Alex Jennings
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Alex Jennings

Alex Jennings
Born (1957-05-10) 10 May 1957 (age 63)
Essex, England
OccupationActor
Years active1978-present
Known forThe Queen (2006)
The Crown (2016-2017)
Victoria (2016-2019)
A Very English Scandal (2018)
The Lady in the Van (2015)
Lesley Moors (m. 2012)
Children2

Alex Jennings (born 10 May 1957) is an English actor of the stage and screen, who has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre. For his stage work on the London stage, Jennings has received three Olivier Awards, winning for Too Clever by Half (1988), Peer Gynt (1996), and My Fair Lady (2003). He is the only performer to have won Olivier awards in the drama, musical and comedy categories.[1][2][3]

He is also known for his film work, in particular for his performance as Prince Charles in Stephen Frears' film The Queen (2006) opposite Helen Mirren. His other film appearances include The Wings of the Dove (1997), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), Babel (2006), Belle (2013), and recently The Lady in the Van (2015) starring Dame Maggie Smith.

Recently Jennings has won acclaim for his performances in television including for his portraying Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, in the critically acclaimed Netflix series The Crown acting opposite Claire Foy.[4] He also starred in the PBS series Victoria (2016-2019) opposite Jenna Coleman, as well as Stephen Frears' A Very English Scandal (2018) alongside Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw, and most recently Steve McQueen's Small Axe: Mangrove (2020) starring Letitia Wright.

Early life

Jennings was born in Essex, the son of Peggy Patricia (née Mahoney) and Michael Thomas Jennings. He attended Abbs Cross Technical High School in Hornchurch and then studied English and Theatre studies at the University of Warwick, graduating in 1978. He said he saw his first theatre when he was in high school and went to the Old Vic Theatre, which led him to be inspired to be an actor.[5]

He trained as an actor for two years at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.[6]

Career

1980s

In the early 1980s, Jennings began his career in regional repertory theatre. In 1985, playing a range of roles including Maximilien Robespierre in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Jennings met director Nicholas Hytner during this production and has worked with him many times since.[1] For his performance as Gloumov in Too Clever by Half at the Old Vic, he won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy Performance in 1988. He was nominated in the same category the following year for portraying Dorante in The Liar. He has performed for the Royal National Theatre in a number of plays, including Leontes in The Winter's Tale and the title role in Albert Speer.

Jennings' work in television includes appearances in The State Within, Smiley's People, The Franchise Affair, Inspector Morse, Lewis, Alfonso Bonzo, the title role in Ashenden, Dead Poets Society, Inspector Alleyn, Hard Times, Bad Blood, and Peter Ackroyd's London. His many radio credits include Casino Royale, The Way of the World, Strange Meeting, Vorbis in Small Gods, and The Old Curiosity Shop.

1990s

His Royal Shakespeare Company roles include the title role in Peer Gynt (for which he won an Olivier Award 1995-06 for Best Actor), the title role in Richard II (opposite Anton Lesser as Henry Bolingbroke), Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream (UK, American tour and Broadway),[7] Angelo in Measure for Measure, and the title role in Hamlet.[8]

He also appeared in War Requiem, the RSC's film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1999). Jennings also appeared as Lord Mark in the romantic drama film The Wings of the Dove starring Helena Bonham Carter, Elizabeth McGovern, Charlotte Rampling, and Sir Michael Gambon. The film received great acclaim and many awards nominations including four Academy Award nominations and five British Academy Film Award nominations.

2000s

In 2002, he appeared in the Cameron Mackintosh/Trevor Nunn revival of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and won an Olivier Award as Best Actor in a Musical. He was an Associate Artist at the Royal Shakespeare Company.[7] That year he also appeared in The Four Feathers (2002) as Colonel Hamilton alongside Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson, and Michael Sheen.

In 2006, Jennings' made his breakthrough film role as Charles, Prince of Wales opposite Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.[1] The film was directed by Stephen Frears, and written by Peter Morgan. The film depicts the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on 31 August 1997 and the reaction from the British public and the British royal family. The film was an immense critical and box office success, after it premiered at the Venice Film Festival. The film received six Academy Award nominations including a win for Mirren's performance.

