Simon Callow

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Simon Callow
Simon Callow.jpg
Callow at Old Street tube station, London, 24 October 2009
Born Simon Phillip Hugh Callow
(1949-06-15) 15 June 1949 (age 64)
Streatham, London, UK
Nationality British
Education London Oratory School
Alma mater Queen's University Belfast
Drama Centre London
Occupation Actor, theatre director, writer, musician
Years active 1975–present
Parents Neil Francis Callow
Yvonne Mary Guise
Awards Olivier Award for Best Director (1992)
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (1998)

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, England, UK, 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 is one of the most prominent gay actors in Britain, 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] For some time 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 publicly to declare his homosexuality, doing so in his 1984 book Being An Actor. (In another he revealed his platonic relationship with the theatrical agent Peggy Ramsay who was 40 years his senior.)

'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.'

— Simon Callow: Laughter in the dark, interview[18] The Independent 2004



Year Title Role Notes
1984 Amadeus Emanuel Schikaneder/Papageno
1985 The Good Father Mark Varda
A Room with a View The Reverend Mr. Beebe Merchant Ivory
Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1987 Maurice Mr. Ducie Merchant Ivory
1988 Manifesto Police Chief Hunt
1990 Postcards from the Edge Simon Asquith
Mr. & Mrs. Bridge Dr. Alex Sauer Merchant Ivory
1991 The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Director only Merchant Ivory, film entered into Berlin
Nominated – Golden Berlin Bear
1991 Howards End Music and Meaning Lecturer (cameo) Merchant Ivory
1992 Soft Top Hard Shoulder Eddie Cherdowski
1994 Four Weddings and a Funeral Gareth Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Street Fighter A.N. Official
1995 England, My England Charles II
Victory Zangiacomo
Jefferson in Paris Richard Cosway Merchant Ivory
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls Vincent Cadby
1996 James and the Giant Peach Grasshopper (voice)
1998 The Scarlet Tunic Captain Fairfax
Bedrooms and Hallways Keith
Shakespeare in Love Sir Edmund Tilney Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1999 Around the World in 80 Days Phileas Fogg (voice)
2000 The Mystery of Charles Dickens TV film
2001 No Man's Land Colonel Soft
2001 Christmas Carol: The Movie Ebenezer Scrooge
2002 Thunderpants Sir John Osgood
Merci Docteur Rey Bob
2003 Bright Young Things King of Anatolia
2004 George and the Dragon King Edgar
The Phantom of the Opera Andre
2005 Rag Tale Fat Boy
The Civilization of Maxwell Bright Mr. Wroth
Bob the Butler Mr. Butler
2006 Sabina Eugene Bleuler
2007 Chemical Wedding Professor Haddo/Aleister Crowley
Arn - The Knight Templar Father Henry
2011 No Ordinary Trifle Guy Witherspoon
2012 Acts of Godfrey Godfrey


Year Title Role Broadcaster
2014 Outlander The Duke of Sandringham Starz
2013 Agatha Christie's Poirot – "The Labours of Hercules" Dr Heinrich Lutz ITV
2011 This is Jinsy – "Nameworm" Fritz Chimney BBC
2011 Doctor Who – "The Wedding of River Song" Charles Dickens BBC
2011 Popstar to Operastar Himself ITV
2011 Jamie's Dream School Himself Channel 4
2009 Lewis – "Counter Culture Blues" Vernon Oxe ITV
2009 The Sarah Jane Adventures – "The Gift" Tree Blathereen (voice) CBBC
2008 The Mr. Men Show Narrator Five
2007 The Company Elihu TNT
2007 How Gay Sex Changed the World[19] Himself Channel 4
2007 Trick or Treat – Episode 4 Himself Channel 4
2006 Midsomer Murders – "Dead Letters" Doctor Richard Wellow ITV
2006 Classical Destinations[20][21] Narrator Sky Arts
2005 Rome Publius Servilius BBC
2005 Doctor Who – "The Unquiet Dead" Charles Dickens BBC
2004 Shoebox Zoo Wolfgang the Wolf/Hunter the Horse BBC Scotland
2004 Agatha Christie's Marple Colonel Terence Melchett ITV
2003 Angels in America Prior Walter Ancestor No.2 Avenue Pictures Productions
2001 Don't Eat The Neighbours Fox & Bear CITV
1998 Trial & Retribution II Rupert Halliday La Plante Productions
1996 An Audience With Charles Dickens 1996, Ambassador Theatre, London Charles Dickens BBC
1994 Little Napoleons Edward Feathers Channel 4
1993 Femme Fatale Vicar Ronnie BBC
1990 Old Flames Nathaniel Quass BBC
1987 Inspector Morse – "The Wolvercote Tongue" Theodore Kemp ITV
1986 Dead Head Hugo Silver BBC
1986 David Copperfield Mr Micawber BBC
1984 Chance in a Million Tom Chance Channel 4
1981 The Man of Destiny Napoleon BBC
1976 The Sweeney Detective Sergeant Thames Television
1975 Get Some In! Wally Thames Television



  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. ^ "40 Years On". Channel 4. Retrieved 26 January 2008. 
  20. ^ "Simon Callow's Classical Destinations: Part 1 – Salzburg". Sky Arts. 
  21. ^ Wills, Matt; Callow, Simon; Burrows, Paul; McDougall, Wendy (2007). Classical Destinations: An Armchair Guide to Classical Music. Amadeus Press. p. 235. ISBN 978-1-57467-158-2. 

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