Antony Sher

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Antony Sher

Born(1949-06-14)14 June 1949
Cape Town, South Africa
Died2 December 2021(2021-12-02) (aged 72)
Nationality
EducationSea Point High School
Alma materWebber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art
OccupationActor, writer, theatre director
Years active1972–2021
OrganizationRoyal National Theatre
Royal Shakespeare Company
Notable work
I.D. (2003)
Primo (2004)
Spouse(s)
(m. 2015)
RelativesRonald Harwood (cousin)
Awards2 Laurence Olivier Awards
1 Screen Actors Guild Award
1 Drama Desk Award
1 Evening Standard Award
1 Critics Circle Theatre Award
1 TMA Award

Sir Antony Sher KBE (14 June 1949 – 2 December 2021) was a British actor, writer and theatre director of South African origin. A two-time Laurence Olivier Award winner and a four-time nominee, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982 and toured in many roles, as well as appearing on film and television. In 2001, he starred in his cousin Ronald Harwood's play Mahler's Conversion, and said that the story of a composer sacrificing his faith for his career echoed his own identity struggles.

During his 2017 "Commonwealth Tour", Prince Charles referred to Sher as his favourite actor.[1] Sher and his partner and collaborator Gregory Doran became one of the first same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership in the UK.

Early life[edit]

Sher was born into a Lithuanian Jewish family in Cape Town, South Africa, the son of Margery (Abramowitz) and Emmanuel Sher, who worked in business.[2][3] He grew up in the suburb of Sea Point where he attended Sea Point High School,[4] and was a first cousin, once removed, of the playwright Sir Ronald Harwood.[5][6] Sher worked mainly in the United Kingdom and became a British citizen in 1979.

In 1968, after completing his compulsory National Service in the South African Defence Force, he left for London to audition at the Central School of Speech and Drama and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), but was unsuccessful. He instead studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art from 1969 to 1971 and subsequently on the one-year postgraduate course run jointly by Manchester University Drama Department and the Manchester School of Theatre.

Career[edit]

In the 1970s, Sher was part of a group of young actors and writers working at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre.[7] Comprising figures such as writers Alan Bleasdale and Willy Russell and fellow actors Trevor Eve, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Pryce, and Julie Walters, Sher summed up the work of the company with the phrase "anarchy ruled". He also performed with the theatre group Gay Sweatshop, before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1982.

While a member of the RSC, Sher was cast in the title role in Molière's Tartuffe, and played the Fool in King Lear. His major break came in 1984, when he performed the title role in Richard III and won the Laurence Olivier Award. Also for the RSC, Sher performed the lead in such productions as Tamburlaine, Cyrano de Bergerac, Stanley, and Macbeth, and in 2014 played Falstaff in Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2 in Stratford-upon-Avon and on national tour. He played the eponymous 'King Lear' from 2016 to 2018. He also played Johnnie in Athol Fugard's Hello and Goodbye, Iago in Othello, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Sher received his second Laurence Olivier Award in 1997 for his performance as Stanley Spencer in Stanley.

In 2001, Sher played the role of the composer Gustav Mahler in Ronald Harwood's play Mahler's Conversion, about Mahler's decision to renounce his Jewish faith prior to his appointment as conductor and artistic director of the Vienna State Opera House in 1897. Speaking about the role to The Guardian's Rupert Smith, Sher revealed:

"When I came to England in 1968, at 19, I looked around me and I didn't see any Jewish leading men in the classical theatre, so I thought it best to conceal my Jewishness. Also, I quickly became conscious of apartheid when I arrived here, and I didn't want to be known as a white South African. I was brought up in a very apolitical family. We were happy to enjoy the benefits of apartheid without questioning the system behind it. Reading about apartheid when I came to England was a terrible shock. So I lost the accent almost immediately, and if anyone asked me where I was from I would lie. If they asked where I went to school, I'd say Hampstead, which got me into all sorts of trouble because of course everyone else went to school in Hampstead and they wanted to know which one. Then there was my sexuality. The theatre was full of gay people, but none of them were out, and there was that ugly story about Gielgud being arrested for cottaging, so I thought I'd better hide that as well. Each of these things went into the closet until my entire identity was in the closet. That's why this play appealed to me so much: it's about an artist changing his identity in order to get what he wants."[5]

In 2015 he played Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.

