Brian Blessed

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Brian Blessed
Brian Blessed 2012.jpg
Blessed at the SFX Weekender 3 in 2012
Born (1936-10-09) 9 October 1936 (age 77)[1][2]
Mexborough, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Residence Windlesham, Surrey, England
Education Bolton on Dearne Secondary Modern School
Alma mater Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Occupation Actor, comedian, TV presenter and writer
Years active 1962–present
Title President of TRIC (2007–08)
Spouse(s) Hildegarde Neil (m. 1978)
Children 2 daughters[3]
Parents William Blessed
(father, deceased)
Hilda Wall
(mother, deceased)

Brian Blessed (/ˈblɛsɪd/; born 9 October 1936) is an English actor, known for his sonorous voice and "hearty, king-sized portrayals".[4]

Early life[edit]

The son of William Blessed, a socialist miner, and Hilda Wall, Blessed was born at Montague Hospital[5] in Mexborough, in what was at that time the West Riding of Yorkshire.[6] He attended Bolton on Dearne Secondary Modern School, but was forced to leave at the age of 15 after his father suffered an industrial accident. He then spent several years working in a number of jobs, ranging from an undertaker to a plasterer's assistant.

Blessed completed his national service as a parachutist in the Royal Air Force. He started drama training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, where his contemporaries included Sir Patrick Stewart. He discusses his early life in his autobiography, Dynamite Kid, published in 1992.

Career[edit]

Acting career[edit]

One of Blessed's earliest roles was that of PC "Fancy" Smith in the BBC television series Z-Cars, between 1962 and 1965. In 1966, he appeared in a production of Incident at Vichy at the Phoenix Theatre in London. Blessed also had minor roles in cult TV series such as The Avengers (1967, 1969) and the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (1969). He portrayed Caesar Augustus in I, Claudius (1976) and Basileos in The Aphrodite Inheritance (1979), and hosted a docu-drama on the life of Johann Sebastian Bach, The Joy of Bach (1978), in which he plays Bach in person in a number of scenes.

He also starred as Long John Silver in the 10 part mini-series Return to Treasure Island (TV series) (1986), General Yevlenko in the mini-series War and Remembrance (1988) and Lord Loxley, the father of Robin Hood, in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Blessed starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Cats, as both Old Deuteronomy and Bustopher Jones, for the original 1981 West End theatre production.

Blessed has appeared in a number of Shakespearean roles on both stage and screen, including four of the five Shakespeare films directed by Kenneth Branagh: as the Duke of Exeter in Henry V (1989), Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing (1993), the Ghost of Hamlet's Father in Hamlet (1996), and both Duke Frederick and Duke Senior in As You Like It (2006).

Other roles have emphasised Blessed's comedic abilities: in particular, Prince Vultan in the film Flash Gordon (1980) – for which he is frequently remembered for the exclamations "Gordon's alive!" and "DIVE!"; the mad, comic figure of Richard IV in the first series of The Black Adder (1983), a role Blessed has claimed to be one of his most cherished; and Spiro in the BBC adaptation of My Family and Other Animals (1987).[7] Blessed has joked that he was due to appear in Blackadder II (1986) as Elizabeth I, but was unavailable for filming.[8]

In 1999, Blessed provided both the voice and live-action reference for the blustery CGI character Boss Nass in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and also provided the voice of the villainous hunter John Clayton in Disney's animated feature film Tarzan, a role he later reprised in the video game based on the film and in the critically acclaimed[by whom?] Kingdom Hearts in 2002. He read the story "The White City" for the album series Late Night Tales, recording it in four parts released over four albums,[9] and was also the voice of Jean Valjean in Focus on the Family Radio Theatre's audio adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. Bless was one of the narrators for Story Teller a children's magazine partwork series in the 1980s. He has further provided vocal links for the Sony-Award-winning Christian O'Connell Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio, and introduced advertisements for Orange mobile phones.

In 2002, under the direction of Royal Shakespeare Company director Adrian Noble, he originated the role of Baron Bomburst for the stage musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. From December 2005 to January 2006, Blessed headlined the Christmas pantomime production of Peter Pan, alongside CBBC presenter Kirsten O'Brien, at Ipswich's Regent Theatre. From 2007 to 2008, he appeared in the same play as Captain Hook, at the Grove Theatre in Dunstable; he reprised the role for the Christmas 2008 season at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon. For Christmas 2006, he presented a production of Cinderella for Virgin Radio, starring David Tennant, Thandie Newton and others.