In 2007, he played the role of Garry Essendine in Noël Coward's Present Laughter at the NT.[1] Also in 2007, he portrayed the Rev. Hutton in the BBC miniseries Cranford starring Judi Dench. He also played John Le Mesurier in the one-off BBC drama Hancock and Joan. In 2009, he appeared in The Habit of Art as Benjamin Britten.

In June 2008, he made his debut in the Operetta at the ENO in Robert Carsen's production of Bernstein's Candide, in which he played Voltaire and Doctor Pangloss.

He has recorded the audio versions of the books: Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer, The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham, The Horse and His Boy, Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly, which was selected in June 2008 as one of the top 40 audiobooks of all time. In 2006, he recorded an abridgement of A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. He is also a regular narrator on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime. He was also a member of the BBC's Radio Drama Company.[9]

2010s

In 2010, he played Captain Shipshape in the CBeebies second series of Grandpa In My Pocket and starred in the film Belle. After that, he played Henry Tizard in Castles in the Sky. In 2011, he played Mikhail Bulgakov in the National Theatre's production of Collaborators. In 2014, he played the role of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical, which was directed by Sam Mendes and was performed on London's West End theatre district.[2][10] He took over the role from Douglas Hodge in 2014.[6]

From 2011 to 2014, Jennings played Alan Cowdrey QC in the BBC One legal drama Silk.[11] He has also appeared in the PBS/Masterpiece Theatre television series Inspector Lewis (2012), and Foyle's War (2015).

Jennings portrayed playwright Alan Bennett in the 2015 film The Lady in the Van opposite Academy Award winner Dame Maggie Smith in the title role.[12] The film is directed by Nicolas Hytner, who is a long-time collaborator from the theatre.[1] The film also featured performances from Jim Broadbent, Claire Foy, Frances de la Tour, and James Corden. The film premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival to great acclaim, specifically for Smith's performance. In order to promote the film Maggie Smith, and Jennings, appeared on The Graham Norton Show, this is Smith's first chat show appearance in over 40 years.

In 2016, he reprised his role as Professor Henry Higgins in the Australian 60th anniversary production of My Fair Lady, directed by Julie Andrews.[13]

On television, from 2016 to 2017, he appeared in the Netflix series The Crown alongside Claire Foy and Jared Harris, as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, great-uncle to Prince Charles (whom Jennings played in The Queen. The series has received widespread acclaim from audiences and critics alike. Jennings also portrayed King Leopold I of Belgium in the ITV/PBS series Victoria (2016-2019) alongside Jenna Coleman.

In 2018 he played Liberal MP Peter Bessell in the BBC One series, A Very English Scandal alongside Hugh Grant, and Ben Whishaw, a miniseries about the Jeremy Thorpe affair directed by Stephen Frears.[14] The film received widespread critical acclaim with a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes with the critics consensus reading, "Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw impress in A Very English Scandal, an equally absorbing and appalling look at British politics and society".[15] The series also received four Primetime Emmy Award nominations including a win for Whishaw for his performance.

In 2020, appeared in the Small Axe miniseries directed by Steve McQueen. Specifically the television movie, Mangrove as Judge Edward Clarke alongside Letitia Wright as physician and British Black Panther Altheia Jones-LeCointe. In Mangrove, the story revolves around the true story based the Mangrove Nine who were British black activists tried for inciting a riot at a protest, in 1970, against the police targeting of the Mangrove Restaurant, Notting Hill, in West London. The film received widespread critical acclaim, with the critics consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reading, "Anchored by strong performances and an even stronger sense of conviction, Mangrove is a powerful indictment of institutional racism."[16]

Work

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1989 War Requiem Blinded Soldier
1996 A Midsummer Night's Dream Theseus/Oberon
1997 The Wings of the Dove Lord Mark
2002 The Four Feathers Colonel Hamilton
2004 Five Children and It Father
2004 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason Horatio
2006 Babel Ken Clifford
2006 The Queen Prince Charles
2008 The Disappeared Adrian Ballan
2010 Words of the Blitz George Orwell
2013 Trap for Cinderella Chance
2013 Belle Lord Ashford
2014 Castles in the Sky Henry Tizard
2015 The Lady in the Van Alan Bennett
2016 Denial Sir Charles Gray

