Joss Ackland

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Joss Ackland

Ackland in The Object of Beauty (1991)
Sidney Edmond Jocelyn Ackland

(1928-02-29)29 February 1928
North Kensington, London, England
Died19 November 2023(2023-11-19) (aged 95)
Clovelly, Devon, England
Alma materCentral School of Speech and Drama
Years active1945–2014
Rosemary Kirkcaldy
(m. 1951; died 2002)

Sidney Edmond Jocelyn Ackland CBE (29 February 1928 – 19 November 2023) was an English actor who appeared in more than 130 film, radio and television roles.[1] He was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for portraying Jock Delves Broughton in White Mischief (1987).[2]

Early life[edit]

Sidney Edmond Jocelyn Ackland was born in a basement flat in "then insalubrious" North Kensington, London, on 29 February 1928,[3] the son of Major Sydney Norman Ackland (died 1981), an Irish journalist who had been sent to England to live with an aunt by his parents for seducing their maid, but subsequently seduced his aunt's maid, Ruth Izod (died 1957), whom he married.[4][5][6] The Acklands' basement flat was one of "a string of similar places" in which they lived, invariably with "one bedroom and the absolute bare essentials"; Ackland described his upbringing in the Ladbroke Grove area as being "very poor".[7][8]

Ackland was trained by Elsie Fogerty at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London.[9]

Ackland and Rosemary Kirkcaldy were married on 18 August 1951, when Ackland was 23 and she was 22.[10] She was an actress and Ackland wooed her when they appeared on stage together in Pitlochry, Scotland.[11] The couple struggled initially as Ackland's acting career was in its infancy.[10] In 1954 they moved to Lilongwe in what was then Nysaland, now Malawi, where Ackland managed a tea plantation for six months[12] but, deciding it was too dangerous, they moved to Cape Town, South Africa.[10] Though they both obtained steady acting jobs in South Africa, after two years they returned to England in 1957.[10][13]


After attending London's Central School of Speech and Drama, he made his professional debut on stage at just 17 years old, starring in the 1945 production of The Hasty Heart. Ackland joined the Old Vic, appearing alongside other notable actors including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Tom Courtenay. Ackland worked steadily in television and film in the 1960s and 70s.

He worked opposite Alec Guinness in the 1979 television serial Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, playing sporting journalist and intermittent British espionage operative Jerry Westerby, and his career advanced through the 1980s with important parts in such films as The Sicilian, Lethal Weapon 2, The Hunt for Red October and White Mischief.[3] On television Ackland appeared as Jephro Rucastle with Jeremy Brett and David Burke in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; the episode entitled "The Copper Beeches". Other appearances included Passion of Mind with Demi Moore and the two-part TV serial Hogfather based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld.[3] He played C. S. Lewis in the television version of Shadowlands before it was adapted into a stage play starring Nigel Hawthorne and then a theatrical film with Anthony Hopkins in the same role.[14] His voice (as well as that of Roy Dotrice) was heard reading quotations in several episodes of Jacob Bronowski's 1973 documentary series The Ascent of Man.

His rich, warm voice was also a mainstay of many British television commercials including Yellow Pages, WK Kellogg Co and Homepride.[citation needed]

Ackland's stage roles included creating the role of Juan Perón in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Evita opposite Elaine Paige.[15] He also starred in the London production of Stephen Sondheim's and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music with Jean Simmons and Hermione Gingold, performing on the RCA Victor original London cast album.[16]

Ackland appeared in the Pet Shop Boys' 1988 film It Couldn't Happen Here, and in the video for their version of the song Always on My Mind, which was taken from the film.[17] Several years later, he said in an interview with the Radio Times that he had appeared with the band purely because his grandchildren liked their music.[citation needed]

Ackland also co-starred as Emilio Estevez's mentor and friend Hans in the 1992 Disney hit The Mighty Ducks.[18] He reprised the role four years later in 1996's D3: The Mighty Ducks.[3]

In a 2001 interview with the BBC, Ackland said that he had appeared in some "awful films" due to being a workaholic. He said that he "regretted" appearing in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and the Pet Shop Boys music video. He also criticised former co-star Demi Moore as "not very bright or talented".[13]

Also in 2007, Ackland appeared in the film How About You opposite Vanessa Redgrave, portraying a recovering alcoholic living in a residential home after being forced to retire and losing his wife to cancer.[19]

In 2008, Ackland returned to the small screen as Sir Freddy Butler, a much married baronet, in the ITV1 show Midsomer Murders. The episode, entitled Vixens Run, also featured veteran actress Siân Phillips.[20]