Since October 2008, Blessed has presented the English-language dub of the Japanese TV game show Unbeatable Banzuke on Challenge, under the pseudonym "Banzuke Brian". He was the narrator of the Sky 1 series Crash Test Dummies, starring Steve Marsh and Dan Wright. In animation, he has provided the voices of Bob in Kika & Bob (2008)[10] and Grampy Rabbit in Peppa Pig (2004–present).

In 2009, Blessed played the world's worst explorer, Sir Basil Champion – a character based upon Blessed's fictional inspiration, Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger – in the fourth story of the BBC 7 series The Scarifyers, "The Curse of the Black Comet". That November, he appeared in a BBC Online video series, Pieces of 8.0, as Henry VIII – the concept being that the Tudor monarch is alive and well, still living with his long-suffering sixth wife, Catherine Parr, and embracing modern technology and the Internet (insulting the King of France on Facebook, surfing for desirable women friends, and being blocked by the Pope on Twitter).[11] In late 2009, Blessed narrated the In the Wings production of Peter and the Wolf at the New Victory Theater, New York.[12]

Following a successful Facebook campaign, satellite navigation manufacturer TomTom recorded Blessed's voice for use in its products; he has been available as a voice command option since October 2010.[13][14] In September 2010, Blessed recorded the voice of Great Sultan Shahryār for Sheherazade, or The Princess, the Pirate and the Baboon!, an album of children's stories set to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's classical music composition Scheherazade, co-starring Rory Bremner and released as an instalment of Grandma Dingley's Ingeniously Musical Tales in 2011.[15]

In 2013, Blessed starred in an advertising campaign for New Zealand bank ASB as a fictionalised version of himself, encouraging the population to be proud of their achievements, whether big or small.[16]

Other accomplishments[edit]

In his youth he loved boxing and has sparred with the Dalai Lama.[17] Blessed has attempted to climb Mount Everest three times,[18] attaining heights of 28,200 feet (8,600 m) in 1993 and 25,200 feet (7,700 m) in 1996, but without reaching the summit.[19] He has, however, climbed to the tops of Mount Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He is also the oldest man to trek to the North Magnetic Pole on foot,[20] and has undertaken an expedition into the jungles of Venezuela, during which he survived a plane crash.

He served as President of the Television and Radio Industries Club (TRIC) from 2007 to 2008, and presented the 2008 TRIC Awards at Grosvenor House, London. Blessed has honorary degrees from the University of Bradford (awarded in July 2003) and Sheffield Hallam University (awarded in 2004). He has been awarded the honorary title of "Official Shoutsperson" by the University of York's Douglas Adams Society.[21] In 2011, the student union voted to christen a new study area the "Brian Blessed Centre for Quiet Study".[22] The same year, Blessed was nominated for the post of Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, following a campaign by graduates.[23]

In 2004, Blessed appeared on Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes, impersonating the opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Known for his football knowledge, he appeared as an expert and commentator on the satellite channel UKTV G2 during the 2006 World Cup. Blessed also appeared on A Question of Sport in both 2006 and 2011, and was a guest host on the BBC's satirical quiz show Have I Got News for You in both May 2008 and April 2013 (also making a surprise appearance in the 2008 Christmas special). During his first appearance on the programme, in an instalment featuring guest panellists Alan Duncan and Marcus Brigstocke, Blessed's exaggerated comic style quickly resulted in a departure from the normal format, leading series regular Paul Merton to quip "Does anyone remember how this show used to be like?" Other guest appearances include the talk shows Loose Women (in 2006) and The Paul O'Grady Show (in 2008).

In 2009, Blessed featured in the song "Army of the Damned", from the album Beneath the Veiled Embrace by British power metal band Pythia, reciting the poem "Suicide in the Trenches" by Siegfried Sassoon.[24] He had previously contributed to the song "The Joust" by Christian band Eden Burning in 1994.[25] Blessed also speaks in the Living Legend history presentation on Jersey, in the Channel Islands, alongside other celebrity faces such as Samantha Janus, Roger Lloyd Pack, Tony Robinson and Kevin Whately.

