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Jonathan Pryce

Jonathan Pryce (born 1 June 1947) is a Welsh award-winning stage and film actor/singer. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and marrying Irish actress Kate Fahy in 1974, he began his career as a stage actor in the late 1970s. His work in theatre, including an award-winning performance in the title role of the Royal Court Theatre's Hamlet, led to several supporting roles in film and television. He made his breakthrough screen performance in Terry Gilliam's 1985 cult film Brazil.

Critically lauded for his versatility, Pryce has participated in big-budget productions such as Evita, Tomorrow Never Dies, Pirates of the Caribbean and The New World, as well as independent projects such as Glengarry Glen Ross and Carrington. His career in theatre has also been prolific, and he has won two Tony Awards—the first in 1977 for his Broadway debut in Comedians, the second for his 1991 role as "the Engineer" in the musical Miss Saigon.

Biography

Early life

Pryce was born John Price in Holywell, Flintshire, Wales, the son of Margaret Ellen (née Williams), a retail cashier and shopkeeper, and Isaac Price, a coal miner who also ran a small general grocery shop. Pryce has two older sisters. He was educated at Holywell Grammar School (today Holywell High School), and, at the age of 16, he went to art college and then started training to be a teacher at Edge Hill College in Ormskirk. While studying, he took part in a college theatre production. An impressed friend sent off to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for an application form, and Pryce was awarded a scholarship to RADA. While at RADA Pryce worked as a door-to-door salesman of velvet paintings.

Despite finding RADA "straight-laced", and being told by his tutor that he could never aspire to do more than playing villains in Z-Cars, he graduated and went on to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the Nottingham Playhouse. He then joined the Everyman Theatre Liverpool Company, eventually becoming the theatre's Artistic Director. While working at the Everyman Theatre Pryce met Irish actress Kate Fahy. The two married in 1974 and based their home in the Hampstead area of London, where they currently live with their three children: Patrick (b.1983), Gabriel (b.1986) and Phoebe (b.1990). It is during this time that he made his first screen appearance in a minor role on a 1972 episode of the British science fiction programme Doomwatch, called Fire & Brimstone. It was not until 1976, however, that he got his first movie role, playing the character Joseph Manasse in the film drama Voyage of the Damned, starring Faye Dunaway. He did not however abandon the stage, appearing from 1978 to 1979 on the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of The Taming of the Shrew as Petruchio, and on Antony and Cleopatra as Octavius Caesar.

1980s

In 1980, his performance in the title role of Hamlet at the Royal Court Theatre won him an Olivier Award, and was acclaimed by some critics as the definitive Hamlet of his generation. That year he also appeared in the film Breaking Glass, a film that is remarkable in that it featured in the cast (sometimes in small roles) many actors who would eventually become stars of film and television, such as Jim Broadbent, Richard Griffiths and Phil Daniels. Also during this year, Pryce had a small but pivotal role as Zarniwoop in the 12th episode of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, one that he reprised for the Quintessential Phase which was broadcast in 2005.

After appearing mostly in TV films, such as Something Wicked This Way Comes and the Ian McEwan-scripted film The Ploughman's Lunch, he achieved a breakthrough with his role as the subdued protagonist Sam Lowry in the ex-Monty Python Terry Gilliam's 1985 film, Brazil. The film, an analogy to Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, was acclaimed in Europe and won two BAFTA Film Awards. In the American version, Universal Pictures tried to remove numerous scenes in order to make the film "shorter" and more consumer-friendly. the movie was also well received in the United States and won three awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and two Academy Awards nominations. Brazil became a cult film, and is still frequently mentioned in "best film" lists and rankings, such as Time magazine's list of the 100 best films of all time and Total Film magazine's 2004 list of the 20th greatest British movies of all time (which Brazil topped). The film was described by Harlan Ellison as "the finest SF movie ever made" and it holds a 97% freshness rate at Rotten Tomatoes. After Brazil, Pryce appeared in the historical thriller The Doctor and the Devils and then in the Gene Wilder-directed film Haunted Honeymoon. During this period of his life, Pryce continued to perform on stage, and was particularly noteworthy as the successful but self-doubting writer Trigorin in a London production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull in late 1985. From 1986 to 1987 Pryce played the lead part on the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Macbeth, which also starred Sinéad Cusack as Lady Macbeth.