In September 2013, Jonathan Miller directed a Gala Performance of William Shakespeare's King Lear at the Old Vic in London, with Ackland in the role of Lear.[21]

Personal life and death[edit]

Ackland and his wife Rosemary (née Kirkcaldy) were married for 51 years. They had seven children,[22] thirty-two grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.[23] Despite his filming taking him to far-flung locations, he said Rosemary and he "were hardly ever apart".[24] Daughter Kirsty married Anthony Shawn Baring, a descendant of the merchant banker Sir Francis Baring, 1st Baronet and a descendant of Robert Rundell Guinness, founder of the merchant bank Guinness Mahon.[25][26]

In 1963, their house in Barnes caught fire. Rosemary saved their five children but broke her back when jumping from the bedroom window.[27] She was told she would miscarry and never walk again, but she later gave birth and after 18 months in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, was able to walk again.[28][10] Their eldest son, Paul, died of a heroin overdose in 1982, aged 29.[29] In 2000, Rosemary was diagnosed with motor neurone disease; she died on 25 July 2002.[12]

In 2020, Ackland participated in the "Letters Live" project, and was recorded from his home in Clovelly, Devon.[30] His letter reflected on the COVID-19 crisis and his hopes for how the country could draw "strength from adversity".[31]

Ackland died at home in Clovelly, on 19 November 2023, aged 95.[32][33]



Year Title Role Notes
1949 Landfall O'Neill (uncredited) [3]
1950 Seven Days to Noon
1952 Ghost Ship Ron, a seaman
1959 A Midsummer Night's Dream
1962 In Search of the Castaways Seaman on yacht (uncredited)
1966 Rasputin: the Mad Monk The Bishop
1969 Crescendo Carter
1970 The House That Dripped Blood Neville Rogers
1971 Villain Edgar Lewis
1971 Mr. Forbush and the Penguins The Leader
1972 The Happiness Cage Dr Frederick
1973 Hitler: The Last Ten Days Gen. Burgdorf
1973 Penny Gold Jones
1973 England Made Me Haller
1973 The Three Musketeers D'Artagnan's Father
1974 The Black Windmill Chief Supt. Wray
1974 S*P*Y*S Martinson
1974 The Little Prince The King
1974 Great Expectations Joe Gargery
1975 One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing B.J. Spence
1975 Royal Flash Sapten
1975 Operation Daybreak Janák
1977 The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation as We Know It President
1978 Watership Down Black Rabbit (voice)
1978 Silver Bears Henry Foreman
1978 The Greek Tycoon (uncredited)
1978 Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? Cantrell
1979 A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square Prison Warden (uncredited)
1979 Saint Jack Yardley
1980 Rough Cut Insp. Vanderveld
1980 The Apple Hippie Leader/Mr Topps
1985 A Zed & Two Noughts Van Hoyten
1986 Lady Jane Sir John Bridges
1987 White Mischief Sir Jock Delves Broughton
1987 The Sicilian Don Masino Croce
1987 It Couldn't Happen Here Priest/murderer
1988 To Kill a Priest Colonel
1989 Lethal Weapon 2 Arjen 'Aryan' Rudd
1990 Dimenticare Palermo AKA The Palermo Connection Mafia boss
1990 The Hunt for Red October Ambassador Andrei Lysenko
1990 Tre colonne in cronaca Gaetano Leporino
1991 The Object of Beauty Mr Mercer
1991 Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Chuck De Nomolos
1992 The Sheltering Desert Col. Johnston
1992 Once Upon a Crime Hercules Popodopoulos
1992 Shadowchaser Kinderman
1992 The Bridge Smithson
1992 The Mighty Ducks Hans
1993 Nowhere to Run Franklin Hale
1993 The Princess and the Goblin King Papa (voice)
1994 OcchioPinocchio Brando
1994 Miracle on 34th Street Victor Landberg (uncredited) (Store Competitor for Shopper's Express)
1994 Giorgino Father Glaise
1995 Mad Dogs and Englishmen Insp. Sam Stringer
1995 The Thief and the Cobbler Brigand (voice)
1995 A Kid in King Arthur's Court King Arthur
1996 Surviving Picasso Henri Matisse
1996 D3: The Mighty Ducks Hans
1997 Swept from the Sea Mr Swaffer
1997 Firelight Lord Clare
1998 My Giant Monsignor Popescu (uncredited)
2000 The Mumbo Jumbo Mayor Smith
2000 Passion of Mind Dr Langer, the French Psychiatrist
2002 No Good Deed Mr Thomas Quarre
2002 K-19: The Widowmaker Marshal Zelentsov
2003 I'll Be There Evil Edmonds
2004 A Different Loyalty Randolph Cauffield
2005 The Christmas Eve Snowfall (Narrator)
2005 Asylum Jack Straffen
2006 These Foolish Things Albert
2006 Moscow Zero Tolstoy
2007 How About You Donald
2008 Flawless MKA
2013 Prisoners of the Sun Prof. Mendella
2014 Katherine of Alexandria Rufus


