Paul Scofield

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Paul Scofield
Paul Scofield Allan Warren.jpg
Scofield in 1974.
Born(1922-01-21)21 January 1922
Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, UK
Died19 March 2008(2008-03-19) (aged 86)
Sussex, England, UK
Resting place
St Mary's Churchyard, Balcombe
Years active1940–2006[1]
Spouse(s)Joy Parker (1943–2008; his death)
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For the American screenwriter, see Paul Schofield (screenwriter).
Paul Scofield
Paul Scofield Allan Warren.jpg
Scofield in 1974.
Born(1922-01-21)21 January 1922
Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, UK
Died19 March 2008(2008-03-19) (aged 86)
Sussex, England, UK
Resting place
St Mary's Churchyard, Balcombe
Years active1940–2006[1]
Spouse(s)Joy Parker (1943–2008; his death)

David Paul Scofield CH CBE (21 January 1922 – 19 March 2008), better known as Paul Scofield, was an English actor of stage and screen. Noted for his distinctive voice and delivery, Scofield received an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for his performance as Sir Thomas More in the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons, a reprise of the role he played in the stage version at the West End and on Broadway for which he received a Tony Award.

Actress Helen Mirren, who appeared with Scofield in the 1989 film When the Whales Came, said of him, "He aspires to the soul rather than the character. He has no sense of personal ambition. He's one of our great, great actors. We're lucky to have him."[2]

Early life[edit]

Paul Scofield was born in Birmingham England, the son of Mary and Edward Harry Scofield.[3] When Scofield was a few weeks old, his family moved to Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, where his father served as the headmaster at the Hurstpierpoint Church of England School.[4] Scofield told his biographer, Garry O'Connor, that his upbringing was divided. His father was an Anglican and his mother a Roman Catholic. Despite having been baptized into his mother's faith, Scofield said, "some days we were little Protestants and, on others, we were all devout little Catholics."[5] He added, "A lack of direction in spiritual matters is still with me."[6]

Scofield recalls, "I was a dunce at school. But at the age of twelve I went to Varndean School at Brighton where I discovered Shakespeare. They did one of his plays every year, and I lived just for that."[7][8]


In 1939, Scofield left school at the age of seventeen and began training at the Croydon Repertory Theatre. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Scofield arrived for a physical examination and was ruled unfit for service in the British Army. He later recalled, "They found I had crossed toes. I was unable to wear boots. I was deeply ashamed."[9]

Scofield began his stage career in 1940 with a debut performance in Desire Under the Elms at the Westminster Theatre, and was soon being compared to Laurence Olivier. He played at the Old Rep in Birmingham. From there he went to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford, where he starred in Walter Nugent Monck's 1947 revival of Pericles, Prince of Tyre.[10]

Scofield was noteworthy for his striking presence and distinctive voice, and for the clarity and unmannered intensity of his delivery. His versatility at the height of his career is exemplified by his starring roles in theatrical productions as diverse as the musical Expresso Bongo (1958) and Peter Brook's celebrated production of King Lear (1962).

In his memoir Threads of Time, Peter Brook wrote about Scofield's versatility: "The door at the back of the set opened, and a small man entered. He was wearing a black suit, steel-rimmed glasses, and holding a suitcase. For a moment we wondered who this stranger was and why he was wandering onto our stage. Then we realized that it was Paul, transformed. His tall body had shrunk; he had become insignificant. The new character now possessed him entirely."[11]

In a career mainly devoted to the classical theatre, Scofield starred in many Shakespeare plays and played the title role in Ben Jonson's Volpone in Peter Hall's production for the Royal National Theatre (1977). Highlights of his career in modern theatre include the roles of Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons (1960), Charles Dyer in Dyer's play Staircase, staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1966, the definitive Laurie in John Osborne's A Hotel in Amsterdam (1968) and Antonio Salieri in the original stage production of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus (1979).

He was subsequently the voice of the Dragon in another play by Robert Bolt, a children's drama The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew. Expresso Bongo, Staircase and Amadeus were filmed with other actors, but Scofield starred in the screen versions of A Man for All Seasons (1966) and King Lear (1971).