Downloadable content for the computer game War of the Roses (released in 2012) will feature narration by Blessed.[26] In June 2013, Blessed received the "Spirit of Hammer Award" at the Metal Hammer magazine Golden Gods.[27] Since September 2013, Blessed has been the resident bingo caller at Bingo Godz.[28] Blessed also recorded a commentary for Arriva's Medway Towns open top bus tour in 2013.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Blessed lives in Windlesham, Surrey. Blessed was married and divorced before he met his second wife, Hildegarde Neil, whom he married in 1978. His daughter from his second marriage, Rosalind, is an actress.[30] Blessed has worked alongside Rosalind on Doctors.

As explained in Piers Morgan's Life Stories, Blessed also has a daughter from his first marriage with whom he no longer has contact (at her request). He owns several dogs and is a patron of the Hopefield Animal Sanctuary.[31]

Filmography[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • The Turquoise Mountain: Brian Blessed on Everest (1991)
  • Dynamite Kid (1992)
  • Nothing's Impossible (1994)
  • To the Top of the World (1995)
  • Quest for the Lost World (1999)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "BFI biodata". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. 16 April 2009. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  3. ^ As explained in Piers Morgan's Life Stories S10E03, Blessed has a daughter named Rosalind, and second with whom he is no longer in contact with.
  4. ^ "Biography for Brian Blessed". IMDb. Retrieved 17 May 2009. [unreliable source?]
  5. ^ Blessed, Brian (1992). "1". The Dynamite Kid (1 ed.). London: Bloomsbury. p. 1. ISBN 0-7475-1275-2. 
  6. ^ "Brian Blessed". NNDB. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  7. ^ "Gerald Durrell's Lasting Legacy". BBC News Online. 15 September 2006. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  8. ^ "Brian Blessed Web Chat". The Guardian. 22 August 2001. Retrieved 1 September 2008. 
  9. ^ "Brian Blessed discography.". 
  10. ^ "Cast and Crew page on the Official Kika and Bob website.". 
  11. ^ "Pieces of 8.0". BBC. 20 November 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  12. ^ "2009–2010 New Victory Theater Show Schedule". New Victory Theater. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  13. ^ Cox, Caleb (5 August 2010). "Brian Blessed Lends his Tongue to TomTom • reghardware". Reghardware.com. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  14. ^ "Brian Blessed Voice Now Available for TomTom Devices". Brianblessed.tomtom.com. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  15. ^ "'Sheherazade or The Princess, the Pirate and the Baboon! | Grandma Dingley's Ingeniously Musical Tales". Grandmadingley.com. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  16. ^ "Dear ASB, Who is Brian Blessed?". Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  17. ^ Scott-Elliot, Robin (2 April 2012). "Robin Scott-Elliot: Greig's a tasty addition to Sky team but Beefy is a crusty curmudgeon - Cricket - Sport". The Independent. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Dickinson, Matt (19 February 2012). "How We Met: Matt Dickinson and Brian Blessed". The Independent. Retrieved 24 April 2013. "Dickinson: "But as for going back to Everest with Brian: in truth, he's too old now to try again."" 
  19. ^ Arthur, Charles (30 May 1996). "Blessed Launches Bitter Attack on 'Human Lemmings' of Everest". The Independent. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  20. ^ Benedictus, Leo (29 July 2003). "Why I Love Brian Blessed". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  21. ^ "DougSoc". Users.york.ac.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  22. ^ Davis-Digges, Hoagy (25 January 2011). "Union General Meeting Sees Highest Voting Numbers Since 2008". Nouse.co.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  23. ^ "Brian Blessed Bids to be Cambridge Chancellor". BBC News (BBC). 3 June 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  24. ^ "Some are Inexplicably Followed by Brian Blessed's Stentorian Narrations of British Anti-War Poetry". Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  25. ^ Eden Burning Mirth and Matter sleeve notes.
  26. ^ "War of the Roses Details Brian Blessed DLC, Free Content and Kingmaker Gold Edition". PC Gamer. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  27. ^ "Metal Hammer Golden Gods Winners". Metal Hammer. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  28. ^ "Brian Blessed is the voice of the Godz" Bingo News. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  29. ^ The Bus People. "The Bus People – Brian Blessed narrates Arriva’s new Medway Towns open top bus tour". Thebuspeople.co.uk. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  30. ^ Sleeman, Elizabeth (2003). The International Who's Who 2004: 2004 (67 ed.). Routledge. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-85743-217-6. 
  31. ^ "Hopefield Patrons and Trustees". Hopefield Animal Sanctuary. Retrieved 18 November 2011. 

External links[edit]