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Ian Holm

Ian Holm.jpg
Holm in Edinburgh, August 2004
Ian Holm Cuthbert

(1931-09-12) 12 September 1931 (age 87)
Goodmayes, Essex, England
Years active1957–2014
Lynn Mary Shaw
(m. 1955; div. 1965)

Sophie Baker
(m. 1982; div. 1986)

Penelope Wilton
(m. 1991; div. 2001)

Sophie de Stempel
(m. 2003)

Sir Ian Holm Cuthbert CBE (born 12 September 1931), known as Ian Holm, is an English actor known for his stage work and many film roles. He received the 1967 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor for his performance as Lenny in The Homecoming and the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance in the title role of King Lear. He won the 1981 BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his role as athletics trainer Sam Mussabini in Chariots of Fire, for which he was also nominated for an Academy Award.

His other well-known film roles include Ash in Alien, Sir William Gull in From Hell, Father Vito Cornelius in The Fifth Element, and the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film series.

Early years

Holm was born Ian Holm Cuthbert on 12 September 1931 in Goodmayes, in Essex, to Scottish parents, Jean Wilson (née Holm) and James Harvey Cuthbert.[1] His mother was a nurse, and his father was a psychiatrist who worked as the superintendent of the West Ham Corporation Mental Hospital and was one of the pioneers of electric shock therapy.[2][3][4][5] He had an older brother, Eric, who died in 1943. Holm was educated at the independent Chigwell School in Essex. His parents retired to Mortehoe, Devon and then Worthing where he joined an amateur dramatic society.[6]

A visit to the dentist led to an introduction to Henry Baynton, a well-known provincial Shakespearean actor who helped Holm train for admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he secured a place in 1949. His studies there were interrupted a year later when he was called up for National Service in the British Army, during which he was posted to Klagenfurt, Austria and attained the rank of Lance Corporal. They were then interrupted a second time when he volunteered to go on an acting tour of the United States in 1952.[6]

He finally graduated from RADA in 1953; whilst there he had been offered 'spear-carrying' roles at Stratford and he stayed there for 13 years, soon graduating to more significant roles and abandoning plans to move on after Peter Hall founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960.[6]


Holm was an established star of the Royal Shakespeare Company before making an impact on television and film. In 1965, he played Richard III in the BBC serialisation of The Wars of The Roses, based on the RSC production of the plays, in 1969 he played the lead in Dennis Potter's Moonlight on the Highway and gradually he made a name for himself with minor roles in films such as Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) and Young Winston (1972). In 1967, he won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play as Lenny in The Homecoming by Harold Pinter. In 1977, Holm appeared in the TV mini-series Jesus of Nazareth as the Sadducee Zerah, and a villainous Moroccan in March or Die. The following year he played J. M. Barrie in the award-winning BBC TV series The Lost Boys, in which his son Barnaby played the young George Llewelyn Davies.

In 1981, he played Frodo Baggins in BBC radio adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.[7]

Holm's first film role to have a major impact was that of the treacherous android, Ash, in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). His portrayal of Sam Mussabini in Chariots of Fire (1981), earned him a special award at the Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Back home in England, he won a BAFTA award, for Best Supporting Actor, for Chariots. In the 1980s, he had memorable roles in Time Bandits (1981), Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) and Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985). He played Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland in the Dennis Potter-scripted fantasy Dreamchild (1985).

In 1989, Holm was nominated for a BAFTA award for the TV series Game, Set and Match. Based on the novels by Len Deighton, this tells the story of an intelligence officer (Holm) who discovers that his own wife is an enemy spy. He continued to perform Shakespeare, and appeared with Kenneth Branagh in Henry V (1989) and as Polonius to Mel Gibson's Hamlet (1990). Holm was reunited with Kenneth Branagh in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), playing the father of Branagh's Victor Frankenstein.

Holm raised his profile in 1997 with two prominent roles, as the stressed but gentle priest Vito Cornelius in The Fifth Element and lawyer Mitchell Stephens in The Sweet Hereafter. In 2001 he starred in From Hell as the physician Sir William Withey Gull. The same year he appeared as Bilbo Baggins in the blockbuster film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, having previously played Bilbo's nephew Frodo Baggins in a 1981 BBC Radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. He reappeared in the trilogy in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), for which he shared a SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. He reprised his role as the elder Bilbo Baggins in the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Martin Freeman portrayed the young Bilbo Baggins in those films.