Other major screen roles include the Art-obsessed Nazi Colonel Von Waldheim in The Train (1964), Strether in a 1977 TV adaptation of Henry James's novel The Ambassadors, Tobias in A Delicate Balance (1973), Professor Moroi in the film of János Nyíri's If Winter Comes (1980), for BBC Television, Mark Van Doren in Robert Redford's film Quiz Show (1994), and Thomas Danforth in Nicholas Hytner's film adaptation (1996) of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

According to the DVD extras documentary for the film The Shooting Party (1985), in the very first shot of the very first day of filming, all the male lead actors, including Paul Scofield who was playing Sir Randolph Nettleby, were to come into shot on a horse-drawn shooting brake driven by the well-known film horse-master George Mossman. However as they turned the first corner, the plank that Mossman was standing on broke in two and Mossman was hurled forward and down falling between the sets of wheels, taking the reins with him. He was struck by a horse's hoof and concussed. The horses then shied and broke into a gallop. Rupert Frazer admitted that he was the first to jump off, landing safely, but bruised. Now out of control, the horses turned to the right when confronted by a stone wall causing the shooting brake to roll completely, catapulting the actors into a pile of scaffolding that had been stacked next to the wall. Robert Hardy stood up and realised to his amazement that he was unhurt. He looked across to see Edward Fox stand up, "turn completely green and collapse in a heap". He had broken 5 ribs and his shoulder-blade. He then noticed that Paul Scofield was lying very still on the ground "and I saw that his shin-bone was sticking out through his trousers". As the film takes place in October during the partridge-shooting season, the filmmakers had to make a choice whether to delay filming for a year or re-cast. Fortunately James Mason had just finished filming Doctor Fischer of Geneva for the BBC and the schedule was changed to allow him to take over the part of Sir Randolph Nettleby six weeks later.[12] The resultant broken leg meant that Scofield was unable to play the part of O'Brien in Nineteen Eighty-Four and was replaced by Richard Burton.[13]

Scofield was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1956 New Year Honours.[14] He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for A Man for All Seasons and was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Quiz Show. Theatrical accolades include a 1962 Tony Award for A Man for All Seasons.

In 1969, Scofield became the sixth performer to win the Triple Crown of Acting, winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Male of the Species.

He was also one of only eight actors to win both the Tony and the Oscar for the same role on stage and film. He was appointed a Companion of Honour (CH) in the 2001 New Year Honours.[15] In 2002 he was awarded the honorary degree of D. Litt by the University of Oxford.[16]

In 2004, a poll of actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Ian McKellen, Donald Sinden, Janet Suzman, Ian Richardson, Antony Sher and Corin Redgrave, acclaimed his Lear as the greatest Shakespearean performance ever.[17] Scofield appeared in many radio dramas for BBC Radio 4, including in later years plays by Peter Tinniswood: On the Train to Chemnitz (2001) and Anton in Eastbourne (2002). The latter was Tinniswood's last work and was written especially for Scofield, an admirer of Anton Chekhov. He was awarded the 2002 Sam Wanamaker Prize.

Personal life[edit]

Paul Scofield married actress Joy Parker, whom he had met while playing Hamlet to her Ophelia, in October 1942.[18] Scofield later said, "Joy and I simply decided to be married, we were both of age and were determined. Any doubts from our families were overruled and they were the usual ones -- too young, etc. We had a week out at the end of The Moon is Down tour, married during that week, and went straight into the Whitehall Theatre."[19]

Paul and Joy Scofield had two children; Martin (born 1945) (a Senior Lecturer in English and American literature at the University of Kent)[20] and Sarah (born 1951). When asked by Garry O'Connor how he wished to be remembered, Scofield responded, "If you have a family that is how to be remembered.".[21] Filmmaker Michael Winner once described the Scofields as, "one of the few very happily married couples I've ever met."[22]

He declined the honour of a knighthood on three occasions,[20][23] but was appointed CBE in 1956 and became a Companion of Honour in 2001. Gary O'Connor described knighthood as, "The kind of recognition from which he instinctively recoiled. Never the actor before the part he plays."[24]

Scofield died from leukemia on 19 March 2008 at the age of 86 at a hospital near his home in Sussex, England.[25] His memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey on 19 March 2009.


