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Isaacs in July 2011
|Born|| 6 June 1963 |
Liverpool, Merseyside, England
Isaacs in July 2011
|Born|| 6 June 1963 |
Liverpool, Merseyside, England
Jason Isaacs (born 6 June 1963) is an English actor. He is known for his performance as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, the brutal Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot and as lifelong criminal Michael Caffee in the American television series Brotherhood. Though most of his work has been in film and television, it also includes stage performances; most notably as Louis Ironson in Declan Donnellan's 1992 and 1993 Royal National Theatre London premières of Parts One (Millennium Approaches) and Two (Perestroika) of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, and as Ben, one of two hitmen, playing opposite Lee Evans as Gus, in Harry Burton's 2007 critically acclaimed 50th-anniversary revival of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter's 1957 two-hander The Dumb Waiter at Trafalgar Studios. He starred in the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) drama Awake as Detective Michael Britten from March to May 2012.
Jason Isaacs was born on 6 June 1963, in Liverpool, Merseyside, to Jewish parents. His father was a jewellery-maker. Isaacs spent his earliest childhood years in an "insular" and "closely knit" Jewish community of Liverpudlians, of which his Eastern European great-grandparents were founder-members in the leafy Liverpool suburb, Childwall. The third of four sons, Isaacs attended a Jewish school and a cheder twice a week as a young adult. When he was 11, he moved with his family to Northwest London, attending the Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, in Elstree, Hertsmere, Hertfordshire, where he was in the same year as film reviewer Mark Kermode. He describes his childhood as "preparation" for portraying the "unattractive", villainous characters whom he has most often played. National Front members frequently harassed Isaacs and his friends throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Following his more traditionally inclined brothers, who became respectively a doctor, a lawyer and an accountant, Isaacs studied law at Bristol University (1982–85), but he became more actively involved in the drama society, eventually performing in over 30 plays and performing each summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, first with Bristol University and then, twice, with the National Student Drama Company. After graduating from Bristol he went immediately to train at London's Central School of Speech and Drama (1985–88).
Isaacs' parents eventually repatriated to Israel.
After completing his training as an actor, Isaacs almost immediately began appearing on the stage and on television; his film debut was in a minor role as a doctor in Mel Smith's The Tall Guy (1989). He was initially known as a TV actor in the UK, with starring roles in the ITV drama Capital City (1989) and the BBC drama Civvies (1992) and guest roles in series such as Taggart, Inspector Morse, and Highlander: The Series (1993). He also played Michael Ryan in ITV1's adaptation of Martina Cole's novel Dangerous Lady, directed by Jack Woods and produced by Lavinia Warner, in 1995.
On stage he portrayed the "emotionally waffling" gay Jewish office temp Louis Ironson in Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-Prize-winning Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, at the Royal National Theatre, in its London première, performing the role in both parts, Part One: Millennium Approaches, in 1992, and Part Two: Perestroika, in 1993. When auditioning for that role, he told the producers, "Look, I play all these tough guys and thugs and strong, complex characters. In real life, I am a cringing, neurotic Jewish mess. Can't I for once play that on stage?"
His first Hollywood role was alongside Laurence Fishburne in the film Event Horizon in 1997, in which he played a crew member ultimately killed by the protagonist-turned-antagonist acted by Sam Neill. Subsequently, he appeared in the Bruce Willis blockbuster Armageddon (1998). Initially called upon to take a fairly substantial role, Isaacs was eventually cast in a much smaller capacity as a planet-saving scientist so that he could accommodate his commitment to Divorcing Jack (1998), a comedy thriller he was making with David Thewlis.
After portraying a priest opposite Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes in Neil Jordan's acclaimed adaptation of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair (1999), Isaacs played the charismatic honourable priest opposite Kirsty Alley in the mini series The Last Don. He then shone as "memorable" villain, Colonel William Tavington, in Roland Emmerich's American Revolutionary War fictional film epic The Patriot (2000). Starring opposite Mel Gibson as the film's hero, and Heath Ledger as Gibson's screen son, Isaacs portrays a sadistic British Army officer who kills Ledger's character, among many other soldiers. Although his work in the film earned him comparisons to Ralph Fiennes' portrayal of Nazi Amon Göth in Schindler's List (1993) and mention of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, reaching beyond being typecast as an historical villain, Isaacs chose to play a drag queen in his next project, Sweet November (2001), a romantic comedy-drama starring Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves.
