Simon Callow

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Simon Callow
Simon Callow.jpg
Callow in London, October 2009
Born(1949-06-15) 15 June 1949 (age 65)
Streatham, London, England
OccupationActor, director, writer, musician
Years active1975–present
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Simon Callow
Simon Callow.jpg
Callow in London, October 2009
Born(1949-06-15) 15 June 1949 (age 65)
Streatham, London, England
OccupationActor, director, writer, musician
Years active1975–present

Simon Phillip Hugh Callow, CBE[1] (born 15 June 1949) is an English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director.

Early years[edit]

Callow was born in Streatham, London, the son of Yvonne Mary (née Guise), a secretary, and Neil Francis Callow, a businessman.[2] His father was of English and French descent and his mother was of Danish and German ancestry.[3][4] He was brought up Roman Catholic.[3] Callow attended the London Oratory School and then went on to study at Queen's University Belfast ('Queen's') in Northern Ireland where he was active in the Northern Ireland civil-rights movement, before giving up his degree course to go into acting at the Drama Centre London.[citation needed][5]


Callow's immersion in the theatre began after he wrote a fan letter to Sir Laurence Olivier, the Artistic Director of the National Theatre, and received a response suggesting he join their box office staff. It was while watching actors rehearse that he realised he wanted to act.[6]

Callow made his stage debut in 1973, appearing in The Thrie Estates at the Assembly Rooms Theatre, Edinburgh. In the early 1970s he joined the Gay Sweatshop theatre company and performed in Martin Sherman's critically acclaimed Passing By.[7][8] In 1977 he took various parts in the Joint Stock Theatre Company's production of Epsom Downs and in 1979 he starred in Snoo Wilson's The Soul of the White Ant at the Soho Poly.[9]

He made his first film appearance, as Schikaneder, in Amadeus in 1984 (having played Mozart in the original stage production at the Royal National Theatre in 1979). His first television role was in Carry On Laughing episode "Orgy and Bess", in 1975, but it was apparently cut from the final print. He starred in several series of the Channel 4 situation comedy, Chance in a Million, as Tom Chance, an eccentric individual to whom coincidences happened regularly. Roles like this and his part in Four Weddings and a Funeral brought him a wider audience than his many critically acclaimed stage appearances.

At the same time, Callow was successful both as a director and as a writer. His Being An Actor (1984) was a critique of 'director dominated' theatre, in addition to containing autobiographical sections relating to his early career as an actor. At a time when subsidised theatre in the United Kingdom was under severe pressure from the Thatcher government, the work's original appearance caused a minor controversy. In 1992, he directed the play Shades by Sharman MacDonald and the musical My Fair Lady featuring costumes designed by Jasper Conran.[10] In 1995, he directed a stage version of the classic French film Les Enfants du Paradis for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). The production was not a success. Callow has also directed opera productions.

One of Callow's best-known books is Love Is Where It Falls, a poignant analysis of his eleven-year relationship with Peggy Ramsay (1980–91), a prominent British theatrical agent from the 1960s to the 1980s. He has also written extensively about Charles Dickens, whom he has played in a one-man show, The Mystery of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd, in the films Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale and Christmas Carol: The Movie, and on television several times including An Audience with Charles Dickens (BBC, 1996) and in "The Unquiet Dead", a 2005 episode of the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who. He returned to Doctor Who for the 2011 season finale, again taking the role of Dickens.[11]

Callow appeared with Saeed Jaffrey in 1994 British television series Little Napoleons. In 1996 Callow directed Cantabile in three musical pieces (Commuting, The Waiter's Revenge, Ricercare No. 4) composed by his friend Stephen Oliver. Ricercare No. 4 was commissioned by Callow especially for Cantabile. He voice-acted the sly and traitorous Wolfgang in Shoebox Zoo. In 2004, he appeared on a Comic Relief episode of Little Britain for charity causes. In 2006, he wrote a piece for the BBC1 programme This Week bemoaning the lack of characters in modern politics. He has starred as Count Fosco, the villain of Wilkie Collins's novel The Woman in White, in film (1997) and on stage (2005, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in the West End).

In December 2004, he hosted the London Gay Men's Chorus Christmas Show, Make the Yuletide Gay at the Barbican Centre in London. He is currently one of the patrons of the Michael Chekhov Studio London. Callow narrated the audio book of Robert Fagles' 2006 translation of Virgil's The Aeneid.

