Chris Barrie at Dimension Jump XI (2004)
|Born||Christopher Jonathan Brown
28 March 1960
Hanover, West Germany
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, impressionist|
|Spouse(s)||Monica De Meo (1987–1990)
Alecks Brown (1997–present)
Christopher Jonathan Brown, known professionally as Chris Barrie (born 28 March 1960), is a German born British actor, comedian and impressionist. He first achieved success as a vocal impressionist, notably in the ITV sketch show Spitting Image. He is best known for his roles as Arnold Rimmer in the sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, as Gordon Brittas in the BBC sitcom The Brittas Empire and as Lara Croft's butler Hillary in the Tomb Raider franchise films.
Early life and career
Barrie was born in Hanover, Lower Saxony, West Germany, to a father who was serving in the British Army, and attended Methodist College Belfast boarding school in Northern Ireland. After dropping out of Brighton Polytechnic, he began his TV career as a sports personality impersonator on The David Essex Showcase; it was at this point that he adopted the surname "Barrie" for Equity reasons – as there was already an actor named Chris Brown on the Equity UK lists. He provided the voice of Ronald Reagan in the pop song "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, as well as various vocalisations for other tracks by FGTH and Art of Noise.
Barrie has played the character Arnold J. Rimmer in all eleven series of Red Dwarf. A central character, Barrie appears as Rimmer in almost every episode of the series, absent only for a period during series 7. Barrie was reportedly paid around £1,200 per episode during the first series of the show. In contrast, his co-star Craig Charles received less than half this amount.
During an interview conducted in November 1993 for the science fiction magazine Starburst, shortly after filming for the sixth series had concluded, Barrie revealed his discontent with the direction in which the show had taken, claiming that Red Dwarf had become a 'visual effects show' and that he thought series 6 was weaker than previous series. He also commented on how he felt that there was an element of 'lazy writing' involved in the making of the series, recounting an incident where he had complained that the cast and crew were lacking in professionalism. Barrie believed that it was this exchange that influenced one of his lines in Legion, the second episode of series 6, where Rimmer, after requesting the crew go into 'blue alert' and Lister reluctantly agreeing to do this, says 'thank you, a bit of professionalism'. Barrie felt that such references by writers Grant Naylor were 'rather sly to the point of being nasty' and due to these frustrations, decided to take some time away from the show during the seventh series. His departure was short lived however and he returned fully from series 8 onwards.
For most of the series the character of Arnold Rimmer is a hologram, requiring Barrie to wear an "H" on his forehead during filming. The character is described as self-centred, neurotic, cowardly and hopeless with women.
When a pilot for an American version of the show was produced, Barrie was invited to reprise his role as Rimmer. He passed up the offer because of the constraint of the five-series contract, which is standard for American television. Robert Llewellyn was the only cast member of the British show to participate in the pilot, which was not picked up.
In May 2015, it was announced that he would be returning to Red Dwarf for the eleventh and twelfth series.
The Brittas Empire
Barrie is also well known for his role as Gordon Brittas, the title role in The Brittas Empire, a BBC sitcom running from January 1991 to February 1997 for seven series, with 52 episodes, including two Christmas specials. It centred on the life of a well-meaning but incompetent manager of Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre. Quite different from his character in Red Dwarf, Barrie was accompanied by a supporting cast who played the other staff members of the leisure centre. Each episode revealed a disastrous occurrence, which Brittas was sure he could sort out, the truth being that he was normally one of the causes of all the trouble that went on (and oblivious to this as well).
Roles in television and films
Chris Barrie's most recent TV work includes Britain's Greatest Machines with Chris Barrie, screened on the National Geographic Channel from 4 June 2009. Each of the four episodes feature some of the most notable air, sea and land vehicles and equipment of the 1930s, 1950s, 1960s and 1980s respectively. A second series of four episodes was transmitted in February 2010, with the 1910s, 1920s, 1940s and early steam trains as the subjects of each episode.
Barrie has also hosted the television series Chris Barrie's Massive Engines and Chris Barrie's Massive Machines on the Discovery Channel which was later shown on Channel 5 where both series received record viewing figures and are now on DVD. The latest in this series Massive Speed with Chris Barrie was shown on Discovery Channel from November 2006. In 2006, he appeared as a regular team captain in the BBC Two quiz show Petrolheads, and is the star of the British crime/comedy/drama film Back In Business, in which he plays Tom Marks.
During the filming for season 2 of MTV reality show Catfish: The TV Show, an episode was made in which the show was contacted by a 23-year-old female called Alicia from Des Moines, Iowa, who claimed that she had been in a 4 year long relationship with somebody posing online as British actor Chris Barrie; however, the two had never met. The episode was never broadcast due to licensing restrictions placed by the BBC for use of Barrie's image and likeness.
Other roles include:
- Trevor, the director of the mock panel show "Ooer, Sounds A Bit Rude" in episode two of Filthy, Rich & Catflap.
- The ship's captain in the wall-poster cut scene during The Young Ones episode "Nasty".
- The voice of Simon in the Adventure Soft computer games series Simon the Sorcerer (1993).
- Gary Prince in A Prince Among Men (1997–98).
- A French revolutionary/"ambassador" in the Blackadder The Third episode "Nob And Nobility".
- Hillary the Butler in the films Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003).
- Doubting Thomas in a small series of television advertisements for Anglian Windows.
- The voice of Jif Micro Liquid.
- The voices of Captain Smollett and Ben Gunn in The Legends of Treasure Island.
- Appearances on the BBC Radio 4 sketch show Son of Cliché.
- Voice impersonations on recordings by Frankie Goes to Hollywood:
- Voice impersonation of Robin Day on the Art of Noise track "Close Up".
- Voice of a motorbike racing commentator in episode 3 of the BBC Comedy series Grace and Favour.
- Voice of Ronald Reagan in the video to Genesis's song Land of Confusion.
- Narrator for the Channel 5 UK TV show Car Crash TV.
Barrie's interests include vintage motorbikes and collecting fast cars. In 1995, he released a video called Chris Barrie's Motoring Wheel Nuts, a showcase for his personal car collection. His current classic car collection comprises a Triumph TR2, MGB-GT, Wolseley 1500 and a Jaguar XJ6 (his everyday car). He is a contributor to Practical Classics magazine.
He has been married twice, first to Monica De Meo (1987–1990) then to Alecks (1997–present; 2 children both boys).
- "BBC Comedy: Chris Barrie". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- Chris Barrie Biography (1960–). Filmreference.com. Retrieved on 2012-04-11.
- "Craig Charles: 'Red Dwarf paid £600 a show - my co-star got £1,200'". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-07-25.
- "Blast From the Past: Chris Barrie Attacks Red Dwarf In Newly Re-Emerged 1993 Interview". Gizmodo UK. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
- "Craig Charles is quitting Corrie to head back to Red Dwarf". 2015-05-03. Retrieved 2016-09-01.
- Biography for Chris Barrie. IMDb.com
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