Isaacs has appeared in many other films, most notably as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series of films (2002–2011). Regarding the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, Isaacs has said: "I went off and read the books after the audition and I read the first four books in one sitting – you know – didn't wash, didn't eat, drove around with them on the steering wheel like a lunatic. I suddenly understood why my friends, who I'd thought were slightly backward, had been so addicted to these children's books. They're like crack." In "The Naked and the Dead", an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle, on 26 November 2006, Neva Chonin names the character Lucius Malfoy one of the 12 "Sexiest Men Who Were Never Alive" and Isaacs one of the 13 "Sexiest Men Who Are Real and Alive".
Prior to the making of the film, when asked whether or not he would be in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Isaacs replied, "I hope so – you'll have to ask David (producer David Heyman). I can't bear the idea that somebody else would get to wear my Paris Hilton wig, but you never know." Isaacs also talked to J.K. Rowling on the inclusion of Lucius Malfoy in the then unpublished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so that he would have a part in the seventh and final film: "The character does not appear in the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; but ... [Isaacs joked], 'I fell to my knees and begged ... It didn't do any good. I'm sure she doesn't need plot ideas from me. But I made my point. We'll see. Like everybody else, I'm holding my breath to July to see what's in there. I just want to bust out of prison, that's all. I don't want to stay in Azkaban most of my life.' " Ultimately Isaacs did reprise the role of Malfoy as a cameo appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), where he is seen in a moving portrait. Afterwards, Isaacs reprised the role again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) and Part 2 (2011).
He has appeared in Dragonheart (1996), Event Horizon (1997), Black Hawk Down (2001), Jackie Chan's The Tuxedo (2002) and as George Darling and Captain Hook in P.J. Hogan's adaptation of Peter Pan (2003) and as the voice of Admiral Zhao in the animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005).
Isaacs played the leading role of Sir Mark Brydon, the British Ambassador to the US in the BBC Four miniseries The State Within (2006), for which he was nominated for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television for the 65th Golden Globe Awards. On British television, he also portrayed actor Harry H. Corbett in The Curse of Steptoe, part of "a season of new one-off dramas for BBC Four revealing the stories behind some of Britain's best loved television entertainers, and their achievements," first broadcast in March 2008. On American television, Isaacs appeared in three episodes of The West Wing in 2004, prior to developing his most notable TV serial role, as Michael Caffee in Brotherhood (2006–08).
Between 2 February and 24 March 2007, Isaacs played Ben, opposite Lee Evans (Gus), in the critically acclaimed 50th-anniversary production of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter, at Trafalgar Studios, in London, his first theatre performance since appearing in The Force of Change (2000).
Isaacs played Major Briggs, an American military officer, opposite Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, in Paul Greengrass's thriller Green Zone (2010), a fictionalised drama set in Iraq after the defeat of Saddam Hussein based on the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad's Green Zone (2006), by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, for which production began in Morocco, in January 2008.
In 2007, he was cast in Jan de Bont's then-still-upcoming film Stopping Power, to play its star John Cusack's "nemesis", but, on 31 August 2007, Variety reported that the film, also planned for release in 2009, had been cancelled after a financial backer pulled out. Isaacs appeared in one episode of the TV show Entourage in the autumn of 2008 as Fredrick Line. In 2009, he was nominated at the British Academy Television Awards for Best Actor for his role as Harry H. Corbett in The Curse of Steptoe.
On the evening of 2 May 2009, Isaacs performed the role of Ben again, opposite his Brotherhood co-star (and Tony Award winner) Brian F. O'Byrne (as Gus), in a "rehearsed reading" of The Dumb Waiter. Their reading capped off the Harold Pinter Memorial Celebration being curated by Harry Burton (who had directed him and Evans at Trafalgar Studios). This tribute to Harold Pinter co-sponsored by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center (MESTC), of The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY), was part of the Fifth Annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, held in New York City, from 27 April to 3 May 2009.
Isaacs starred as Detective Michael Britten in the NBC series Awake, which premiered on 1 March 2012, and ended in May 2012. After Britten gets into a terrible car wreck with his family, his dreams begin to take on two alternate realities, one in which his wife died in the crash and one in which his son died. Says Isaacs about the ambitious premise: “There’s no question it's challenging. We’ve got a bunch of very experienced writers who have written things from HBO shows to The X-Files, to 24 and everything in between. And they are challenged. All of them have said that it's the hardest job that they've ever had. But sometimes that's a good thing. … If it comes easily, that they could write in their sleep, I personally wouldn't want to act – and I think the audience wouldn't want to watch."
