Paul Scofield

David Paul Scofield, CH, CBE (21 January 192219 March 2008) was an English award-winning actor of stage and screen. Noted for his distinctive voice and delivery, Scofield received an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for his performance as Sir Thomas More in the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons, a reprise of the role he played in the stage version at the West End and on Broadway for which he received a Tony Award.


Early life

Scofield was born in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, and began attending the Varndean Secondary School in Brighton at the age of 12 where he took various roles in school plays.

He went up to Oxford in 1939, where he famously shared digs with Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin before leaving university to pursue his acting career. Scofield began his stage career in 1940 with a debut performance in Desire Under the Elms at the Westminster Theatre, and was soon being compared with Laurence Olivier. In 1947, he starred in Walter Nugent Monck's revival of Pericles, Prince of Tyre at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford.


An actor of extraordinary intelligence, Scofield was noteworthy for his striking presence and distinctive voice, and for the clarity and unmannered intensity of his delivery. His versatility at the height of his career is exemplified by his starring roles in theatrical productions as diverse as the musical Expresso Bongo (1958) and Peter Brook's celebrated production of King Lear (1962). In his memoir Threads of Time, Peter Brook wrote about Scofield's versatility: "The door at the back of the set opened, and a small man entered. He was wearing a black suit, steel-rimmed glasses, and holding a suitcase. For a moment we wondered who this stranger was and why he was wandering onto our stage. Then we realized that it was Paul, transformed. His tall body had shrunk; he had become insignificant. The new character now possessed him entirely."

In a career mainly devoted to the classical theatre, Scofield starred in many Shakespeare plays and played the title role in Ben Jonson's Volpone in Peter Hall's production for the Royal National Theatre (1977). Highlights of his career in modern theatre include the roles of Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons (1960), Charles Dyer in Dyer's play Staircase, staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1966, the definitive Laurie in John Osborne's A Hotel in Amsterdam (1968), and Antonio Salieri in the original stage production of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus (1979). He was subsequently the voice of the Dragon in another play by Robert Bolt, a children's drama The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew. Expresso Bongo, Staircase and Amadeus were filmed with other actors, but Scofield starred in the screen versions of A Man for All Seasons (1966) and King Lear (1971). Other major screen roles include Strether in a 1977 TV adaptation of Henry James's novel The Ambassadors, Tobias in A Delicate Balance (1973), Professor Moroi in the film of János Nyíri's If Winter Comes (1980), for BBC Television, Mark Van Doren in Robert Redford's film Quiz Show (1994), and Thomas Danforth in Nicholas Hytner's film adaptation (1996) of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Scofield was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1956 New Year Honours. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for A Man for All Seasons and was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Quiz Show. Theatrical accolades include a 1962 Tony Award for A Man for All Seasons. In 1969, Scofield became the sixth performer to win the Triple Crown of Acting, winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Male of the Species. He was also one of only eight actors to win both the Tony and the Oscar for the same role on stage and film. He was appointed a Companion of Honour (CH) in the 2001 New Year Honours. In 2002 he was awarded the honorary degree of D. Litt by the University of Oxford. In 2004 a poll of actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Ian McKellen, Donald Sinden, Janet Suzman, Ian Richardson, Antony Sher and Corin Redgrave, acclaimed his Lear as the greatest Shakespearean performance ever. Scofield appeared in many radio dramas for BBC Radio 4, including in later years plays by Peter Tinniswood: On the Train to Chemnitz (2001) and Anton in Eastbourne (2002). The latter was Tinniswood's last work and was written especially for Scofield, an admirer of Anton Chekhov. He was awarded the 2002 Sam Wanamaker Prize.

Personal life

Scofield married actress Joy Parker in 1943. The couple had two children; Martin (born 1944), a lecturer in 19th-century English literature at the University of Kent, and Sarah (born 1951).

He declined the honour of a knighthood on three occasions, but was appointed CBE in 1956 and became a Companion of Honour in 2001.