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1982 Smiley's People P.C. Hall "Episode No. 1.1"
1986 Kit Curran PC Woods Episode: "A Sick Society"
1988 The Franchise Affair Nevil Bennet 6 episodes
1989 The Return of Shelley Jeremy Episode: "The Gospel According to Shelley"
1990 Inspector Morse Victor Preece Episode: "The Sins of the Fathers"
1990 Alfonso Bonzo Alfonso Bonzo 6 episodes
1991 Ashenden John Ashenden 4 episodes
1991 Bye Bye Columbus King Ferdinand Television movie
1992 Screenplay Byron Episode: "Dread Poets' Society"
1993 Alleyn Mysteries Sebastian Parish Episode: "Death at the Bar"
1994 Hard Times Bitzer Episode: "Episode No. 1.1"
1997 Liberty! The American Revolution King George III 6 episodes
1999 The Hunley Lt. Alexander Television movie
2000 Too Much Sun Julian Edgbaston-Bowles 6 episodes
2001 Bad Blood Joe Harker Television movie
2002 Great Britons Churchill Voice; Episode: "Sir Winston Churchill"
2004 London Stephen Spender Television movie
2005 A Very Social Secretary Alastair Campbell Television movie
2005 Riot at the Rite Sergei Diaghilev Television movie
2005 Agatha Christie's Poirot Dr Roberts Episode: "Cards on the Table"
2006 Spooks James Allan Episode: "Episode No. 5.4"
2006 The State Within James Sinclair 6 episodes
2007 Waking the Dead James Andrews 2 episodes
2008 10 Days to War Vincent Episode: "Failure Is Not an Option"
2008 Fairy Tales Roger Bateman Episode: "Rapunzel"
2008 Hancock & Joan John Le Mesurier Television movie
2008 The 39 Steps Captain Kell Television movie, BBC
2009 The Last Days of Lehman Brothers Timothy Geithner Television movie
2009 Agatha Christie's Marple Inspector Curry Episode: "They Do It with Mirrors"
2007-09 Cranford Reverend Hutton 7 episodes
2009-10 Whitechapel Commander Anderson 5 episodes
2010 Masterpiece Classic Captain Kell Episode: "The 39 Steps"
2010 Grandpa in My Pocket Captain Shipshape Episode: "Captain Shipshape and a Fish Called Bryan"
2010 On Expenses Andrew Walker Television movie
2012 Being Human Griffin Episode: "Eve of the War"
2012 Inspector Lewis Rev Conor Hawes Episode: "The Soul of Genius"
2012 New Tricks Prof. Blake Episode: "Body of Evidence"
2011-14 Silk Alan Cowdrey, QC 13 episodes
2012 We'll Take Manhattan John Parsons Television movie
2013 The Lady Vanishes The Professor Television movie,
2015 Churchill's Secret Anthony Eden Television movie, PBS
2015 Foyle's War Clive Ord-Smith Episode: "Trespass"
2016-19 Victoria King Leopold I 9 episodes
2016-17 The Crown Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor 6 episodes
2017 The Halcyon Lord Hamilton Episode: #1.1
2018 A Very English Scandal Peter Bessell 3 episodes
2018 Unforgotten Tim Finch 6 episodes
2019 Four Weddings and a Funeral Andrew Aldridge Miniseries, Hulu
2019 Gold Digger Ted Day 6 episodes
2020 Small Axe Judge Clarke Episode: "Mangrove"