1955That LadyKing Philip II of SpainBAFTA Award for Best Newcomer
1958Carve Her Name with PrideTony Fraser
1964Train, TheThe TrainCol. von Waldheim
1966Man for All Seasons, AA Man for All SeasonsSir Thomas MoreAcademy Award for Best Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Moscow International Film Festival Award for Best Actor[26]
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Laurel Award for Male Dramatic Performance
Nominated — National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
1970BartlebyThe Accountant
1971King LearKing LearBodil Award for Best Actor
1973Delicate Balance, AA Delicate BalanceTobias
1983Ill Fares the Landvoice
1984Summer LightningOld Robert Clarke
1985Anna KareninaKareninTelevision role
19851919Alexander Scherbatov
1989Henry VCharles VI of France
1990HamletThe Ghost
1992UtzDoctor Vaclav Orlik
1994Quiz ShowMark Van DorenNominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated — Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
1996Crucible, TheThe CrucibleJudge Thomas DanforthBAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated — Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
1997Robinson in SpaceNarrator
1999Animal FarmBoxervoice

(For a slightly different, more exhaustive list, go here [27])


1965The State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill (ITV)Narrator
1969Male of the SpeciesPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1980If Winter ComesProfessor Moroi
The Curse of King Tut's Tomb
1981The Potting ShedJames Callifer
1984Arena: The Life and Times of Don Luis BunuelNarrator
1985Anna KareninaKarenin
1987Mister Corbett's GhostMr. Corbett
1988The Attic: The Hiding of Anne FrankOtto Frank
1989When the Whales CameThe Birdman
1994Genesis: The Creation and the Flood
Martin ChuzzlewitOld Martin Chuzzlewit/Anthony ChuzzlewitNominated — British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
1999The Disabled Century

(for a different and more exhaustive list, go here[28])


Paul Scofield led the cast in several dramas issued by Caedmon Records:


(For a more exhaustive list, go here [29])


  1. ^ Ian McKellen says Scofield's last public performance was on 19 April 2004, Scofield recorded his last radio play, "Swan Song" in 2006. He is credited with an appearance on BBC's "Poetry Please" program on 27 January 2008, but it is not clear if the recording was made from a live performance or whether material from the BBC archives was used.
  2. ^ O'Connor (2002), page 300.
  3. ^ "Full text of "The Player A Profile Of An Art"". Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  4. ^ Interview. Ross, Lillian and Helen. The Player: A Profile of An Art. New York, NY 1966. ISBN 978-0-87910-020-9
  5. ^ O'Connor (2002), pages 19-20.
  6. ^ O'Connor (2002), page 21.
  7. ^ Garry O'Connor, Paul Scofield: An Actor for All Seasons, page 11.
  8. ^ Paul Scofield biography. Access date: 16 November 2007.
  9. ^ O'Connor (2002), page 25.
  10. ^ Film Reference biography. Access date: 16 November 2007.
  11. ^ Threads of Time. A Memoir. By Peter Brook, Counterpoint, 1999.
  12. ^ "Obituary: Paul Scofield". BBC News. 20 March 2008. 
  13. ^ 'In Conversation with Michael Radford', Sky Arts 2013-10-18
  14. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40669. p. 12. 30 December 1955. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56070. p. 4. 30 December 2000. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
  16. ^ "Oxford University Gazette Encaenia 2002" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  17. ^ Scofield's Lear voted the greatest Shakespeare performance. 22 August 2004.
  18. ^ O'Connor (2002), page 38.
  19. ^ O'Connor (2002), page 39.
  20. ^ a b O'Connor, Garry. Paul Scofield: An Actor for All Seasons. Applause Theatre Book Publishers. February 2002. ISBN 1-55783-499-7.
  21. ^ O'Connor (2002), page 150.
  22. ^ O'Connor (2002), page 250.
  23. ^ Paul Scofield biography. Barnes & Noble. Access date: 16 November 2007.
  24. ^ O'Connor (2002), page 106.
  25. ^ "Oscar-winning actor Scofield dies". BBC News Online. 2008-03-20. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  26. ^ "5th Moscow International Film Festival (1967)". MIFF. Retrieved 2012-12-15. 
  27. ^ "Scofield". Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  28. ^ "Television". Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  29. ^ "Paul Scofield Audio Performances (radio drama, Audio Books, Spoken Word), 1940s-1950s". Retrieved 2011-02-22. 

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