In July 2006, the London Oratory School Schola announced Callow as one of their new patrons. In November 2007 he threatened to resign the post over controversy surrounding the Terrence Higgins Trust (an AIDS charity of which Callow is also a patron). Other patrons of the Catholic choir are Princess Michael of Kent and the leading Scottish composer James MacMillan. He reprised his role as Wolfgang in Shoebox Zoo and voice-acted the wild and action-seeking Hunter as well.

From 11 July to 3 August 2008, Callow appeared at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada in There Reigns Love, a performance of the sonnets of William Shakespeare[12] and also in 2008, he appeared at the Edinburgh Festival performing "Dr Marigold" and "Mr Chops" by Charles Dickens, adapted and directed by Patrick Garland; repeating them from December 2009 to January 2010 at the Riverside Studios and on tour in 2011.

In February 2008, he played the psychiatrist in Chichester Festival Theatre's production of Peter Shaffer's Equus.

Between March and August 2009, he starred as Pozzo in Sean Mathias's production of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett opposite Sir Ian McKellen (Estragon), Sir Patrick Stewart (Vladimir) and also Ronald Pickup (Lucky). The tour opened in Malvern before travelling to Milton Keynes, Brighton, Bath, Norwich, Edinburgh and Newcastle; its run at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket was extended due to demand.

From June to November 2010, he appeared in a national tour of a new one-man play, Shakespeare: the Man from Stratford, written by Jonathan Bate, directed by Tom Cairns and produced by the Ambassador Theatre Group. The play was renamed Being Shakespeare for its West End debut at the Trafalgar Studios where it opened on 15 June 2011. It was revived at the same theatre in March 2012, prior to a run in New York City and Chicago. In March 2014, it returned to the West End, this time at the Harold Pinter Theatre.[13]

Callow has also written biographies of Oscar Wilde, Charles Laughton and Orson Welles. He is currently at work on the third volume of his life of Welles. He has also written an anthology of Shakespeare passages, Shakespeare on Love, and contributed to Cambridge's Actors on Shakespeare series. Callow was also the reader of The Twits and The Witches in the Puffin Roald Dahl Audio Books Collection (ISBN 978-0-140-92255-4) and has done audio versions of several abridged P.G. Wodehouse books that feature, among others, the fictional character Jeeves. They include Very Good, Jeeves and Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. A devotee of classical music, he has contributed articles to Gramophone magazine.

Personal life[edit]

Callow was listed 28th in The Independent's 2007 listing of the most influential gay men and women in the UK.[14] In 1999, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to acting.[citation needed] Callow lived with director Daniel Kramer. They shared a house in Camden, North London,[15] but have now ended their relationship.[16][17] He was one of the first actors to publicly declare his homosexuality, doing so in his 1984 book Being An Actor.

In an interview, Callow stated: "I'm not really an activist, although I am aware that there are some political acts one can do that actually make a difference and I think my coming out as a gay man was probably one of the most valuable things I've done in my life. I don't think any actor had done so voluntarily and I think it helped to change the culture."[18]



1984AmadeusEmanuel Schikaneder / Papageno
1985The Good FatherMark Varda
1985A Room with a ViewThe Reverend Mr. Beebe[Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1987MauriceMr. Ducie
1988ManifestoPolice Chief Hunt
1990Postcards from the EdgeSimon Asquith
1990Mr. & Mrs. BridgeDr. Alex Sauer
1991The Ballad of the Sad CafeDirector
Nominated – Golden Berlin Bear
1991Howards EndMusic and Meaning LecturerCameo
1992Soft Top Hard ShoulderEddie Cherdowski
1994Four Weddings and a FuneralGarethNominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1994Street FighterA.N. Official
1995England, My EnglandCharles II
1995Jefferson in ParisRichard Cosway
1995Ace Ventura: When Nature CallsVincent Cadby
1996James and the Giant PeachGrasshopperVoice
1998The Scarlet TunicCaptain Fairfax
1998Bedrooms and HallwaysKeith
1998Shakespeare in LoveSir Edmund TilneyScreen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1999Around the World in 80 DaysPhileas FoggVoice
2000The Mystery of Charles DickensTelevision film
2001No Man's LandColonel Soft
2001Christmas Carol: The MovieEbenezer Scrooge
2002ThunderpantsSir John Osgood
2002Merci Docteur ReyBob
2003Bright Young ThingsKing of Anatolia
2004George and the DragonKing Edgar
2004The Phantom of the OperaAndre
2005Rag TaleFat Boy
2005The Civilization of Maxwell BrightMr. Wroth
2005Bob the ButlerMr. Butler
2006SabinaEugene Bleuler
2007Chemical WeddingProfessor Haddo / Aleister Crowley
2007Arn - The Knight TemplarFather Henry
2011No Ordinary TrifleGuy Witherspoon
2012Acts of GodfreyGodfrey