Holm has been nominated for an Emmy Award twice, for a PBS broadcast of a National Theatre production of King Lear, in 1999; and for a supporting role in the HBO film The Last of the Blonde Bombshells opposite Judi Dench, in 2001. Holm has provided voice-overs for many British TV documentaries and commercials.

Holm has appeared in two David Cronenberg films: Naked Lunch (1991) and eXistenZ (1999). He was Harold Pinter's favourite actor, the playwright once stating: "He puts on my shoe, and it fits!"[8] Holm played Lenny in the first performance of Pinter's masterpiece The Homecoming.

He has played Napoleon Bonaparte three times: first, in the 1972 television series Napoleon and Love; next, in a cameo comic rendition, in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits from 1981; third, in 2001 he played the fallen and exiled leader in the fanciful film The Emperor's New Clothes.

Personal life

Holm has been married four times.[9] His first three marriages ended in divorce. In 1991, he married his third wife, actress Penelope Wilton, in Wiltshire.[10] They appeared together in The Borrowers (1993) on British television. They divorced in 2001.[9] He is currently married to artist Sophie de Stempel, a protégée and life model of Lucian Freud.[11]

Holm has five children; three daughters (Jessica, Sarah-Jane and Melissa) and two sons (Barnaby and Harry) from three women, including the first two of his four wives.[9]

He was treated for prostate cancer in 2001.[9]


Year Title Role Notes
1968 The Bofors Gun Flynn BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
The Fixer Grubeshov
A Midsummer Night's Dream Puck/Robin Goodfellow
1969 Oh! What a Lovely War President Raymond Poincaré
1970 A Severed Head Martin Lynch-Gibbon
1971 Nicholas and Alexandra Commissar Vasily Yakovlev
Mary, Queen of Scots David Rizzio
1972 Young Winston George E. Buckle
1973 The Homecoming Lenny
1974 Napoleon and Love Napoleon I TV
Juggernaut Nicholas Porter
1976 Robin and Marian King John
Shout at the Devil Mohammed
1977 The Man in the Iron Mask Duval
March or Die El Krim
Jesus of Nazareth Zerah
1978 Les Misérables Thénardier
Do You Remember? Walter Street TV
Nominated — British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
The Lost Boys J. M. Barrie TV
Royal Television Society Award for Best Performance
Nominated — British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
Holocaust Heinrich Himmler TV
1979 All Quiet on the Western Front Himmelstoss TV film
Alien Ash Reprised physical role in Alien: Isolation
S.O.S. Titanic J. Bruce Ismay
1980 We, the Accused Paul Pressett TV
1981 Chariots of Fire Sam Mussabini BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Cannes Film Festival Award Best Supporting Actor (Special Award)
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — American Movie Award for Best Supporting Actor
Time Bandits Napoleon
1982 The Bell Michael Meade TV
The Return of the Soldier Doctor Anderson
Inside the Third Reich Joseph Goebbels
1984 Laughterhouse Ben Singleton
Greystoke - The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes Capitain Philippe D'Arnot Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Terror in the Aisles Ash
1985 The Browning Version Andrew Crocker-Harris CableACE Award for Best Actor in a Theatrical or Dramatic Special
Dreamchild Reverend Charles L. Dodgson/Lewis Carroll Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Fantasporto's International Fantasy Film Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Wetherby Stanley Pilborough Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — National Society of Film Critics Award Best Supporting Actor (3rd place)
Brazil Mr Kurtzmann Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — National Society of Film Critics Award Best Supporting Actor (3rd place)
Dance with a Stranger Desmond Cussen Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — National Society of Film Critics Award Best Supporting Actor (3rd place)
Mr and Mrs Edgehill Eustace Edgehill
1986 Murder by the Book Hercule Poirot TV
1988 Game, Set and Match Bernard Samson TV
Nominated — British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
Another Woman Ken Post
1989 Henry V Fluellen
1990 Hamlet Polonius
1991 Uncle Vanya Astrov BBC TV
Naked Lunch Tom Frost
Kafka Doctor Murnau
1992 Blue Ice Sir Hector
The Borrowers Pod Clock TV
1993 The Hour of the Pig Albertus Also known as The Advocate
The Return of the Borrowers Pod Clock TV
1994 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Baron Alphonse Frankenstein
The Madness of King George Dr. Francis Willis Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1996 Big Night Pascal
Loch Ness Water Bailiff
1997 Night Falls on Manhattan Liam Casey
The Sweet Hereafter Mitchell Stephens Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated — National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor (3rd place)
Nominated — New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor (2nd place)
Nominated — Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
The Fifth Element Father Vito Cornelius
A Life Less Ordinary Naville
Incognito John
1998 Alice Through the Looking Glass White Knight
King Lear Lear Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actor
Evening Standard Award for Best Actor
Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor - Miniseries or a Movie
1999 Animal Farm Squealer Voice
Shergar Joseph Maguire
eXistenZ Kiri Vinokur
Simon Magus Sirius/Boris/The Devil
Wisconsin Death Trip Frank Cooper (voice)
The Match Big Tam
2000 Joe Gould's Secret Joe Gould
The Miracle Maker Pontius Pilate Voice
The Last of the Blonde Bombshells Patrick Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Esther Kahn Nathan Quellen
Beautiful Joe George The Geek
Bless the Child Reverend Grissom
2001 From Hell Sir William Gull
The Emperor's New Clothes Napoleon/Sergeant Eugene Lenormand
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Bilbo Baggins Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Nominated — Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated — Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
2004 The Day After Tomorrow Professor Terry Rapson
Garden State Gideon Largeman
The Aviator Professor Fitz Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Monsters We Met Narrator TV documentary
The Last Dragon Narrator TV
2005 Strangers with Candy Dr. Putney
Chromophobia Edward Aylesbury
Lord of War Simeon Weisz
The Adventures of Errol Flynn Narrator TV documentary
2005–2008 Horizon Narrator TV documentary
2006 Renaissance Jonas Muller Voice
O Jerusalem Ben Gurion
The Treatment Dr. Ernesto Morales
2007 Ratatouille Skinner Voice
Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production
2009 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth Narrator TV[12][13]
2012 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Older
Bilbo Baggins
2014 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Honours and awards

