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Brian Blessed ( ; born 9 October 1937, Goldthorpemarker, Yorkshiremarker, Englandmarker) is an English actor, author and adventurer. He is known for his loud, booming voice and "hearty, king-sized portrayals".

Early life

The son of William Blessed, a socialist miner, and Hilda Wall, Blessed was born in the village of Goldthorpemarker in Yorkshiremarker, Englandmarker. He attended Bolton on Dearnemarker Secondary Modern School, but was forced to leave school early and spent several years working at a variety of jobs, ranging from undertaker to plasterer's assistant to time in the RAF. He began his training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Schoolmarker. He has written about his early life in his autobiography, Dynamite Kid (1992).


At the beginning of his career, Blessed had small roles in such cult shows as The Avengers and the original Randall and Hopkirk . His first well-known role was that of PC 'Fancy' Smith in the BBC police drama Z Cars from 1962 to 1965.

He then went on to portray Caesar Augustus in the BBC series I, Claudius, for which performance he won the New York Critics Award . He has appeared in a number of Shakespearean roles on both stage and screen, including four of the five Shakespeare films directed by Kenneth Branagh: as The Duke of Exeter in Henry V, Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing, The Ghost of Hamlet's Father in Hamlet and the dual role of Duke Frederick and Duke Senior in As You Like It.

Other roles have emphasised his comedic abilities: notably Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon (1980); the mad, comic figure of Richard IV in the first series of The Black Adder (1983); and Spiro in the BBC adaptation of My Family and Other Animals (1987). He also played the role of General Yevlenko in the 1988 miniseries War and Remembrance. Blessed jokes he almost starred in Blackadder II (1986) as Queen Elizabeth but he wasn't available at the time of filming.

He provided the vocal links on the Sony-Award-winning Christian O'Connell Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio and introduced adverts for Orange mobile phones. At Christmas 2006, he presented a panto Cinderella for Virgin Radio starring actors such as David Tennant and Thandie Newton. In November 2006, Blessed made a surprise appearance on the midday talk show Loose Women. Also, he is featured reading the story "The White City Part 1" which is the final piece on the album Late Night Tales: Nightmares on Wax. Blessed was also the voice of Jean Valjean in Focus on the Familymarker Radio Theatre's audio dramatic adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.

Blessed has also starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats as both Old Deuteronomy and Bustopher Jones during the original Londonmarker production. In 2002, under the direction of Royal Shakespeare Company director, Adrian Noble, Blessed originated the role of Baron Bomburst for the stage musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

During December 2005 to January 2006, Blessed headlined the pantomime production of Peter Pan, alongside CBBC Television presenter Kirsten O'Brien at the Regent Theatremarker in Ipswichmarker. In late 2007 and early 2008, Blessed starred in the panto version of Peter Pan as Captain Hook at the Grove Theatre in Dunstablemarker. He played the same role again in "Peter Pan" in late 2007, early 2008 and again at Christmas 2008 at the Fairfield Hallsmarker, Croydonmarker.

Since October 2008, Blessed presents the UK showings of the Japanese gameshow Unbeatable Banzuke on the Challenge channel under the name Banzuke Brian. He also guest hosted an episode of Have I Got News for You in May 2008.

In May 2009, Blessed spent two nights as Narrator for Rick Wakeman's performances of The Six Wives of Henry VIII which can be seen on the DVD/BD.

Currently, Blessed is narrating the British version of Peter and the Wolf, about to start at the new victory theater in new york.

In November 2009, Blessed starred in a series of online videos on the BBC Comedy website in which he played Henry VIII. The concept of the video series is that the Tudor king is alive & well, and living in a suburban semi with his long-suffering sixth wife Catherine Parr. Henry has embraced modern technology and lives his life online - insulting the King of France on Facebook, surfing for honeys, and blocking the Pope on Twitter.

Other achievements

Blessed is also an adventurer. He climbed Mont Blancmarker at the age of seventeen, and he has remained an active mountaineer throughout his life. Though he has never reached the summit, he has tried to climb Mount Everestmarker on three separate occasions. During his attempt in 1993, the then 56-year-old climbed higher than any other man of his age; the height record was later broken by Sir Ranulph Fiennes in 2009. He has successfully climbed Aconcaguamarker in Argentinamarker as well as Kilimanjaromarker in Tanzania. He also holds the record for being the oldest man to trek on foot to the magnetic North Polemarker, and has undertaken an expedition deep into the jungles of Venezuelamarker.

In 2004, he sang on Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes as Luciano Pavarotti. Blessed is also known for his football knowledge and appeared as an expert on the British satellite station UKTV G2 during the 2006 World Cup. He also appeared on A Question of Sport in 2006 and was a guest host of Have I Got News for You in May 2008 alongside guests Alan Duncan and Marcus Brigstocke (later making a surprise appearance in the Christmas special later in the year). He turned out to be the butt of several jokes due to his madcap manner near the beginning of the episode, if not throughout. In the same month he appeared as a guest on The Paul O'Grady Show.

He has been a contestant of the second series of The Underdog Show.

He is the current President of the Television and Radio Industries Club (TRIC), an organisation which honours achievers in the film and radio industries. He has honorary degrees from the University of Bradfordmarker, awarded in July 2003, and Sheffield Hallam Universitymarker, awarded in 2004.

He also stars in the Living Legendmarker show in Jersey, Channel Islands. It features many celebrity faces, such as Roger Lloyd Pack, Samantha Janus, Kevin Whately and Tony Robinson. The story is of the history of the island.

In 2009 he featured on the debut album Beneath The Veiled Embrace by UK power-metal band Pythia , with a reading of Suicide In The Trenches by Siegfried Sassoon, on the song Army Of The Damned.

Personal life

Blessed now lives in Surreymarker. He married actress Hildegarde Neil Zimmermann in 1978 and they have one daughter, Rosalind. He also has a number of dogs. Blessed and Neil appeared together on an episode of the ITV game show "All Star Mr And Mrs" on May 23, 2009. In the show, it was revealed that the only thing that he cannot do without is condensed milk.

Blessed is a lifelong friend of another noted Shakespearean and sci-fi veteran Patrick Stewart, whom he first met at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

Blessed is a life-long supporter of Newcastle United. He has also been quoted as saying that he supports his home town club Doncaster Rovers and Manchester United.

Selected TV and film work


  • The Turquoise Mountain: Brian Blessed on Everest (1991)
  • Dynamite Kid (1992)
  • Nothing's Impossible (1994)
  • To the Top of the World (1995)
  • Quest for the Lost World (1999)


External links

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