty.
  • Awarded an Officer in the Order of the British Empire in 2005.
  • Has played a number of historical characters, including Benjamin Franklin, T.S. Eliot and Gen. Charles Cornwallis.
  • Has said his favorite film is 1969 Western The Wild Bunch.
  • Acted alongside his wife, Diana Hardcastle, in the 2011 miniseries The Kennedys, with the couple playing Rose and Joseph Kennedy Sr.