He also had several film credits to his name, including Yanks (1979), Superman II (1980), Shadey (1985), and Erik the Viking (1989). Sher starred as the Chief Weasel in the 1996 film adaptation of The Wind in the Willows and as Benjamin Disraeli in the 1997 film Mrs Brown.

Sher's television appearances include the mini-series The History Man (1981) and The Jury (2002). In 2003, he played the central character in an adaptation of the J. G. Ballard short story "The Enormous Space", filmed as Home and broadcast on BBC Four. In Hornblower (1999), he played the role of French royalist Colonel de Moncoutant, Marquis de Muzillac, in the episode "The Frogs and the Lobsters". Sher's more recent credits included a cameo in the British comedy film Three and Out (2008) and the role of Akiba in the television play God on Trial (2008).

Sher was cast in the role of Thráin II, father of Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but appears only in the Extended Edition of the film.

In 2018, he played the title role in King Lear and was the only person to play both the Fool and King Lear at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He returned to Stratford-upon-Avon in 2019 to perform in Kunene and the King with John Kani.[8]

Other work[edit]

Sher's books included the memoirs Year of the King (1985), Woza Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus in South Africa (with Gregory Doran, 1997), Beside Myself (an autobiography, 2002), Primo Time (2005), and Year of the Fat Knight (2015), a book of paintings and drawings, Characters (1990), and the novels Middlepost (1989), Cheap Lives (1995), The Indoor Boy (1996). and The Feast (1999). His 2018 book Year of the Mad King won the 2019 Theatre Book Prize, awarded by the Society for Theatre Research.[9]

Sher also wrote several plays, including I.D. (2003) and Primo (2004). The latter was adapted as a film in 2005. In 2008, The Giant, the first of his plays in which Sher did not feature, was performed at the Hampstead Theatre. The main characters are Michelangelo (at the time of his creation of David), Leonardo da Vinci, and Vito, their mutual apprentice.

In 2005, Sher directed Breakfast With Mugabe at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. The production moved to the Soho Theatre in April 2006 and the Duchess Theatre one month later. In 2007, he made a crime documentary for Channel 4, titled Murder Most Foul, about his native South Africa.[10] It examines the double murder of actor Brett Goldin and fashion designer Richard Bloom. In 2011, Sher appeared in the BBC TV series The Shadow Line in the role of Glickman.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Sher's first partner (for over 17 years) was the actor Jim Hooper. In 2005, Sher and the director Gregory Doran, with whom he frequently collaborated professionally, became one of the first gay couples to enter into a civil partnership in the UK.[12] They married on 30 December 2015, a little over ten years after their civil partnership.[citation needed] On 10 September 2021 it was announced that Sher was terminally ill, and Doran took compassionate leave from the Royal Shakespeare Company to care for him.[13] Sher died from cancer at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon on 2 December 2021, at age 72.[14][15][16][17]

Stage performances[edit]

Theatre[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role
1976 The Madness Militia man/Young man in café
1978 ITV Playhouse Morris
1979 Collision Course Tasic
Play for Today Nathan
One Fine Day Mr Alpert
Yanks G.I. at cinema
1980 Superman II Bell Boy
1985 Shadey Oliver Shadey
1989 Erik the Viking Loki
1990 ScreenPlay David Samuels
1993 Screen Two Genghis Cohn
1994 Shakespeare: The Animated Tales Richard III
1995 The Young Poisoner's Handbook Ernest Zeigler
Look at the State We're In! The Don
1996 The Wind in the Willows Chief Weasel
Indian Summer Jack
The Moonstone Sergeant Cuff
1997 Mrs Brown Benjamin Disraeli
1998 Shakespeare in Love Dr Moth
1999 The Winter's Tale Leontes, King of Sicilia
The Miracle Maker Ben Azra (voice)
2001 Macbeth Macbeth
2004 Churchill: The Hollywood Years Adolf Hitler
2005 A Higher Agency Chef
Great Performances Primo Levi
Primo Primo Levi
2008 Three and Out Maurice
Masterpiece Contemporary
2010 The Wolfman Dr Hoenneger
2013 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Thráin II (Extended Edition only)
2014 War Book David