In February 2014, the USA Network announced Isaacs has been cast in its upcoming action adventure drama series, Dig. Isaacs will portray an FBI agent in Jerusalem who uncovers a 2,000-year-old conspiracy while investigating an archaeologist's murder. The six-episode series is expected to premiere late-2014.
Despite Isaacs' screen celebrity as Lucius Malfoy, he maintains a relatively modest, "calm, sedate and suburban" life, which he prefers to the "hideously compromised lives" of the more rich and famous: "I imagine like most of us that I'd like obscene amounts of money but the people I met and worked with who have those obscene amounts of money and have obscene amounts of fame have awful lives. Really. I mean hideously compromised lives...." Described as an "invisible star" who can still travel by the London Underground to film premières unrecognised, he has observed: "They just think, who's that t*** in black tie? As soon as I get on the red carpet they start screaming and screaming. ... It's laughable because when it's all over I go home on the Tube as well." "I can go anywhere. No one knows who I am. I can go on the tube and bus and wander through the streets."
Isaacs is a firm, though not uncritical supporter of the Labour Party declaring, in April 2009: "I am huge New Labour supporter. They've done amazing things in terms of real money put into education, health service and childcare. But they've also, on this watch, done away with the right to silence, and been party to an invasion of a country based on false pretexts. They, and most of the West, have done away with the Geneva Convention... all these things have happened on my watch, but I've done absolutely nothing about it other than try to sound righteous."
|1989||Tall Guy, TheThe Tall Guy||Doctor No. 2|
|1995||Loved Up||Dez 2|
|1995||Solitaire for 2||Harry|
|1998||Armageddon||Dr. Ronald Quincy, Research|
|1998||Divorcing Jack||Cow Pat Keegan|
|1998||St. Ives||Alain de Keroual de Saint-Yves|
|1999||End of the Affair, TheThe End of the Affair||Father Richard Smythe|
|2000||Patriot, TheThe Patriot||Colonel William Tavington|
|2001||Sweet November||Chaz Watley|
|2001||Black Hawk Down||US Army Ranger Captain Mike Steele|
|2001||The Last Minute||Dave 'Percy' Sledge|
|2002||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||Lucius Malfoy|
|2002||Resident Evil||Dr. William Birkin||Uncredited|
|2002||Tuxedo, TheThe Tuxedo||Clark Devlin|
|2003||Peter Pan||George Darling and Captain Hook|
|2003||Nouvelle-France||Général James Wolfe|
|2005||Chumscrubber, TheThe Chumscrubber||Mr. Parker|
|2005||Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire||Lucius Malfoy|
|2005||Tennis, Anyone...?||Johnny Green|
|2006||Friends with Money||David|
|2007||Grindhouse||Bearded Man||Appeared in the "faux" trailer "Don't"|
|2007||Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix||Lucius Malfoy|
|2008||Conjura de El Escorial, LaLa Conjura de El Escorial||Antonio Pérez|
|2009||Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince||Lucius Malfoy||Appears as a moving portrait|
|2010||Green Zone||Major Briggs|
|2010||Batman: Under The Red Hood||Ra's al Ghul||Voice role|
|2010||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1||Lucius Malfoy|
|2011||Cars 2||Siddeley and Leland Turbo||Voice roles|
|2011||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2||Lucius Malfoy|
|2011||Green Lantern: Emerald Knights||Sinestro||Voice role|
|2012||Sweet Vengeance||Prophet Josiah||aka "Sweetwater"|
|2013||A Single Shot||Waylon|
|2014||Field of Lost Shoes||John C. Breckinridge|
|2014||Fury||US Army Captain Waggoner|
|2014||After the Fall||Frank McTiernan|
|2014||Rio, I Love You||O "Gringo"||segment "Texas"|
|1989||Quiet Conspiracy, AA Quiet Conspiracy|
|1989||This Is David Lander||French Doctor|
|1989–90||Capital City||Chas Ewell|
|1989||Boon||Mike Puckett|
|1990||TECX||Edward Latham|
|1991||Ashenden||Andrew Lehman|
|1991||Eye Contact||Michael|
|1992||Civvies||Frank Dillon|
|1992||Inspector Morse||Dr. Desmond Collier||Episode: "Cherubim and Seraphim"|
|1992||Taggart||Eric and John Barr||Episode: "Double Exposure"|
|1993||Highlander: The Series||Immortal Zachary Blaine||Episode: "The Lady and the Tiger"|
|1995||Relative Stranger, AA Relative Stranger||Peter Fairman|
|1995||Dangerous Lady||Michael Ryan|
|1995||Loved Up||Dez 2||TV film|
|1996||Guardians||Jim Reid||TV film|
|1996||Burn Your Phone||The Killer||TV film|
|1997||The Fix||Tony Kay||TV film|
|1998||Last Don II, TheThe Last Don II||Father Luca Tonarini|
|2004||West Wing, TheThe West Wing||Colin Ayres||3 episodes|
|2005–06||Avatar: The Last Airbender||Admiral Zhao||Voice role|