Year Title Role Notes
1957 Destination Downing Street Immelmann TV series
1963 The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling William Stevens TV series
1964 Z-Cars Mr Shields Episode: S03E29 "Happy Families"
1966 David Copperfield Mr. Peggotty TV series
1966 Lord Raingo Tom Hogarth TV series
1966 Theatre 625 John Hinks Episode: "On the March to the Sea"
1967 The Further Adventures of the Three Musketeers d'Artagnan TV series
1966–1968 The Troubleshooters Mr Gibbon (1966), Sam Jardine (1966-1967), Considine (1968), Lewis (1968) 5 episodes
1966 Mystery and Imagination Herr Scavenius, Mr. Smedhurst 2 episodes: S02E01 "Room 13", S03E03 A Place of One's Own
1967–1968 Z-Cars Det. Insp. Todd 41 episodes
1969 The Avengers Brig. Hansing One episode: S06E17 The Morning After
1969 The Gold Robbers Derek Hartford
1969 Before the Party Harold Bannon
1969 Canterbury Tales The Host in the Wife of Bath's tale series on BBC Two
1966, 1970 Play of the Month Charley, Chebutykin 2 episodes: S01E08 "Death of a Salesman", S05E04 "The Three Sisters"
1971, 1972 Thirty-Minute Theatre The Applicant, The Man 2 episodes: S07E06 "Getting In", S07E30 "King's Cross Lunch Hour"
1972 The Persuaders! Felix Meadowes
1972 Shirley's World Inspector Vaughan
1972 Six Faces Harry Mellor 2 episodes
1973 The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Grubber
1974 The Protectors Arthur Gordon 1 episode
1976 Centre Play Doctor 1 episode: "You Talk Too Much"
1976 The Crezz Charles Bronte
1978 Enemy at the Door Major General Laidlaw 1 episode
1978 Return of the Saint Gunther 1 episode: "The Nightmare Man"
1978 The Sweeney Alan Ember 1 episode: "Feet of Clay"
1979 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Jerry Westerby
1980, 1988 Tales of the Unexpected Jack Cutler, Colonel George Peregrine 2 episodes: S03E07 "The Stinker", S09E02 "The Colonel's Lady"
1980 A Question of Guilt Samuel Kent
1980 The Love Tapes Narrator (uncredited) TV movie
1980 The Gentle Touch Ivor Stocker 1 episode
1981 Dangerous Davies – The Last Detective Chief Insp. Yardbird TV movie
1981 Thicker Than Water Joseph Lockwood TV series
1982 The Confessions of Felix Krull Mr. Twentyman TV series
1982 The Barretts of Wimpole Street Edward Moulton-Barrett TV movie
1984 Shroud for a Nightingale Stephen Courtney-Briggs, surgeon TV mini series
1984 The Tragedy of Coriolanus Menenius TV movie
1985 Shadowlands C. S. Lewis TV movie
1985 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Jephro Rucastle 1 episode: S02E01 "The Copper Beeches"
1987 A Killing on the Exchange Sir Max Sillman TV movie
1987 Queenie Sir Burton Rumsey TV mini series
1987 When We Are Married Henry Ormonroyd TV movie
1988 The Man Who Lived at the Ritz Hermann Göring TV mini series
1988 Codename: Kyril 'C' TV mini series
1989 A Quiet Conspiracy Theo Carter TV mini series
1989 The Justice Game Sir James Crichton 2 episodes
1989 First and Last Alan Holly TV movie
1990 Jekyll & Hyde Charles Lanyon TV movie
1990 Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming Gen. Gerhard Hellstein TV movie
1991 A Murder of Quality Terence Fielding TV movie
1991 A Woman Named Jackie Aristotle Onassis TV mini series
1991 Ashenden Cumming TV mini series
1991 They Do It with Mirrors Lewis Serrocold TV movie
1992 Incident at Victoria Falls King Edward TV movie
1992 The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles The Prussian 1 episode: S02E01 "Austria, March 1917"
1993, 1996 Screen Two Sir Charles (Archie) Peverall, Captain Episodes: S09E08 "Voices in the Garden", S14E02 "Deadly Voyage"
1994 Citizen Locke Lord Ashley TV movie
1994 Shakespeare: The Animated Tales Julius Caesar (voice) 1 episode: "Julius Caesar"
1994 Jacob Isaac TV movie
1995 Citizen X Bondarchuk TV movie
1995 Daisies in December Gerald Carmody TV movie
1996 Hidden in Silence German factory manager
1996 To the Ends of Time King Francis TV movie
1996 Testament: The Bible in Animation Noah (voice), Samuel (voice) 2 episodes: S01E05 "Creation and the Flood", S01E09 "David and Saul"
1998 Heat of the Sun Max van der Vuurst 1 episode
2001 Othello James Brabant TV movie
2003 Henry VIII Henry VII TV movie
2005 Icon General Nikolai Nikolayev TV movie
2006 Midsomer Murders Sir Freddy Butler 1 episode: S09E03 "Vixen's Run"
2006 Hogfather Mustrum Ridcully TV mini series
2006 Above and Beyond Winston Churchill TV mini series
2007 Kingdom Mr Narbutowicz 1 episode