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1981 The History Man Howard Kirk Episodes: "Part 1: October 2nd 1972"
"Part 2: October 3rd 1972 (a.m.)"
"Part 3: October 3rd 1972 (p.m.)"
"Part 4: Gross Moral Turpitude"
1982 The Further Adventures of Lucky Jim Maurice Victor 1 episode
1992 The Comic Strip Presents... : "The Crying Game (Season 6, Episode 2)" Scum editor
1995 One Foot in the Grave: "Rearranging the Dust" Mr Prothrow Acted without dialogue
1999 Hornblower: "The Frogs and the Lobsters" Colonel Moncoutant
2002 The Jury Gerald Lewis QC
2003 Home Gerald Ballantyne
2004 Murphy's Law Frank Jeremy 1 episode
2007 The Company Ezra ben Ezra, the Rabbi
2008 God on Trial Akiba
2011 The Shadow Line Peter Glickman Episodes: "Episode #1.5"
"Episode #1.6"
2013 Agatha Christie's Marple: A Caribbean Mystery Jason Rafiel

Awards and nominations[edit]

BAFTA TV Awards[edit]

0 win, 1 nomination

British Academy Television Awards
Year Nominated work Category Result
2008 Primo British Academy Television Awards 2008 Best Actor Nominated

Laurence Olivier Awards[edit]

2 wins, 4 nominations

Laurence Olivier Award
Year Nominated work Category Result
1983 King Lear Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
1985 Richard III and Torch Song Trilogy Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor Won
1997 Stanley Won
2000 The Winter's Tale Nominated

Drama Desk Awards[edit]

1 win and 1 nomination

Drama Desk Award
Year Nominated work Category Result
2006 Primo Outstanding One-Person Show "Primo" Won

Evening Standard Theatre Awards[edit]

1 win and 1 nomination

Evening Standard Theatre Awards
Year Nominated work Category Result
1985 Richard III Best Actor Won

Evening Standard British Film Awards[edit]

1 win and 1 nomination

Evening Standard British Film Awards
Year Nominated work Category Result
1997 Mrs Brown Peter Sellers Award for Comedy Won

Screen Actors Guild Awards[edit]

1 win and 1 nomination

Screen Actors Guild Award
Year Nominated work Category Result
1997 Shakespeare in Love Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Won

Theatre Awards UK (TMA)[edit]

1 win and 1 nomination

Theatre Awards UK
Year Nominated work Category Result
1997 Titus Andronicus Best Actor in a Play [18] Won

Tony Awards[edit]

0 win and 1 nomination

Tony Awards
Year Nominated work Category Result
1997 Stanley Best Actor in a Play Nominated

Honours[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Furness, Hannah (9 November 2017). "When I'm king I'll build a fort, jovial Prince Charles tells Indian schoolchildren". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Antony Sher Biography". Filmreference.com. 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  3. ^ Hume, Lucy (5 October 2017). People of Today 2017. eBook Partnership. ISBN 978-1-9997670-3-7.
  4. ^ "Antony Sher: Why no one unites us like Shakespeare does". The Telegraph. 10 January 2020 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  5. ^ a b Smith, Rupert (20 September 2001). "The great pretender". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  6. ^ Robinson, W. Sydney (7 October 2021). Speak Well of Me: The Authorised Biography of Ronald Harwood. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-350-29075-4.
  7. ^ "Everyman Theatre". Everymanplayhouse.co.uk. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
  8. ^ "Kunene and the King".
  9. ^ "Antony Sher wins theatre book prize". Royal Shakespeare Company. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Murder Most Foul". Channel4.com. September 2007.
  11. ^ "The Shadow Line, a New Drama for BBC Two". BBC Online. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  12. ^ BBC News, 21 December 2005.
  13. ^ Wiegand, Chris (10 September 2021). "Gregory Doran takes leave from RSC to care for terminally ill Antony Sher". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  14. ^ "Antony Sher, celebrated actor on stage and screen, dies aged 72". The Guardian. 3 December 2021. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  15. ^ "Obituary: Sir Antony Sher, a giant of the stage". BBC News. 3 December 2021. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  16. ^ "Shakespearean actor Antony Sher dies aged 72". eNCA. 3 December 2021.
  17. ^ Sulcas, Roslyn (5 December 2021). "Antony Sher, Actor Acclaimed for His Versatility, Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  18. ^ Sher, Antony. "TMA Previous Winners". 1995. Theatre Management Association. Retrieved 17 February 2014.

External links[edit]