Scofield died on 19 March 2008 at the age of 86 at a hospital near his home in Sussex, England, from leukemia.


Year Title Role Notes
1955 That Lady King Philip II of Spain
1958 Carve Her Name with Pride Tony Fraser
1964 The Train Col. von Waldheim
1966 A Man for All Seasons Sir Thomas More Academy Award for Best Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1970 Bartleby The Accountant
1971 King Lear King Lear
1973 A Delicate Balance Tobias
Scorpio Zharkov
1983 Ill Fares the Land voice
1984 Summer Lightning Old Robert Clarke
1985 Anna Karenina Karenin TV role
1919 Alexander Scherbatov
1989 Henry V Charles VI of France
1990 Hamlet The Ghost
1992 Utz Doctor Vaclav Orlik
1994 Quiz Show Mark Van Doren Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination
1996 The Crucible Judge Thomas Danforth BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1997 Robinson in Space Narrator
1999 Animal Farm Boxer voice


Year Title Role Notes
1969 Male of the Species Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
1980 If Winter Comes Professor Moroi
1981 The Potting Shed James Callifer
1985 Anna Karenina Karenin
1987 Mister Corbett's Ghost Mr. Corbett
1988 The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank Otto Frank
1989 When the Whales Came The Birdman
1994 Genesis: The Creation and the Flood
Martin Chuzzlewit Old Martin Chuzzlewit/Anthony Chuzzlewit BAFTA TV Award Best Actor nomination
1999 The Disabled Century


Paul Scofield led the cast in the Shakespeare Recording Society versions of King Lear, Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, and in other dramas issued by Caedmon Records:

  • King Lear, directed by Howard Sackler (Text edited by G.B. Harrison), with Pamela Brown (Goneril), Rachel Roberts (Regan), Ann Bell (Cordelia); Wallace Eaton (France), John Rogers (Burgundy), Trevor Martin (Cornwall), Michael Aldridge (Albany), Andrew Keir (Kent), Cyril Cusack (Gloucester), Robert Stephens (Edgar), John Stride (Edmund), Ronnie Stevens (Fool); Arthur Hewlett (Curan, Doctor), Ronald Ibbs (Gentleman, Knight), Willoughby Goddard (Oswald). Eight sides, SRS 233 (first published 1965).
  • Hamlet, directed by Howard Sackler, (Unabridged), with Diana Wynyard (Queen), Roland Culver (Claudius), Donald Houston (Laertes), Zena Walker (Ophelia), Wilfrid Lawson. Eight sides, SRS 232 (first published 1963).
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Howard Sackler, with Barbara Jefford, Joy Walker, John Stride, etc. Six sides, SRS 208 (first published 1964).
  • T.S. Eliot, The Family Reunion, with Flora Robson, Sybil Thorndike, Alan Webb. Six sides, TRS 308.
  • Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, with Ralph Richardson. (Caedmon)


  • King Lear, with Harriet Walter (Goneril), Sara Kestelman (Regan), Emilia Fox (Cordelia), Alec McCowen (Gloucester), Kenneth Branagh (Fool), David Burke, Richard A. McCabe, Toby Stephens, etc. Released 2002 to concide with Scofield's 80th birthday. (Naxos Audiobooks, 3CD set).
  • Virgil, The Aeneid, Paul Scofield (narrator), Jill Balcon and Toby Stephens (readers). (Naxos Audiobook CD).
  • T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Four Quartets (BBC Radiobooks CD).
  • Sandor Marai, Embers (Penguin Audiobooks) - Narrator
  • With David Suchet and Ron Moody, Scofield led the cast of a radio dramatization of the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, which are available as CD issues. (Tynedale Entertainment)
  • Scofield recorded abridged readings of Dickens's A Christmas Carol and Bleak House (Blackstone Audiobooks).
  • Façade (Sitwell-Walton), performed by Paul Scofield and Peggy Ashcroft, with London Sinfonietta conducted by William Walton. (Argo Records, 1972)


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