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Brian Denis Cox, CBE (born 1 June, 1946) is an Emmy Award-winning Scottishmarker actor. He is perhaps best known for playing Hannibal Lecktor in the 1986 film Manhunter, and has since become a familiar face in film and television. He is also known for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he gained great recognition for his portrayal of King Lear.

Early life

Cox was born in Dundeemarker, Scotlandmarker, the youngest of five children. His mother, Mary Ann Guillerline (née McCann), was a spinner who worked in the jute mills and suffered several nervous breakdowns during Cox's childhood. His father, Charles McArdle Campbell Cox, was a weaver who died when Cox was nine years old. Cox was subsequently brought up by a sister and an aunt. He joined the Dundee Repertory Theatre at the age of fourteen.


Cox was trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Artmarker, leaving in 1965 when he joined the Lyceum company in Edinburgh, followed in 1966 by two years with the Birmingham Repmarker, where his parts included the title role in Peer Gynt (1967) and Orlando in As You Like It, in which he made his London debut in June 1967 at the Vaudeville Theatremarker.

He made his first television appearance as an extra in several episodes of The Prisoner in 1967 before taking a lead role in The Year of the Sex Olympics the next year. In 1978, he played King Henry II of England in the acclaimed BBC2 drama serial The Devil's Crown, following which he starred in many other television dramas. His first film appearance was as Leon Trotsky in Nicholas and Alexandra in 1971.

Cox is an accomplished Shakespearean actor, spending seasons with both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatremarker in the 1980s and 1990s. His work with the RSC included a critically acclaimed performance as the title character in Titus Andronicus, as well as playing Petruchio in The Taming of The Shrew. Cox portrayed Burgundy opposite Laurence Olivier's King Lear (1983). He later went on to play King Lear at the National Theatre.

In 1986, during the production of Manhunter, while Cox was playing Hannibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkins was playing King Lear on stage at the National Theatre. Five years later, during the production of The Silence of the Lambs in which Hopkins took over as Lecter, Cox was playing King Lear at the National Theatre. At the time, the two actors shared the same agent.

In 1991 he played the part of Owen Benjamin, the closeted father of a gay man, in the BBC "Screen 2" production of David Leavitt's novel, The Lost Language of Cranes, which is set in the 1980s.

His most famous appearances include Rob Roy, Braveheart (both in 1995), The Ring, X2, Troy and The Bourne Supremacy. He usually plays villains, such as William Stryker in X2, Agamemnon in Troy, Pariah Dark in the Danny Phantom television series episode Reign Storm, and a devious CIA official in the Bourne films and in Chain Reaction. He has on occasion played more sympathetic characters, such as Edward Norton's father in 25th Hour, a fatherly police superior in Super Troopers, and Rachel McAdams' father in Red Eye. He has also appeared in the sitcom Frasier as Daphne Moon's father. He was also the protagonist in the film The Escapist.

Cox garnered critical acclaim for his performance in 2001's L.I.E., in which he played a pedophile who grows to genuinely (and platonically) care for a boy he had initially intended to molest. He won an Emmy Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award that year for his portrayal of Hermann Göring in the television mini-series Nuremberg. He also appeared in a supporting role as Jack Langrishe in the HBO series Deadwood.

In 2002, he appeared in Spike Jonze's Charlie Kaufman-scripted Adaptation as the real-life screenwriting teacher, Robert McKee, giving advice to Nicolas Cage in both his roles, as Charlie Kaufman and Charlie's fictional twin-brother Donald. In 2004, Cox played King Agamemnon in Troy. He was to play the lion Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but was replaced by Liam Neeson. He appeared on a 2006 episode of the British motoring programme Top Gear (as a "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car").

Cox has also been involved in the video game industry. Among his most prominent roles were Killzone (2004) and Killzone 2 (2009), in which he played the ruthless Scolar Visari, and as the voice of Lionel Starkweather, a snuff film director, in Manhunt.

His radio work includes the BBC series McLevy (1999–2006), based on the real life detective James McLevy.

Cox narrated an abridged audio book version of Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe, and an unabridged audio book of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. He has also collaborated with HarperCollins on an audiobook of Tolkien's epic poem The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, which is scheduled for release in August 2009.

In 2008 Cox starred in Red, based on Jack Ketchum's novel. The film was directed by Lucky McKee and also starred Tom Sizemore, Amanda Plummer, and Angela Bettis. Cox also played an institutionalized convict in Rupert Wyatt's film, The Escapist, appearing alongside Joseph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper and Damian Lewis.