|2006||State Within, TheThe State Within||Sir Mark Brydon, British Ambassador to the USA||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film|
|2006–08||Brotherhood||Michael Caffee||Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Series, Drama|
|2008||Curse of Steptoe, TheThe Curse of Steptoe||Harry H. Corbett||Nominated—British Academy Television Award for Best Actor|
|2008||Entourage||Fredrick Line||Episode: "No.5.7 Gotta Look Up to Get Down"|
|2011–present||Case Histories||Jackson Brodie||Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television|
|2013||The Legend of Korra||Admiral Zhao||Episode: "Darkness Falls" (Cameo)|
|2014||Rosemary's Baby||Roman Castavet||Two-part miniseries|
|2014||Star Wars Rebels||The Inquisitor|||
|2014||"DIG"||Peter Connelly||Ten-part series for USA Network|
|1992||Black and White Minstrels, TheThe Black and White Minstrels||Cyril||The King's Head Theatre, London|
|1992–93||Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes||Louis Ironson||Royal National Theatre, London|
|1993||1953||Benito Mussolini||Almeida Theatre, London|
|2000||Force of Change, TheThe Force of Change||Royal Court Theatre, London|
|2007||Dumb Waiter, TheThe Dumb Waiter||Ben||Trafalgar Studios, London|
|1994||Beneath a Steel Sky|
|2009||Napoleon: Total War||Story Teller|
|2010||Castlevania: Lords of Shadow||Satan|
|2011||El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron||Lucifel|
|2014||Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2||Satan|
The way he tells it, Isaacs's career is a big mistake. He grew up in Liverpool, then London, went to Bristol University to read law and felt uneasy among peers 'who all sounded like Hugh Grant'. He signed up for the drama society when he saw an audition for a part with 'Northern accent required'. He applied to drama schools with no intention of going. But the rather stern admissions tutor who offered him a place at Central School of Speech and Drama in London took umbrage at his vacillation. 'She said, "This is a vocation. If you're not interested, tell me now." I was so English and too embarrassed to tell her the truth.'
Although he first became interested in acting in part because 'it was a great way to meet girls,' Isaacs soon found deeper meaning in the theatre (in one interview he was quoted as saying 'I could release myself into acting in a way that I was not released socially') and duly dropped out of Bristol to hone his skills at London's Central School of Speech and Drama.
Strictly limited run: Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs to star in major revival of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter directed by Harry Burton ... To coincide with the play's 50th anniversary....
The more cheery and pliant of the two [Gus] is played by Lee Evans, the more menacing [Ben] by Isaacs. Characteristically. 'Far from what you would think,' [Isaacs] says, 'Lee is the one who went to art school and is familiar with Beckett and Pinter. I wasn't going to do this until I read it. It is crackingly funny. I realised how much of a debt Tarantino owes. The Pinter scholars can go off and discuss whatever they like in dusty rooms, but Lee and I and Harry Burton, the director, are trying to come up with something really engaging and exciting. It's never been more relevant. The whole play exists on this undercurrent of fear and paranoia. It's a very scary time to live in the world, and these two guys are in a room scared and working out what to do about it.'
Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School ... [produced] quite a vintage crop in [Isaacs'] time: fellow pupils included Sacha Baron Cohen, David Baddiel and Matt Lucas. 'I've seen Baddiel a few times,' Isaacs says, and he sees the others occasionally at awards ceremonies.... Not all the Habs stars of the time were Jewish, though, and Isaacs has a lot of time for another alumnus, the BBC's film critic, Mark Kermode: 'He is always incredibly lovely and says hello on his Radio 5 podcasts, which I've listened to in Auschwitz and many other strange places. He's said I was too cool (at school), but he was at the epicentre of the in-crowd.'
There is a streak of cruelty in me that comes from having a quite competitive background. There were four boys in the house and we were often pretty unkind to each other. Also, it wasn't a great thing to be a Jewish teenager when the National Front were passing leaflets around the school and attacking us where we gathered at the weekends.
Order of the Phoenix open[ed] July 13, .
Luckily, Isaacs gets to relax at home in North-West London with Emma Hewitt, his partner of 20 years (to whom he invariably refers as “my wife”), and his two young daughters, Lilly and Ruby.
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