Theatre

Year Title Role Playwright Venue Ref.
1985 The Scarlet Pimpernel Performer Baroness Orczy Her Majesty's Theatre
1987-88 Measure for Measure Lucio William Shakespeare Royal Shakespeare Company
1988 Too Clever by Half Performer Alexander Ostrovsky Old Vic Theatre, London
1988 The Country Wife Performer William Wycherley Royal Exchange, Manchester
1989 Ghetto Kittel Yehoshua Sobol National Theatre
1990 The Wild Duck Hjalmar Ekdal Henrik Ibsen Peter Hall Company
1990 The Liars Dorante Henry Arthur Jones Old Vic Theatre, London
1990 Richard II Richard II William Shakespeare Royal Shakespeare Company
1992 The Recruiting Officer Captain Plume George Farquhar National Theatre
1993 The Importance of Being Earnest John Worthing Oscar Wilde Aldwych Theatre
1994 Peer Gynt Peer Gynt Henrik Ibsen Royal Shakespeare Company
1994-95 Measure for Measure Angelo William Shakespeare Royal Shakespeare Company
1996 A Midsummer Night's Dream Oberon/Theseus William Shakespeare Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, Broadway [17]
1996 Hyde Park Performer James Shirley Royal Shakespeare Company
1996 The Taming of the Shrew Lucentio William Shakespeare
1997 Hamlet Hamlet William Shakespeare
2000 Albert Speer Albert Speer David Edgar Lyttelton Theatre, London
2001 The Winter's Tale Performer William Shakespeare Royal National Theatre
2001 The Relapse Foppington John Vanbrugh
2001 My Fair Lady Prof. Henry Higgins George Bernard Shaw
2009 The Habit of Art Henry Alan Bennett National Theatre of Great Britain
Lyttelton Theatre in London
2011 Collaborators Mikhail Bulgakov John Hodge National Theatre of Great Britain
Cottesloe Theatre in London
2012 Hymn/Cocktail Sticks Performer Alan Bennett National Theatre of Great Britain
Lyttelton Theatre in London
2013 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Willy Wonka Roald Dahl Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London
2016 My Fair Lady Prof. Henry Higgins George Bernard Shaw Sydney Opera House
2019 Hansard Robin Hesketh Simon Godwin Lyttelton Theatre, London [18]
2019 The Light in the Piazza Signor Naccarelli Elizabeth Spencer Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles
Civic Opera House Chicago

Filmed Theatrical Events

  • 1999: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as Butler
  • 2010: National Theatre Live: The Habit of Art as Henry / Benjamin Britten
  • 2011: National Theatre Live: Collaborators as Mikhail Bulgakov
  • 2013: National Theatre Live: 50 Years on Stage as Henry Higgins
  • 2019: National Theatre Live: Hansard as Robin Hesketh

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title Result Ref.
1988 Olivier Award Best Comedy Performance Too Clever by Half Won [2]
1996 Best Actor Peer Gynt Won
2003 Best Actor in a Musical My Fair Lady Won
2019 British Academy Television Awards Best Supporting Actor Unforgotten Nominated

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Costa, Maddy (19 September 2007). "'I wanted to be Fred Astaire'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Alex Jennings takes on Willy Wonka role". BBC News. 7 February 2014. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ Shenton, Mark (7 February 2014). "Bold casting choices and versatile actors". The Stage. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ Lawson, Richard. "The Crown Season 2 Review: A Stately Soap Opera We Just Can't Resist".
  5. ^ Rosenthal, Daniel (2 October 2013). "National Histories: Nancy Carroll and Alex Jennings". Royal National Theatre. Archived from the original on 8 November 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  6. ^ a b Evans, Lloyd (21 June 2014). "Alex Jennings interview: the new Willy Wonka on Roald Dahl's 'child killer'". The Spectator. Retrieved 2015.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b "Who's Who in the Cast: Who's Who - Alex Jennings; A Midsummer Night's Dream - Opening Night: March 31, 1996". Playbill. 31 March 1996. Retrieved 2015.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Jennings, Alex (22 October 2011). "5 days in the life of ... Alex Jennings". The Independent. Retrieved 2015.
  9. ^ "Radio and audio book companies", in Lloyd Trott, ed., Actors and Performers Yearbook 2016, pp. 353-354
  10. ^ Mitford, Oliver (17 February 2014). "Alex Jennings to take over from Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka". Best of Theatre. Retrieved 2014.
  11. ^ "BBC One - Silk - Alan Cowdrey". BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ Telegraph Film (27 May 2015). "The Lady in the Van: Maggie Smith as you've never seen her". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2015.
  13. ^ "Alex Jennings is Henry Higgins in 'My Fair Lady'". 19 August 2016.
  14. ^ Mangan, Lucy (20 May 2018). "A Very English Scandal review: funny and confident - like Jeremy Thorpe". Guardian. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ "A Very English Scandal: Miniseries". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020.
  16. ^ "Small Axe: Mangrove". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020.
  17. ^ "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015.
  18. ^ Lukowski, Andrzej (4 September 2019). "'Hansard' review". Time Out. London.

External links


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