Sir Derek Jacobi

Derek George Jacobi was born on 22nd October 1938 in Leytonstone, East London, England, and is the only child of a department store manager and a secretary. He claims a happy childhood but he does admit that he did not see much of his parents in the early years since his father was a soldier and his mother worked.

Derek went to the Leyton County High School and was an integral part of the drama club, The Players of Leyton. Since that was an all-boysschool, he had to play female parts until his voice broke. His first male part was DeSoto in The Last of the Inca. His second male part was Hamlet, for which he would win great national accolades when the school troupe played it at the Edinburgh Festival in 1957.

Edward II

As a result of his wonderful performance of Edward II at Cambridge, he was invited to become a member of the Birmingham Rep immediately upon graduation.


Upon being seen by Sir Lawrence Olivier in a Birmingham Rep production of Henry VIII, Olivier invited him back home to London to become one of the eight founding members of the new National Theatre. He was the youngest and only unknown of the eight members. Below are two of the National productions, Othello in 1965 and one with Anthony Hopkins.

I, Claudius

After eight years at the National Theatre, Derek left in 1971 to pursue a larger variety of roles and mediums, including television. In 1972, he starred in the BBC miniseries "Man of Straw", directed by Herbert Wise, who also cast him for the title role in "I, Claudius" three years later.

Other television work included the coveted roles of Richard II and Hamlet in the BBC Shakespeare plays. His theatre work in the 1970's also branched out enormously, Derek now consistently playing leading roles, starting with a triumphant return to the Birmingham Rep in a virtuosic double bill of "Oedipus Rex" and "The Critic". Most of his theatrical work in the 70's was with the touring classical Prospect Theatre Company, with which he did a variety of roles including Ivanov, Pericles and Hamlet, the latter prestigiously being invited to play at Elsinore Castle.

In 1980, Derek gave his Broadway debut in "The Suicide" and then joined the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1982-1985 where he alternated four demanding roles in repertoire at the same time. In 1986, he made his commercial West End. Important TV and film work of the 80's included parts in "Inside the Third Reich", "Little Dorrit" and "Henry V".

Senator Gracchus in "Gladiator"

The 1990's saw a continuation of classical stage work with "Kean" at the Old Vic, "Becket" in the West End (The Haymarket) and "Macbeth" at the RSC in both London and Stratford. In 1995 and 1996, taking a job once held by Laurence Olivier, Derek became artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatres for two successful seasons, returning to the theatres where he had played so many times previously with the National and Prospect Theatre companies.

As an actor at Chichester, he also starred in four plays, including his first "Uncle Vanya" in 1996. Television highlights during the 90's included 13 episodes of the Cadfael mysteries (1994-1998) and a televised version of "Breaking the Code". Films highlights included marvelous performances in "Dead Again", "Hamlet" (King Claudius) and "Love is the Devil" (Bacon).


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