Video games[edit]

Audio books[edit]


  • Ackland, Joss (17 June 2010). My Better Half and Me. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-193347-0
  • -- (1989). I Must Be In There Somewhere (autobiography). Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-49396-0


  1. ^ Hal Erickson (2009). "The New York Times". Movies & TV Dept. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on 21 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  2. ^ "Film in 1989" - Winners & Nominees at
  3. ^ a b c d e "Joss Ackland". BFI. Archived from the original on 28 May 2016.
  4. ^ My Better Half and Me, Joss Ackland and Rosemary Ackland, Random House, 2010, p. 1
  5. ^ People of Today 2017, Debrett's Ltd, 2017, p. 2127
  6. ^ Joss Ackland Biography (1928–).
  7. ^ "'I remember the smell of black, dusty sacks of coal'; WHERE I GREW UP". 6 September 1997.
  8. ^ "Joss Ackland obituary".
  9. ^ V&A, Theatre and Performance Special Collections, Elsie Fogerty Archive, THM/324
  10. ^ a b c d e "Interview: Joss Ackland - Love and Joss". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 19 August 2009.
  11. ^ Whitney, Interview by Hilary (5 July 2023). "Time and place: Joss Ackland" – via
  12. ^ a b "Obituary: Rosemary Ackland". The Daily Telegraph. London. 14 August 2002. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  13. ^ a b "Joss Ackland admits 'awful' films." BBC News. 6 August 2001
  14. ^ "Shadowlands". 22 December 1985. p. 44 – via BBC Genome.
  15. ^ "Evita review – breathtaking inventiveness and quicksilver fluency". The Guardian. 22 September 2014.
  16. ^ "A Little Night Music - 1975 Original London Cast" – via
  17. ^ "Watch It Couldn't Happen Here". BFI Player.
  18. ^ "The Mighty Ducks (1992) - Stephen Herek | Cast and Crew" – via
  19. ^ "How about You (2007)". BFI. Archived from the original on 16 May 2019.
  20. ^ "Midsomer Murders - S9 - Episode 3: Vixen's Run - Part One". Radio Times.
  21. ^ "The Old Vic - King Lear". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013.
  22. ^ "Travelling with the archetypal Englishman Joss Ackland has spent fifty years in showbusiness" by Alison Jones, The Birmingham Post (12 August, 2008) [CITY Edition]. Retrieved from ProQuest 326412989
  23. ^ Bohdanowicz, Kate (22 June 2010). "Motor neurone disease made Joss Ackland and his wife live life to the full". Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  24. ^ Whitney, Interview by Hilary. "Time and place: Joss Ackland". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  25. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 2, pp. 1694-5, 2932
  26. ^ Burke's Irish Family Records, ed. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 1976, p. 531
  27. ^ "Ackland pays tribute to 'plucky' wife". Irish Examiner. 25 July 2002. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  28. ^ Bohdanowicz, Kate (22 June 2010). "Motor neurone disease made Joss Ackland and his wife live life to the full".
  29. ^ White, Roland. "Joss Ackland on love life with wife Rosemary". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  30. ^ Lloyd, Howard (20 April 2020). "Legendary Devon actor says crisis can 'breathe strength' into UK". DevonLive. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  31. ^ "92-year-old Joss Ackland reads a letter to the world - #ReadALetter". YouTube. 11 April 2020. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  32. ^ Rutter, Harry (19 November 2023). "Midsomer Murders star Joss Ackland dies as family pay tribute to actor". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  33. ^ "Joss Ackland Dies: 'White Mischief' And 'Lethal Weapon 2' Star Was 95". Deadline. 19 November 2023.
  34. ^ Joss Ackland's voice acting credits at
  35. ^ "Gorillaz ready for four ‘special’ releases" at

External links[edit]