1975Get Some In!Wally
1976The SweeneyDetective Sergeant
1981The Man of DestinyNapoleon
1984Chance in a MillionTom Chance
1986Dead HeadHugo Silver
1986David CopperfieldMr Micawber
1987Inspector MorseTheodore KempEpisode: "The Wolvercote Tongue"
1990Old FlamesNathaniel Quass
1993Femme FataleVicar Ronnie
1994Little NapoleonsEdward Feathers
1996An Audience With Charles DickensCharles Dickens
1998Trial & Retribution IIRupert Halliday
2001Don't Eat The NeighboursFox & Bear
2003Angels in AmericaPrior Walter Ancestor 2Miniseries
2004Shoebox ZooWolfgang the Wolf
Hunter the Horse
2004Agatha Christie's MarpleColonel Terence Melchett
2005RomePublius Servilius
2005–2011Doctor WhoCharles Dickens2 episodes
2006Midsomer MurdersDr. Richard WellowEpisode: "Dead Letters"
2006Classical DestinationsNarrator[19]
2007The CompanyElihu
2007How Gay Sex Changed the WorldHimself[20]
2007Trick or TreatHimself1 episode
2008The Mr. Men ShowNarrator
2009LewisVernon OxeEpisode: "Counter Culture Blues"
2009The Sarah Jane AdventuresTree BlathereenVoice
Episode: "The Gift"
2011This is JinsyFritz ChimneyEpisode: "Nameworm"
2011Popstar to OperastarHimself
2011Jamie's Dream SchoolHimself
2013Agatha Christie's PoirotDr. Heinrich LutzEpisode: "The Labours of Hercules"
2014OutlanderThe Duke of Sandringham



  1. ^ "Queen's Birthday Honours: The Full List". The Independent. 12 June 1999. 
  2. ^ "Simon Callow Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2008. 
  3. ^ a b Lee, Luaine (30 October 2002). "Spending time in Africa shaped who Simon Callow is today". Star News (Wilmington, North Carolina: Google Newspapers). p. 9. 
  4. ^ "Checking In: Simon Callow on the many joys of Edinburgh and his dread of air travel". Daily Mail (Associated Newspapers). 25 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Jonathan Jones (30 September 2011). Saint Martins emerges blinking in bright new home. But is it art?: King's Cross premises a far cry from Soho 'hell', but some students fear college will have lost its charm. The Guardian. Accessed August 2013.
  6. ^ Fryer, Jonathan (24 March 2010). "Simon Callow Laid Bare". Jonathan Fryer. WordPress. 
  7. ^ Church, Michael (20 June 1975). "Passing By". The Times. p. 13. 
  8. ^ Callow, Simon (31 October 2008). "Sexual healing: From The Boys in the Band to Brokeback Mountain, gay roles in cinema have come a long way from their tortured beginnings.". The Observer. 
  9. ^ Snoo Wilson, Plays 1, Methuen 1999
  10. ^ "My Fair Lady – Performing Arts". Jasper Conran. 
  11. ^ "Doctor Who: Series 6 – 13. The Wedding of River Song". Radio Times. BBC Magazines. 
  12. ^ "Stratford Shakespeare Festival – There Reigns Love". Stratford Festival. Retrieved 5 February 2008. 
  13. ^ "Being Shakespeare Official Website". Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  14. ^ "Gay Power: The pink list". The Independent. 2 July 2006. 
  15. ^ Wolf, Matt (21 November 2006). "An American's bravura on the London stage". Herald Tribune. Retrieved 26 January 2008. 
  16. ^ Devine, Rachel (10 August 2008). "Callow brings Dickens to the Festival". The Sunday Times. 
  17. ^ Christiansen, Rupert (6 May 2009). "Daniel Kramer: 'I want to explore the dark side'". The Telegraph. 
  18. ^ Byrnes, Sholto (26 April 2004). "Simon Callow: Laughter in the dark". The Independent. 
  19. ^ "Simon Callow's Classical Destinations: Part 1 – Salzburg". Sky Arts. 
  20. ^ "40 Years On". Channel 4. Retrieved 26 January 2008. 

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