In 1988 Pryce worked once again with Gilliam in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, playing "The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson". The film is one of the most famous fiascos in film history, with production costing more than $40 million, when the original budget was $23.5 million. The film has gained cult favorite status over time, however, and in a commentary track on the DVD edition of his 2007 feature Tideland, Gilliam now says that Munchausen is one of the films that his fans most often cite as a favorite (along with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, Twelve Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). During the last year of the decade, Pryce appeared on three of the earliest episodes of the improvisation show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, alongside Paul Merton and John Sessions. During this year he again appeared on a play by Checkhov, this time it was Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre.

1990s

After some minor roles in the big screen, such as in the independent film Glengarry Glen Ross and in Scorsese's The Age of Innocence, Pryce discovered he wanted to do musicals after seeing his friend Patti LuPone on the original London production of Les Misérables. He would successfully return to the stage originating the role of The Engineer, an Eurasian pimp in the award winning West End musical Miss Saigon. His performance was praised in England, but when the production transferred to Broadway the Actors' Equity Association (AEA) would not allow Pryce to portray the Engineer because, according to their executive secretary, "[t]he casting of a Caucasian actor made up to appear Asian is an affront to the Asian community". Cameron Mackintosh, the show's producer, decided to cancel the $10 million New York production because, he said, he would not let the freedom of artistic expression be attacked. Realizing that its decision would result in the loss of many jobs, the AEA decided to make a deal with Mackintosh, allowing Pryce to appear in the production. He would then, in 1991, win a Tony Award for his performance. Pryce returned to the London stage the following year to star alongside Elaine Paige in the 1992 revival of the Federico Fellini-inspired musical Nine.

In 1993 Pryce featured, alongside Kathy Burke and Minnie Driver, in the BBC mini-series "Mr Wroe's Virgins". Later that same year Pryce was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and for a Golden Globe Award for his work in the HBO produced made-for-TV movie Barbarians at the Gate. Also during 1993, Pryce was set to star alongside River Phoenix and Judy Davis in the film Dark Blood, but production had to be shut down when, 11 days shy of completing production, Phoenix died of a drug overdose. Director George Sluizer, who owns the rights to what has been filmed, has made available some of the raw material, which features Pryce and Phoenix on a field in Utah, on his personal website. Between 1993 and 1994, Pryce became a spokesman for Infiniti in a series of American television commercials, notably for the Infiniti J30. These advertisements were widely ridiculed because of the campaign's general "snobiness". These commercials were parodied on Saturday Night Live in 1993, with Mike Myers doing an impersonation of Pryce, spokesmodeling for sleek luxury toilets instead of automobiles. In 1994, Pryce portrayed Fagin in a revival of the musical Oliver!, and would star the following year alongside Emma Thompson in the film Carrington, which centres on a platonic relationship between gay writer Lytton Strachey and painter Dora Carrington. Pryce's portrayal of Strachey gained him the Best Actor Award at that year's Cannes Film Festival.

The following year Pryce starred alongside Madonna and Antonio Banderas in his first musical film, Evita. In this Oscar-winning adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical, Pryce portrayed the Argentinian dictator Juan Peron. The movie's soundtrack was an international success. It contains over 30 songs sung mainly by Madonna, Banderas and Pryce, of which two are solos for Pryce: "She Is A Diamond" and "On The Balcony Of The Casa Rosada". Both his acting and his singing received mixed reviews from the press. After Evita, Pryce went on to portray a James Bond villain, billionaire media mogul Elliot Carver, in the 1997 film Tomorrow Never Dies. During the rest of the decade Pryce would play to his new acquired villain fame, portraying an assassin in Ronin, a corrupt Cardinal in the controversial Stigmata and, for Comic Relief, the Master in the Doctor Who special, Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death. In 1998, Pryce performed in Cameron Mackintosh's gala concert Hey, Mr Producer!, as Professor Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady and reprising his role as the Engineer from Miss Saigon.