Personal life

Cox is a diabetic and has worked to promote a diabetes research facility in his home town of Dundee. The producers of Super Troopers discovered his affliction when a scene called for Cox to eat a white chocolate prop that resembled a bar of soap. Cox bit into it thinking they knew this, and promptly spat it out upon tasting it. Production was halted until a sugar-free substitute could be found.

Cox is a patron for Scottish Youth Theatre, Scotland's National Theatre 'for and by' young people. Scottish Youth Theatre's building in Glasgow, The Old Sheriff Court, named their theatre the Brian Cox Studio Theatre in his honour.

He is also a patron of "THE SPACE", a training facility for actors and dancers in his native Dundee, and an "ambassador" for the Screen Academy Scotland.

In July 2008, Cox was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Napier University, Edinburgh.

His son, Alan Cox, is also an actor, best known for his role in Young Sherlock Holmes. He also played the young John Mortimer in the TV film of his play A Voyage Round My Father (1982) opposite Laurence Olivier.


Year Film Role Notes
1971 Nicholas and Alexandra Trotsky
1975 In Celebration Steven Shaw
1983 King Lear Burgundy (TV movie)
1986 Manhunter Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (sic)
1990 Hidden Agenda Kerrigan
1991 The Lost Language of Cranes Owen Benjamin (TV movie)
Nominated – British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
1993 Inspector Morse: The Deadly Slumber Michael Steppings (TV movie)
1993 Sharpe: Sharpe's Rifles Major Hogan (TV movie)
Sharpe: Sharpe's Eagle Major Hogan (TV movie)
1994 Iron Will Angus McTeague
1995 Rob Roy Killearn
Braveheart Argyle Wallace
1996 Chain Reaction Lyman Earl Collier
The Glimmer Man Mr. Smith
The Long Kiss Goodnight Dr. Nathan Waldman
1997 Kiss the Girls Chief Hatfield, Durham P.D.
The Boxer Joe Hamill
1998 Desperate Measures Captain Jeremiah Cassidy
Rushmore Dr. Nelson Guggenheim
1999 The Minus Man Doug Durwin
The Corruptor Sean Wallace
For Love of the Game Gary Wheeler
2000 Longitude Lord Morton (TV movie)
Complicity Inspector McDunn
Mad About Mambo Sidney McLoughlin
Nuremberg Hermann Göring (TV movie)
Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie

A Shot at Glory Martin Smith
2001 Super Troopers Capt. John O'Hagen
L.I.E. Big John Harrigan Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor (tied with Denzel Washington for Training Day)
Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead

Strictly Sinatra Chisolm
The Affair of the Necklace Minister Breteuil
2002 Bug Cyr
The Rookie Jim Morris Sr.
The Bourne Identity Ward Abbott
The Ring Richard Morgan
Adaptation. Robert McKee Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
25th Hour James Brogan
The Trials of Henry Kissinger Narrator
2003 X2 William Stryker
Manhunt The Director (voice) (Video game)
The Reckoning Tobias
2004 Killzone Scolar Visari (voice) (Video game)
Troy Agamemnon Nominated — London Film Critics Circle Award for British Actor of the Year
The Bourne Supremacy Ward Abbott
2005 Blue/Orange Dr. Robert Smith (TV movie)
Match Point Alec Hewett
The Ringer Gary Barker
Red Eye Joe Reisert
2006 The Flying Scotsman Douglas Baxter
Deadwood Jack Langrishe (TV series)
Running with Scissors Dr. Finch
2007 Zodiac Melvin Belli Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor
Battle for Terra General Hemmer (voice) 2007/2009
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Old Angus
2008 Red Avery Ludlow
The Escapist Frank Perry BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Acting Performance in Film
The Colour of Magic Narrator (voice) (TV movie)
Agent Crush Spanners (voice)
Shoot on Sight Daniel Tennant
2009 Killzone 2 Scolar Visari (voice) (Video game)
Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword Green Dragon (voice)
Kings King Vesper Abedon (TV series)
Trick 'r Treat Mr. Kreeg
The Take Ozzy (TV series)
Tell-Tale Van Doren
Fantastic Mr. Fox Boggis (voice)
Doctor Who Ood Elder (voice) (TV series)
2011 The Hobbit films Dwarf (rumored)


  1. Brian Cox Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  2. Brian Cox Biography
  3. At last, the return of the native - Times Online
  4. Who's Who in the Theatre, 17th edition (Gale, 1981)

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