Nominations and awards for films and TV roles are listed in filmography.



  • Holm, Ian; Jacobi, Steven (2004). Acting my Life. London: Bantam Press. ISBN 978-0-593-05214-3.


  1. ^ "Ian Holm Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  2. ^ "Ian Holm". Channel 4 Film. 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  3. ^ "Ian Holm – Family and Companions". Yahoo!7 Movies. 2008. Archived from the original on 14 January 2006. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  4. ^ "Excerpts from Loch Ness Presskit (1995)". aboutjamesfrain. 18 April 2004. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  5. ^ Sweet, Matthew (16 January 2004). "Film: Napoleon Complex". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2 January 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  6. ^ a b c Ian Holm with Steven Jacobi (2004). Acting My Life – Ian Holm. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-593-05214-3.
  7. ^ "The Tolkien Library review of the Lord of the Rings Radio Adaptation".
  8. ^ Brantley, Ben. THEATER REVIEW; Talk About a Reality Show. A Pinter Classic Is It Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. The New York Times 21 July 2001.
  9. ^ a b c d Holm, Ian; Jacobi, Steven (2004). Acting my Life. London: Bantam Press. pp. 220, 224, 313ff. ISBN 978-0-593-05214-3.
  10. ^ England and Wales Marriages 1984–2005 Archived 20 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Portrait of the actor and his fourth wife". The Daily Telegraph. London. 7 February 2004. Archived from the original on 30 June 2004. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  12. ^ "1066 Now Arriving in May". Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  13. ^ Billen, Andrew (19 May 2009). "1066 The Battle for Middle Earth Moving on the Trouble with Working Women". The Times. London.
  14. ^ "No. 51772". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 1989. p. 8.
  15. ^ "No. 55155". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1998. p. 2.

External links

This page was last edited on 12 April 2019, at 20:34
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