2000s

During the early 2000s Pryce starred and participated in a variety of movie flops, such as The Affair of the Necklace, What a Girl Wants, Unconditional Love and Terry Gilliam's unfinished The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. While his on-screen projects were failing, however, the 2001 London stage production of My Fair Lady and his portrayal of Professor Henry Higgins was being acclaimed by the media. This production turned up to be very stressful for Pryce because Martine McCutcheon, who portrayed Eliza Doolittle, was sick during much of the shows run. McCutcheon was replaced by her understudy Alexandra Jay who would also fell sick hours before a performance forcing her understudy Kerry Ellis to take the lead. Pryce was extremely upset and on her first night introduced Ellis to the audience before the show by saying "This will be your first Eliza. Well, this is my third this week. Any member of the audience interested in playing Eliza can find applications at the door. Wednesday and Saturday matinee available. Pryce ended up dealing with four Elizas during the course of 14 months. Nevertheless, the show was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards on 2001: Best Actress in a Musical for Martine McCutcheon, Outstanding Musical Production, Best Theatre Choreographer and Best Actor in a Musical for Pryce. Pryce lost to Philip Quast, and when McCutcheon won on her category Pryce was seen putting his head on his hands while shaking his head in disbelief. Pryce stated that he thought he had stayed "rather impassive", but footage of his reaction is shown in drama schools to teach aspiring actors how not to respond at an awards ceremony. When asked if he would work again on My Fair Lady with McCutcheon he said that "there's as much chance of me getting a date with Julia Roberts".

April of 2003 saw Pryce's return to the non-musical stage with A Reckoning, written by American play writer Wesley Moore. The play co-starred Flora Montgomery and after premiering at the Soho Theatre in London was described by the Daily Telegraph as "one of the most powerful and provocative new American plays to have opened since David Mamet's Oleanna. That year Pryce also landed a role in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, where he portrayed a fictional Governor of Jamaica, Weatherby Swann, a movie he described as "one of those why-not movies". After Pirates Pryce has appeared in several large-scale productions, such as De-Lovely (Pryce's second musical film), a chronicle of the life of songwriter Cole Porter, for which Kevin Kline and Pryce covered a Porter song called "Blow, Gabriel, Blow", The Brothers Grimm, Pryce's fourth project with Terry Gilliam, starred Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, and The New World, in which he had a minor role as King James I. In 2005, Pryce was nominated for another Olivier Award in the best actor category for his role in the 2004 London production of The Goat or Who is Sylvia?, where he played Martin, a goat-lover that has to face the recriminations of his cheated-on wife, played by his real life wife Kate Fahy. Pryce's performance was highly praised, but he lost the Olivier to Richard Griffiths.

The following year, Pryce voiced over the French adult animated film, Renaissance, which he stated wanted to do because he had never "done something quite like it before". That same year he reprised the role of Governor Weatherby Swann for the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Both were filmed at the same time but released a year apart. Also, during 2006, Pryce returned to the Broadway stage replacing John Lithgow, from January to July, as Lawrence Jameson in the musical version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. During early 2007 Pryce played Sherlock Holmes in a TV miniseries, the BBC production Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars. From September 2007 through June 2008, he returned to the theatre scene appearing as Shelly Levene in a new West End production of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross at London's Apollo Theatre.

Jonathan Pryce will also be appearing in Command & Conquer Red Alert 3

Work

Stage

Incomplete list

Filmography

Year Title Role
1983 Something Wicked this Way Comes Mr. Dark
1985 Brazil Sam Lowry
1986 Haunted Honeymoon Charles Abbot
Jumpin' Jack Flash Jack
1987 Man on Fire Michael
1988 Consuming Passions Mr Farris
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson
1992 Glengarry Glen Ross James Lingk
1993 Dark Blood (unreleased) Harry
Barbarians at the Gate Henry Kravis
1995 Carrington Lytton Strachey
1996 Evita Colonel Juan Perón
1997 Regeneration / Behind the Lines Dr. William Rivers
Tomorrow Never Dies Elliot Carver
1998 Ronin Seamus O'Rourke
1999 Stigmata Cardinal Houseman
2001 The Affair of the Necklace Cardinal Louis de Rohan
2003 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Gov. Weatherby Swann
What a Girl Wants Alistair Payne
2004 De-Lovely Gabriel
2005 The Brothers Grimm General Vavarin Delatombe
The New World King James
2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Gov. Weatherby Swann
2007 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Gov. Weatherby Swann
Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars Sherlock Holmes
2008 Leatherheads C.C. Frazier
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 Allied General Robert Bingham
My Zinc Bed Victor Quinn
2009 G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (post-production) U.S. President

References

External links

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